The Book of Acts Chapter 19: (pt 14 of 16)

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If you remember out last couple of posts, some guy named, Demetrius, who appeared to be the head of the United Idol Makers Union (UIMU), was complaining that “those Christians,” but more specifically Paul, were ruining their business. They made miniature replicas of their goddess Artemis: “This character Paul has persuaded and turned away a large crowd in practically all of the province of Asia [Which, by the way, is a great testimony about Paul]. He’s saying that gods made by hands are not gods at all. There is danger not only that this business of ours will come into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be regarded as nothing.”

First, if the people can be turned away from their god that easily, he not much of a god. But Demie has all the business people all riled up. I guess I can understand his concern. The Christians were hurting his business. I told you about how the owner of an Adult book store and movie theater got all worked up when a church opened in the same neighborhood, back in my home town (and by the way, I knew the Pastor of this church and several families there and they were a dynamic, loving group of people).

But here in Ephesus we can also see a profound revelation of mob psychology here. Because, after all, you can’t arouse a mob to defend your own interests if all you can say is that you haven’t been making as much as you used to. That may interest you, but it doesn’t interest anyone else. They don’t care whether you made any money or not. Yet the lack of revenue was what stirred up these silversmiths. They were disturbed by their loss of income. Since no one will defend you on that basis, Demetrius had to add another charge, emotionally loaded, deliberately introduced, in order to arouse the citizenry.

The charge was that the religion of the city was threatened, that Artemis, the goddess the city worshipped, was insulted by this loss of income and was in danger of losing her stature in the eyes of the world. Artemis was the goddess enshrined in the great temple outside Ephesus, which was known as one of the seven great wonders of the world. She was carved, apparently, from a meteorite, because, later on, the town clerk reminds them that this image had fallen from the sky. According to some of the copies that have been excavated, she was the figure of a many-breasted woman, enshrined as the goddess representing Mother. So, in attacking Artemis, they were attacking Mother. When you attack Mother and apple pie, you are really striking to the heart of a deeply involved emotional issue. And these men knew it.

These riot engineers in Ephesus, and those of any other day, know exactly what emotional issues will arouse people. This is going on in Egypt. The protests began peacefully, with a few simple demands that Mubarak had already agreed to. However, that was not enough. The protests became violent and the demands for him to step down were introduced. Now he has stepped down and the demands are now for his execution.

Back in the days of the Iraq war, the Democratic Party made false claims and charges regarding the war; we have erroneous and misread studies regarding global warming; charges against the Republican Administration; and on and on and on . . . Just like the Democratic strategists, the business men in Ephesus knew that they could stir up the whole city with this one, because this was the season of the year when Ephesus gave itself over to a whole month of feasting, revelry, and debauchery centering on the worship of Artemis. They called this festival the “Artemision.” It had the characteristics of the Mardis Gras in New Orleans. The city was packed with people who had come for this special occasion. There are two very interesting and revealing things about this speech by Demetrius:

First, he evidently had no idea how ridiculous his charge really sounded. If Artemis is so great that the whole world worships her, then why isn’t she able to defend herself against this attack? If her power is so great that she commands the worship of men, why does she need the support of the city of Ephesus to defend her? No one ever seems to face that kind of a question when raising an issue such as this. Second, he was obviously blind to the significance of the way by which his trade had been ruined. It was never openly attacked by Christians. Paul never said a thing against the religion of Ephesus. He never denounced the temple, and in no way tried to attack this pagan superstition. In fact, the town clerk will openly admit that, “these were not blasphemers of the goddess, nor robbers of the temple.”

Now, that’s pretty interesting because, you see, there was nothing negative about their approach. These early Christians didn’t go around disparaging paganism; they simply introduced a positive new faith of such tremendous power and such fantastic reality that when anyone experienced it, the old way of life was wiped out. The old was devitalized by the appearance of the new, and there was no need for attack. The Christians simply declared Jesus Christ and his availability to man. Now this is something the modern-day Church has lost. It does no good attacking particular doctrines of other religions; or criticizing someone’s behavior or clothing. If you want to minister life to someone else, then allow your witness to be from your life and a demonstration of your love for them. Your finger-pointing and pulpit pounding won’t win their hearts.

When men and women are sunken in darkness and superstition; gripped by fear; they will find Yeshua so loving, so genuine, so joyful, that all their empty paganism will simply be lost by comparison. It never seems to have dawned on Demetrius that this was what had happened and that there was no possible way of defending against it. If the Christians had attacked this pagan philosophy, then a defense could have been made, but they said nothing about it. It was simply “the expulsive power of a new affection,” to use Thomas Chalmer’s marvelous term.

If interested, you can download the entire study of The Story of Acts


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