Scripture Reading: Acts 19:23—20:12

In this message we shall consider 19:23—20:12. In 19:23-41 we have an account of the great disturbance in Ephesus. In 20:1-12 we have a description of Paul’s journey through Macedonia and Greece to Troas.


Acts 19:23 says, “Now about that time no little disturbance took place concerning the way.” As we have pointed out, in Acts “the way” denotes the Lord’s full salvation in God’s New Testament economy.

Satan’s Fight against the Spreading
of God’s Kingdom

Verses 24 through 26 continue, “For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, making silver shrines of Artemis, afforded no little business to the craftsmen, whom he also assembled together with the workmen of similar trades and said, Men, you know that from this trade we have our prosperity. And you observe and hear that not only at Ephesus but in almost all of Asia, this Paul has persuaded and perverted a considerable number, saying that they are not gods that are made by hands.” The Demetrius in verse 24 is not the one in 3 John 12. This Demetrius was a silversmith who made silver shrines of Artemis, the Ephesian goddess. In Latin, this was Diana, the Roman goddess. Making these silver shrines was a dirty and demonic trade, a trade that cooperated with the demons to possess and usurp people for Satan’s evil kingdom (Matt. 12:26). Behind the idol worship were demons who instigated the uproar against the apostle to disturb and frustrate the preaching of the gospel. This was Satan’s fight against God’s spreading of His kingdom on the earth.

In Ephesus Paul’s preaching was prevailing and caused people to talk about the idols in that city. The craftsmen were concerned that their business would come into disrepute (v. 27). As a result, there was a great disturbance. Those whom Demetrius had assembled became full of rage and “they kept crying out, saying, Great is Artemis of the Ephesians! And the city was filled with confusion, and they rushed with one accord into the theater, having seized Gaius and Aristarchus of Macedonia, Paul’s traveling companions” (vv. 28-29). The Gaius mentioned in verse 29 was not the Gaius of Derbe in 20:4, nor the Gaius of Corinth in 1 Corinthians 1:14 and Romans 16:23, nor the Gaius addressed by John in 3 John 1. The name Gaius was very common at the time.

Causing Trouble through a Prevailing Ministry

In Acts 19:23-41 we see an important principle. This principle is that if we stay in a locality for a longer time we should have a prevailing ministry, a ministry that is able to stir up others. In a sense, when Paul was in Ephesus he was a troublemaker. Before he arrived, the city was peaceful, worshipping the idol of Artemis. But Paul’s presence in Ephesus eventually caused a great disturbance. He did not attack Artemis by name. On the contrary, he carried on a prevailing ministry, and that ministry stirred up the entire city, affecting the society. This indicates that if we stay in a particular place, our ministry should be so prevailing that it stirs up the situation there in the right way.

In 19:23-41 we have another pattern—the pattern of causing trouble through a prevailing ministry. If we follow this pattern, we shall cause trouble through the prevailing preaching of the gospel. Before we come to a certain place, the people may live peacefully and worship idols. But after we stay there for a period of time, the city may be in a turmoil because of our prevailing ministry.

Certain matters relating to the disturbance in Ephesus are almost laughable. We are told that “some cried out one thing and some another; for the assembly was in confusion, and the majority did not know for what cause they had come together” (v. 32). Furthermore, “some of the crowd focused on Alexander, the Jews having pushed him forward; and Alexander, motioning with his hand, wanted to make a defense to the populace. But when they realized that he was a Jew, one voice arose from all for about two hours, crying out, Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” (vv. 33-34). Probably Alexander was not a convert of Paul’s preaching. Neither was he the Alexander in 1 Timothy 1:20 and 2 Timothy 4:14. Concerning the disturbance, the townclerk said, “For indeed we are in danger of being charged with insurrection concerning today’s affairs, there being no cause for it; and with reference to it we shall not be able to give an account concerning this disorderly gathering” (v. 40). From these verses we see how great was the turmoil caused by Paul’s prevailing ministry.

When some read the account of the disturbance in Ephesus, they may say, “When I go to a place to work for the Lord, I do not want to see such turmoil.” Nevertheless, if your work is truly prevailing, eventually this prevailingness will touch the heart of the power of darkness. In Ephesus the heart of the power of darkness was the temple of the goddess Artemis. The more the Ephesians became believers in the Lord, the less influence this temple had. Apparently, the disturbance was caused by certain craftsmen. Actually, it was stirred up by the demons who were behind the scene.

Our ministry is to propagate the resurrected Christ as God’s kingdom. But today every city is the kingdom of the Devil. Hence, the prevailing ministry for the propagation of Christ is a fighting, a battle, for God’s kingdom. The whole earth is the kingdom of darkness. If we are very kind and gentle in carrying out our work, seeking to please everyone, no opposition will be stirred up, no matter how long we stay in a certain place. If our ministry is truly prevailing, there is bound to be opposition.

However, we should not do anything in ourselves to stir up trouble, thinking that this is a proof that our ministry is powerful and prevailing. It is terrible to do such a thing, for that will be used by the power of darkness. Then instead of being part of the propagation of Christ for God’s kingdom, we shall in a practical way be a part of the kingdom of darkness.

We all need to realize that a battle is raging between God and Satan. Therefore, we need to be certain that whatever we do is absolutely on the side of the kingdom of God and that nothing is involved with the kingdom of darkness.

Because of the battle raging between God and Satan, we should be prepared for the enemy’s attack. If we carry on a prevailing ministry, eventually we shall be attacked. The demonic “arrows” will be aimed at us. However, instead of being dismayed by this, we, like Paul, should be encouraged.

Paul was strong in confronting attack. He did not flee from that demonic uproar in Ephesus. In fact, he even intended to go in to the populace, but the disciples would not allow him (v. 30). “And some of the Asiarchs also, who were his friends, sent to him and entreated him not to venture into the theater himself” (v. 31). These Asiarchs were principal persons of the province of Asia. Here we see that even Paul’s friends in the political circle were concerned for his safety. If Paul had ventured into the theater, the Jews who were opposing him may have seized the opportunity to kill him.

Acts 19:35-41 describes how the crowd was quieted. After the townclerk addressed the crowd, he dismissed the assembly (v. 41). This was the sovereignty of the Lord to preserve His apostle from the demonic uproar.