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30. The Evangelization of Ephesus (Acts 19:8-41)

Introduction

The story of the evangelization of Ephesus does not begin in chapter 19, or even in chapter 18 of the Book of Acts. It started with the ministry of John the Baptist, whose teaching had produced a number of “converts,” men and women who looked for the Messiah, promised by the Old Testament prophets, who was His forerunner. Apollos (Acts 18:24-28) and the “12 disciples” (Acts 19:1-7) were among those who believed in the Savior to come, and who must have spoken to others of their (Old Testament) faith.

Paul came to Asia on his second missionary journey (so called), but the Holy Spirit forbade them from proclaiming the gospel (Acts 16:6). Paul finally came to Ephesus, but he was intent on reaching Syria (Acts 18:18-21), and so he spent only a short time there. He did, however, leave Priscilla and Aquila behind (18:19), and they must have played a significant part in “plowing the soil” in preparation for Paul’s lengthy stay as recorded in our text. It is here in our text that we will read,

… all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:10).

It was God’s time for the evangelization of Asia, and it all seems to have started from the city of Ephesus.

If the Ephesian church was the launching place for the evangelization of Asia, it is important for several other reasons as well. Let me mention several reasons for the importance of this church.

(1) It was here, in Ephesus, that Paul fought the “wild beasts” (1 Cor. 15:32). Since the context of Paul’s words dealt with death and the resurrection from the dead, it would seem that there was very real danger there. He will later tell the Ephesian elders of his difficulties in that city:

“You yourselves know, form the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews” (Acts 20:18b-19).

(2) Paul wrote 1 Corinthians from Ephesus (cf. 1 Cor. 16:8). (3) The epistle to the Ephesians was written to the Ephesian church (cf. Ephesians 1:1). (4) The church at Ephesus was one of the “seven churches of Asia” (Revelation 1:4), to which specific words of admonition from the Lord were given (Revelation 1:11; 2:1-7). (5) Timothy (1 Timothy 1:3) was sent there by Paul, and thus 1 Timothy concerns the life and conduct of the church there in Ephesus.

Chapter 19 is not the definitive chapter of Acts when it comes to a description of the ministry of Paul at Ephesus. This chapter focuses on three major events: (1) the meeting of the “12 disciples” and their coming to faith in Jesus as the Messiah, receiving baptism as an evidence of their faith, and being baptized by the Spirit as an evidence of God’s reception of them into His church (verses 1-7). (2) The ministry of Paul in the synagogue and then the school of Tyrannus (verses 8-20). (3) The uprising in Ephesus, as a result of the opposition of Demetrius (verses 23-41). A great deal of information concerning the ministry of Paul at Ephesus will be supplied in chapter 20, when Paul calls for the Ephesian elders and gives them his parting words of instruction and admonition, based upon the fact that he will not see them again.

The Structure of Acts 19

  • The “Twelve Disciples”—19:1-7
  • The Jewish Evangelist and the Jewish Exorcists—19:8-20
  • Paul’s plans—19:21-22
  • The Uprising at Ephesus—19:23-41

The devious deeds of Demetrius—(vv 23-29)

The attempted addresses of Paul and Alexander—(vv. 30-34)

The rebuke and benediction of the town clerk—(vv 35-41)

From the Synagogue to the School
(19:8-10)

8 And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. 9 But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the multitude, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning433 daily in the school of Tyrannus.434 10 And this took place for two years,435 so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.436

After his encounter with the 12 disciples upon his arrival at Ephesus (19:1-7), Paul began to minister in the synagogue at Ephesus. His topic was “the kingdom of God” (verse 8). I would think that Paul began with the Old Testament prophecies pertaining to the kingdom, showing over a period of time how Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled these, and then going on to disclose those aspects of the kingdom which were revealed by Jesus, or to the apostles by the Holy Spirit.

The thing which impresses me about Paul’s teaching in the synagogue is how long he taught there before it became necessary to move to another location. It strongly implies that Paul established his case, over a period of time, as opposed to his stating the same case repeatedly. This is consistent with Paul’s approach elsewhere. For example, in Berea, Paul taught in the synagogue on the Sabbath, and the people had all week to search the Scriptures and to think about it. This is the exact opposite approach to that of brainwashing. Brainwashing attempts to weaken the critical facilities of the audience, wearing them down, physically and mentally, until they just don’t care to think critically any more.

There are a number of cults that employ this methodology. A couple of years ago there was a certain “teacher” who was able to persuade some Christians to believe that which they had firmly rejected previously. He was able to “convince” some by means of a seminar, which bombarded the audience with endless ideas and assumptions, which were not proven, but which, they were told, they would understand later. Some were convinced, not because they were shown the truth from Scripture, and in the calm of their own study and meditation accepted it, but because of a kind of “circuit overload,” which caused them to cease thinking about it. Paul’s teaching was the opposite. He taught in smaller doses, and there was time in-between to think it over. So that when men or women believed his teaching it was because it conformed to the teaching of the Scriptures and the Spirit of God bore witness to its truthfulness.

Over the three month period of time Paul preached at the synagogue in Ephesus some were convinced of the truth of the gospel, while others became more and more opposed to it. There was a sequence to their growing opposition, which Luke indicates in verse 9. They became gradually hardened to Paul’s teaching, and then they became disobedient to it, and finally they began to verbally oppose it in public. It would seem that they began to disrupt Paul’s public ministry, much as “hecklers” disrupt the speeches of political candidates. It became impossible to carry on his teaching in a way that would facilitate good teaching. And so Paul changed his base of operations. He moved from the synagogue to the school house, the school of Tyrannus.

Very little is said of the teaching ministry of Paul in this “school.” The most complete picture of his ministry while at Ephesus is found in chapter 20. For example, we know that he worked with his own hands during his stay in Ephesus, so that he would not be a burden and that he could minister to the material needs of others (Acts 20:33-35). We are told that Paul’s ministry while in Ephesus echoed throughout the land, so that Luke can tell us “all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord” (verse 10). Since Paul stayed in Ephesus and did not seem to travel about (20:18), it would seem that much of the preaching which took place outside the city was done by others, some of whom may be named in Acts 20:4. Although the Spirit had once forbidden the preaching of the word in Asia (Acts 16:6), now the word had been proclaimed throughout Asia. In God’s time, the word of God was proclaimed.

Luke does not mean for us to conclude that every single person living in Asia had heard the gospel, but he does mean that the entire area was canvassed with the word. And so it was that Paul could say,

“Therefore I testify to you this day, that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:26-27).

