Days of Toil and Trial
[This chapter is based on Acts 19:21-41; 20:1.]
For over three years Ephesus was the centre of Paul's work. A
flourishing church was raised up here, and from this city the gospel
spread throughout the province of Asia, among both Jews and Gentiles.
The apostle had now for some time had been contemplating another
missionary journey. He "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." In harmony with this plan "he
sent into Macedonia two of them that ministered unto him, Timotheus and
Erastus;" but feeling that the cause in Ephesus still demanded his
presence, he decided to remain until after Pentecost. An event soon
occurred, however, which hastened his departure.
Once a year, special ceremonies were held at Ephesus in honour of the
goddess Diana. These attracted great numbers of people from all parts of
the province. Throughout this period, festivities were conducted with the
utmost pomp and splendour.
This gala season was a trying time for those who had newly come to the
faith. The company of believers who met in the school of Tyrannus were an
inharmonious note in the festive chorus, and ridicule, reproach, and
insult were freely heaped upon them. Paul's labours had given the heathen
worship a telling blow, in consequence of which there was a perceptible
falling off in the attendance at the national festival and in the
enthusiasm of the worshipers. The influence of his teachings extended far
beyond the actual converts to the faith. Many who had not openly accepted
the new doctrines became so far enlightened as to lose all confidence in
their heathen gods.
There existed also another cause of dissatisfaction. An extensive and
profitable business had grown up at Ephesus from the manufacture and sale
of small shrines and images, modelled after the temple and the image of
Diana. Those interested in this industry found their gains diminishing,
and all united in attributing the unwelcome change to Paul's labours.
Demetrius, a manufacturer of silver shrines, calling together the
workmen of his craft, said: "Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have
our wealth. Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but
almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much
people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands: so that
not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that
the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her
magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshipeth."
These words roused the excitable passions of the people. "They were
full of wrath, and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the
A report of this speech was rapidly circulated. "The whole city
was filled with confusion." Search was made for Paul, but the apostle
was not to be found. His brethren, receiving an intimation of the danger,
had hurried him from the place. Angels of God had been sent to guard the
apostle; his time to die a martyr's death had not yet come.
Failing to find the object of their wrath, the mob seized "Gaius
and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, Paul's companions in travel," and
with these "they rushed with one accord into the theatre."
Paul's place of concealment was not far distant, and he soon learned of
the peril of his beloved brethren. Forgetful of his own safety, he desired
to go at once to the theatre to address the rioters. But "the
disciples suffered him not." Gaius and Aristarchus were not the prey
the people sought; no serious harm to them was apprehended. But should the
apostle's pale, care-worn face be seen, it would arouse at once the worst
passions of the mob and there would not be the least human possibility of
saving his life.
Paul was still eager to defend the truth before the multitude, but he
was at last deterred by a message of warning from the theatre.
"Certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends, sent unto him,
desiring him that he would not adventure himself into the theatre."
The tumult in the theatre was continually increasing. "Some . . .
cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly was confused; and the
more part knew not wherefore they were come together." The fact that
Paul and some of his companions were of Hebrew extraction made the Jews
anxious to show plainly that they were not sympathisers with him and his
work. They therefore brought forward one of their own number to set the
matter before the people. The speaker chosen was Alexander, one of the
craftsmen, a coppersmith, to whom Paul afterward referred as having done
him much evil. 2 Timothy 4:14. Alexander was a man of considerable
ability, and he bent all his energies to direct the wrath of the people
exclusively against Paul and his companions. But the crowd, seeing that
Alexander was a Jew, thrust him aside, and "all with one voice about
the space of two hours cried out, Great is Diana of the Ephesians."
At last, from sheer exhaustion, they ceased, and there was a momentary
silence. Then the recorder of the city arrested the attention of the
crowd, and by virtue of his office obtained a hearing. He met the people
on their own ground and showed that there was no cause for the present
tumult. He appealed to their reason. "Ye men of Ephesus," he
said, "what man is there that knoweth not how that the city of the
Ephesians is a worshiper of the great goddess Diana, and of the image
which fell down from Jupiter? Seeing then that these things cannot be
spoken against, ye ought to be quiet, and to do nothing rashly. For ye
have brought hither these men, which are neither robbers of churches, nor
yet blasphemers of your goddess. Wherefore if Demetrius, and the craftsmen
which are with him, have a matter against any man, the law is open, and
there are deputies: let them implead one another. But if ye inquire
anything concerning other matters, it shall be determined in a lawful
assembly. For we are in danger to be called in question for this day's
uproar, there being no cause whereby we may give an account of this
concourse. And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly."
In his speech Demetrius had said, "This our craft is in
danger." These words reveal the real cause of the tumult at Ephesus,
and also the cause of much of the persecution which followed the apostles
in their work. Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen saw that by the teaching
and spread of the gospel the business of image making was endangered. The
income of pagan priests and artisans was at stake, and for this reason
they aroused against Paul the most bitter opposition.
The decision of the recorder and of others holding honourable offices
in the city had set Paul before the people as one innocent of any unlawful
act. This was another triumph of Christianity over error and superstition.
God had raised up a great magistrate to vindicate His apostle and hold the
tumultuous mob in check. Paul's heart was filled with gratitude to God
that his life had been preserved and that Christianity had not been
brought into disrepute by the tumult at Ephesus.
"After the uproar was ceased, Paul called unto him the disciples,
and embraced them, and departed for to go into Macedonia." On this
journey he was accompanied by two faithful Ephesian brethren, Tychicus and
Paul's labours in Ephesus were concluded. His ministry there had been a
season of incessant labour, of many trials, and of deep anguish. He had
taught the people in public and from house to house, with many tears
instructing and warning them. Continually he had been opposed by the Jews,
who lost no opportunity to stir up the popular feeling against him.
And while thus battling against opposition, pushing forward with
untiring zeal the gospel work, and guarding the interests of a church yet
young in the faith, Paul was bearing upon his soul a heavy burden for all
News of apostasy in some of the churches of his planting caused him
deep sorrow. He feared that his efforts in their behalf might prove to be
in vain. Many a sleepless night was spent in prayer and earnest thought as
he learned of the methods employed to counteract his work. As he had
opportunity and as their condition demanded, he wrote to the churches,
giving reproof, counsel, admonition, and encouragement. In these letters
the apostle does not dwell on his own trials, yet there are occasional
glimpses of his labours and sufferings in the cause of Christ. Stripes and
imprisonment, cold and hunger and thirst, perils by land and by sea, in
the city and in the wilderness, from his own countrymen, from the heathen,
and from false brethren-- all this he endured for the sake of the gospel.
He was "defamed," "reviled," made "the
offscouring of all things," "perplexed,"
"persecuted," "troubled on every side," "in
jeopardy every hour," "alway delivered unto death for Jesus'
Amidst the constant storm of opposition, the clamour of enemies, and
the desertion of friends the intrepid apostle almost lost heart. But he
looked back to Calvary and with new ardour pressed on to spread the
knowledge of the Crucified. He was but treading the blood-stained path
that Christ had trodden before him. He sought no discharge from the
warfare till he should lay off his armour at the feet of his Redeemer.