And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds. Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed. (Acts 19:18-20)
Let The Word Of The Lord Prevail
The work of the apostle Paul in Ephesus was filled with incredible success and severe opposition. Arriving in the region, the apostle met twelve men he thought were Christians but discovered they had only known the baptism of John. What a joy it was for Paul to baptize the twelve in the name of Jesus. For three months Paul arguing persuasively about the Kingdom of God in the synagogue of Ephesus until he had to yield to the persecutions of those who spoke evil of the Way. He left the synagogue and continued teaching at the lecture hall of Tyrannus. During the years Paul was in Ephesus, the Lord worked unusual miracles among the people with many believing in the name of Christ. There was great joy in the city of Ephesus as disciples of Christ were made through the teaching of the gospel. Persecution would arise from the silversmiths of Ephesus who saw their trade being impacted by the preaching of Christ. Paul would leave Ephesus after three years.
Preaching in Ephesus was a daring and difficult work. One of the great sources of income for the city was the temple of Diana. As a chief city of the province, Ephesus was the “center of the mother goddess worship of western Asia. The goddess was known to the Greeks as Artemis and to the Romans as Diana. Ephesus boasted a theater that could accommodate 24,500 persons, and the great temple of Diana, which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world” (Homer Hailey; Commentary on Revelation). This would have been a most unlikely place to have success and yet Paul was able to establish a thriving congregation of fully devoted saints in this city.
What makes the story of Ephesus so remarkable is the faith of the new converts. Those who believed confessed their deeds as unrighteous as they repented of their sins publically. More extraordinary is the action of those who had been practicing magic and sorcery. When they became children of God they brought their incantation books and burned them in the sight of everyone. The value of the books was 50,000 pieces of silver or several million dollars in modern coinage. Imagine the shock on the faces of people of Ephesus as they watched them burn books worth incredible amounts of money. What impact did this have on the city? The word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.
To the mind of the worldly person, burning books of untold value is a waste. Those who practiced magic could have sold their books, stored their books, or used them as collateral for others means. Realizing what they were doing was against the word of God; these practitioners voluntarily burned and destroyed all vestiges of their past life – regardless of the cost. They made a statement. Their conversion was not a whimper – it was an explosion. God had broken the hold of sin in their life and they demonstrated their faith in clear terms. They abandoned their former life. There was no desire to keep a shadow of their previous lives because they were now children of God. It was clear to everyone of their abhorrence to their former path of life and they wanted the world to know it. Abandoning their magic books was an incredible financial sacrifice but for these noble Christians, it was a blessing to burn their books.
Conversion is not an easy thing to do for many. There are trappings of a past life that hold on alluring the soul to retain the former things. When the heart is fully devoted to the Lord, burning books worth millions is a small exchange for the eternal hope of glory. As a result of these saints in Ephesus, the word of the Lord grew mightily. Everyone could see what Christ had done in the lives of these former magicians. God was glorified because these saints had shown their faith in the world. The gospel of Christ prevailed in a chief city of the Roman Empire filled with idolatry because the hearts of the Christians were fully dedicated to the cause of Jesus Christ.
There are many reasons the gospel of Christ has not impacted the communities of churches throughout the land. The world has changed, false religion has diluted the message and Satan is busy adding more souls to his band of condemned. Sadly, one of the reasons the word of the Lord does not grow can be found in the lives of God’s people. They are unwilling to remove the shackles of their former life and devote themselves completely to the word of God. The life of a Christian is so often identical to the life of the non-Christian. There is no change, no distinctive pattern of righteousness, or refusal to be a part of the world. And the word of God dies. If the word of the Lord is to grow and prevail, it begins with a bonfire. Burn the past and embrace the future was fully devoted disciples of the Lord. Let the word of the Lord prevail and let it begin with your life.