Diana of the Ephesians
November 12th, 1978 @ 10:50 AM
DIANA OF THE EPHESIANS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-12-78 10:50 a.m.
All of us join in that paean of praise to the blessed and glorious Lord Jesus, “Who was delivered for our offenses, who was raised for our justification” [Romans 4:25], who someday will come in glory and power [Revelation 19:11-16]—the Lord of all creation, the King of all the earth and our personal friend and Savior [Acts 4:12; 1 John 4:14]. With gladness, we welcome the multitudes who are sharing this hour with us on radio and on television. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas bringing the message entitled Diana of the Ephesians.
The message is an exposition of the most part of the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Acts, beginning at verse 8 and continuing to verse 41, the end of the chapter [Acts 19:8-41]. The passage is so long that I have not opportunity to read it, just possibly mentioning the middle part of it. In the preaching of the gospel, a certain man named Demetrius, who made little silver shrines, little gods of Diana, calling his craftsmen together [Acts 19:24-25], saying this man Paul is ruining their trade, and bringing the temple into despicable loneliness, forsakenness and her magnificence being destroyed [Acts 19:26-27]. When they heard this, they were full of wrath and cried out, saying, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” And the whole city was filled with confusion and the rioters assembled in the theater [Acts 19:28-29]. You can go look at that theater today, seating about 25,000 people—and they cried with one voice about the space of two hours, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” [Acts 19:28]. And the town clerk, the mayor of the city, said, “You do not know what you do. The Roman government will call us in question about this riot and there is nothing to say” [Acts 19:35-40]. So he dismissed them [Acts 19:41]. That is a part of this nineteenth chapter of the Book of Acts.
There could hardly be anything more interesting than to follow the spade of the archaeologist and to listen to the geographers and the historians who describe that ancient Greco-Roman World. And as you know, one of the wonders of the ancient Greek world was this temple of Diana in the city of Ephesus. It was unlike any other structure the eyes of mankind have ever beheld. Faustantius, who was an ancient Greek geographer and historian, said—and I quote, “It surpassed every structure raised by human hands.”
Another ancient writer said and I quote, “I have seen the walls and Hanging Gardens of old Babylon; one of the Seven Wonders of the World. I have seen the statue Olympian Jove; one of the Seven Wonders of the World. I have seen the Colossus of Rhodes; one of the Seven Wonders of the World. I have seen the great labor of the lofty Pyramids, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. And I have seen the ancient tomb of Mausolus at Halicarnassus, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.” We call a beautiful tomb today a mausoleum—this tomb of Mausolus, built by his queen widow, one of the Seven Wonders of the World—“But, when I beheld the temple at Ephesus, towering to the clouds, all these other marvels were eclipsed.” There was nothing like it that the world has ever seen in glory, in beauty, in architectural splendor. It was 425 feet long. It was 225 feet wide. It was surrounded by 127 Corinthian columns made out of white Parian marble.
And the thing that distinguished the Ephesian temple from any other in the whole world is that there were sculptured reliefs all around the lower part of the columns up to the height of a man’s head. Pliny said it was 220 years in building. Imagine that! The genius of the Greek mind, laboring 220 years to build that glorious edifice.
Actually it was the eighth temple built in that place. The seventh was burned down by an obscure individual named Herostradus, who, on the rack, confessed that he did it that his name might be remembered in posterity. It was burned down in 356 BC, the night that Alexander the Great was born. And when you read the biographies of Alexander the Great, great stories made to the fact that he was born the night the temple in Ephesus was burned down.
The temple was dedicated to what we call the Greek goddess, Artemis—the Latin goddess, Diana. She was the swift and twin sister of Apollos. She is graceful and beautiful in all of the Greek sculptured likenesses of this Diana, the goddess of hunting.
Actually this goddess in Ephesus is not either one of them; either Diana or Artemis. She was an Asian likeness, from the dim, remote past, and looked more like an ogre than anything else. They said that she fell down from heaven—evidently, a meteorite carved, finally, in the likeness of a goddess. That is, her hands and her face were like a woman’s. Her lower extremities were swathed like a Greek mummy, and her body is covered with round-like objects. Sir William Ramsay said they were the ova of bees, because the bee was the sign of Ephesus on all of the coins. And this is the “queen bee,” the goddess of fertility. When you look it, picture of this Artemesian goddess, you would say she was covered with breasts.
