Bible Reading Acts 19:23-41
23 About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. 24 A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. 25 He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: “You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business. 26 And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all. 27 There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.”28 When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 Soon the whole city was in an uproar. ……… 35 The city clerk quieted the crowd and said: “Fellow Ephesians, doesn’t all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven? 36 Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to calm down and not do anything rash. 37 You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess. 38 If, then, Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a grievance against anybody, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. They can press charges. 39 If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly. 40 As it is, we are in danger of being charged with rioting because of what happened today. In that case we would not be able to account for this commotion, since there is no reason for it.” 41 After he had said this, he dismissed the assembly.
Paul’s Ministry in Ephesus
Paul arrived in Ephesus around 52 A.D and wasted no time in starting his ministry. He baptized the disciples there in Jesus’ name and they received the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. Paul argued persuasively and taught people about the ‘Way’ in their synagogues. God did extraordinary miracles through Paul to the extent that the handkerchiefs that had touched him were taken to heal the sick and drive out demons. The Sorcerers of the city burnt their scrolls in public and turned from their evil ways. The Church in Ephesus grew in power in the three years he was there.
The Riot in Ephesus
The revival in Ephesus did not sit well with the silversmiths in the region. Demetrius gathered his fellow craftsmen started a riot in Ephesus. The ‘Way’ had created a huge crater in their business. Playing with the people’s sentiments towards traditions and rituals, the Idol Makers of Ephesus created an uproar among the people. The Ephesians had forgotten the teachings of Paul about the ‘Way’ and the miracles he performed amongst them. All the progress they made in the past three years was nullified because of the Ephesians’ fear of moving away from their traditions. There would have been some silversmiths who would have been followers of the ‘Way’ but the fear of their livelihood resulted in them holding on to their idols of Artemis. It was the city clerk who made them realize that there had been no acts of blasphemy against their gods nor were the silver idols stolen from their shrines. The Ephesians realized that the uproar was a baseless one and returned to their homes. This incident shows us the reluctance of the new churches to move away from their traditions for what they called a foreign God. Similar resistance was faced by the disciples in Antioch (Acts 13:44-51) and Thessalonica (Acts 16:16-24). Wherever people started accepting the ‘Way’ there was always a small group reminding them of their traditions and pulling them back into darkness.
Present Day Revival
Our present day revivals are all put on the back burner because we fear that we may lose our traditional values. Traditions have diluted our pure faith and has labeled Christianity as a religion. Christ never came to start a religion or impose new traditions on us. He came to lighten our load that we may enjoy our freedom in Him. We have mixed our traditions and created a religion out of the ‘Way’. Religion is detour that will never take us to our destination.
‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ – Matthew 15:8-9
There is no difference between the worshipers of the Idol Artemis and our present day Sunday worshipers. Jesus wants to live in our hearts and not in any building.
Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” Matthew 8:21-22
If we keep holding on to our worldly duties and customs we will never be able to follow Jesus. We need to keep Christ above everything else in our lives.