Bridge: The Compulsion of the Spirit and Paul’s Response
Afterward Paul felt compelled by the Spirit to go over to Macedonia and Achaia before going to Jerusalem. “And after that,” he said, “I must go on to Rome!” He sent his two assistants, Timothy and Erastus, ahead to Macedonia while he stayed awhile longer in the province of Asia.Acts 19:21-22
The time has come to address the question of several of you as to whether Paul was still in the city of Ephesus when the trouble stirred up by Demetrius started or whether he had left already. The statement we have in verse 21 expresses intention after feeling compelled by the Holy Spirit to go over to Macedonia and Achaia. But as we all know intention is not action. Luke tell us that Paul sends Timothy and Erastus on ahead to Macedonia while he stays longer in the province of Asia. Ephesus was in the province of Asia. But notice Luke tells us Paul stayed in the province, he doesn’t write Paul stayed in Ephesus. It is possible that Paul went out of the city to a nearby town or village but note that he was still close enough to the city even if he wasn’t in it.
Soon the whole city was filled with confusion. Everyone rushed to the amphitheater, dragging along Gaius and Aristarchus, who were Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia. Paul wanted to go in, too, but the believers wouldn’t let him. Some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, also sent a message to him, begging him not to risk his life by entering the amphitheater.
Note that the crowd don’t drag Paul into the amphitheater, they drag the two Macedonians. Perhaps because they are aware of the consequences of dealing with Roman citizens in that way. Paul clearly was not with Gaius and Aristarchus. But he was still close enough to want to go into the amphitheater. However some officials from the province sent a message to warn Paul not to go into the amphitheater. Those words suggest to me that the officials from the province of Asia were in Ephesus at the time. Otherwise to wait in order for a message to come from further out in the province would have taken too long. Paul would likely have left for the amphitheater already. My hunch is the tone of what Luke wrote suggests immediacy of action which indicates Paul was still somewhere in the city but laying low. Provincial officials and friends of Paul’s were close by (in the city) and sent a message telling him not to risk his life.
It is for sure that Paul had not left for Macedonia at that point because Luke records for us after the uproar with Demetrius was over:
Paul sent for the disciples and encouraged them. Then he said goodbye to them and left to go to Macedonia. He went through those regions and encouraged the people with everything he had to say. Then he went to Greece and stayed there for three months. When he was about to sail for Syria, a plot was initiated against him by the Jews, so he decided to go back through Macedonia. He was accompanied by Sopater (the son of Pyrrhus) from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus from Asia. These men went on ahead and were waiting for us in Troas. After the Feast of Unleavened Bread, we sailed from Philippi, and days later we joined them in Troas and stayed there for seven days. ()Acts 20:1-6
Yes, it seems complicated, so I have included a map of Paul’s movements. It is hardly likely that Paul sailed for Corinth or Athens direct from Ephesus. Rather he apparently took the land route around to Macedonia and that clearly didn’t happen until the beginning of Chapter 20. Hence Paul must have been hidden in the city while the riot started by Demetrius blew itself out. After that he left for Macedonia having sent Timothy and Erastus on beforehand.
Our next task is to pull apart the account of the riot before we address the harmonizing of Luke’s account of Paul’s time in Ephesus with Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Then we will return to the Ephesians again when Paul meets with the Ephesian elders in Troas in Chapter 20.
That gives you an overview of what is before us.
In the meantime, cast your eye over the account of the riot below:
Serious Trouble in Ephesus
About that time, serious trouble developed in Ephesus concerning the Way. It began with Demetrius, a silversmith who had a large business manufacturing silver shrines of the Greek goddess Artemis. He kept many craftsmen busy. He called them together, along with others employed in similar trades, and addressed them as follows: “Gentlemen, you know that our wealth comes from this business. But as you have seen and heard, this man Paul has persuaded many people that handmade gods aren’t really gods at all. And he’s done this not only here in Ephesus but throughout the entire province! Of course, I’m not just talking about the loss of public respect for our business. I’m also concerned that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will lose its influence and that Artemis—this magnificent goddess worshiped throughout the province of Asia and all around the world—will be robbed of her great prestige!”
At this their anger boiled, and they began shouting, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” Soon the whole city was filled with confusion. Everyone rushed to the amphitheater, dragging along Gaius and Aristarchus, who were Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia. Paul wanted to go in, too, but the believers wouldn’t let him. Some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, also sent a message to him, begging him not to risk his life by entering the amphitheater.
Inside, the people were all shouting, some one thing and some another. Everything was in confusion. In fact, most of them didn’t even know why they were there. The Jews in the crowd pushed Alexander forward and told him to explain the situation. He motioned for silence and tried to speak. dfBut when the crowd realized he was a Jew, they started shouting again and kept it up for about two hours: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians! Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”
At last the mayor was able to quiet them down enough to speak. “Citizens of Ephesus,” he said. “Everyone knows that Ephesus is the official guardian of the temple of the great Artemis, whose image fell down to us from heaven. Since this is an undeniable fact, you should stay calm and not do anything rash. You have brought these men here, but they have stolen nothing from the temple and have not spoken against our goddess. If Demetrius and the craftsmen have a case against them, the courts are in session and the officials can hear the case at once. Let them make formal charges. And if there are complaints about other matters, they can be settled in a legal assembly. I am afraid we are in danger of being charged with rioting by the Roman government, since there is no cause for all this commotion. And if Rome demands an explanation, we won’t know what to say.” Then he dismissed them, and they dispersed.Acts 19:23-41
Stories, in contrast to abstract statements of truth, tease us into becoming participants in what is being said.Eugene Peterson
If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.C. S. Lewis via Lyn Wake
Complaining shows we are more mindful of the problem than God.Bill Johnston
I have found there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.Mark Twain