Miracles and the Ministry of Paul
(19:11-12)

11 And God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that handkerchiefs or aprons437 were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out.

The gospel had been proclaimed in Asia, and not only this but God bore witness to His word through many signs and wonders and miracles, as he worked through the apostle Paul. No one else is said to have worked such miracles, but Paul did, even unintentionally. We are not told of all the miracles accomplished at the hand of Paul, but we are told that some miracles happened in some secondary fashion. Handkerchiefs or aprons which Paul had touched were taken to those who were sick or demon possessed and they were made whole (verse 12). The “aprons” which were taken seem to have been Paul’s work aprons. Can you imagine him coming to work at his tentmaking in the morning, looking about for his apron, and saying to himself, “Now where did I put that apron …?” They were hauling off anything which Paul touched, and when the infirmed came in contact with these items, they were delivered. As usual, these signs and wonders were accomplished to validate and underscore the words which Paul was speaking—the words of the Gospel.438

I must admit that the kind of miracles which Luke mentions here sound like a carnival atmosphere. But remember that we are not told this was Paul’s emphasis or purpose. He did not throw his handkerchiefs into the crowds, as some would do today. In a somewhat superstitious way, they people grabbed for any article which he had touched. The fact that people were healed is explained, I think, purely in terms of the grace of God. These people, with their pagan background, knew of only this way of being healed, and they acted in a very simple faith, and God in His grace gave them what they sought by faith—deliverance. And so the word was given the divine stamp of authenticity and authority, and many came to faith.

The Exorcists “Exposed”
(19:13-20)

13 But also some of the Jewish exorcists,439 who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, “I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.” 14 And seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize440 Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” 16 And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued both441 of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. 17 And this became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, who lived in Ephesus; and fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified. 18 Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices.442 19 And many of those who practiced magic443 brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of all; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing.

The hand of God was at work through Paul, and there were some who wished to cash in on it. If Paul could accomplish what he did through the name of Jesus, so could they—they thought. There were in Ephesus, as in Israel (see Luke 11:19), Jewish exorcists, who sought to cast out demons through the use of the name of one who had great power. This was a kind of spiritual “name dropping,” whereby the power of the one named was believed to be able to exorcise demons. Such “ministry” was hardly to be performed without a fee, and so it appears to be a business, not altogether unlike that business of Acts 16, the business of fortune-telling. This kind of exorcism must have proven effective at least part of the time, but it would not work this time.

There were a number of exorcists practicing in Ephesus, but Luke draws our attention to one family in particular—a Jewish chief priestly family (verse 14). This man, Sceva, had seven sons who were exorcists. At least two of them were involved in attempting to exorcise a particular man in Ephesus. Luke computer “hackers” who had just learned the password of a giant mainframe computer system, these men had discovered the power of the name of Jesus. This is the Jesus who, as Jews, they refused to accept as Messiah, but they were not reluctant to use His name in order to cast out demons. They did not use the name of Jesus as Paul did, for they did not know Him personally or belong to Him, as Paul did. Thus, they sought to exorcise the man “by the name of the Jesus Paul preached” (verse 13).

This particular demon was not impressed. He indeed recognized and reluctantly surrendered to the power of Jesus, and he also acknowledged the power of Jesus at work in Paul, but he did not know these men. Did these men wish to name drop? Fine. But what was their name? The demon was unwilling to be given orders through anyone who wished to try to use the name of Jesus, as Paul did. For the demon, this attempt was like trying to use a stolen credit card, and he was not about to be ordered about by such hucksters. And so the demon, through the demonized man, attacked these Jewish exorcists and beat the badly, sending them fleeing from the house naked and wounded.

If these Jewish exorcists were attempting to copy the ministry of Paul, they ended up being a very clear contrast to it. And in his rebellion against authority, this demon served the cause of Christ by testifying to the power of the Gospel in contrast to the counterfeit ministry of the sons of Sceva, and others like them. We have already been told that the gospel had gone forth from Ephesus to all of Asia, and now it would seem that this incident was one means which God used to spread the word. News of this incident spread abroad, serving to contrast the power of God at work through Paul with the counterfeit power of the exorcists. All of Ephesus heard of the exposure of the exorcists, and they feared God, so that His name was magnified. He would not be used by men, as though he were subject to the rules of magic.

What a contrast one could see between Paul and the sons of Sceva and all like them. Paul worked with his own hands, and ministered freely to men. These exorcists undoubtedly charged a substantial fee for their services, living off of the misery of those to whom they “ministered.” In the case of Paul, the power of God was at work through him, even when he did not seem to be aware of it. Even things which came into contact with Paul were instruments of deliverance and healing. On the other hand, as hard as these exorcists worked at “using” the names of Jesus and Paul, they were not successful.

The impact of these incidents—the miracles performed at the hand of Paul, and the failure of the sons of Sceva—was even greater on those who had come to faith in Jesus. The response of the saints to these things is described in verses 18 and 19. Some of these believers may have come to faith as a result of these two incidents, but many seem to have already been saved. Although they had come to trust in Jesus as their Savior, they did not see the evil of their magical practices, and they had not yet renounced this as both worthless and evil. As a result of the shaming of the sons of Sceva a great conviction of sin fell upon the saints in Ephesus, causing them to renounce their magical practices and to destroy the magical books which they possessed.

Before we look at this response, however, let us make sure that we understand the connection between the power of God through Paul, the powerless defeat of the sons of Sceva, and the wide-spread turning from magical practices by the Ephesian saints. Nowhere in our text are the sons of Sceva called magicians, nor is their practice described as magical. Previously, we were told that Elymas (also called Bar-Jesus) was Jew, a false prophet, and a magician (Acts 13:6). Simon, of Acts chapter 8, was also a magician (8:9, 11), although he is not identified as a Jew. He was, most likely, a Samaritan, and thus a half-Jew.

The Christians of Ephesus understood, and rightly so, that the practice of the sons of Sceva were, in essence, magical. Magic is the manipulation of “gods” or “powers,” so that the magician gets what he wants. It was no great mental leap to see that the “magic” of the sons of Sceva was like the other forms of “magic” which were so prevalent in Ephesus, and which were so much a part of the lives of Christians. When the power of God prevailed through Paul and the power of magic failed through the sons of Sceva, the Ephesian saints saw their magical practices as anti-Christian, evil, and worthless. They publicly collected their magical books and burned them in the sight of all, as a public testimony of their repentance and obedience. They would not sell these books or give them away because they were evil. Such garbage would only infect others, and so they burned their books, in spite of the fact that they could have brought much money if they were sold.

