Discovering Your Identity in Christ – Part I – A Study in Ephesians

Overcoming Artemis of the Ephesians

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23 About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. 24 A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. 25 He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: “You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business. 26 And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all. 27 There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.”

28 When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and all of them rushed into the theater together. 30 Paul wanted to appear before the crowd, but the disciples would not let him. 31 Even some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, sent him a message begging him not to venture into the theater.

32 The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there. 33 The Jews in the crowd pushed Alexander to the front, and they shouted instructions to him. He motioned for silence in order to make a defense before the people. 34 But when they realized he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison for about two hours: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

35 The city clerk quieted the crowd and said: “Fellow Ephesians, doesn’t all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven? 36 Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to calm down and not do anything rash. 37 You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess. 38 If, then, Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a grievance against anybody, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. They can press charges. 39 If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly. 40 As it is, we are in danger of being charged with rioting because of what happened today. In that case we would not be able to account for this commotion, since there is no reason for it.” 41 After he had said this, he dismissed the assembly.”  Acts 19:23-41

When Christ is preached and the cross lifted up, people begin to abandon their false gods.

Acts 19 might sound like an unusual place to begin in a study of Ephesians, but it should not be.  Acts 19 chronicles part of Paul’s time in Ephesus.

Paul chose to minister in Ephesians for a brief time during the ending of his second missionary journey, and then stayed in Ephesus for more than two years on his third missionary journey.  When he stayed in Ephesus, Paul was able to see many people converted to faith in Christ, and at the same time, he seen fierce opposition against his preaching.

When Paul was in Ephesus, the city was famous for its magnificent temple to the Greek goddess Artemis (or Roman goddess Diana) of fertility.  The idol’s most extravagant temple was found in Ephesus and was considered one of the “seven wonders” of the ancient world.  It’s said to have taken 220 years to build and was measured 345 feet in length and 165 feet in height.  People came from all over Asia to worship at the shrine of Artemis despite her being a rather grotesque looking multi-breasted female.  Historians suggest that the idol was carved from a meteorite that “fell from heaven” Acts 19:35.  The cult of Artemis was so powerful and widespread that it caused a dangerous environment for the Gospel to be preached.

In addition to being home to the temple of Artemis (or Diana) the goddess of fertility, Ephesus was an important political, educational, and commercial center.

The church in Ephesus was likely begun by Pricilla and Aquilla, and was later pastored by Paul for some years (as we see in Acts 19).  After Paul left, Timothy pastored the congregation and had to deal with the challenge of false teachings and some influential opponents (likely some who were previously elders in the congregation there – 1 Timothy 1:3, 20).

Tychicus, who is carrying the letter (6:21-22), is also carrying two letters to Colosse (likely to be Colossians and Philemon; according to Colossians 5:7-9).  This letter seems to be reflecting on the Colossian situation and the Asian fear of “the powers of this dark world.”  Paul writes a general pastoral letter for the churches of that area.  Some think Paul did not write the letter because it’s different style.

In Acts 19:24, we meet Demetrius who was a silversmith that made a living off of selling miniature idols of Artemis to those who lived in, or were visiting Ephesus.  Demetrius found his business suffering when people came to faith in Jesus because they began to abandon their idols.  He found that when Christ is preached and the cross lifted up, people begin to abandon their false gods.

Something similar happened in the Welsh Revival of 1901.  Robert Murray McCheyenne led such a great revival that taverns and pubs in Wales went broke.  Was it because he was preaching anti-alcohol messages?  Nope.  Was it because he led organizations rallying against alcohol use?  Nope.  It was because when Christ was preached and people got saved, things began to change.  When Christ is preached and the cross lifted up, people begin to abandon their false gods.

  1. 1. People began to understand their identity in Christ
  2. 2. In light of their new identity in Christ, their lifestyles began to change.

As we begin our journey in Ephesians, we need to know that there are two main lessons to learn from Ephesians – our new identity in Christ and how to live in light of that new identity.  This is the message of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.  Ephesians 1-3 tells the story of redemption and teaches us about our new identity in Christ.  In Ephesians 4-6, Paul teaches right Christian living in light of our new identity in Christ.

Here are some tips to know as we read Ephesians:

  • • Don’t gloss over to the last three chapters without first understanding the greatness of God revealed in the first three chapters.  We often have the tendency to look at the last three chapters of Ephesians because of its practical application, but it can become burdensome if we haven’t spent time understanding our new identity in Christ.
  • • This letter is considered one of the prison Epistles because Ephesians, along with Colossians and Philemon are noted to have been sent by the hand of hand of Tychicus accompanied by Onesimus (Ephesians 6:21, Colossians 4:7-9, Philemon 1:10-12).  During this time, it is likely that Paul sat in Rome undergoing his first Roman imprisonment in 60-62 ad – note the encouragement and exhortation Paul gives others while he sits confined in prison.
  • • This letter offers encouragement and exhortation, set against the backdrop of “the powers” (6:12) and portrays Christ’s bringing the Jew and Gentile together into the one people of God as his ultimate triumph and glory.

Holy Spirit open my eyes, mind, and heart to Your Word in Ephesians.  In the name of Jesus Christ I pray, amen.  

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