“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.”
Fancy a day trip to ancient Ephesus? A little break on the monotony of lockdown! It was a splendid city with a busy trading port on a well-established trading route on the Mediterranean. But its pride and joy was the huge temple of Artemis which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. In Acts 19 there are references to the temple and its goddess. The word used four times to describe her is “great.” Indeed, it’s the chant of the crowds for about two hours: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians.” So, we have no doubts as to the influence of the dominating architectural temple structure of Ephesus and the overwhelming religious influence of its goddess on the masses. Her power, might and greatness seemed unsurpassed. Today’s idols and pagan centres like temples dominate our culture and seek the affection of worshippers at their shrines.
How did all this affect the Christian believers in Ephesus? Did they sometimes feel overwhelmed by their relative smallness and seeming insignificance in comparison? Such a big local temple building while they most probably had no public church buildings. Did they feel their weakness, powerlessness and inability? What resources of strength and might were available for them? Was there anyone greater, bigger or stronger than Artemis of the Ephesians? Don’t you feel at times an overwhelming sense of weakness as a believer when your inadequacies and inabilities debilitate you?
Three times in the letter to the Ephesians Paul encourages the believers to look above and beyond their local temple and its goddess. He prays that “…the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know … his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come” (Eph 1:18-21). This power and mighty strength are all located in the person of the victorious risen Christ and it’s all “for us.”
Again in Chapter 3 vs 16, 18 & 19. “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Could Artemis really match this amazing supply and resource of Father, Son and Spirit? Triune power displayed and to be experienced in the wonderful cross shaped love of Christ.
Then the third reference in Ephesians 6:10. “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” We were never intended to be strong in ourselves relying on our limited resources. We weren’t strong enough to save ourselves. We are not strong enough to keep and support ourselves. But in God, in Christ and in the Spirit there are unlimited resources. Just as a cup of tea in your hand does not represent the whole water supply of your local reservoir with its vast supply of water so the little grace and love we know is not the sum total of what is available in the plenteous provision of God. Let’s go by prayer and ask today for more strength, more power and more of his mighty love to support and sustain us. Let’s see our Lord Jesus as bigger, stronger, greater and mightier than any other rival.
Meirion Thomas, Malpas Road