The city of Ephesus really began to take not of the gospel now. The gospel was being proclaimed by Paul and others. The power of God and the gospel was being demonstrated through the signs and wonders performed by or through Paul. And the power of the gospel was now evident in the lives of the Christians, who renounced their evil deeds and permanently put off their magical practices. The saints were beginning to become “salty,” and the difference was noted. And so it was that “the word of the Lord grew mightily and was prevailing” (19:20).

Paul’s Plans
(19:21-22)

21 Now after these things were finished, Paul purposed in the spirit444 to go to Jerusalem after he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome445.” 22 And having sent into Macedonia two of those who ministered to him, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while.

Paul’s ministry in Ephesus was a most successful, but these verses indicate to us that Paul was already planning his next movements and ministries. His plans are those which were “purposed in spirit,” raising the question as to whether they were only Paul’s plans, purposed in his spirit, or whether they were God’s plans, directed by His Spirit. The answer is likely “both,” as Paul’s words to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20 clearly indicate:

“And now, behold, bound in spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me” (Acts 20:22-23).

A look at the map would indicate that Macedonia and Achaia were hardly on Paul’s way to Jerusalem. For that matter, Jerusalem was hardly on Paul’s way to Rome. Paul was in Ephesus, and so traveling to Jerusalem via Macedonia and Achaia would require him to go north and then to double back, past Ephesus to Jerusalem. Rome would then require him to go Northwest. There were reasons for this itinerary. Paul was planning to go to Jerusalem via Macedonia and Achaia so that he could take a collection from these churches to the poor saints in Jerusalem. The apostles in Jerusalem had urged Paul to remember the poor, and this was something which he was more than happy to do:

And recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we might go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. They only asked us to remember the poor—the very thing I also was eager to do (Galatians 2:9-10).

And so Paul had purposed to minister to the poor in Jerusalem by taking a collection from Macedonia and Achaia to the needy. When Paul gave his defense before Felix, he said,

“Now after several years I came to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings” (Acts 24:17).

And as he wrote to the Romans,

25 But now, I am going to Jerusalem serving the saints. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. 27 Yes, they were pleased {to do so,} and they are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things. 28 Therefore, when I have finished this, and have put my seal on this fruit of theirs, I will go on by way of you to Spain (Romans 15:25-28).

Paul sent Timothy and Erastus on ahead, to begin making preparations for the collection. Paul then wrote to the saints in Corinth, encouraging them to make a generous contribution to the needy in Jerusalem:

1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. 2 On the first day of every week let each one of you put aside and save, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come. 3 And when I arrive, whomever you may approve, I shall send them with letters to carry your gift to Jerusalem; 4 and if it is fitting for me to go also, they will go with me. 5 But I shall come to you after I go through Macedonia, for I am going through Macedonia; 6 and perhaps I shall stay with you, or even spend the winter, that you may send me on my way wherever I may go. 7 For I do not wish to see you now {just} in passing; for I hope to remain with you for some time, if the Lord permits. 8 But I shall remain in Ephesus until Pentecost; 9 for a wide door for effective {service} has opened to me, and there are many adversaries. 10 Now if Timothy comes, see that he is with you without cause to be afraid; for he is doing the Lord’s work, as I also am. 11 Let no one therefore despise him. But send him on his way in peace, so that he may come to me; for I expect him with the brethren. 12 But concerning Apollos our brother, I encouraged him greatly to come to you with the brethren; and it was not at all {his} desire to come now, but he will come when he has opportunity (1 Corinthians 16:1-12; see also 2 Corinthians 8:1-15).

These verses are an excellent illustration of the guidance of God. Paul has a plan in mind, which is fully in accordance with biblical principle and the encouragement of the Jerusalem apostles. But God is going to modify the plan, as later developments in Acts will reveal. And with respect to Paul’s visit to Rome, he will surely go there, but in a way very different from that which he might have expected. He will get there by means of a near riot in Jerusalem, legal charges made against him, and an appeal to Caesar. How God’s ways are beyond our thoughts and expectations. Paul will arrive in Rome, under military guard, and that city will never be the same for it. Luke now proceeds to inform us of the events which precipitated Paul’s departure from Ephesus and ultimately his arrival at Rome. Just as Jesus “set His face toward Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51, 53), so Paul has set his face toward Jerusalem, and ultimately Rome.

Demetrius and the Ephesian Uprising
(19:23-32)

23 And about that time there arose no small disturbance concerning the Way. 24 For a certain 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,446 and said, “Men, you know that our prosperity depends upon this business. 26 “And 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 “And not only is there danger that this trade of ours fall into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis447 be regarded as worthless and that she whom all of Asia and the world worship should even be dethroned from her magnificence.” 28 And when they heard this and were filled with rage, they began crying out, saying, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 And the city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed with one accord into the theater,448 dragging along Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia.

If there was a connection between the miracles performed in conjunction with the ministry of Paul, the exposure of the sons of Sceva, and the renouncing of magic by the saints in Ephesus, I believe there is also a connection with the riot instigated by Demetrius. The name-dropping of the sons of Sceva is a form of magic, but so is idolatry. Idols are fashioned by men, in the form which men want them. Idols represent what men value and want most. In essence, idols represent what men choose to worship. Idols are worshipped in such a way that they will produce for men what they want. Thus there are idols for everything men desire … material prosperity, power, victory in war, safety at sea, rain, good crops, and so on. Idolatry is the “worship” of a certain “god” which is intended to result in that which the “god” is designed to control and to provide. Idolatry is but one of many forms of magic. And so, if the people of Ephesus have come to see the futility of magic, they have also come to see the futility of idolatry. It was not just Paul’s preaching, then, that threatened the business of the idol-making industry, it was the practice of the Christians and its impact on the whole city which was threatening their business.

Demetrius was the instigator of the disturbance. He was a silversmith, who not only made silver shrines of Artemis, but who brought much business to the craftsmen. When Demetrius spoke, these craftsmen listened, for their livelihood and prosperity were dependent, to some degree, on this man and on his favor. Demetrius called the craftsmen together, in a kind of union meeting (not that all unions or union meetings are evil), seeking their support in ridding their city (and, indeed, all of Asia) of Paul and his preaching. Notice the argument of Demetrius, as outlined by Luke:

(1) Our prosperity depends upon the business of making idols of Artemis (verse 25).

(2) Paul’s preaching is contrary to the practice of idolatry and is greatly damaging our business (verse 26). Paul preached that there was but one God, and that He alone was the Creator of all things. Idols are but a creation of men, and are not gods at all. This preaching was being widely accepted, and as a result, the idol sales were down, and so were their profits.