The temple worship was filled with drones, eunuchs, who dressed like women, and thousands of others who were heralds, and acrobats, and flute players, and musicians, and all the other things and paraphernalia that would go with the exuberance of Greek temple worship. One of the signs of the Hellenization of that Ephesian goddess and the Ephesian temple was the Artemesia, the Greek games that were held on her birthday once a year.
From the ends of the earth, worshippers and pilgrims came to Ephesus to take part in those Ephesian games—the Artemesia. And for a month, all the places were closed, all work ceased, and they gave themselves to those athletic contests, and the sacrifices, and the processions, and to the worship of the goddess, and to a thousand other interesting things.
Paul intended to stay in Ephesus to the end of the Artemesia, to the end of Pentecost, he writes in 1 Corinthians 16:8. He wrote this first Corinthian letter from Ephesus at this time. And he says to the saints in Corinth that “I intended to stay here until Pentecost”; that is, until the end of the Artemesian Games. He didn’t get to because of this riot, but Paul had a brilliant and inspired idea in staying there to preach the gospel [1 Corinthians 16:9]. I’ll tell you an exact modern counterpart of that. When the World Fair, the first World Fair, held in Chicago in the latter part of the nineteenth; this past century, Dwight L. Moody preached the gospel under a great tent all during the days of that Chicago Fair. And he did his mightiest work in those days preaching the gospel at the Chicago World Fair. That was exactly what Paul was planning to do. He was going to stay there and to preach the gospel throughout that Artemesia. His ministry there, as it was, was incomparable. And had he been able to do that, no telling what it would have meant to the civilized world.
When you looked at the city of Ephesus—a Greek city and possibly the most beautiful the world had ever seen—when you looked at it, and its marvelous temple, it looked invincible; eternal. It looked permanent; it looked forever. It was not built like our modern cities today. They build a building and in a few years, tear it down. It gets old, decrepit—tear it down. But when they built those Greek cities, they were built out of solid marble, with incomparably beautiful architecture. And they were built apparently, to stand forever. And out of all of them, the most invincible and the most eternal looking was this Greek city of Ephesus.
Well, when you go there today, just endless ruins. And the site of that temple—I’m sure many of you have been to Ephesus—the site of that temple is now a stagnant pool. For centuries, mankind has been driven away from the malarial mosquitoes that breed there. It was just in the middle of the last century that even the site of the temple was discovered. It had been lost to mankind for hundreds and hundreds of years.
The archaeological story of its discovery is one of the most interesting I have ever read. The British Museum sent a brilliant architect by the name of J.T. Wood to find the site of that ancient Diana temple in Ephesus. And he drilled down shafts and pits all over the vast area of the city of Ephesus and was disappointed at every attempt. One day he dug a shaft on the floor in the middle of that great theater in which this riot was gathered, and as he dug down, he discovered a Roman inscription. It was by some kind of a rich egotist by the name of Vivius Salutaris. And he says in that inscription that he has given to that Ephesian temple these silver and gold gods and goddesses, and he has bestowed upon the temple an endowment, that once a year these gifts of his are to be paraded through the city, that the people might be aware of his largess, his munificent boundless endowments and gifts. Then he says that he wants those gods and goddesses carried from the temple into the city through the Magnesian Gate and out of the city and back to the temple through the Curetian Gate.
And this man Wood, when he discovered that inscription, immediately saw how he could find the site of this ancient Ephesian temple, and due to the vanity and the egotism of this Roman named Salutaris he discovered the site. For you see, the vanity of the man led him to say that he wanted his gifts paraded through the city on the birthday of Diana at that gate, then all the way through the city, and go out this gate, and named the two gates.
So this man Wood said to himself, “If I can find those two gates, and the roads leading out from them, I will discover the site of this Ephesian temple.” So with painstaking care and long diligence he located the Magnesian Gate, and then after a long search he located the Curetian Gate.
