Artemis was a great Greek goddess of antiquity. Some Bibles render the name as Diana, which was the similar Roman deity. During New Testament times, there was a great temple to her honor in the city of Ephesus. As the apostle Paul won converts among the Ephesians, artisans in the city became alarmed. Silversmiths made lots of money producing idols for a consuming pagan public. Worship of a God who disdained objects of worship was a frightful prospect to these entrepreneurs. At one point, a great commotion arose as the tradesmen, quite fearful of losing business as more of the public abandoned such idol worship, stirred up the citizens by appealing to their civic pride. “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” they would shout. Certainly the reputation of the city of Ephesus was elevated by hosting a temple whose glory was known far and wide in the ancient world. The crowd was worked into a frenzy at the time, but was eventually calmed.
The same spirits at work in those days are at work today. That is, there are those whose livelihood or sense of well-being depends on the trade associated with the church. Just as people were provoked to shout, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” some today are provoked to claim, “Great is the church of Jesus Christ!” At the root of it all, however, is still the love of money. Church is a business and many people make a living from it. Thus church is today’s version of idol worship. It substitutes objectification of God for loyalty to God. It substitutes worship of structures, organizations, and relationships for worship of God. It substitutes practice of religious rituals and participation in meetings and programs for the practice of the commandments of God.
When you hear people shout, “Great are the works of our hands!” (regardless of what those works are) know that it is God they are rejecting for the sake of their works. Don’t join them, and don’t be dismayed by them. They are fighting against the truth, and that is always a losing battle.