(3) Our trade may not only suffer, but it may fall into disrepute. Not unlike the abortionists, who make money off of the sin and sorrow of their clients, and off of the death of the innocent, these idol-makers do not wish to be looked down upon, and their trade to become a matter of ill-repute. Once a part of the upper echelons of Ephesian society, these craftsmen are now looking little different than the Jewish exorcists. If magic falls from favor, and the books which teach the art of magic are burned, then what will people think of the idol-makers?

(4) If Artemis continues to lose favor, then her temple will become worthless, and the role of Ephesus as the guardian of her temple will be worthless.

“The way”—does this not suggest a lifestyle, and is this lifestyle not that which threatened the business of the angry men? It is not money which motivates the murder mongers in the abortion clinics, who cater to the self-indulgence of those who want their services? And they are so incensed when their “rights” are threatened. It was a matter of pride. The pride of these craftsmen would soon be lost, for their trade would be looked down upon. The pride of Ephesus would likewise be lost, for the goddess Artemis and her temple would lose their glory and glamour.

This was all these craftsmen needed to hear. Paul was threatening their livelihood, their trade, and their pride. It was really self-interest that moved these men into action, just as it has so often been the case, whether for the employee or for the employer, whether for the union or for management. But the chant which they took up had to sound more religious, more paganly pious. And so they shouted, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” (verse 28). This was a cry rooted in rage and anger, not in love or devotion. But it was a cry which caught the attention and motivated others to join in. It was like saluting the flag (at least in days gone by) or eating apple pie. It was the civic thing to do in Ephesus.

While there was great confusion among the masses who joined in, not knowing what “cause” they were for or against (verses 29, 32), there was some careful orchestration taking place behind the scenes. It was Paul whom they really wanted to arrest and to run out of town (or worse), but they were only able to seize Gaius and Aristarchus on their way to the theater (verse 29). These men were companions of Paul, and thus they would have to do, at least for the time being.

Attempted Addresses by Paul and Alexander
(19:30-34)

30 And when Paul wanted to go into the assembly, the disciples would not let him. 31 And also some of the Asiarchs449 who were friends of his sent to him and repeatedly urged him not to venture into the theater. 32 So then, some were shouting one thing and some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and the majority did not know for what cause they had come together. 33 And some of the crowd concluded it was Alexander, since the Jews had put him forward; and having motioned with his hand, Alexander was intending to make a defense to the assembly. 34 But when they recognized that he was a Jew, a single outcry arose from them all as they shouted for about two hours, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

Paul was a typical preacher in that whenever he could find a crowd he was eager to preach to them. When Paul got word that his companions had been seized, and that the disturbance was really over him and his preaching, Paul wanted to address the mob. The disciples knew better. This was a hostile mob, that was capable of anything at this moment in time. There was no order and thus there was no assurance that he would be heard, or that he would have lived long enough to have delivered his sermon. The disciples would not allow Paul to go there, and neither would some of the “Asiarchs,” who were friends of Paul (verse 32). They repeatedly sent him messages to stay away, and not to enter the theater. For a man who preached the gospel, Paul was well regarded by at least some of those in positions of influence and power.

Luke then includes a somewhat puzzling story of another man who wished to address the crowd, whose name was Alexander. We know from our text that this man was a Jew. Since the Jews wanted to put him forward, it is unlikely that this man was a believer, or that he wished to defend Paul. It is my opinion that this Jew was anti-idols. This was a point of pride with the Jews. No doubt this was a point of irritation with the Ephesians, for they needed only to see that Alexander was a Jew to know they didn’t want to hear him, and to flaunt their idol worship before him. It was like a Southern Baptist preacher standing before a large crowd at a brewers convention. I believe that the Jews hoped Alexander could convince the Ephesian mob that they were not on Paul’s side, but that they were opposed to idols. But in spite of the fact that Alexander was given the platform, he was not given the chance to speak. He was shouted down, for they could tell he was a Jew, and as a Jew he could not have anything good to say about Artemis.

I think that Luke’s accounts of these two men who attempted to address the mob are related. Both men were Jews. Both men rejected idols and idolatry, at least in principle. Paul was not allowed to enter the theater, but Alexander was present. Paul never reached the platform, but Alexander did. But we know that the disciples and the Asiarchs were right in keeping Paul from going to the theater because the one man who tried to speak (beside the city clerk) was not able, based solely on his race. And so I believe Luke is telling us that had Paul stood before that mob, they would never have heard a single word. Going to that theater would not have gained a hearing for the gospel, and it could have cost Paul’s life.

The City Clerk’s Rebuke and Benediction
(19:35-41)

35 And after quieting the multitude, the town clerk450 said, “Men of Ephesus, what man is there after all who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is guardian of the temple of the great Artemis, and of the image which fell down from heaven? 36 “Since then these are undeniable facts, you ought to keep calm and to do nothing rash. 37 “For you have brought these men here who are neither robbers of temples451 nor blasphemers of our goddess. 38 “So then, if Demetrius and the craftsmen who are with him have a complaint against any man, the courts are in session and proconsuls are available; let them bring charges against one another. 39 “But if you want anything beyond this, it shall be settled in the lawful assembly. 40 “For indeed we are in danger of being accused of a riot in connection with today’s affair, since there is no real cause for it; and in this connection we shall be unable to account for this disorderly gathering.” 41 And after saying this he dismissed the assembly.

While neither Alexander nor Paul could get a hearing from the crowd, the city clerk did. Notice that even he did not get an immediate hearing, however. This man seems to have been very wise. I think that in his wisdom he chose to wait for some time to try to address the crowd. He let them shout for two full hours after Alexander was put forward, until the crowd must have worn down. As they were gasping for breath, he move forward and spoke to the mob. His words would prove to be effective, for when he was finished he would have shown them the error of their ways and, having dismissed them, would succeed in sending the crowd home, without further violence. Let us consider the argument of the clerk, especially in comparison to the argument of Alexander, as outlined above. Notice how his argument is almost the exact opposite, in order, to that of Alexander. While the argument of Alexander begins with profits and self-interest, ending with the worship of Artemis, the clerk’s argument begins with the worship of Artemis and ends with economic concerns.

(1) Who can possibly undermine the worship of Artemis in Ephesus, for everyone knows and believes that she fell from heaven, and everyone knows that Ephesus is the guardian of her temple. The clerk gives every appearance of being a worshipper of Artemis. That she is a true god seems to be the premise of his whole argument. Everyone knows and believes that Artemis is the god of Ephesus, and that Ephesus is the guardian of her temple. So what are these people so upset about? Do they really think that some foreigners can come and upset the “faith” of the Ephesians by any teaching they might put forth? In essence, the clerk is telling the craftsmen and the crowds to relax, and to “keep the faith” (of Artemis).