Now this man Salutaris said that he wanted his idols on display to be taken out of the temple through this gate and return back to the temple through that gate. So Mr. Wood, this brilliant architect from the British Museum, took those two gates—the Magnesian and the Curetian—and he followed the roads, followed the roads where they converged; where they intersected, and drilled down his pit. And there he found the site of this ancient Ephesian temple. It was 30 feet below the alluvial plain of the Cayster River. And drilling down, digging down, he found the platform, the great platform upon which the temple was built. And then he found those ruined drums, those ruined columns. You can see them now in the British Museum. And there is that site, it’s about a mile out of the city, the city is built on the Parian hill; and in that plain, alluvial, covered over by the silt of the Cayster River there was located this incomparable temple.
I could not help but think, as I read all this, how impermanent, and how ephemeral, and how transitory are the greatest works of men, all of them. The day will come when you will look at the ruins and the wreckage of the Empire State Building, and the World Trade Buildings, and the Chrysler Buildings, and these buildings here in Dallas, how impermanent they are! How ephemeral! How transitory! It is God who abides; His name is from everlasting to everlasting and the works of His hands abide forever.
So it is in this beautiful city of Ephesus that Paul is preaching the gospel. And he stays here longer than in any other place, except in the years of his incarceration in Rome. And I suppose the greatest ministry that the Christian faith has ever known is this Ephesian ministry of the apostle Paul. All Asia, the Roman province of Asia, all Asia heard the gospel [Acts 19:10]. And among those that were converted are those seven churches in Asia to whom is directed the Apocalypse—the Revelation [Revelation 2:1-3:22]. And as always, when the Christian gospel was preached in an ancient Greek or Roman city, it immediately confronted one: idolatry and the unspeakable immorality that goes along with it. And second: all of the superstition and magic of the people, and it was so here.
Have you been to Ephesus? Many of you have, Dr. Reed. One of the things they’ll always show you in Ephesus is, there insiced in the marble pavement is a picture of a prostitute. And just below her likeness is a foot, pointing to a certain place. And when you follow that direction, you come to one of the most impressive of all the Greek buildings in the ruined city of Ephesus: it’s a brothel. It is a house of ill repute. That was a concomitant of the idolatry of that day. There in Corinth, on the Acrocorinthus, in that temple to Aphrodite, to Astarte, to Venus, there were a thousand priestesses dedicated, and you worshipped her by immorality, by sexual intercourse. That was the depravity of the ancient Greek world.
And when the preaching of the gospel was presented in all of those cities, one of the first things that it meant was the idolatry and immorality and promiscuity and whoredom of the people. And whenever you depart away from God, you are going back to that. All you need to do is to look at America today, or any other nation today, that is turning from God, and when they turn from God, that’s what they turn to.
Let me say it like this. I was listening to a debate, a discussion, regarding the sexuality and immorality and violence of modern television. And these men who are presenting programs in television say that television, however you say, “it is immoral or violent,” it is actually fifteen years behind times, in the actual life of the American people. “If you think it is bad,” say these men who guide these networks, “the televised programs are nice compared to the actual life of the American people.” That’s true forever. When you turn away from God, that’s what you turn to: the dissolution of the family and the awesome prostitution of the moral life of the people.
Well, another thing that Christianity faces, not only the idolatry and the immorality and the whoredom and the promiscuity of the people who live away from God, but it faces all kinds of superstition and magic; all kinds of soothsayers and fortunetellers and the clairvoyants and necromancers. Here in this nineteenth chapter of the Book of Acts, out of all the words of incantation that were used in the city of Ephesus, why, they now add to it the name of Jesus! He is another one added to their magical arts. And you have the story here of some who adjure as exorcists in the name of Jesus. And the one that they were seeking to exorcise says, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but I do not know you!” [Acts 19:15] And he leaped upon them [Acts 19:16], and they just barely escaped with their lives. Then, it says, in the conversion of the city—the great revival:
Many of them which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men; and they counted the price of them, and found it to be fifty thousand pieces of silver.
So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.
Now isn’t that an unusual thing? When men turn away from God, there is a vacuum in their hearts. But it doesn’t stay empty. When men turn away from God, they turn to what; clairvoyants, spiritists, mediums, fortunetellers, astrologers, soothsayers, necromancers. I have read, time and again, of the number of witches, and fortunetellers and clairvoyants, and mediums in America. You can’t believe it. In our enlightened world, in our educated nation, filled with universities and colleges and a public school system, our country giving itself to magic, to astrology!
