In our day to day lives we don’t often realize that our everyday choices reflect that we are undervaluing who God is and what he has done on our behalf. Then God reveals something about Himself to us that elevates our view of Him. We are then compelled to make a change reflective of our newly magnified understanding.
I’m beginning a new study of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. In the opening verses, Paul identifies himself as the author and the recipients as the saints who are in Ephesus. An important part of understanding the meaning of any text is to see it through the eyes of the original author and audience. In this case, we can glean from Luke’s account of Paul’s time in Ephesus (Acts 19).
Ephesus was a port city and the major commercial center of Asia Minor. Its inhabitants were diverse and its architecture rich. It boasted the temple of Artemis – one the seven wonders of the ancient world (Acts 19:23-41). There was a modest Jewish population (19:9-10), the city was primarily inhabited by Greeks. It was to this primary audience Paul is writing.
Though Paul ministered in Ephesus for three years Luke gives us few details of his ministry there. Therefore, what details he gives are significant. One major event that inspired Luke to put pen to paper was a failed exorcism that resulted in a major shift in the value system of these young Ephesian believers.
The magic arts were widely practiced in the Mediterranean basin, primarily to ward off the evil intent of demonic forces. Seven men who were known to be traveling exorcists observed the extraordinary miracles performed by Paul in the name of Jesus. Seeing the power of God manifest, they decided to incorporate the name of Jesus in their incantations thinking no more of Him than a source of power and a means of gain. The result was that when they treated the name of Jesus in this way it backfired terribly in a very public way (19:11-16).
News of this event became known all throughout the city. Luke records that great fear fell on all those who heard of the failed exorcism and the name of Jesus was being magnified (19:17). What happened next is what seemed to impress Luke the most.
When confronted with the incompatibility of faith in Jesus and practice of the magic arts, the young believers were compelled to make a choice. They must abandon their fear based belief that magic protected them from demons and turn to fully embrace Jesus – the one who truly had power over the spiritual forces of darkness.
Acts 19:19 (NASB95)
19 And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.
The Ephesian believers made the choice to fully trust Christ and put their lives squarely in his hands. Their faith was demonstrated by the public destruction of costly magic books that they once dearly valued. The estimated value of these documents was, according to Luke, fifty thousand pieces of silver. If a piece of silver equated a day’s wage, that would be the modern equivalent of 192 years of labor based upon a five day work week. That is like four lifetimes of income!
This experience would profoundly influence Paul’s writing when addressing the Ephesians in his subsequent letter. A major theme of Ephesians is the magnification of our understanding of who God is and what he has accomplished on our behalf in Christ. Do we think too little of Jesus? May our faith be challenged and enriched as we understand the riches of God’s love and grace in Christ.
- Read Luke’s account of Paul’s experience in Ephesus recorded in Acts 19.
- Examine your life’s choices and pursuits. What do we value most? Is there anything that competes with your love for and trust in Christ? Is there anything that you value that is contradictory or incompatible with the character of God?
- Consider what step of faith God is compelling you to take today in your life that reflects your full trust in Him.