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Story of the Bible by  Jesse Lyman Hurlbut
Table of Contents


 

 

PAUL AT EPHESUS

Acts xviii: 23, to xx: 1.

[719]

T HE Apostle Paul did not stay long at Antioch, but soon started out for another journey among the churches already formed and into new fields. He went through Syria, the country around Antioch, and then to the region near Tarsus, which had been his early home, everywhere preaching Christ. He crossed over the mountains and entered into the heart of Asia Minor, coming to the land of Galatia. The people in this land were a warm-hearted race, eager to see and to hear new things. They listened to Paul with great joy, and believed at once in his teachings. Paul wrote afterward that they received him as an angel of God, as though he were Jesus Christ himself, and that they were ready to pluck out their own eyes and give them to him, so eager were they to have the gospel.

But soon after Paul went away some Jewish teachers came, saying to these new believers, "You must all become Jews, and take upon you the whole Jewish law, with all its rules about things to be eaten, and fasts, and feast-days, or you cannot be saved."

And the people in Galatia turned quickly away from Paul's words to follow these new teachers; for they were fond of change, and were not firm in their minds. There was danger that all Paul's work among them would be undone. But as soon as news came to Paul of their sudden turning from the truth of the gospel he wrote to them a letter, "The Epistle to the Galatians." In this letter he called them back to Christ, and showed them that they were free, and not slaves to the old law, and urged them to stand fast in the freedom which Christ had given them.

Paul went through Phrygia, and from that land came again to Ephesus, which he had visited before, as we read in the last Story. This time he stayed in Ephesus more than two years, preaching the gospel of Christ. At first he spoke in the synagogue of the Jews, [720] telling the Jews that Jesus was the Anointed Christ, the King of Israel, and proving it from the prophets of the Old Testament. But when the Jews would no longer listen to him, but spoke evil against the way of Christ, Paul left the synagogue, and spoke every day in a school-room which was opened to him. His work became so well known that almost all the people in Ephesus, and many in the lands around the city, heard the work of the Lord.

God gave to Paul at this time great powers of healing. They carried to the sick the cloths with which Paul had wiped the sweat from his face, and the aprons that he had worn while he was at work making tents, and the diseases left the sick, and evil spirits went out of men. These wonderful works drew great crowds to hear Paul, and led many more to believe in his words.

There were in that city some Jews who wandered from place to place, pretending to drive evil spirits out of men. These men saw how great was the power of the name of Jesus as spoken by Paul, and they also began to speak in Jesus' name, saying to the evil spirits in men, "I command you to come out, in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches."

And the evil spirit in one man answered two of these pretenders, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?"

And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped upon them, and threw them down, and tore off their clothing, and beat them, so that they ran out of the house naked and covered with wounds. Everybody in the city, both Jews and Greeks, heard of this, and all knew that even the evil spirits feared the name of Jesus as spoken by Paul. And many of those who had dealt with evil spirits came and confessed their deeds and turned to the Lord. And some who had books claiming to tell how to talk with spirits brought them, and burned them as bad books, although the books had cost a great sum of money. Thus the work of the Lord grew in Ephesus, a great number believed in Christ, and a large church arose.

Paul now began to feel that his work in Ephesus was nearly finished. He thought that he would go across the Ægean Sea, and visit the churches at Philippi and Thessalonica and Berea, in the land of Macedonia, and then the church at Corinth in Greece, and then go once more to Jerusalem.

"And after I have been there," said Paul, "then I must also see Rome."

[721] So to prepare for his coming into Macedonia he sent Timothy, and another friend named Erastus, while he himself stayed in Ephesus for a time longer. But soon after this a great stir arose in that city over Paul and his preaching.

In the city of Ephesus was standing at that time an idol-temple, one of the greatest and richest in all the world. Around the temple stood a hundred and twenty great columns of white marble, each column the gift of a king. And in it was an image of the goddess Diana, which the people believed had fallen down from the sky. People came from many lands to worship the idol-image of Diana; and many took away with them little images like it, made of gold or silver. The making and selling of these little images gave work to many who wrought in gold and silver, and brought to them great riches.


[Illustration]

EPHESUS

One of these workers in silver, a man named Demetrius, called together his fellow-workmen, and said to them, "You know, my friends, that by this trade we earn our living and win riches. And you can all see and hear that this man Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, not only in this city, but also throughout all these lands, by telling all men that there are no gods which are made by hands. There is danger that our trade will come to an end, and danger, too, that the temple of the great goddess Diana may be made of no account. It may be even that the goddess whom all Asia and all the world worships shall fall down from her greatness." When the workmen heard this they became very angry, and they set up a great cry, shouting out, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians! Great is Diana of the Ephesians!"

And soon the whole city was in an uproar; people were running through the streets and shouting, and a great multitude was drawn together, most of them not knowing what had caused the crowd and the noise. In the side of the hill near the city was a great open place hollowed out, having stone seats around it on three sides. It was used for public meetings, and was called "the theatre." Into this place all the people rushed, until it was thronged; while Demetrius and his fellow-workers led on the shouting, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians!"

They seized two of Paul's friends who were with him in the city, Gaius and Aristarchus, and dragged them with them into the theatre. Paul wished to go in, and try to speak to the people but [722] the disciples of Christ would not let him go; and some of the chief men of the land, who were Paul's friends, sent word to him, urging and beseeching him not to venture into the theatre.

The noise, and the shouting, and the confusion were kept up for two hours. When the throng began to grow tired, and were ready to listen, the clerk of the city came forward, and quieted the people, and said, "Ye men of Ephesus, what is the need of all this riot? Is there anyone who does not know that this city guards the temple of the great goddess Diana, and of the image that fell down from the heavens? Since these things cannot be denied, you should be quiet, and do nothing rash or foolish. You have brought here these men, who are not robbers of temples, nor have they spoken evil against our goddess. If Demetrius and the men of his trade have a charge to bring against any men, the courts are open, and there are judges to hear their case. But if there is any other business, it must be done in a regular meeting of the people. For we are in danger for this day's riot, and may be brought to account for this gathering of a crowd."

And after the city clerk had quieted the people with these words he sent them away. When the riot was over, and all was peaceful again, Paul met the disciples of Christ and spoke to them once more. He had been in Ephesus for three years preaching; and while there he had written, besides the epistle or letter to the Galatians, that to the Romans, and two letters to the Corinthians, the believers in Christ at Corinth in Greece. He now sailed away from Ephesus, across the Ægean Sea to Macedonia, where he had preached the gospel before on his second journey.


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