Online Bible Commentary
Persecution and the Gospel
Acts 19:32 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!" 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. (NKJV)
The Apostle Paul is ministering in the city of Ephesus in Asia during his third missionary journey. He ministered there for two years and three months during 54-56 A.D. It is now 56 A.D. and Paul is coming to the end of his time in Ephesus.
Through Paul’s ministry the Gospel has spread throughout Asia. Now the Holy Spirit is calling Paul to leave Asia and return to the churches that had been planted in Macedonia. Paul has already sent the disciples Timothy and Erastus on ahead to Macedonia to prepare the way for his visit.
The final recorded event of Paul’s time in Ephesus is a riot against his ministry. The citizens of Ephesus have gathered in the outdoor theatre and have adopted a mob mentality. The intention of their leaders, the silversmiths, is to stop this Jew from converting citizens to a religion other than their idol worship, specifically their worship of the goddess Diana.
However, the citizens were “confused, and most of them did not know why they had come together” (v. 32). Initially, the Jews in the crowd wanted to disavow themselves from the troublemaker, Paul, so they put forward one of their own named Alexander to address the crowd (v. 33).
But the crowd found out that he was a Jew and would have none of his argument (v. 34a). The crowd shouted in unison for two hours "Great is Diana of the Ephesians” (v. 34b)!
Finally, the city clerk “quieted the crowd” (v. 35a). He reminded them that the city was the guardian of the temple of Diana, a goddess who was not a man made idol but instead was “the image which fell down from Zeus”, meaning from heaven (v. 35b).
After assuring the crowd that their religion was safe from being overturned the city clerk called for the mob “to be quiet and do nothing rashly” (v. 36). He further assured them that Paul and the Jews were “neither robbers of temples nor blasphemers of your goddess” (v. 37).
As for the silversmiths, “Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen”, the city clerk called for them to take their complaints to the courts which were presently in session (v. 38). Any other complaints would need to be settled by the “lawful assembly”, rather than by mob mentality (v. 39).
The concern of the city clerk was that word of the riot would reach the Romans and there would be severe consequences for him and perhaps the city (v. 40). The Romans did not take kindly to disorder in their empire. With that, the city clerk dismissed the crowd and they dispersed from the theatre (v. 41).
Following this event, Paul leaves Ephesus to journey on to Macedonia where he would visit the churches that had been established in Philippi and Thessalonica. He would not return to Ephesus, not from fear of persecution but because his work there was done. The Gospel was being spread throughout Asia.
Paul would continue to be persecuted as he did the work of the Lord. Persecution and the Gospel tend to go hand in hand, running along parallel tracks.