Diana of the Ephesians
November 12th, 1978 @ 8:15 AM
DIANA OF THE EPHESIANS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-12-78 8:15 a.m.
Once again thank you orchestra, and choir, and all who share in this service with us in prayer over the two radio stations and the throng that are listening so intently to the expounding of the Word of God here in the First Baptist Church. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Diana of the Ephesians.
In our preaching through the Book of Acts, in chapter 19, we begin at verse 9 and continue to the end of the chapter through 41 [Acts 19:9-41]. The passage is much, much too long for me to read; so we shall just begin expounding this most interesting section of God’s Book and one of the most powerfully dynamic moments in the life of the apostle Paul. The summation of the passage is Paul, speaking the gospel in the Asian city of Ephesus, spending more time there than any other city or area in all of his ministry, except when he was imprisoned in Rome, and out of that incomparable ministry in Ephesus, came the evangelization of the whole Roman province of Asia, among which was the founding of the seven churches of Asia, to whom the Revelation, the Apocalypse is addressed [Revelation 1:4].
So as Paul preaches and as the people are wonderfully converted, the sellers of magic books and the makers of gold and silver shrines find their businesses withering away, atrophying. And one of those silversmiths named Demetrius calls all of his craft together [Acts 19:24-25]. And he describes to them what this preaching of the apostle Paul is doing to their business, which they so well realized themselves [Acts 19:26]. And then he says, “That preaching will finally destroy the great temple of the goddess Diana” [Acts 19:27]. And hearing this, filled with wrath, they cried out, saying, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians. And the whole city was filled with an uproar [Acts 19:28-29]. And by the space of two hours, crowding into the Ephesian theater, they cried, Great is Diana of the Ephesians” [Acts 19:34]. And what would have come, we are not able to say, had it not been for the calmness and shrewdness and oratorical ability of the town clerk, who in a typical Grecian fashion, reasoning with the people, spoke these words, and finally dismissed them [Acts 19:35-41]. That is a partial summation of the chapter.
Now, this Ephesian temple, the temple of Diana, the temple of Artemis, in Ephesus, was one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The Greek geographer and historian, who lived so many years ago, said, quote, “It surpassed every structure raised by human hands.” And another ancient writer said, “I have seen the walls and hanging gardens of old Babylon. I have seen the statue of Olympian Jove,” he’s naming these wonders of the ancient world, “I have seen the Colossus of Rhodes. I have seen the great labor of the lofty pyramids and the ancient tomb of Mausolus,” also one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Mausoleum, the tomb of Mausolus, “But when I beheld the temple at Ephesus towering to the clouds, all these other marvels were eclipsed”; this by an ancient writer who had seen most of those Seven Wonders of the World. Well, it must have been, I suppose, the most beautiful structure ever raised by human hands. It was 525 feet long. It was 225 feet wide. It was surrounded by 127 Greek columns made out of white Parian marble, sixty feet high. And the distinguishing characteristic of the Temple of Ephesus that set it apart from all other temples of the world is this: at the bottom part of those glorious Greek columns, there were reliefs, sculptured reliefs up to the height of a man’s head. The temple, Pliny says, was 220 years in building. That also is as astonishment to me! Think of erecting a structure over a period of 220 years. The temple actually was the eighth one located in that place. The seventh one had been burned down the night, 356 BC that Alexander the Great was born. And in the biographies of Alexander the Great, the ancients put much store in the fact that the night he was born, the temple of Ephesus had burned down. It had been burned down by an obscure individual named Herostratus, who on the rack confessed that he had done it that his name might be remembered in succeeding ages. And the building, the eighth one that was erected in that place, was by far the largest in all of the temple history of the ancient Greeks, far more beautiful, far larger, far more impressive than even the Parthenon. And the Parthenon, I suppose, is the most impressive ruin in the world today.
