A Commentary by John Stott
Acts 19:21-22. d). Paul’s future plans.
*After all this had happened*, after the synagogue and lecture-hall evangelism and the power encounters, but before the riot in the theatre, *Paul decided to go to Jerusalem*, first *passing through Macedonia and Achaia* (21a). Luke does not add at this stage the reason for this circuitous route, but we know that he was going to pick up the offering which he had been urging the Christians of Northern and Southern Greece to collect for their poverty-stricken sisters and brothers in Judea (see Acts 24:17; Rom. 15:25ff,; 1 Cor. 16:1-8; 2 Cor.8-9). His eyes were not on Jerusalem, however. ‘*After I have been there.’ he said. ‘I must visit Rome also’* (21b), and beyond that he was even dreaming of Spain (Rom. 15:24, 28), ‘the most westerly outpost of Roman civilization in Europe’. His vision had no limits. As Bengel rightly commented, ‘no Alexander, no Caesar, no other hero, approaches to the large-mindedness of this *little* (a play on his name *Paulos*, “little”) Benjamite’. Meanwhile, he *sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus*, ahead of him to Macedonia, presumably in order to make last-minute preparations for the offering *while he stayed in the province of Asia*, indeed in Ephesus itself, *a little longer* (22), because ‘a great door for effective work’ had opened before him, and many were opposing him (1 Cor. 16:8-9). Both the opportunity and the opposition necessitated his continued presence in Ephesus.
e). The riot in the city (19:23-41)
Luke gives his readers a graphic account of the riot which Demetrius the silversmith instigated and the town clerk skilfully quelled. Perhaps he obtained his information from Aristarchus and/or Gaius, who found themselves caught up in the uproar (29) and later became Paul’s and Luke’s travelling companions (20:4-6). Haenchen’s presuppositions lead him to find in the story ‘a regular tangle of difficulties’. He elaborates six of them. But Howard Marshall is right to say that Haenchen’s case ‘disappears under scrutiny’. He gives an adequate explanation of each supposed problem. Luke’s narrative divides itself naturally into three sections relating to the origin, course and termination of the riot.
First, its origin. It was inevitable that sooner or later the kingly authority of Jesus would challenge Diana’s evil sway.
Luke declares that the disturbance arose ‘about the Way’ (NEB, ‘the Christian movement’). At root its cause was neither doctrinal, nor ethical, but economic. Demetrius, whom Ramsay called ‘probably Master of the guild (sc. of silversmiths) for the year’, drew the attention of his and other craftsmen to Paul’s success in convincing people ‘that man-made gods are no gods at all’ In consequence, the sales of ‘silver shrines of Artemis’ (either miniature models of the temple or statuettes of the goddess) were dwindling and their affluent life-style was threatened. Not that Demetrius played directly on their covetousness, however. He was subtle enough to develop three more respectable motives for concern, namely the dangers that their trade would lose its good name, their temple its prestige, and their goddess her divine majesty (27). Thus ‘vested interests were disguised as local patriotism – in this case also under the cloak of religious zeal’.
Tomorrow: Acts 19:28-41. e). The riot in the city (continued).
The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of Acts. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.