Uproar at Ephesus
“Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. ” (Acts 19:19)
God had said to Abraham to leave his land, kindred, and household, and He went on to speak to him of another land, and said that he would be made a great people, his seed should be great. In other words, he would leave a great deal, but he would get something much better.
The passage read makes mention of the sacrifices the Ephesian believers made. Those who believed in Ephesus burned their books, whose price was 50,000 pieces of silver. This was a significant sacrifice from one point of view, but from another point of view, it was not a sacrifice, but it was a blessing, to get rid of these books of “curious arts”, which contained things contrary to God and to His mind. What did they gain? What a contrast!
In Ephesians 1 we read of “the riches of his grace” (v. 7), forgiveness of sins, redemption through His blood. Is there a comparison to what they had given up? There certainly is a contrast. The loss of 50,000 pieces of silver—the gain of the riches of God's grace. That was something worthwhile! There was ample recompense for what they had given up. How sad it is when we are reluctant to give up that which is erroneous in the sight of God. Yet to turn away from that which is erroneous is the pathway for spiritual blessing, it was so for the Ephesians, it is for us. Was that all? Well, said Paul, “Unto me... is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (3:8). That is what was brought to the Ephesian believers. Dear Christian friends, what is anything in this world compared to “the unsearchable riches of Christ”? The unsearchable riches of Christ are here for us to enjoy. What is the use of a million pounds in the bank if we do not enjoy what we have? And it will take a lifetime to begin to understand what these unsearchable riches are.
There are three other references to riches in the Ephesian Epistle that touch on this:
“The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints” (1:18).
“That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (2:7).
“That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man” (3:16).
Having given up so much, the Ephesian believers came in to much more. This is always God's way. He is always ready to recompense in an over-abounding way any sacrifice made for His things.
“So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; 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.. ” (Acts 19:27)
Diana was the goddess of fertility, and was worshipped throughout the world. We understand from history that this temple in Ephesus was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Many of the Ephesian believers were probably accustomed to worship at this temple, to which was attached licentious behaviour. Do we have something better in the Epistle to the Ephesians?
At the end of chapter 2 we learn that we are connected with a temple that is growing day by day, a “holy Temple in the Lord”. Holiness excludes and repels evil. This glorious temple that is being reared is not complete yet, it will be completed when the last saint is gathered in. It is growing into a holy temple in the Lord. What a marvel to be separated from the worship of this goddess and to be brought into, indeed to be part of, this holy temple to the Lord.
The whole world worshipped this goddess of fertility. We have a God, a wonderful God, and from every people, kindred, tongue and nation of the world individuals have been saved, indwelt by the Holy Spirit and have become worshippers of God—millions of them in glory and millions on earth now. There will be “glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (3:21). Our God will be worshipped intelligently in the assembly, in Christ Jesus, that glorious exalted Man, for ever and ever and ever. That involves you and me and every other believer in Christ. What a triumph! The temple of Diana? What little is known today! Crumbled, and gone forever; all its glory and all its licentiousness gone. But the temple that we belong to still exists today, and God is worshipped, and will be worshipped, eternally.
“Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly was confused: and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together.” (Acts 19:32)
“Assembly” in this verse is exactly the same word as is used by the Spirit of God in connection with “the assembly, the body of Christ” (1:22-23). It simply means a company of people who are elected out of the community to represent the city. The Spirit of God takes up that word and gives it a dignified meaning, a glorified meaning, called out ones from this world's system, to be for God intelligently, to represent God, and to function for God (1:18). Oh, what a wonderful unfolding there is in the Epistle to the Ephesians of the assembly, what it is for the heart of Christ, what it is to the heart of God, what it means to us to be part of it!
These things that are mentioned in a secular, idolatrous sense are now transformed in a greater way in the Ephesian Epistle, and there is a lustre, a glory and a permanence about them. There is glory for God and for Christ. May we be encouraged for His Name's sake.