(2) The men who have been brought forward are men of good reputation, who are not guilty of any violations of Ephesian law concerning the worship of Artemis. While they were charged with offenses against the religion of Ephesus, the city clerk knew better. He was aware of the presence and ministry of Paul and others, and they had not broken any laws. While these men did not believe in Artemis or worship her, they did not desecrate her temple or speak blasphemously of her. What a testimony to the circumspect lifestyle of these men and of Paul, who taught against idolatry, but who did not engage in the blasphemy of Artemis (as the Jews blasphemed Jesus, see 18:6).

(3) If anyone had done damage to the business of the silver craftsmen, there were courts to settle these matters. This was, at best, a “kangaroo court.” It really looked more like a lynch mob. There were legal remedies for any grievances. If Demetrius or any of his colleagues had a grievance with anyone, let them take the matter up in the right place and manner. That’s what the courts are for. No mob rule in this city.

(4) If there are any laws being broken, it is Demetrius and this mob who are guilty, and so the sooner everyone goes home, the better for all concerned. Rome would not look favorably on this mob. Things were out of control. This was an illegal assembly. Unless this crowd is eager to have a Roman regiment disperse them, they had better move on, and quickly.

With this argument, the crowd was persuaded and went home. And with this disturbance, Paul was persuaded to move on. After calling the saints together and encouraging them, Paul set out to fulfill his plans. And so the great Ephesian campaign ends, at least so far as Paul’s presence is concerned.

Conclusion

One can hardly view the city clerk’s dismissal of the mob assembled at the theater in Ephesus apart from the story of Gallio’s decision in Acts 18. While our Lord’s promise to Paul was for his safety there in Corinth, it seems that from Corinth on Rome becomes the protector of Paul and of the preaching of the gospel, rather than his persecutor. Here we find a pure pagan, a man who seems to have worshipped Artemis himself, taking a position which defended not only Paul, but also those with him, even though they preached a gospel message that denied the existence of his “god.” Here, as in Corinth, Paul’s safety and protection was not the result of his own defense, for neither in Corinth nor in Ephesus did he have the opportunity to speak in his own defense. In Corinth, he was interrupted by Gallio, before he could offer of word of defense; here, in Corinth, Paul was not even allowed to enter the theater, to speak in his defense. But God provided protection for Paul and for the preaching of the gospel through pagan men who were in positions of political power. The sovereignty of God is once again evident.

I think that it is worthy of note that this pagan politician seems to be aware of what Paul and the other Christians preached, but also that he was confident that they had not broken any laws. The faith of the Christians in the power of God enabled them to live within the laws of the land. If they differed with the worship of the Ephesians, they made their differences clear in a way that was within the law. In Acts the laws of the land are only disobeyed when they directly contradict God’s law (see Acts 5:29).

There is a rather strong movement in our own days to disobey the laws of the land, in the name of Christian “protest.” In the Book of Acts, I do not see “protest,” but I do see “proclamation.” It was through the preaching of the Word of God and through the divine demonstration of the power of God that the business of Demetrius and others was threatened, not by angry Christians, protesting against the temple of Artemis and the worship of idols. I am not saying that protest is always wrong, but when protest involves the violation of the laws of the land, we find ourselves acting in a way that finds no precedent in the Book of Acts, and I am not so sure that we will find it elsewhere, either. To follow the pattern of Acts, I would think that the preaching of the Word of God would so change lives and values that abortion clinics, for example, would find that fewer and fewer women wished to use their services. There is room for some careful thought given to this matter. Is the “mere” proclamation of the gospel not enough? The way that John the Baptist, Jesus, and His apostles preached it, it was enough. In each case, the gospel was proclaimed in a cultural context, exposing the sins and evils of that culture, and presenting the shed blood of Christ as sufficient atonement for all sin.

I want to end this message by focusing your attention on the matter of magic in the Bible. Magic is always that which is contrary to faith in God and which is a part of heathen or apostate religion. The contest between God and “false religion” is often presented in terms of the power of God versus the power of magic. At the exodus, the first great contest between God and magicians can be seen. While the Egyptian magicians could not interpret the dreams of the Pharaoh, Joseph could, by the power of God (Genesis 41:8, 24). When the contest between God and the “gods of Egypt” began through Moses (Exodus 7:11, 22; 8:7, 18-19; 9:11), God’s power was demonstrated to be superior to man-made magic. This was even evident to the magicians (see Exodus 9:19). Later on, Daniel could do through the power of God what the magicians of Babylon could not do (Daniel 1:20; 2:2, 10, 27; 4:7, 9; 5:11).

The sad fact is that magic did not only characterize the heathen. This we could easily understand. Magic began to worm its way into the beliefs and practices of the Israelites:

1 Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who prophesy, and say to those who prophesy from their own inspiration, ‘Listen to the word of the Lord! 3 ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Woe to the foolish prophets who are following their own spirit and have seen nothing. 4 “O Israel, your prophets have been like foxes among ruins. 5 “You have not gone up into the breaches, nor did you build the wall around the house of Israel to stand in the battle on the day of the Lord. 6 “They see falsehood and lying divination who are saying, ‘The Lord declares,’ when the Lord has not sent them; yet they hope for the fulfillment of {their} word. 7 “Did you not see a false vision and speak a lying divination when you said, ‘The Lord declares,’ but it is not I who have spoken?” ‘“ 8 Therefore, thus says the Lord God, “Because you have spoken falsehood and seen a lie, therefore behold, I am against you,” declares the Lord God. 9 “So My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and utter lying divinations. They will have no place in the council of My people, nor will they be written down in the register of the house of Israel, nor will they enter the land of Israel, that you may know that I am the Lord God. 10 “It is definitely because they have misled My people by saying, ‘Peace!’ when there is no peace. And when anyone builds a wall, behold, they plaster it over with whitewash; 11 {so} tell those who plaster it over with whitewash, that it will fall. A flooding rain will come, and you, O hailstones, will fall; and a violent wind will break out. 12 “Behold, when the wall has fallen, will you not be asked, ‘Where is the plaster with which you plastered {it}?’” 13 Therefore, thus says the Lord God, “I will make a violent wind break out in My wrath. There will also be in My anger a flooding rain and hailstones to consume {it} in wrath. 14 “So I shall tear down the wall which you plastered over with whitewash and bring it down to the ground, so that its foundation is laid bare; and when it falls, you will be consumed in its midst. And you will know that I am the Lord. 15 “Thus I shall spend My wrath on the wall and on those who have plastered it over with whitewash; and I shall say to you, ‘The wall is gone and its plasterers are gone, 16 {along with} the prophets of Israel who prophesy to Jerusalem, and who see visions of peace for her when there is no peace, ‘declares the Lord God. 17 “Now you, son of man, set your face against the daughters of your people who are prophesying from their own inspiration. Prophesy against them, 18 and say, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Woe to the women who sew {magic} bands on all wrists, and make veils for the heads of {persons} of every stature to hunt down lives! Will you hunt down the lives of My people, but preserve the lives {of others} for yourselves? 19 “And for handfuls of barley and fragments of bread, you have profaned Me to My people to put to death some who should not die and to keep others alive who should not live, by your lying to My people who listen to lies.” ‘“ 20 Therefore, thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I am against your {magic} bands by which you hunt lives there as birds, and I will tear them off your arms; and I will let them go, even those lives whom you hunt as birds. 21 “I will also tear off your veils and deliver My people from your hands, and they will no longer be in your hands to be hunted; and you will know that I am the Lord. 22 “Because you disheartened the righteous with falsehood when I did not cause him grief, but have encouraged the wicked not to turn from his wicked way {and} preserve his life, 23 therefore, you women will no longer see false visions or practice divination, and I will deliver My people out of your hand. Thus you will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 13:1-23).