Well, it was dedicated to Diana, the Latin name, to Artemis, the Greek name. Artemis, Diana, is the name of that beautiful graceful goddess of hunting; she was the swift and twin sister of Apollo. But in actuality the image in this Ephesian temple was nothing approaching the beauty and the gracefulness of Diana, Artemis, the goddess of hunting. That image, they said, had fallen out of the sky. It must have been a meteorite that was invested with all kinds of miraculous powers. And somebody in the far gone, dim, unknown past had taken the meteorite, and had carved it into a likeness; the picture of the thing actually looks like an ogre. It’s repulsive. The hands and the face are those of a woman; the lower part swathed, wrapped like a mummy, and then covered with bulbous things all over. Sir William Ramsey said they were the ova of bees. Everybody that would see the picture would say it is covered with breasts. That is the goddess of fertility. Bee, the bee was the sign of Ephesus; it was on all their coins. And this is the queen bee. And the temple was filled with eunuchs, drones, and with all kinds of priestesses and thousands of others who were flute players and musicians and acrobats and all the other things that went on in the intensest life around one of the great ancient Greek temples.
One of the signs of its Hellenization, taking that ancient Asiatic meteorite and making it into the form of the beautiful—in mind—the beautiful goddess Diana, one of the signs of the Hellenization of the temple was the annual games that were held there, the Artemesia, dedicated to the birthday of Artemis. And when those annual games were played, thousands and thousands and uncounted thousands of worshipers and pilgrims came from the ends of the earth and shared in those Artemesian games. For a solid month, everything was closed; all work ceased, and the people gave themselves to the celebration of the birthday of Artemis and played their Greek games. It was Paul’s intention to stay there at Ephesus until the end of the Artemisia; for it says, he says, in writing this first letter from Ephesus to the church at Corinth, he says, “I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost—the last of May—for a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries” [1 Corinthians 16:8-9]. Of course, he didn’t get to do that because of the riot that occurred, as we shall see in a moment. But it was Paul’s intent to take advantage of that great Artemisia, when the city would be filled with thousands and thousands of pilgrims. He was going to take advantage of it to preach the gospel of the Son of God.
I’ll tell you a like instance of that. When the World Fair, at the close of the last century, was held in Chicago, Dwight L. Moody set up his tent and preached the gospel all through the days and the months of the World Fair in Chicago. And that was doubtless one of the most effective and mighty of all the presentations of the gospel in the history of Christendom. Now what Dwight L. Moody did in Chicago, in the holding of the World Fair of that city, Paul was planning to do in Ephesus, in the Artemisia, when it was filled with these thousands of worshipers at the ends of the earth. He was planning to preach the gospel to them.
Well, there are many of you, I am sure, who have been to Ephesus, the ancient ruins of Ephesus. And when you go, it is almost impossible to believe that there should have been such a marvelous city, such a glorious temple, such a marvelous queenly converse of thousands of people in that now vacant and dead and deserted area of this earth. When you seek out the temple area, where that great temple once stood, there is nothing there now but a stagnant pool; and malarial mosquitoes have driven mankind away. In the day when Paul visited the city of Ephesus and looked at that temple, the Seventh Wonder of the World, it looked invincible, it looked immortal, it looked forever; tremendously and beautifully and gloriously erected, and now a stagnant pool of filthy and dirty water.
