Bible Study: Mysteries and Riches

Is anything blocking your view of God?

In Jesus’ day, the temple to Artemis in Ephesus was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It was longer and wider than a football field and taller than today’s Hollywood sign in Los Angeles. But when Paul arrived in that city to preach the gospel of Jesus, he offered a glimpse of something unspeakably greater. The Ephesians enjoyed cultural grandeur, but they’d never seen anything like the love of Christ.

 

READ

Acts 19:23-34; Ephesians 3:8-19

 

BACKGROUND

Travelers came from all over to see the temple at Ephesus, and the locals prospered from the booming trade in pagan culture. Paul’s missionary work in the city threatened to destroy their livelihood.

 

REFLECT

Idols can’t fulfill what they seem to promise.

  • When his income source is threatened by the growth of Christianity, idol maker Demetrius gathers his colleagues to protest (Acts 19:25). Being human involves having needs, but how they’re fulfilled separates God’s people from others. Can you relate to the felt need Demetrius expressed? Name an area where you don’t fully trust God. Find a verse to encourage your faith.

  • Demetrius complains when Paul says that “gods made by hands are not gods at all” (Acts 19:26). Today it’s easy to think we’re too sophisticated to care about pagan statues, but an idol is anything we allow to come between us and God. Even greed is idolatry (Col. 3:5), and the Lord won’t accept it. Examine your heart—have you enthroned anything that’s “not a god at all”? Confess and ask for God’s help in getting free of its lure.

  • The people are “filled with rage” to think Artemis could lose her prestige (Acts 19:27-28). What does their reaction reveal about the power of idols? Have you ever felt this way when God took something from you or instructed you to give it up?

  • Clinging to God and His will isn’t always easy in this materialistic world. But the church is a refuge that helps us. Compare the chaos in Acts 19:29-32 with 1 Corinthians 14:33. How can you reach out to someone needing freedom from confusion?

 

CONTINUING THE STORY

After establishing a strong church in Ephesus, Paul eventually leaves. He later writes to believers there while imprisoned in Rome.

Clinging to God and His will isn’t always easy in this materialistic world. But the church is a refuge that helps us.

  • Paul tells the Ephesians he was called to preach “the unfathomable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8). Considering the culture of Ephesus, why is this phrase significant? What does Paul want believers there to appreciate, and how does it contrast with their surroundings?

  • The great mystery Paul keeps referring to is that the Ephesians are “fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Eph. 3:6). Why was this so astonishing to Paul? Consider that in Christ, all of us have received something amazing we could never have expected and didn’t deserve. How does reflecting on this enrich your relationship with God?

  • Given the size of the famous temple in Ephesus, it’s interesting that Paul prays God will enable the Ephesians to grasp the width, length, height, and depth of Christ’s love. At times our desires, roles, or responsibilities loom so large it’s hard to see beyond them. Looking at Ephesians 3:16-19, list keys for breaking free from whatever blocks your path to God’s love.

 

REFLECT

Immerse yourself in Jesus—filled with His love eternally, you’ll find He’s more than enough.

  • God’s displeasure with idols is reason enough to avoid them. But He who does “far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20) has also provided in a way that brings joy from obedience.

 

GOING FURTHER

Consider deeper aspects of the story.

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is full of grace and love for the church. Without self-pity, he refers to his own difficulties and rejoices in the glory of God. Chapter 3 shows he sees imprisonment at the hands of men as nothing when compared with the treasures he’s received from God: mystery, revelation, insight, promise, grace, gifts, riches, boldness, access. And he wants the Ephesians to remember the amazing truth: They too have been made partakers in God’s gifts.

Being human involves having needs, but how they’re fulfilled separates God’s people from others.

  • In Ephesians 3:1, Paul suggests incarceration is a price he must pay for bringing the gospel to the Ephesians. Yet he urges them to rejoice in God rather than to be discouraged by this (Eph. 3:13). Sharing in persecution is an honor for any faith community. Have you ever experienced this? How did your church grow stronger because of it?

  • The prayer in Ephesians 3:16-19 is perhaps one of the most gracious and profound requests one can make of God on behalf of another person. It could change a life dramatically. Will you commit to praying this for a friend daily this week?

  • None of us have been given the same mission Paul was blessed to receive. Yet as believers, through faith in Jesus, we’ve all been given our own mandate to serve and glorify the Lord. How are you fulfilling yours? Perhaps you’d like to ask God right now if He has a new direction waiting for you.

  • God doesn’t reveal the same things to all His children. But you can be sure He has mysteries and riches for you. Moving idols out of the way will help you see them more clearly.

 

Illustration by Adam Cruft

Related Topics:  Reading Bible

Related Stories

23 About that time there occurred no small disturbance concerning the Way.

24 For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, was bringing no little business to the craftsmen;

25 these he gathered together with the workmen of similar trades, and said, Men, you know that our prosperity depends upon this business.

26 You see and hear that not only in Ephesus, but in almost all of Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away a considerable number of people, saying that gods made with hands are no gods at all.

27 Not only is there danger that this trade of ours fall into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis be regarded as worthless and that she whom all of Asia and the world worship will even be dethroned from her magnificence."

28 When they heard this and were filled with rage, they began crying out, saying, Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!"

29 The city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed with one accord into the theater, dragging along Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul's traveling companions from Macedonia.

30 And when Paul wanted to go into the assembly, the disciples would not let him.

31 Also some of the Asiarchs who were friends of his sent to him and repeatedly urged him not to venture into the theater.

32 So then, some were shouting one thing and some another, for the assembly was in confusion and the majority did not know for what reason they had come together.

33 Some of the crowd concluded it was Alexander, since the Jews had put him forward; and having motioned with his hand, Alexander was intending to make a defense to the assembly.

34 But when they recognized that he was a Jew, a single outcry arose from them all as they shouted for about two hours, Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!"

8 To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ,

9 and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things;

10 so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.

11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord,

12 in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him.

13 Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory.

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,

15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name,

16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man,

17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love,

18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,

19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

25 these he gathered together with the workmen of similar trades, and said, Men, you know that our prosperity depends upon this business.

26 You see and hear that not only in Ephesus, but in almost all of Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away a considerable number of people, saying that gods made with hands are no gods at all.

5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.

27 Not only is there danger that this trade of ours fall into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis be regarded as worthless and that she whom all of Asia and the world worship will even be dethroned from her magnificence."

28 When they heard this and were filled with rage, they began crying out, saying, Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!"

29 The city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed with one accord into the theater, dragging along Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul's traveling companions from Macedonia.

30 And when Paul wanted to go into the assembly, the disciples would not let him.

31 Also some of the Asiarchs who were friends of his sent to him and repeatedly urged him not to venture into the theater.

32 So then, some were shouting one thing and some another, for the assembly was in confusion and the majority did not know for what reason they had come together.

33 for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.

6 to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel,

16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man,

17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love,

18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,

19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,

13 Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory.

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