And when the town clerk had quieted the crowd, he said, “Men of Ephesus, who is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple keeper of the great Artemis, and of the sacred stone that fell from the sky? 36 Seeing then that these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rash. 37 For you have brought these men here who are neither sacrilegious nor blasphemers of our goddess. 38 If therefore Demetrius and the craftsmen with him have a complaint against anyone, the courts are open, and there are proconsuls. Let them bring charges against one another. 39 But if you seek anything further, it shall be settled in the regular assembly. 40 For we really are in danger of being charged with rioting today, since there is no cause that we can give to justify this commotion.” 41 And when he had said these things, he dismissed the assembly.
When we visited Beijing, China (following a mission trip to Hong Kong and southern China) we told our guide that we wanted to visit an underground church. There are many Christians in China, at least some of which worship in the registered “Three-Self Church” congregations. Some of them are also members of “underground” churches. We had visited a registered church, and found it to be quite edifying and encouraging. We had hoped to see a group of Christians who were not part of the registered (and highly watched and regulated) church.
We ended up at a Roman Catholic church – much to our dismay. But our dismay turned into delight when through a providential convergence of events we were able to share the gospel with our guide and driver. Because we ended up in the Roman Catholic church in Beijing, and they were using the traditional mass, I was asked, and able to answer some very simple questions. Our guide asked me, during the service, “What is sin?” When we confessed the Nicene Creed in Latin we offered an annotated translation into English for him to consider.
The people of Ephesus were agitated over the threat that the message of Jesus posed to Artemis, their pagan goddess. In the face of their near-riotous behavior, the town clerk reminds them of the “sacred stone that fell from the sky” (a meteor?) and the un-refuted fame they enjoyed relative to Artemis. There is a big difference between a superstitious fascination with a stone from the sky combined with a silversmith’s financial interests, and the message of Jesus. Too thousand years later we’re still talking about Jesus. Artemis (Diana) has been forgotten. Today Ephesus is a shadow of its former self. Meteors fall from the sky, and we are more or less impressed. No one today worships sacred stones or silver goddesses; at least not formally.
In fact, however, too many people do worship silver goddesses and sacred stones. Too many people bow down at the altar of finance and sexuality, seeking their salvation from deaf and mute false-gods. When their most dire hour comes, however, those gods will do them no good. Paul and his companions told them of a better God, and truer Savior. Those who embrace Jesus by faith will be saved – far better than any silver goddess or sacred stone can ever offer.