Paul’s mission while in Ephesus continued to be productive. God used Paul’s ability to perform miracles to convince many of the people of his authority as an apostle and teacher from God. As in every society, there were the skeptics who did not accept him. Some of these were Jewish exorcists who had convinced the people through trickery that they possessed special magical abilities.
One group of these nonbelievers was the seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest. After Paul had performed miracles in the name of Jesus, they also attempted, in the name of Jesus, to exorcise an evil spirit from a man, but the spirit stated, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?” The man attacked them and they fled out of the house naked and wounded.
Many of the believers at Ephesus had continued to practice magic after becoming Christians. When word of this escapade had reached them, they confessed this sin and showed their repentance by bringing their instruction books to be burned. Others brought their books to be burned also. “So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.”
Paul began to make plans to go to Macedonia and Achaia on his way to Jerusalem and then on to Rome. He had sent Timothy to Corinth earlier, but for some reason, it seems that he had not made it that far. Timothy was now back in Ephesus and Paul sent him again along with Erastus, the treasurer of Corinth to go ahead of him to Corinth. It is very likely that Paul sent the letter (I Corinthians) by them to the church at Corinth while he remained at Ephesus.
Diana was a much-worshipped Ephesian goddess. She was so revered that a magnificent temple had been erected in her honor and silversmiths made small shrines of her for people to worship.
The preaching of Paul during the past two years had converted many of these idol worshippers and had reduced the demand for the small idols.
Demetrius, a prominent silversmith called a meeting of other silversmiths and explained their economic peril. He pointed out to them and to the other people assembled how Paul had endangered their livelihoods. In order to incite the crowd, Demetrius stated that even the temple of Diana was in danger of being despised.
The temple of Diana was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It was four hundred twenty-five feet long and one hundred twenty feet wide. One hundred twenty white marble columns sixty feet high supported the marble roof. The interior was decorated with elaborate paintings and sculptures and contained an image that they believed had been dropped from heaven by Jupiter.
Demetrius was successful in inciting a large uproar among the people. Some were shouting, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” Others were shouting different other things. Most of the crowd didn’t even know why they were there. Paul and his associates were in danger of being lynched.
Finally, after about two hours of disorder, the town clerk was able to bring order. He stated that they had courts and lawful assemblies to settle their problems. After warning them that they could be in trouble with Rome because of this uproar, he dismissed everyone.