Acts, Lesson 22: The Ugly Intersection of Religion and Money

Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (610x351)Paul is still in Ephesus, preaching, teaching, and being an evangelist. Earlier, after three months of proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah in the synagogue, many of the Jews there became flustered with Paul. Today, we learn that many Gentiles became angry with Paul, but in a way where monetary income was as important (or more so!) than religion.

Concerns about the Loss of Income

Read Acts 19:23-27

The Way: Within the Bible, only the book of Acts uses “the Way” to describe Christianity (see also Acts 18:25-26; 19:9, 23; 24:5, 14, and 22). Because we only find people using that term early in the New-Covenant Church, that shows “the Way” was a term only used for a short while. “The Way” has its roots in the Old Covenant. The Jews used the term “halakah,” meaning “the path that one walks,” as a way to describe the laws, customs, and traditions that one followed as a Jew.Artemis of Ephesus

Artemis: The Greeks in Paul’s day saw Artemis as the patron of Ephesus. In Greek mythology, she was a renowned hunter and mother, but also revered as a fertility goddess, whom the people believed Zeus had sent down from heaven (Acts 19:35). Because Artemis was female and considered a fertility goddess, priestesses served at her temple and offered themselves for sexual acts (but only if others paid for them).

Ephesus had a large and famous temple dedicated to Artemis. That temple was three times larger than the Parthenon at Athens and considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Ephesian craftsmen would make silver models of the temple, with a statue of the goddess inside. They sold them to visitors who came to Ephesus in devotion to Artemis. Luke used understatement when he wrote that the sale of those “silver shrines” provided “no little work” for the craftsmen there.

  • What was the main concern that Demetrius had about Paul?


  • According to Demetrius, what was the result of what Paul had been doing?


  • How does religion tie in to Demetrius’ concerns?


A Mob Forms

Read Acts 19:28-29

Giaus and Aristarchus: Gaius was from Derbe (Acts 20:4) and may have been the same person mentioned in Romans 16:23 and 1 Corinthians 1:14. Gaius would later travel with Paul to Jerusalem (Acts 20:4). Aristarchus was a Thessalonian (Acts 20:4) and not only accompanied Paul to Jerusalem (Acts 20:4) but also to Rome (Acts 27:2), who was with the Paul during his house arrest at Rome (Colossians 4:10, Philemon 24).

  • How did the craftsmen respond to Demetrius’ speech?


  • That, in turn, led to what?


Read Acts 19:30-31

Asiarchs: These were provincial authorities in a particular area.

  • What is taking place with Paul while the mob forms?


Read Acts 19:32-34

  • Do many in the mob know why they had formed?


  • From the crowd’s response to Alexander, was this specifically an anti-Christian mob?


  • What then motivated the crowd’s response?


The Crowd is Dispersed

Read Acts 19:35-41

Town Clerk: The city secretary of Ephesus and the local official who mediated public relations with Rome.

Sacred Stone: The Ephesians believed that the statue of Artemis came from the sky, sent by Zeus, and was in the temple dedicated to her. (See picture of Artemis above.)

  • How does the Town Clerk acknowledge that what the crowd was chanting was true? (vs. 35-36)


The Town Clerk was referring to the Jews, represented by Alexander, when he said that they were not blasphemers (literally, “temple robbers”). He may have also been referring to Paul, since Paul was the original concern of the Ephesian silversmiths. If so, the Town Clerk was employing sophistry. Paul’s declaration that “gods made with hands are not gods” (vs. 26) didn’t apply because “the sacred stone that fell from the sky [the statue of Artemis]” (vs.35) was sent by Zeus, not made by human hands. 

  • Since the town clerk said that “these men” were not blasphemers against Artemis, in what to ways did he direct the crowd to resolve their concerns? (vs. 38-39)


  • When the town clerk said that they might be “charged with rioting,” why would that be something to consider?


Paul Goes to Macedonia and Greece 

Read Acts 20:1-3

In these verses, Luke again speeds up his narrative and only mentions, in passing, what took place with Paul in Greece and Macedonia for several months.

  • What did Paul do before leaving for Macedonia?


  • Where are “those regions” that Luke mentioned?


  • How long was Paul in Greece?


  • What happened while he was there?


  • How does this change Paul’s travel plans?


To evade a plot against him, Paul chose to travel overland through Macedonia instead of boarding a ship in Greece.


Paul Goes to Troas

Read Acts 20:4-6

Looking at the map below, we can trace Paul’s journey mentioned in these six verses.

Lesson, 19 Pauls Third Missionary Journey


After leaving Ephesus, Paul made a final sweep through Greece before heading to Jerusalem. Although Luke is sparse with information, we know the following from Paul’s New-Testament epistles.

  1. Paul was collecting donations to help “the poor among the saints in Jerusalem” (Romans 15:25-27, 2 Corinthians 8-9). Paul’s seven traveling companions were with him to represent the new Gentile congregations in Macedonia and Asia Minor to the Illyricum“mother Church” in Jerusalem. Sopater, Aristarchus, and Secundus were from Macedonia; Gaius and Timothy were from Galatia; and Tychicus and Trophimus were from Asia.
  2. Paul had written two more epistles along the way: 2 Corinthians and Romans.
  3. Paul may have traveled into a new mission area as far west as Illyricum, on the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea (Romans 15:19).


We will continue our study of Acts next year, after Epiphany.


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