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Sketches From The Life of Paul

by Ellen G. White

Chapter 14: Trials and Victories of Paul.

Contents  Preface.  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  ...

For upwards of three years, Ephesus was the center of Paul's work. A flourishing church was raised up here, and from this city the gospel spread throughout the province of Asia, among both Jews and Gentiles.

The apostle had for some time contemplated another missionary journey. He desired again to visit the churches in Macedonia and Achaia, and after spending some time at Corinth, to go to Jerusalem, after which he hoped to preach the gospel at Rome. In pursuance of his plan, he sent Timothy and Erastus before him into Macedonia; but feeling that the cause in Ephesus still [p. 141] demanded his presence, he decided to remain till after Pentecost. An event soon occurred, however, which hastened his departure.

The month of May was specially devoted to the worship of the goddess of Ephesus. The universal honor in which this deity was held, the magnificence of her temple and her worship, attracted an immense concourse of people from all parts of the province of Asia. Throughout the entire month the festivities were conducted with the utmost pomp and splendor. The gods were represented by persons chosen for the purpose, who were regarded as objects of worship, and were honored by processions, sacrifices, and libations. Musical contests, the feats of athletes, and the fierce combats of men and beasts, drew admiring crowds to the vast theaters. The officers chosen to conduct this grand celebration were the men of highest distinction in the chief cities of Asia. They were also persons of vast wealth, for in return for the honor of their position, they were expected to defray the entire expense of the occasion. The whole city was a scene of brilliant display and wild revelry. Imposing processions swept to the grand temple. The air rung with sounds of joy. The people gave themselves up to feasting, drunkenness, and the vilest debauchery.

This gala season was a trying occasion to the disciples who had newly come to the faith. The company of believers who met in the school of Tyrannus were an inharmonious note in the festive chorus. Ridicule, reproach, and insult were freely heaped upon them. By the labors of Paul at Ephesus, the heathen worship had received a telling blow. There was a perceptible [p. 142] falling-off in attendance at the national festival, and in the enthusiasm of the worshipers. The influence of his teachings extended far beyond the actual converts to the faith. Many who had not openly accepted the new doctrines, became so far enlightened as to lose all confidence in heathen gods. The presence of Paul in the city called special attention to this fact, and curses loud and deep were uttered against him.

Another cause of dissatisfaction existed. It had long been customary among heathen nations to make use of small images or shrines to represent their favorite objects of worship. Portable statues were modeled after the great image of Diana, and were widely circulated in the countries along the shores of the Mediterranean. Models of the temple which enshrined the idol were also eagerly sought. Both were regarded as objects of worship, and were carried at the head of processions, and on journeys and military expeditions. An extensive and profitable business had grown up at Ephesus from the manufacture and sale of these shrines and images.

Those who were interested in this branch of industry found their gains diminishing. All united in attributing the unwelcome change to Paul's labors. Demetrius, a manufacturer of silver shrines, called together the workmen of his craft, and by a violent appeal endeavored to stir up their indignation against Paul. He represented that their traffic was endangered, and pointed out the great loss which they would sustain if the apostle were allowed to turn the people away from their ancient worship. He then appealed to their ruling superstition, saying: "Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at [p. 143] Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods which are made with hands; so that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at naught, but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth." This speech acted as fire to the stubble. The excited passions of the people were roused, and burst forth in the cry, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians!"

A report of the speech of Demetrius was rapidly circulated. The uproar was terrific. The whole city seemed in commotion. An immense crowd soon collected, and a rush was made to the workshop of Aquila, in the Jewish quarters, with the object of securing Paul. In their insane rage they were ready to tear him in pieces. But the apostle was not to be found. His brethren, receiving an intimation of the danger, had hurried him from the place. Angels of God were sent to guard the faithful apostle. His time to die a martyr's death had not yet come.

Contents  Preface.  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  ...


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