Any system will become idolatry, even Christianity, when we serve it for personal gain.
23 About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. 24 A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. 25 He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: “You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business. 26 And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all. 27 There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.”
28 When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and all of them rushed into the theater together. 30 Paul wanted to appear before the crowd, but the disciples would not let him. 31 Even some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, sent him a message begging him not to venture into the theater.
32 The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there. 33 The Jews in the crowd pushed Alexander to the front, and they shouted instructions to him. He motioned for silence in order to make a defense before the people. 34 But when they realized he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison for about two hours: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”
35 The city clerk quieted the crowd and said: “Fellow Ephesians, doesn’t all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven? 36 Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to calm down and not do anything rash. 37 You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess. 38 If, then, Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a grievance against anybody, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. They can press charges. 39 If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly. 40 As it is, we are in danger of being charged with rioting because of what happened today. In that case we would not be able to account for this commotion, since there is no reason for it.” 41 After he had said this, he dismissed the assembly.
Religion for profit is not spiritual but idolatry to begin with. Any system will become idolatry, even Christianity, when we serve it for personal gain. In this case the silversmiths lined their pockets with the making of idols which the priests of Artemis promoted. If the priests were true to form there was probably a kick back for the priestly hallmark on the items of worship. If there was no hallmark we can rest assured that there was some ceremony to make these idols holy whether it is with the anointing with oil, the offering of sacrifices or other rituals. The solidarity of the priests, officials and silversmiths make this apparent.
The gospel of Jesus with the indwelling Christ, the tabernacle of the human heart and simple faith in what he had done for mankind is always a threat to idol worshippers whether systems or artistic representations of mammon.
Civil disorder was encouraged in Paul’s case. Officials were aroused. There was a roar in the theater where debates and shows were held. Paul wanted to go and represent the gospel. However, the Christians would not let him. Alexander, a Jew, went to make the case for the one true God but the crowd would not hear him. The only thing that saved the day was the fear of the intervention of Roman law. The silversmiths and the officials were the fearful ones. Paul was not afraid but because of his brethren he submitted to the outcome. Personal safety was never a concern for Paul. However, safety for his friends was always foremost.
Thus Paul walked away from a confrontation but not before leaving behind strong Christian believers who continued in the faith. That was the essential impact of the gospel in that place.