The discovery of that temple site is one of the most interesting things I ever read in archaeological history. There was a man, J. T. Wood, who was sent, in the middle of the last century, to Ephesus to discover the site of that temple. It had absolutely disappeared from the memory of man where it was located. And the British Museum sent this architect to find it. And J. T. Wood drilled down shafts all over the ruins of Ephesus, and he couldn’t find it; absolutely disappeared from the memory of man. But this wonderful Britisher kept on digging down, putting down shafts all over that vast, and it is a vast area—they have only uncovered a very small percentage of it, and yet it looks tremendously expansive today when you walk up and down those Ephesian ruins. Well, upon a day, in despair he sent down a shaft on the floor of the theater, where this riot occurred. And there sending that shaft down in the theater, he discovered a Roman inscription. It was to a man by the name of Servius Tullius. And the pride, the egotism of that Roman had caused him to do this: he had given beautiful silver and gold statues of Diana to the temple, and on her birthday, once a year, he gave an endowment to the temple in order that they might be carried in a long procession through the city, that the people might see his philanthropy. And he directed, on this inscription, he directed that these little statues that he was giving to the temple, made out of gold and silver, that they be taken from the temple and carried into the city of Ephesus through the Magnesian Gate, and be taken out of the city through the Koressian Gate, and so brought back to the temple of Diana. And immediately this smart Britisher saw the meaning of his discovery. So, they were going to take these little idols out of the temple into the city through the Magnesian Gate, and then take them back to the temple through the Korressian Gate. And he said, “If I can find those two gates, the Magnesian Gate and the Korressian Gate, I know that where those roads intersect, that will be the location of the temple.” So he worked and worked and finally located the Magnesian Gate. Then he worked and worked and finally located the Korressian Gate. And then he followed the road down, down, and where they met together, there he sank a shaft; and he found the ancient ruins of the temple of Diana, located about thirty feet below the surface of the alluvial plain. And the pavement of the temple—and those great columns broken down—he discovered it there, about a mile out of the city. The city is built on the Pionian hill, like that; and this temple was located in the Caýster River plain. And, of course, it was the overflowing through the centuries and the centuries of the Caýster River that silted up the harbor at Ephesus—nothing there at all now—and buried the site of that temple thirty feet beneath the surface of the ground. And, of course, you can go to the British Museum today and see those marvelous columns, the ruins of those columns that were dug up out of that temple site.
When you look at that, stand there and look at that, how great is God, and how puny and insignificant are the works of man! And that’s why I had you read that forty-sixth chapter of the Book of Isaiah today. “To whom are you going to liken Me?” [Isaiah 46:5]. They take wood and carve a god; or a silversmith or a goldsmith frames one out of the molten metal. But it does not hear, and it does not speak [Isaiah 46:6-7]. “You cannot make Me,” says the great Lord God, “nor can you liken Me to anything in heaven or in earth” [Acts 46:5]. And when you go to Ephesus and look at what once was the greatest Greek structure and the greatest temple that mankind has ever conceived or devised or raised, and now look at that stagnant pool.
Well, now for the sermon. That’s just a background. I’d love to teach archaeology. I just would. To me one of the seven wonders of the modern world is this: they have been digging in those archaeological mounds and tells and locations in all of that Middle East, the Fertile Crescent, they’ve been digging there for hundreds and hundreds of years, and there has never yet been one spade of archaeological dirt dug up or turned yet but that confirms the truth of the Word of God! All of these things the critics say, they mouth and these infidels repeat, archaeologists digs down, and they lie, they’re deceiving the people, they haven’t told the truth. Everything that’s ever been discovered digging down in those archaeological locations has confirmed the truth of the Word of God. It’s a marvelous study.
Now for the sermon: so the gospel is preached in an idolatrous and magical world, astrological world [Acts 19:10]. And wherever it is preached in that ancient world, immediately it confronts idolatry and black magic [Acts 19:19]. If you go to Ephesus, one of the things that they always show you, there incised in the pavement is the picture of a prostitute, and incised in the pavement is a footprint pointing toward a certain place. And when you follow the direction, there you will find one of the greatest ruins in Ephesus. What? It’s a brothel. It’s a house of prostitution. That went along with the temple and the priestesses and the whole religious life of the people. When the gospel was preached, it confronted that promiscuity and that whoredom and that immorality. And whenever people get away from God, they turn back to that kind of a compromised life, such as you see in America today.
The gospel confronted idolatry and immorality and promiscuity and whoredom in the days when it was preached by the apostle Paul. And it confronted a world of black magic. Isn’t that an astonishing thing? As brilliant and as able, as philosophical, as capable of reasoning as these ancient Greeks were, they were given to all kinds of astrology and curious arts, magic. For example, in the text here, we read that as Paul is preaching the gospel in Ephesus, there are exorcists who add to their words of magic, their words of curious arts, they add to their words, “Now, Jesus, Jesus” [Acts 19:13-14]. What an insult to the great living Lord God Christ Jesus in heaven. They add to their words of magic the name of Jesus. Then you have the story of this man on whom they are seeking to exorcise their spell by using the name Jesus. This man says, “Jesus, I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?” [Acts 19:15]. And he leaped upon them and nearly took their lives away from them [Acts 19:16]. Then as we read on down, many of them also which use curious arts brought their books together and burned them; and they counted the price of them and found it to be fifty thousand pieces of silver [Acts 19:19], which was an enormous amount of money in that ancient day. Isn’t that a strange thing, the world of magic that characterized the Greco-Roman civilization?
