Previous article in this series: July 2015, p. 425.
While the book burning of gives one example of how the gospel changed the perspective and worldview of the newly saved saints in Ephesus, there is a second example found in that same chapter.
These examples show that the exclusive nature of Christianity can be observed in the lives of God’s people. It is observed especially in their rejection of the idolatry prevalent in their culture.
Having seen that Ephesus was a known center for the worship of Diana, and that the worship of Diana had great economic as well as cultural influence in that city, we find in verses 23 and following of Acts 19 that the effects of the gospel in the lives of those whom God had called out of darkness were readily seen in Ephesus. Those effects were cultural. They were felt among the unbelieving in that city.
Those effects were observed not in some great efforts by the church to redeem society or to press some sort of positive cultural influence upon the city. Rather, those effects were observed simply in the way the gospel itself and the power of God’s grace in saving His people brought a change in their lives. The perspective of God’s people—the way they thought, the way they lived, the way they spent their money—was powerfully affected by their new Christian faith. It was affected in such a way that the life of Christ in them, evidenced by true repentance, could not be hidden from their neighbors.
Especially notable in Ephesus was that these new Christians put away all expressions of their past idolatrous practices. That included everything associated with their former worship of Diana, as well as their superstitions and practice of magic.
This sudden break from all their former idolatrous worship practices, this refusal to spend money on those things that previously had marked a significant part of their expenditures, had a detrimental effect economically in the city of Ephesus. This new Christian worldview brought about a decline in business in Ephesus. It was not a widespread economic decline brought about by these new believers, but a decline in business activity associated with the idolatry of Diana, the goddess of the Ephesians.
That is explained in.
For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto the craftsmen; Whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation, and said, Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth. Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at 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 nought; but also that the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth.
Demetrius and various craftsmen and workmen, all involved in different ways supplying the market with images and other instruments of their idolatrous worship, were not barely eking out an existence in their trade. They had become wealthy, literally, were living in euphoria. They could not ask for more!
But now the effects of Christianity were destroying their wealth.
That was the result of the gospel and its power unto salvation in those who believed. The gospel works repentance, a change of the mind as well as of the actions.
We have to realize that the gospel is just as powerful in our day as it was in the days of the apostle. When the Holy Spirit works by that Word in our hearts, when He seals to us that gospel of our salvation, the result in our own lives will be one of heartfelt sorrow for our sins and humble repentance toward God. When the Holy Spirit works in us as He did in Ephesus, then we no longer cling to our idols. We no longer say, “But just a few of those books, Lord; just a few remnants of my idols. I’ll give up most; but if I hold on to a few, then they’re not really idols, are they?”
Sin is powerful. Idols promise us much, even when they deliver nothing.
The man who has to struggle against the sin of drunkenness, who is inclined to drinking to excess, or the man who clings to his addiction to pornography, might like to tell himself, “Just a little, Lord.” But in doing so, he clings to his idol.
The joy of salvation, the power of new life in Christ, is the only power that can break that bondage.
If an intelligent young woman, having been persuaded by her smooth-talking college professors of opinions contrary to the Word of God, or having been brought up in a non-Christian home and taught to tolerate all people and behaviors, comes under the power of the gospel, she does not continue to cleave to unbiblical opinions and teachings. She renounces them as foolishness and brings her mind into subjection to the will of God.
If a young man has been ensnared in the idolatry of pleasure-seeking, and in self-love has been rebellious to his parents, it does not matter how powerfully those sins have held him and how long he has been addicted to them, the power of the gospel will break that bondage and bring a change that no man can explain.
It is the power of God that alone breaks the hard heart and softens the stubborn will. When the gospel does its work, which is to say, when the Holy Spirit does His work by that Word, then the effect in our hearts is this: No matter what it may cost us, we will rest content with nothing in our lives that grieves the Holy Spirit.
It is that new life that marks a child of God as different, even a pilgrim and stranger in the world.
It is the power of the gospel in the lives of the children of God that presses upon unbelievers in ways that we often do not even realize, sometimes making them extremely uncomfortable, sometimes making them angry, but sometimes also compelling them to ask of us the reason for the hope that lives within us.
So the Christian worldview is not one that sets out to change the world. The Christian worldview is an expression of the Christian life, lived by a child of God to the glory of his or her Redeemer. It is an expression of the life of Christ in us, and therefore a life set apart.
The apostle Paul would later shed light upon these events recorded in Acts 19 and the effects of gospel preaching, when he testified of what was seen among the saints in Thessalonica. They also were converts to the Christian faith.
We are told in the first chapter of I Thessalonians that the apostle observed in the church at Thessalonica something that thrilled his soul. He observed among those who had been saved a clear evidence of the power of the gospel in their lives.
He does not unfold in any detail how those effects were seen. In fact, Paul speaks in very little depth how the Christian life is to come to expression. But what he observed, with heartfelt thanks to God, was their “work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:3).
Concerning those effects Paul points to the One who alone deserves our praise, when he says in verse 5, “For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance.”
So powerfully did the Spirit work in them by that gos pel, that Paul said, “ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia.”
He returns to this thought in the next chapter, when he says in, “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.”
The Word is the power of God unto salvation.
The Holy Spirit, by that Word, works in us the radical change necessary to live in fellowship with God. The Holy Spirit, by that gospel, brings us to true conversion, moving us to godly repentance, including the complete putting away of our idolatries.
He does that, as He did in Ephesus, by opening our eyes to the exceeding sinfulness of our sins, by pointing us to the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation, and by filling our hearts with the desire to live in wholehearted devotion to the God of our salvation.
But while the two examples just considered were rather isolated incidents, the new worldview ushered in by the gospel had a profound and far-reaching affect in marriage and family life.
… to be continued.