There is a world of difference between faith and magic. Faith rests in the character of God, as well as in His promises. Faith also recognizes the sovereignty of God, and His infinite wisdom, which is beyond human expectation or comprehension. Thus, faith does not dictate to God, but trusts in Him, and waits for Him to act, in His own time and way. “Wait upon the Lord” is a guiding principle for those of faith. With magic man manufactures “gods” according to the wants and needs of man. And those who make such “gods” then establish the rules by which this “god” is supposed to act. Getting what one wants becomes of matter of formulas and the skill of the men who call upon the “god.”

Two key ingredients of true religion and magic are (1) worship, and (2) words. Allow me to explain what I mean. Worship establishes or acknowledges the values which underlie one’s religion. As you have probably often heard, worship is really “worthship.” That is, we worship that which we hold to have the greatest worth. The Israelites’ primary obligation was to worship God, to love and serve Him with their whole heart, soul, mind and strength. The first commandment made this worship exclusive—God alone. Idolatry and magic makes something else the object of greatest worth and thus of worship. If men value success, or prosperity, or fertility, or military might, they create a “god” or “goddess” who controls such things. Men then worship that “god” to get what they value so highly.

Second, true religion and magic are dependent upon words. Notice that in magic, you have to have the right words to produce a certain spell or result. And so the sons of Sceva used the words “the Jesus whom Paul preaches.” This was their formula. But God is not controlled by men or by formulas. He is sovereign. The sovereign God has given us words, however, which we are to keep, and by which we are to live. The “words” are the Word of God. Our faith is to be rooted in God’s Word (see Hebrews 11), not in our “words.” When men trust in God, they trust in His Word, but when their trust in God is absent, they begin to trust in other words. How often, in Israel’s history, these were the words of the false prophets, who assured the people of God that they could disobey God and prosper, while God promised prosperity only for those who obeyed His Word (see Deuteronomy chapters 6-8; 28).

Put in the context of the history of Israel, we can say that magic found its way into the life of God’s people when their faith waned. Magic is a man-made replacement for faith, when faith has ceased to exist. Magic is trust in false “gods” and trusting in false “gods” is magic.

In the Book of Acts, magic is most often associated with Judaism. Simon, of Acts 8, was at least a Samaritan, a half-Jew. Bar-Jesus (Acts 13) was a Jewish false prophet. The sons of Sceva, likewise, were Jews, of the high priestly family. Judaism had so turned from faith in God that they had resorted to magic instead. Here was the source of power for many Jews. It was not the Word of God and the worship of God which were primary any longer, but “words” (magic spells and formulas) and the worship of material things. For the Jews, who had forsaken literal idols, their “god” was often money, they money that could be made, for example, by casting out demons. No wonder our Lord taught that men cannot serve God and money (Matthew 6:24).

In Acts, we find Judaism at it best and at its worst. In the Bereans (Acts 17:10-15) and Apollos (18:24-28), and the “12 disciples of Ephesus” (Acts 19:1-7), we find Judaism at its best. Its faith is in Messiah to come, and in the promises of the Word of God found in the Old Testament. People like these folks needed only to have “the blank filled in,” needed only to be shown that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, in fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. But in the sons of Sceva and many other Jews we find Judaism at its worst. They have turned from trust in God and in His word to magic, to man-made religion, which promised to “meet their wants and needs.” What a sad departure from that which God had desired and demanded of His people.

In the New Testament epistles the teaching and practice which Paul or others condemns as false is often “Jewish” in nature and in origin. Ephesus will be greatly impacted and troubled by Jewish false teaching. This is very evident in the epistles of Paul to Timothy. The error which Paul refutes is that which is taught by those who wish to be “teachers of the Law” (1 Timothy 1:3-11). These would-be teachers engaged in speculation (1:4), although they spoke with great confidence (1:7). Their theology was really rooted in myths (1:4), not in the revealed Word of God. When these Jews turned from the truth of God they turned to speculation, myth, and conjecture. When they turned from the power of God, they often turned to some form of magic.

The people of Ephesus, and especially the saints, recognized that the practice of the sons of Sceva was really magic, that it was worthless, and that it was evil. And so they learned from the beating of the sons of Sceva and they renounced that form of magic which they had formerly practiced. As a result, the people of Ephesus took note and the gospel was advanced in Ephesus and all of Asia.

I find a principle to be underlying our text in Acts 19, which could be stated something like this: To the extent that the church has power, the unbelieving world will seek to imitate it; to the extent that the church lacks power, it will seek to imitate the world and its power.

The sons of Sceva were Jews, Jews of the high priestly line, but they had forsaken the faith of their fathers, and so they lacked power. The power of God was at work in Ephesus through Paul, and the sons of Sceva sought to imitate this power. Those who lack power seek it elsewhere.

My question for us today is this: “Is the world attempting to imitate the power of God which is evident in the church, or is the church today trying to imitate the power which is in the world?” I fear that the answer is all too evident. If the world is not trying to imitate the power of God in the church, then the church must have lost its power. And if the church is trying to imitate the power which is in the world, it has surely lost its power. The church is imitating the world much more than the world is imitating the church. The church, I fear, has turned from the worship of God and the Word of God to magic.