You met it in the court of Sergius Paulus in Paphos, when Paul started out on his first journey. There was Elymas, a sorcerer, standing right by the side of the Roman governor; a sorcerer guiding him in what he should do in affairs of state [Acts 13:6-8]. You met it again at Philippi, when that demented girl with a spirit of fortunetelling, she was healed by the apostle Paul, and immediately created a vast uproar, caused the beating of Paul and Silas and their incarceration [Acts 16:16-24]. And you have it here in Ephesus—typical of the culture and civilization of the time—people using magic for every occasion, words, you know, of incantation and all kinds of curious arts. And they burned those books of black magic [Acts 19:19], this town a very cauldron of the evil spirits and the evil way. And then, of course, finally, Demetrius, Demetrius, this man Demetrius, he is head of the craft of silversmiths. And when you are not worshiping gods made out of silver any longer, and when you are not worshiping gods made out of men’s hands, why, who wants to buy gods any longer? So he created this great disturbance and set the city in an uproar, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians” [Acts 19:24-28].
Now because Paul was a Jew, the Jews of the city were afraid that that riot that gathered and finally stormed into that theater – have you been to that theater? It’s still there. Twenty-five thousand seats, those marvelous tiers rising before you—they were afraid that that riot might take an anti-Semitic turn; so they took one of their number named Alexander, and put him forward to explain to them that that wasn’t their doings, this preaching of the gospel by the apostle Paul. And when the people knew that he was a Jew, why, all of them with one voice cried for the space of two hours, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” [Acts 19:32-34]. Just imagine that, the twenty-five thousand people seated, and I don’t know how many other thousands gathered round that theater, and crying for two hours, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians.” And then the town clerk stands up there before those vast throngs tier upon tier, and he speaks to them about their excitement and no reason for it. And if Demetrius and the craftsmen that are with him have a matter, the law is open, let them implead one another. And if there is any other thing to be inquired about it, they can do it in a lawful assembly and not in this [Acts 19:35-39], “Because,” he says, “we are this day in danger of being called in question by the Roman authorities why this riot”; and having said that, they were dismissed [Acts 19:40-41].
Well, I want to make three comments. Number one: whenever a culture, whenever a civilization, whenever a people turn away from the true God, you know what they turn to; all kinds of superstitions, and all kinds of astrologers, and all kinds of fortunetellers, and all kinds of witches, and all kinds of clairvoyance; that inevitably happens. That’s a strange thing and a strange streak in human nature. And I see it in America.
When I read the number of witches and fortunetellers and clairvoyants and spiritist-mediums here in America, I can’t believe what my eyes are seeing on the printed page. I cannot believe it. Here in this country filled with universities and colleges, filled with higher educational institutions, scientifically orientated; we are being drowned in this seeking out of these people who are the charlatans of the first order. And you know an instance of that? There is not a newspaper in America today that would publish an issue without putting in it what the astrologer says. And you talk to an editor, and say, “What is this inanity? What is this idiocy? Every day in the newspaper this long column with astrological prognostications, what is that?” And they will say, “We dare not publish the issue without these astrological forecasts because people read them by the thousands and by the thousands.” Isn’t that a strange thing?
Whenever you take God out of the human life, you take Jesus out of the human heart. There’s a vacuum, and it doesn’t stay empty; it immediately is filled with all kinds of superstitions, and all kinds of astrology, and all kinds of necromancy, and all kinds of mediums who peep and squeak. What a tragedy!