I went to an editor one time, and I said to him, “It is an insult that every newspaper that you read, there is that long column on astrology.” I said, “That is a defiance of reason itself, astrology, fortunetelling!” I said, “You ought not to do that.”
And that editor said to me, “There is no newspaper in the United States that would dare publish an edition without it, and we cannot! The people who follow that are legions, they are numberless.”
That’s what happens to you when you turn aside from God. You turn to all kinds of fortunetellers, and mediums, and soothsayers, clairvoyants.
When I got through preaching this morning, there’s a young fellow that belongs to our church who lived for years in Washington, D.C, and he shook my hand, and he said, “Pastor, you would not believe the number of clairvoyants and fortunetellers, and soothsayers who flourish in Washington, D.C.” And he said, “They claim as their clients the senators, and the representatives, and the leaders of the political life of America.”
That’s what happens to the human heart and to humankind and to the nation, I don’t care what the culture or civilization. When you turn from God, that’s what you turn to. There never has been a more brilliant race, more gifted, than these Greeks, and they were filled with that black magic; Ephesus was a literal cauldron of it. And our nation is becoming just like that.
Now when Paul preaches the gospel, why, they turn aside from their idols. Who is going to bow down before an idol who worships the true and the living God? Who is going to give himself to a false name when he learns the true and blessed and saving name of the Lord Jesus? But when you don’t love God and you don’t have the Lord Jesus in your heart, you just bow down to all of the idols, ten thousand of them in your life, give yourself to them; you have to give yourself to something. If you don’t give yourself to God, you’re going to give yourself to—then you could name a thousand idols. You are going to worship at the shrine of success, or the shrine of business, or the shrine of pleasure, or the shrine of fame and fortune; just ten thousand gods and goddesses, when you don’t worship the true God.
Well, in the preaching of the gospel these people were saved, a great revival and outpouring of the spirit of Jesus. And when a man gives his heart to Jesus, then he turns aside from the idols that he’s been worshiping. So that’s what happened here [Acts 19:10, 17-20]. This man Demetrius made little silver gods. And when these were converted and became Christians, they didn’t need those silver gods any longer. And they didn’t buy them anymore. And this man, Demetrius, gathers all of his craft together, and he says, “This preaching of the gospel is destroying us” [Acts 19:24-27]. And how does he say it? He says, “It is as though the temple of the great goddess, Diana, is to be despised, and her magnificence destroyed, whom Asia and all the world worshipeth” [Acts 19:27]. And when they heard this, they were full of wrath and cried saying, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” [Acts 19:28]
My brother, he never dies, Demetrius lives in every age, and in every century, and his voice is the same, always. What he says is, “This man, the apostle Paul, preaching the gospel, he’s going to bring down the temple of God; going to bring it into despicable contempt; going to destroy its magnificence” [Acts 19:27].
Isn’t that the beatenest thing you ever heard in your life? That a man preaching the gospel is going to bring down the temple of God? As though some blind Samson [Judges 16:21, 26-30], is going to seize the columns of the almighty truth of the Almighty God, and he’s going to bring down the temple of God upon the heads of mankind; he’s going to pull it out of the sky! Ah, as though a man could pull down the temple of God! As though a man could pervert or distort the truth of the Almighty! That’s what he says.
What he actually means is, “We’re losing our trade. We’re losing our money. People don’t buy our gods anymore” [Acts 19:25-27]. That’s what he actually means. And his voice never dies. It’s the same through all of the years. Demetrius is forever.
Today just for example—out of a thousand such illustrations in modern life—today, you hear the distiller, and the bootlegger, and the seller of liquid pot, the alcohol purveyor, you hear him say, “What! The abridgement of my personal liberties? I have a personal right to drink in front of my children! I have a personal right to buy liquor! I have a personal right to do all of these things that I can buy at the liquor store. That’s an abridgement of my liberties for that to be denied to me!” That’s what he says—the lying of Demetrius—what he actually means is you’re taking his money away from him when you get somebody not to buy his liquor, not to buy his product. That’s what he actually means.
