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The Amphitheatre: Paul sparks a riot | Bible Trek - Ephesus Series (Part 2) - 01

Acts 19 records a riot involving Paul at this theatre. He had been in Ephesus for two years, the message of Jesus had spread widely and many had become Christians. In doing so, they turned away from occult practices. But this caused direct conflict with local silversmiths who had become wealthy creating images of the goddess Artemis (Diana). 

Quick read

Acts 19.23–27

In a nutshell

A certain silversmith named Demetrius made silver models of the temple of the goddess Artemis. Acts 19.24

The theatre of ancient Ephesus was built well before the times of the Roman Empire. Greek tragedy and comedy had already been alive and well for centuries. Remarkably, some of the stage plays that entertained people from Athens to Ephesus nearly 2,500 years ago are still performed today. 

The theatre was not just used for plays but also religious, political and philosophical discussions. The book of Acts records an incident where the 25,000-seater theatre of Ephesus was filled, not with theatregoers but an angry crowd of citizens concerned for their heritage and livelihood. 

The Apostle Paul’s gospel message had not only challenged people’s religious beliefs, but also those who benefited from the religious commercialism around the city’s Artemis cult. They spotted the economic threat posed by Pauls’ monotheistic creed. If people started to turn from Artemis to Jesus, their business would decline. No wonder they were in uproar. 

Today’s entertainment centres tend to be our phones, shopping malls, and Netflix. Our idols are not likely to be physical, like Artemis of the Ephesians, but can be seen everywhere on billboards and social media posts. 

Have you ever had to go a day without your phone? Did you start getting fidgety? Anxious perhaps? Could you do away with social media, internet shopping and 24/7 wifi? 

Paul led many ‘astray’ in Ephesus by proclaiming Jesus as Saviour for all and Lord of all. Salvation is entry into a whole new way of life, life in the Kingdom of God. There are many good things to be enjoyed in life but when they become all-important, they become toxic. We were made to have God as our source and centre, so any other things are ‘no gods at all’.

Making a lasting difference in this world means waking up to the reality that we are citizens of the Kingdom. Let that sink deeply, and whatever is jostling for position with God in your life will slowly fade as you begin to long and contend for our world to be ‘as it is in heaven’.

Read on, to find out more about Paul in Ephesus and the reception of his message:

  • Uncomfortable gospel truth Acts 19

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