All right, number two: Demetrius never dies. This Demetrius is immortal. You hear his voice yesterday. You hear his voice today. You hear his voice forever. What Demetrius says is, “The temple is in danger.” That’s what he said. “This great temple of Diana is in danger by the preaching of this gospel” [Acts 19:24-27], as though the temple of God could be brought down by human hands, as though some blind Samson could seize the pillars of truth and bring down out of the sky the temple of Almighty God and let it fall on the earth [Judges 16:29-30]. That Demetrius; “The temple is in danger,” he says. Actually what’s the matter was, he was losing money; he was losing his profits. He wasn’t selling his silver idols any longer. But he doesn’t say, “I’m not making money”; does not say, “I’m losing.” He says, “The temple is in danger of being destroyed” [Acts 19:27].
Those same liars I hear today! You preach the gospel of Christ that men ought to be sober, and he ought not to drink in front of your children, and the example of liquid pot before that boy and girl leads him into a thousand temptations; you preach that today, and the liquor dealer and the distiller rises, and he says, “My personal liberties are being jeopardized. You have no right to legislate what I can or cannot do. I am to be free.” What he doesn’t tell you is you’re hurting his business. That’s Demetrius. He never dies; he’s just the same. Those illegitimate people in an illegitimate business, who orphan more children, who break more wedding bands, who hurt more homes, who destroy more lives, who undermine more men than any other industry, all other industries put together, that’s their cry like Demetrius: “You are abrogating my personal liberties.” When actually, you’re touching them where they make money. And they make money off of the disasters of human life. That’s Demetrius. He’s always here, and he never changes.
And last, and hurriedly . . . So I’m going to continue now in the twentieth chapter, going to continue in the twentieth chapter. So because of this great uproar, and because of this tremendous confrontation, and Paul is being forced out of the city, he dare not stay any longer. So I’m going to read:
And after the uproar was ceased, Paul called unto him his disciples, and he embraced them . . . And he said, I am going to lay the Bible down. I’m going to quit preaching. I’m so discouraged by the opposition that I am resigning my ministry. There are such awesome obstacles and discouragements in the way that no longer am I going to bear the burden of the message of Jesus.
Is that what I read? “After the uproar . . . Paul embraced the disciples, and went into Macedonia . . . And there with much exhortation, he came into Greece” [Acts 20:1-2]. And then we follow the preaching of the apostle Paul in the rest of the story of the Book of Acts [Acts 20:3-28:31]. I need that. We need that. Whenever we have discouragements and confrontations and maybe failure, my brother, that’s God’s testing you to see if you really were committed. The child of God in his human frailty may be down and discouraged; but his heart and his spirit, never. Beat, get up! Discouraged, ask God for a double portion of His Spirit! Failure, you can’t fail in the kingdom of God, not ultimately.
This apostle, watch him: in Lystra stoned and dragged out for dead, and while the disciples stood around him, thinking he was dead, he stood up, he stood up, and went back into the city of Lystra, where he had just been stoned, dragged out for dead [Acts 14:19-20]. That’s the gospel, and that’s the spirit of the minister of Christ—“in Philippi, beat, blood-soaked, thrust into an inner dungeon, and feet and hands fast in the stocks [Acts 16:22-24]. “Going to quit. Going to quit. God has let me down. God has forgotten me. Look at me in this pool of blood. Look at me in these shackles and manacles, look at me in this inner dungeon; going to quit.” No! “At midnight Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises to God” [Acts 16:25]. Man, no wonder they subverted the whole world. They took this Greek civilization off its hinges and swung it into another direction. What are you going to do with a man like that?
That’s the way we ought to be. God is with us; and we can’t fail. The Lord is by our sides; there are no obstacles to overwhelm us. Victory and triumph are ours because God lives and He has promised it to His people [1Corinthians 15:57, 1 John 5:4].