You see, if the liquor crowd, if the distiller and the brewer doesn’t teach every coming generation to drink, they’re out of business. They’ve lost money. Their investments have grown sour and corrupt. So the liquor business has to teach every generation to drink liquid pot, they’ve got to, or they are out of business. And the great basis upon which they make their pitch is not, “If we don’t teach these kids to drink, we lose money!”—they don’t say that. What they say is, “The prohibition of drinking is an abridgement of our personal liberties, and it violates our Constitutional rights!” That’s the lie and the deception of Demetrius [Acts 19:25-27]. And it’s always the same, always the same, it never changes, never changes.
One of the most astonishing things to me in American life is this: that a father and a mother will drink before their children and then marvel that the kids are experimenting with drugs. Liquid pot is a drug; alcohol is a drug, anything that affects your mind is a drug. And whether the drug is this, LSD; or that, marijuana; or that, alcohol; it’s all the same—it is a drug! And how in the earth fathers and mothers think that they are going to use drugs and then be amazed and overwhelmed that the children who come along and experiment with all of it. That’s Demetrius, that’s Demetrius, “Don’t abridge my liberties, my Constitutional rights!” And when actually, it has to do with making money in a liquor store. That’s Demetrius—he’s just the same, always
Well, one other thing before our time is gone, and it rushes so quickly. I want you look at this man, the apostle Paul. They had to send him out of the city, the riot was fierce, and the storm was howling, and they sent him out of the city.
Now let’s read about this man, this man, the apostle Paul: “After the uproar—after the uproar—after the riot, Paul called unto him the disciples and embraced them” [Acts 20:1] and said, “I’m going to quit preaching the gospel … I am going to lay my Bible down … no longer am I going to be a minister of the grace of the Son of God. The obstacles are too great, the discouragements are too fierce, the opposition is too strong, the confrontations are too violent. I am going to quit! I am going to stop.” Is that what I read? No!
After the uproar was over, Paul called unto the disciples, embraced them, and bid them Godspeed there in Ephesus, and departed to preach the gospel in Macedonia, [Acts 20:1], and that verse number 2, “And he went over all those parts, and gave them much exhortation” [Acts 20:2], and verse 7, “and coming down to Troas, Paul preached unto them, and continued his speech until midnight,” [Acts 20:6-7], and verse 9, “And as Paul was long preaching . . .” [Acts 20:9]. Ooh! I love that! I love that! Yeah! That’s great! That’s marvelous, and that’s the spirit of the man of God. However the discouragements, or however the obstacles, or however the failures, just at it again; God is in it, and the spirit is unbeatable!
This is the man that they stoned in Lystra and dragged out for dead. And the disciples gathered around him, the converts in Lystra, gathered around him to weep and mourn over his dead form. And while they were weeping and mourning over his dead form, Paul stood up and he did not go that way, he went back into the city of Lystra where he had just been stoned, and dragged out for dead [Acts 14:19]. In Philippi, in Philippi, they took him and Silas and beat them, and then in their blood put them in an inner dungeon: fashioned their feet in stocks and their hands in manacles [Acts 16:22-24]. And at midnight, Paul and Silas sang praises to God [Acts 16:25]. How are you going to destroy a man like that?
He writes to the Philippian church from the Mamertine dungeon in Rome. He says, “I want you to know that the things that have happened unto me have happened to the furtherance of the gospel; for everyone in the Praetorian Palace has heard the gospel of the grace of the Son of God” [Philippians 1:12-13]. Imagine three soldiers a day, chained to the apostle Paul—the Praetorian Guard, the elite of the Roman Caesar. Imagine being chained to the apostle Paul eight hours a day, imagine that, imagine that!
I am telling you the Lord’s truth when I say that the man of God is invincible! He is immortal! He is forever! He can’t fail. Beat him; he praises God as the blood flows off of his back [Acts 16:23-25]. Put him in jail, he’s singing praises to Jesus [Acts 16:25]. Drag him out of the city, stoned for dead; he gets up and goes right back, preaching the gospel again [Acts 14:19-21]. Put him in the prison in the Praetorian Guard, the palace in Rome; he’s praising Jesus because all of Caesar’s household now hears the Word of the Lord [Philippians 1:12-13].
