Acts 19:21–41 (NKJV)
21 When these things were accomplished, Paul purposed in the Spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.” 22 So he sent into Macedonia two of those who ministered to him, Timothy and Erastus, but he himself stayed in Asia for a time.Acts 19:21-34
23 And about that time there arose a great commotion about the Way. 24 For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Diana, brought no small profit to the craftsmen. 25 He called them together with the workers of similar occupation, and said: “Men, you know that we have our prosperity by this trade. 26 Moreover you see and hear that not only at Ephesus, but throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that they are not gods which are made with hands. 27 So not only is this trade of ours in danger of falling into disrepute, but also the temple of the great goddess Diana may be despised and her magnificence destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worship.”
28 Now when they heard this, they were full of wrath and cried out, saying, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” 29 So the whole city was filled with confusion, and rushed into the theater with one accord, having seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians, Paul’s travel companions. 30 And when Paul wanted to go in to the people, the disciples would not allow him. 31 Then some of the officials of Asia, who were his friends, sent to him pleading that he would not venture into the theater. 32 Some therefore cried one thing and some another, for the assembly was confused, and most of them did not know why they had come together. 33 And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward. And Alexander motioned with his hand, and wanted to make his defense to the people. 34 But when they found out that he was a Jew, all with one voice cried out for about two hours, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!”
Paul was having wonderful success in Ephesus, but felt compelled to go to Macedonia and Achaia on his way to Jerusalem. He also felt that he would eventually go to Rome. He sent Timothy and Erastus, two of his assistants, on ahead, and stayed in Asia Minor for a time. Paul’s teaching against idolatry aroused resistance when one of the silversmiths, Demetrius, felt that his business was being threatened. Paul was cutting into his ability to sell silver statues of Diana, the mother-goddess, and her temple. Therefore, he called all the other silver workers and idol crafters together to devise a plan for ending this revival, with its polemic against idolatry. They incited a mob, who grabbed a few of Paul’s traveling companions, and a Jew named Alexander. Alexander tried to speak to the crowd, but they booed him and would not listen. A chant was heard throughout the crowd: “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” Paul wanted to go in and address the crowd, but his friends begged him not to do so.
35 And when the city clerk had quieted the crowd, he said: “Men of Ephesus, what man is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple guardian of the great goddess Diana, and of the image which fell down from Zeus? 36 Therefore, since these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rashly. 37 For you have brought these men here who are neither robbers of temples nor blasphemers of your goddess. 38 Therefore, if Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a case against anyone, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. Let them bring charges against one another. 39 But if you have any other inquiry to make, it shall be determined in the lawful assembly. 40 For we are in danger of being called in question for today’s uproar, there being no reason which we may give to account for this disorderly gathering.” 41 And when he had said these things, he dismissed the assembly.Acts 19:35-41
In the midst of the shouting mob, the city clerk quieted the crowd, comforted their fears, and told them to take anyone to court whom they felt threatened their livelihood. However, the disorderly mob was in danger of legal action against them if they did not disperse. They dispersed, and the riot was over. However, this story demonstrates how deeply entrenched this culture was in idolatry and false religion. Paul had made a dent in their religious covering and made Jesus known. In response, those who had not accepted Christ, and were perhaps worshipping the profit of their businesses as well, revolted against this great gospel of Christ and defended this false religion. Although they were calmed by the threat of legal action or punishment, this would not be the last time that Christianity would be violently opposed by idolatry or simply ungodliness. When the world resists and fights the gospel, courageous faith will move forward anyway. When idolatry defends itself, continue pointing to the one true God, for He will prevail!