I want to say one word, and time’s so far gone it’s awful. I want to say one word to you in your life. When you’re in the will of God doing what you’re doing, “This is God’s assignment to me,” and I think God cares about you in every area of your life; I think He cares about you in your business, and I think He cares about you in all of the things to which you devote yourself. Now I want to show you how it is. Just like this: if in your life you’re in God’s will, “This is God’s business for me, this is God’s assignment for me,” you know what? When discouragements come, and they always come, and when troubles, and they’ll always come, and when trials come, and they always come, and when failures and disappointments come, and they always come, if you’re in God’s will in what you’re doing, you know what? Every one of those obstacles and discouragements are just testings from God to see if you really meant it, if you really committed. And you’ll look upon them like that. This is God’s work for me; and I’m in the will of God doing this. And these discouragements, and failures, and obstacles, and trials, and all the other things that overwhelm poor mortal humankind, they’re just testings to see if I was really committed.
Now the other way around is just as true: if you’re not in the will of God in what you’re doing, and if you’re not in the will of God in the assignment that you have assumed, you know what’ll happen to you? Every discouragement, and every failure, and every trial, and every frustration, and every defeat, you know what? It’ll just be in your heart; that just shows you, I’m not doing the right thing. That just shows me that I’m not where I ought to be. And the discouragement of it is devastating. It’s the difference between heaven and earth. It’ll be the same trial, it’ll be the same failure, it’ll be the same discouragement, it’ll be the same obstacle, the same frustration, but if you’re in the will of God, it’s just to you a testing to see if you were really committed, or if you’re not in the will of God it’ll be to you a sign that you ought to do something else, you ought to change, you ought to go some other place, you ought to be in some other kind of work, you ought to be in some other kind of business.
Sweet people, there’s just not anything, there’s just not anything as wonderful, as marvelous, and as fine, and as happy and as glorious, as doing what God wants you to do. There’s nothing like it in the earth. This is my work, this is my assignment, this is God’s will for me. And when you give yourself to it, everything is bright and happy. Why, you can sing at midnight with Paul and Silas, in the midst of blood and failure, praises to God [Acts 16:25]. It’s the Lord that makes the difference. And it’s the giving of our lives to the will of Christ that makes the difference.
Dear people, we’re going to sing a song. And on the first note of the first stanza, to give your life to the blessed Savior [Romans 10:9-13], would you come and stand by me? “Pastor, I want to put my life in the fellowship of this dear church, and we’re coming this morning.” “Pastor, I want to take Jesus as my Savior” [Ephesians 2:8]. Or, “Pastor, I’m going to make Him my partner.” I was talking to a young businessman yesterday, and I said, “Son, the best thing you can do is to take Jesus and make Him your partner because He knows all about everything, and He knows every answer.” Let Jesus come into your heart, and into your house, and into your business, and into your life. “I want to take the Lord as my Savior.” Or, “I want to give my life to a special calling from heaven.” As the Spirit shall press the appeal, answer with your life. And when you stand up, in the balcony round, on this lower floor, anywhere, when you stand up, stand up walking down that stairway, walking down this aisle. “Here I am, pastor, I’m making it today.” And angels attend you while you come, as we stand and as we sing.
I. The temple of Ephesian Diana
A. One of the Seven
Wonders of the World
B. Dedicated to Greek
goddess Artemis, Latin goddess Diana
1. This goddess
in Ephesus an Asian likeness from remote past
C. Artemesia – Greek
games held annually in her honor
intended to stay to the end of the games(1
II. The city
A. Ephesus most
beautiful Greek city world had ever seen
B. The city of Ephesus today
is endless ruins; site of temple a stagnant pool
C. Archaeological story
of discovery of the temple by J. T. Wood
III. Paul in Ephesus
A. Here longer than any
place, except Rome
gospel faced immediate confrontation
1. Idolatry and
the unspeakable immorality that attends it
a. True forever – turn
away from God and you turn to this
a. Jesus added to
magical arts in Ephesus (Acts 19:13-17, 19-20)
b. Our country giving
itself to magic, astrology
C. Paul preaches the
gospel bringing great revival – people gave up idolatry
1. Response of Demetrius(Acts 19:24-27)
D. The riot so fierce,
Paul had to be sent out of the city
was not discouraged from ministry(Acts 20:1, 2,
7, Philippians 1:12-13)
IV. Facing obstacles, confrontations,
A. Same obstacles
affect men differently
1. Depends on
whether or not he is in the will of God