21 Now after these things had been accomplished, Paul resolved in the Spirit to go through Macedonia and Achaia, and then to go on to Jerusalem. He said, ‘After I have gone there, I must also see Rome.’ 22So he sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he himself stayed for some time longer in Asia.
23 About that time no little disturbance broke out concerning the Way. 24A man named Demetrius, a silversmith who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the artisans. 25These he gathered together, with the workers of the same trade, and said, ‘Men, you know that we get our wealth from this business. 26You also see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost the whole of Asia this Paul has persuaded and drawn away a considerable number of people by saying that gods made with hands are not gods. 27And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be scorned, and she will be deprived of her majesty that brought all Asia and the world to worship her.’
28 When they heard this, they were enraged and shouted, ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!’ 29The city was filled with the confusion; and people* rushed together to the theatre, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s travelling-companions. 30Paul wished to go into the crowd, but the disciples would not let him; 31even some officials of the province of Asia,* who were friendly to him, sent him a message urging him not to venture into the theatre. 32Meanwhile, some were shouting one thing, some another; for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together. 33Some of the crowd gave instructions to Alexander, whom the Jews had pushed forward. And Alexander motioned for silence and tried to make a defence before the people. 34But when they recognized that he was a Jew, for about two hours all of them shouted in unison, ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!’ 35But when the town clerk had quietened the crowd, he said, ‘Citizens of Ephesus, who is there that does not know that the city of the Ephesians is the temple-keeper of the great Artemis and of the statue that fell from heaven?* 36Since these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rash. 37You have brought these men here who are neither temple-robbers nor blasphemers of our* goddess. 38If therefore Demetrius and the artisans with him have a complaint against anyone, the courts are open, and there are proconsuls; let them bring charges there against one another. 39If there is anything further* you want to know, it must be settled in the regular assembly. 40For we are in danger of being charged with rioting today, since there is no cause that we can give to justify this commotion.’ 41When he had said this, he dismissed the assembly.
This is a long passage, but I am going to give you a short discussion with it. We have, after all, recently discussed Acts. In this passage, Paul has been preaching in Ephesus for some two years, and is apparently having a successful ministry, so much so that those who make their living producing silver replicas of the goddess Artemis and her temple have become fearful of a loss of their livelihood. One of them, a man named Demetrius, raises an uproar and starts a riot, expecting to get Paul thrown out of town. The rioters start a march, with others following behind with no idea of what it is all about, and they all gather at the theater. Paul wants to go talk with them, but his friends advise against it, saying he would only enrage them.
Finally, the city official, called the town clerk, arrived, and called to them. If you have a dispute with these men, take them to court! As of now, you are in danger of being called rioters. This was a very sobering word in Roman times, because Rome did not tolerate riots and clamped down hard on such behavior, in fact brutally.
But today, I simply wanted to show you this theater, where they gathered that day. It is one of the grandest structures still standing in Ephesus. The grand street leads from it down to the harbor.