In our study of Acts, we come today to the great riot in Ephesus (Acts 19:23-41). A man named Demetrius was angry with the church and incited a mob in the city center. There were two issues at hand. The first was economic – because of the great number of converts to “the Way,” the idol business was going under (by the way, Demetrius happened to be a silversmith and an idol-maker). This was the overt reason for the riot: Christians were wrecking the Ephesian economy.
But there was a deeper, more sinister and spiritual reason for the riots. Demetrius claimed: 26 You both see and hear that not only in Ephesus, but in almost the whole province of Asia, this man Paul has persuaded and misled a considerable number of people by saying that gods made by hand are not gods!27 So not only do we run a risk that our business may be discredited, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be despised and her magnificence come to the verge of ruin—the very one whom the whole province of Asia and the world adore(Acts 19:26-27, HCSB).”
So, for two straight hours, this mob chanted “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” (By the way, there are two major factors to a mob, or herd, mentality: 1) Group anonymity; and 2) Shared group responsibility. Often, folks in a mob will do things they wouldn’t normally do because they feel invisible in the crowd and not personally responsible.)
In other words, what we have here in Ephesus is a demonic attack against the church. Demonic structures were pulling the strings on the puppet Demetrius. Paul would later explain to this same church Jesus’ authority “21 far above every ruler and authority, power and dominion, and every title given, not only in this age but also in the one to come.(Ephesians 1:21, HCSB). In other words, he (and by our position in him, we) has authority over the idol-maker’s guild, the town clerk, and the officials of the city…but also over the demonic structures behind them which were promoting the worship of this false goddess.
I think this is always good to remember that our battle isn’t against flesh and blood…but against spiritual structures. There will always be a Demetrius, but he’s not the REAL enemy. The real enemy is the spirit behind him, pulling his strings. God will destroy that spirit, but wants to save Demetrius.