I have to close. But I do it with this, for us, for you and me. You know, it is an amazing and wonderful thing how obstacles, and frustrations, and failures, and despairs, and confrontations, discouragements—how the same ones differently affect a man according as to whether he is in the will of God or not. If a man is in the will of God, “This is what I’m supposed to be doing, this is the business I’m supposed to be running; or this is the professional life I’m supposed to be pursuing; or this is my task and my assignment from heaven”; when you have that feeling in your heart, “I’m doing what God wants me to do!”: you know what? When the discouragement comes; and the disappointments come, the failures come, and they always come no matter where you are. When those trials come and you are in the will of God, you know what you feel? “God is just testing me. He is just trying me, just to see if I am really committed, if I really meant it, if I really gave myself to this work God has assigned me. That is the way He will look upon me”; failures and discouragements and frustrations that come to him.
Now the other side of it; if a man is not in the will of God; if he’s not doing what God wants him to do; if he’s not carrying out God’s assignment for his life, those same failures, and those same discouragements, and those same frustrations and trials when they come to the man outside of the will of God, every one of them pound at his head, and pound at his heart, and pound at his spirit saying to him, “You see, this is a sign you are not in the will of God. You see, this is a sign you are not doing what God wants you to do.” It will be the same failure, the same discouragement only, the man who is in the will of God doing what God wants him to do; and all of those failures just try him and test him to see if he is really committed. But if he is not in the will of God those same obstacles and failures pound at his soul saying, “See there? You are outside the will of God. You are not doing what God wants you to do and that’s why these discouragements come.”
My brother, and I have to close. My brother, it is wonderful to be in the will of the Lord. It is a glorious thing to follow Jesus and to say, “Lord Jesus, You say this is what You want me to do; this is the business You want me in; this is the profession You want me to follow; if that is Your will Lord, then You are my partner! You are my partner, Lord Jesus, and we are going to do it together.” I was talking to a young businessman yesterday, and I said to him, “Make God your partner in your business and it will surprise you how much wisdom the Lord will give you.” The Lord is with you. All of these discouragements are just as nothing. Every frustration and failure it is just like a gnat on a bull’s horn. When a man is in the will of God, he is invincible. And may I say in my humble opinion, he is immortal. God’s will in a man’s life will be accomplished according to His omnipotent purpose, and nothing will happen to you until that purpose is done.
You don’t need to worry. You don’t need to think. He is doing the thinking up there for us. And when I am doing God’s work, untill God’s work is done through me, my life is immortal. Not going to be hurt. Not going to be taken away, not until He says.
My brother it is just wonderful to walk in the will and in the way of the Lord; loving Jesus, taking all of our problems to Him, laying them before Him, asking God’s wisdom in every decision. And just living a life of praise, and glory, and happiness, and the blessing of the Lord upon everything you touch. Isn’t it grand to be a Christian? Isn’t it grand? On Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and all day on Sunday, isn’t it grand to be a Christian, walking with the Lord finally into the gates of glory?
And that is our invitation to you today; giving your heart to the Lord Jesus, making the Lord your partner, asking God to bless the work of your hands. Maybe taking the Lord Jesus for the first time in your life as your personal Savior [Romans 10:8-13], “I open my heart to Him, and I am coming to avow that commitment” [Ephesians 2:8]. Maybe putting your life with us in the fellowship of this dear church [Hebrews 10:24-25], answering some call of the Savior, “I have never been baptized. Pastor, I want to be baptized just as God said in the Book” [Matthew 28:19]. “I am bringing my family. We are all coming today, my wife, my children; the whole circle of our home.” As God shall press the appeal to your heart, make the answer, “Yes.” Respond with your life. If you are in the last row of that topmost balcony, there is time and to spare, come. And on this lower floor into that aisle and down near the front, “Here I am, preacher. I am making it for God. I have decided for Him, and here I am.” May the angels guide you, guard you, attend you as you respond this day, right now. On the first note of this first stanza, when you stand up, stand up walking down that aisle, coming down this aisle. God love you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.