“What forms of magic are being practiced by Christians today?” There are, of course, those illicit forms of magic which Christians may practice in private, which they know to be wrong. For example, Christians may become involved in Tarot cards, in astrology, or in other occult practices. But these things are clearly forbidden. We recognize these as magic, or at least as evil.

What I am referring to is that form of “magic” which may be passing for Christianity. I am speaking of those practices which have the adjective “Christian” before them, but which are really magic. I will not be very popular for saying so, but these forms of magic have their “books,” too, books which ought to be burned, and which were probably purchased in Christian book stores. Some of them are books on “success” in one form or another, success which can be attained by following the right formulas. This “success” may be in the form of “answered prayer,” prayer which says the right things, which has the right words.

Magic finds its way into Christian thinking and practice to the degree that we turn from God alone as the object of our worship, and when we turn from His Word as the basis for our faith and practice. I have been greatly impressed concerning the relationship of God’s Word to God’s power in the Bible. Satan promised power to Adam and Eve, but to get it they had to disregard and disobey God’s word. Satan offered Jesus power, if He would but act independently of God and His word (Matthew 4; Luke 4). Notice that when Jesus responded to Satan, He always used the Word of God. That is because our Lord knew that the power of God cannot be divorced from the Word of God. To put it differently, we have power when we obey the Word, not when we reject it. Jesus rebuked His Jewish opponents by telling them that they knew neither the Scriptures nor the power of God (Matthew 22:29). Notice these texts which directly link the power of God to the Word of God:

For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it {the} righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous {man} shall live by faith” (Romans 1:16-17).

And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:3).

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do (Hebrews 4:12-13).

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of {the} divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust (2 Peter 1:2-4).

Christian magic often takes the thoughts, methods, and means of secular, ungodly people, and seeks to sanctify it with Christian labels. How often Freudian psychology or some revised version of it (for example, Transactional Analysis) and pawns it off as Christian psychology. How often the church borrows its fund-raising methodology from the world and then seeks to give God the credit. How seldom the hand of God is evident in such a way that even the unbelievers recognize that it is God who is at work.

How much of our Christianity has magic as the motive and the method? We want God to meet our needs, to give us what we want, and thus we turn to formulas which assure us of His blessings? How much of our doctrine is speculative, rather than authoritative? How much of our knowledge is based upon secular thought, rather than on the Word of God? How many of our terms cannot be found in the Bible or defined by Scripture? How much emphasis is there on the “right method” or formula? How much room is left for God to overrule our desires or plans? How often is “integration” spoken of, in the sense of integrating Bible truth with other “truth,” under the banner, “All truth is God’s truth”?

I say to you that there is a great deal of magic being practiced today, but unlike the Ephesian saints of Paul’s day, we have not come to recognize it yet. Paul’s deliverance was not by magic, but by the sovereign working of God, not so much because of Paul’s efforts (which God disallowed), but in spite of them, through the instrumentality of a pagan politician, whose name is never mentioned—the city clerk of Ephesus. May God’s power be at work in and through us, so that the magic of unbelief is seen to be a fraud, and so that we renounce and reject it, to the glory of God and to the advancement of the gospel.


433 “Reasoning” in Acts usually implies a kind of apologetic ministry, addressed to unbelievers. See Acts 17:2, 17; 18:4, 19; 19:8-9; 24:25

434 “According to the Western text, Paul had the use of the building from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Whatever the textual basis of this reading may be, it probably represents what actually happened. Tyrannus (if he was the lecturer) no doubt delivered his lectures in the early morning. At 11 a.m. public activity came to a stop in the cities of Ionia (as in many other parts of the Mediterranean world), and Lake and Cadbury are no doubt right in saying that more people would be asleep at 1 p.m. than at 1 a.m. But Paul, after spending the early hours at his tentmaking (cf. 20:34, devoted the burden and heat of the day to his more important and more exhausting business, and must have conveyed something of his own energy and zeal to his hearers, who had followed him from the synagogue to this lecture hall, for they were prepared to forgo their own siesta in order to listen to Paul.” F. F. Bruce, The Book of Acts, Revised Edition (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988), p. 366, fn 22, citing Lake and Cadbury, Beginnings, I.4, p. 239

435 The total time Paul spent in Ephesus, according to Paul’s words in Acts 20:31, was three years.

436 “Forty years after this Pliny in his famous letter to Trajan from Bithynia will say of Christianity: ‘For the contagion of this superstition has not only spread through cities, but also through villages and country places.’” A. T. Robertson, III, p. 315.

“For two full years this work went on. While Paul stayed in Ephesus, a number of his colleagues carried out missionary activity in neighboring cities. During those years his colleague Epaphras appears to have evangelized the cities of the Lycus valley, Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis--cities which Paul evidently did not visit in person (Col. 1:7-8; 2:1; 4:12-13). Perhaps all seven of the churches of Asia addressed in the Revelation of John were also founded about this time. The province was intensively evangelized, and remained one of the leading centers of Christianity for many centuries.” F. F. Bruce, The Book of Acts, Revised Edition (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988), p. 366.

437 “Linen aprons used by servants or artisans (Martial XIV. 153). Paul did manual work at Ephesus (20:34) and so wore these aprons.” A. T. Robertson, III, p. 317.

438 The phenomenon of miracles, signs, and wonders were almost always manifested through apostles (though see Philip in Acts 8:6, 13) to accredit the messenger and his message--the gospel. See Acts 7:36; 8:6, 13; 14:3; 15:12, 19; 1 Corinthians 1:22; 14:22; 2 Corinthians 12:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:9; Hebrews 2:4.

439 See Luke 11:14-26, especially verse 19.

“The closest parallel to the Ephesian exorcists’ misuse of the name of Jesus appears in a magical papyrus belonging to the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, which contains the adjuration: ‘I adjure you by Jesus, the God of the Hebrews.’ F. F. Bruce, The Book of Acts, Revised Edition (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988), p. 368, fn 32, citing K. Preisendanz, Papyri Graecae Magicae, I (Leipzig, 1928), Pap. Bibl. Nat. Suppl. gr. 574, lines 3018-19.

440 “The first know is ginosko, the second, epistamai. Page comments: ‘It is easy, but unsafe, to say that ginosko = ‘acknowledge,’ i.e., as recognizing His power, whereas epistamai = ‘know’ merely expresses acquaintance with a fact.” The variation seems strange, and the reason for it is not clear. Gloag translates it: “Jesus I know, and with Paul I am acquainted.’ In the closing question ye (hymeis) is put first for contemptuous emphasis: ‘But you, who are you?’” Carter and Earle, page 289, citing Page, p. 206, fn 49.

