The Uproar and Mob Frenzy: Acts 19:23-41
“23) About that time there occurred no small disturbance concerning the Way. 24) For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, was bringing no little business to the craftsmen; 25) these he gathered together with the workmen of similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that our prosperity depends upon this business. 26) You see and hear that not only in Ephesus, but in almost all of Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away a considerable number of people, saying that gods made with hands are no gods at all. 27) Not only is there danger that this trade of ours fall into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis be regarded as worthless and that she whom all of Asia and the world worship will even be dethroned from her magnificence.” 28) When they heard this and were filled with rage, they began crying out, saying, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29) The city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed with one accord into the theater, dragging along Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia. 30) And when Paul wanted to go into the assembly, the disciples would not let him.” Acts‬ ‭19‬:‭23‬-‭30‬ ‭
Now we discover how effective the gospel had become in Ephesus. People had stopped buying silver shrines to the goddess Artemis. It may have been more than spiritistic books or scrolls that were burned in verse 19. More than likely idols, shrines and other paraphernalia were added to the pile. Some of the value of 50,000 pieces of silver may have been in the form of molten silver. Demetrius the silversmith was outraged.
The shops that lined the streets of Ephesus and sold these shrines had become abandoned. Keep in mind, this transformation occurred over a two year time span. In verse 25, Demetrius made the case that their trade was being jeopardized and their prosperity ruined. The gospel was changing the pattern of commerce in the city of Ephesus. Supply of silver shines was at normal levels, but demand had plummeted.
Historical records of sweeping revival in Europe and the United States had a similar impact. Hundreds of taverns and saloons were closed and even New York City laid off most of its police force because crime came to a screeching halt. Churches and Christian meeting halls were full and many were instantly transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.
One of Satan’s schemes to stop the gospel where it is changing culture is mob frenzy and violence. That’s what happened in Ephesus. Demetrius stirred the crowd into a frenzy.
Soon a violent riot ensued. False accusations were leveled against the Christians as they were targeted by the mob and dragged into the giant Greek theater. Most had no idea what was happening. They were caught up in the emotions of the riot. (Vs 32). Never underestimate the demonic activity behind such public riots and atrocities against Christians.
The uproar lasted for hours. Confusion sat on the throne. Reason was trampled under foot. People were yelling and screaming all kinds of ridiculous and unfounded charges against the Christians.
Finally, after hours the town clerk managed to regain control. He observed that the Christians were neither robbers of temples nor blasphemers of Artemis. The whole uproar was baseless and illegal. He warned that the riot was close to triggering Roman military intervention.
He also noted that there were lawful means to settle these disputes. But the courts remained closed. Lawlessness shuns accountability. Many of the perpetrators were noteworthy citizens of Ephesus and viewed themselves as being above the law.
Acts 19:23-41 is a case study of persecution and brutal mob mentality. Do not minimize that active role of the kingdom of darkness behind such riots and opposition to the gospel. Ephesians 6:12 says; “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” The Christians in Ephesus knew the reality of those words.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global