The full title of the Book of Acts is Acts of the Apostles. A better title might be Acts of the Holy Spirit, considering the many evidences of His work in the narrative. But much of the book does outline the dangerous activities of Paul and other apostles as they gave wings to the fledgling new religion. Paul was involved in some very risky business in Ephesus, where many wanted him dead.
There is an interesting story in Acts 19 about political and cultural unrest brought on by lucrative activities based on a lie. The story may have some parallels to the political and cultural climate in the U.S. today. A silversmith, Demetrius, was doing a booming business in Ephesus selling silver shrines of the goddess Artemis. Of course Paul and his companion Alexander were pointing out that Artemis was a lie and that God was the only God. Demetrius was putting it out that Paul and friends would cause his trade to lose its reputation and that Artemis would be discredited, possibly even losing her divine majesty, not to mention that Demetrius would lose his job.
Then there was a town hall meeting full of shouting and pushing. When Paul’s friend Alexander tried to speak at the meeting, the crowd chanted, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” and Alexander was shut down. The crowd did let the city clerk talk and his message was that Artemis’ divinity was an indisputable fact since her image fell down to Ephesus right out of the sky. He maintained that the courts should deal with the problem. In other words, he was doctrinaire and self-assured with inadequate evidence. He was of a mind to force his point of view based upon his assumed righteousness.
What does this passage tell us about our age? I think it is fair to say that there is trouble in the United States of America concerning the health care reform proposal(s). Some stand to profit from the passage of this bill, whatever it may turn out to be. Demetrius feared loss of position if Paul’s crew prevailed. Modern politicians are ever sensitive to losing their next election, and many voters are disgruntled. Town hall meetings demonstrate that many erstwhile quiet people are riled up. Many of the Ephesians claimed their goddess was an undisputed deity while in reality, it was a lie. Many Americans claim the health care proposal before the lawmakers is the only way. At least one congressman proclaimed it as a lie and he got into trouble.
How did things turn out in Ephesus? Paul and Alexander not only prevailed, their point of view became the universal mindset of the Western world. Do you know anyone who wants a silver shrine to Artemis? I don’t. Even though some of my intellectual friends tell me we are living in the post-Christian age, I believe that the majority of Americans are still Christian. Their Christian worldview keeps them from accepting any widely accepted myth, such as “Artemis fell out of the sky.”
Daniel G. Ford