441 There is a slight problem here, because Luke has told us that there were 7 sons, and yet he says here that “both” (which seems to imply 2 sons) were attacked by the demonized man. There seem to be two solutions. (1) Only two of the seven sons were involved with this man. (2) The term “both” includes all seven. This second view is held by A. T. Robertson, who writes, “Papyri examples exist where amphoteroi means ‘all’ or more than ‘two’. . . . So here amphoteroi includes all seven. ‘Both’ in old English was used for more than two.” A. T. Robertson, III, p. 318.

442 “Of praxeis, deeds, Lake and Cadbury say: ‘The noun also has the technical meaning of ‘magic spell,’ so that the probable meaning here is that the former exorcists now disclosed the secret formulae they had used.’” Carter and Earle, page 290, citing Lake and Cadbury, Beginnings IV, p. 242, fn. 52.

443 Perierga, magical arts, is used elsewhere in the New Testament only in 1 Timothy 5:13 (‘busybodies’). But it is also ‘a technical term for magic.’ Books is biblous, the Greek word ‘for papyrus. These would be parchment or papyrus scrolls with magical charms written on them. Deissmann gives numerous examples of these. Moulton and Milligan assert that biblos always has ‘the connotation of sacredness and veneration.’ Gloag notes that the term ‘Ephesian Letters’ was commonly used for magical charms or amulets worn by the Ephesians and widely prescribed by the magicians of that day. So this scene is especially appropriate to Ephesus.” Carter and Earle, p. 290, fn. 55, citing Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, pp. 250-260, 304-309; Moulton and Milligan fn 56 VGT p. 111; Gloag fn 57 Op. Cit., II, p. 206.

444 Paul says in Acts 20:22: “And now, behold, bound in spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me.” This is surely a commentary on Luke’s statement in Acts 19:21.

445 See also Acts 23:11; 28:14, 16.

“This was the way that he actually went, but originally he had planned to go to Achaia (Corinth) and then to Macedonia, as he says in II Cor. 1:15f., but he had now changed that purpose, perhaps because of the bad news from Corinth. Already when he wrote I Corinthians he proposed to go first to Macedonia (I Cor. 16:5-7). He even hoped to spend the winter in Corinth ‘if the Lord permit’ and to remain in Ephesus till Pentecost, neither of which things he did.” A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1930), III, pp. 320-321.

446 “The guilds, and the problem they presented to the non-conforming Christian, haunt the background of the New Testament. They were societies not trade unions, primarily social, and multitudinous in ancient society. Records exist of guilds of bankers, doctors, architects, producers of woollen and linen goods, dyers, workers in metal, stone or clay, builders, carpenters, pastry cooks, barbers, embalmers and transport workers. ‘No other age’, writes S. Dill, ‘felt a deeper craving for some form of social life, greater than the family, but narrower than the state.’ Formed under this gregarious urge, the trade guilds satisfied the need of the people at large for social intercourse and self-expression. On the other hand, the tumult at Ephesus shows that the social club, under adroit leadership such as it found in Demetrius, could be used as a sharp political weapon. Hence the sensitiveness of the Roman administration on the whole subject, and the severe laws about illegal association.” Blaiklock, pp. 158-159.

447 “The cult of Ephesian Artemis was of earlier date than the Greek settlement at Ephesus; the name Artemis is non-Greek. Artemis was traditionally venerated as the protector of wild creatures. This association with wild creatures survives, in an altered form, in her worship on the Greek mainland as the “queen and huntress, chaste and fair” of Ben Jonson’s poem; Ephesian Artemis, on the other hand, seems to have acquired some of the features of the great mother-goddess venerated from time immemorial in Asia Minor. Her temple, replacing an earlier one which was destroyed by fire in 356 B.C., was reckoned one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It covered an area four times as large as that of the Parthenon in Athens; it was supported by 127 pillars, each of them sixty feet high, and was adorned by Praxiteles and other great sculptors of antiquity. It stood about a mile and a half northeast of the city which Paul knew. All knowledge of its whereabouts had been forgotten for centuries, when its foundations were discovered on the last day of 1869. The great altar, west of the main building, was discovered in 1965.” Bruce, pp. 373-374.

448 “When the excitement spread to the crowd, the theater was the natural place for them to stage a demonstration. The theater of Ephesus, cut out of the western slope of Mount Pion (modern Panayirdag), could accommodate nearly 25,000 people. It was the regular meeting place of the civic assembly, which was held three times a month; on this occasion the demonstrating populace appears to have constituted itself as a meeting of the assembly, but a highly irregular one.” Bruce, p. 376.

449 “Lily Ross Taylor writes: ‘The Asiarchs were the foremost men of the province of Asia, chosen from the wealthiest and the most aristocratic inhabitants of the province.’ They held office for one year, and several were appointed each year.” Carter and Earle, p. 296.

450 “This officer is not a mere secretary of another officer or like the copyists and students of the law among the Jews, but the most influential person in Ephesus who drafted decrees with the aid of the strategoi, had charge of the city’s money, was the power in control of the assembly, and communicated directly with the proconsul. Inscriptions at Ephesus give frequently this very title for their chief officer and the papyri have it also. The precise function varied in different cities. His name appeared on the coin at Ephesus issued in his year of office.” A. T. Robertson, III, p. 330.

“This was the town clerk, the executive officer of the civic assembly, who took part in drafting the decrees to be laid before it, and had them engraved when they were passed. He acted also as liaison officer between the civic government and the Roman provincial administration, which had its headquarters in Ephesus. The Roman authorities would hold him responsible for the riotous assembly, and might impose severe penalties on the city. He therefore did his best to calm the assembly, and when at last he succeeded, he addressed them.” Bruce, p. 378.

451 “But Lake and Cadbury say that the term ‘came to mean “‘sacrilege’” as being the real crime involved in robbing a temple.’ So they translate the adjective ‘sacrilegious’ (cf. RSV). Josephus quotes the Egyptian historian Manetho as declaring that the Jews ‘had been guilty of sacrilege {hierosylia} and destroyed the images of the gods.’ He also quotes Moses as telling the Israelites before they crossed the Jordan: ‘Let no one blaspheme those gods which other cities esteem such; nor may one steal what belongs to strange temples, nor take away the gifts that are dedicated to any god.’ It is obvious that these two accusations, of blasphemy and temple-robbing, were leveled against the Jews.” Carter and Earle, p. 299.

Related Topics: Worship, Cults/Magic