Growing The Word
Two million dollars is a lot of money. Three or four million dollars is not a small sum. Few people attain the opportunity to enjoy millions of dollars in life. Businesses can be crushed if they lose millions of dollars. Precious artifacts worth millions of dollars can seldom be replaced. The capital city of the Roman province of Asia was Ephesus, famed for the birthplace of two painters, Apelles and Parrhasius, and the philosopher Heraclitus. Ephesus was also widely known for its culture of magicians who conjured the arts of magic and amulets of parchment with inscriptions that, when read (as was believed), would help to avert evil.
The apostle Paul spent almost three years in the city of Ephesus. He reasoned and persuaded the things of the kingdom of God in the synagogue and many converts were brought to Christ. God worked unusual miracles by the hand of Paul. Among the converts were a great number of magicians. Like Simon the Sorcerer in the city of Samaria, they realized the power of God was true and their magical arts were nothing more than a ruse. Converting to the gospel of Christ, the faith of these new Christians manifested itself in an incredible manner. They brought their books of the magical arts together and burned them in the sight of everyone. When the total amount of the books was weighed, the sum was fifty thousand pieces of silver, equaling millions of dollars worth of books.
It is difficult to give an exact number to the value of the books in modern currency but putting the amount in the context of two to four million dollars would not be far off the mark. This was more than a lifetime’s wages. The gospel of Christ so changed the lives of the Ephesian magicians; they willingly, voluntarily, and with no regard to monetary worth – burned books worth millions of dollars. And the question is asked, “Why?” Their lives had changed. Money was not the most important goal in life. There can be little doubt the unconverted magicians must have been incensed at the destruction of the magical books. The world looked upon the act of the new Christians as a cultish act of incredible stupidity. But not to the Lord God. He saw their faith. The example of their courage resounded throughout the halls of the Divine.
The action by the magicians had an impact on the city of Ephesus. There would be detractors who would argue against such action. What made the greatest impact was that because of the courageous faith of the new Christians, the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed over the hearts of the people. The word of God grows in many ways. When Saul persecuted the church, saints went everywhere preaching the word. Later, as the apostle Paul, the gospel was spread throughout the whole world as he went from city to city and region to region preaching, teaching, and establishing churches. The word of the Lord grew.
In the city of Ephesus, the word of God grew because of the actions of a group of new Christians who boldly showed their faith in the presence of all by burning rare and expensive magical books worth millions. It would have been a good showing to burn a few hundred dollars worth of books but this act was beyond the pale. As a result of an active faith on the part of the former magicians, the word of God touched the lives of many people. Luke does not tell how many came to know Jesus Christ because of the book burning but one can only imagine. If one soul was saved, it was worth billions of dollars. The world was shocked by the burning but many people saw the power of the gospel and wanted to share in that grace. They realized the hope of eternal life far outweighed the worth of millions of dollars.
The word of the Lord can grow in every community when the lives of saints reflect a sacrificial spirit of devotion to God. Many churches struggle to bring people to Christ and in part, it is because of the lives of its members. They are unwilling to sacrifice their lives to serve the Lord and the world takes notice. For many saints, their lives are seldom unlike the habits of their lost neighbors. Growing churches are filled with Christians who are ready to “burn the books,” not in the literal sense but in the willingness to dispose of all those things that hinder growth in the body of Christ – no matter the cost. Burning the books burned the bridge back to the world. The former magicians declared their allegiance to the Lord God. Can we do any less?