Who am I and what in the world am I doing?
It’s a question that usually arises in transition or other uncertain circumstances. However, if you lived in a city like Ephesus, it might be a daily recurrence. Ephesus was a port city of many cultures and, therefore, many religions and worldviews. Some of them dominated the cultural landscape. For example, worship of the Roman goddess Diana (equivalent to the Greek goddess Artemis) was so prevalent that there was a massive temple built in her honor, one of the largest temples in the world. The temple was so successful and rich it also operated as a bank that gave out loans to entire countries. People took pilgrimages to this temple and took home a small silver figurine as a souvenir, like the Eiffel tower figurine you might get if you went to Paris today.
These silversmiths that made these souvenirs as well as offerings for the goddess herself are the same ones we read of in Acts 19:23-41. People were turning away from the worship of idols and the temple, and their business suffered. They held Paul responsible. He was preaching not just another god to add to their collection, but the God—not just any gospel, but the gospel. This new perspective threatened their livelihood, and they didn’t like it.
Sometimes what we believe will inconvenience and cause friction with the world around us. How does God provide for this? How do we live with this tension and friction? What must we not lose hold of in the midst of it?
These are the questions that Paul answers for the churches in the region of Ephesus. This letter was passed around to the house churches, helping them remember who they were in Christ amid a culture that believed otherwise. Paul also points out that, even though the members of the church come from different cultures, through Christ they are made one. He instructs them about how this unity will be their lifeline as they strive to walk with God in the midst of the tension.
Above all, Paul encouraged the Ephesians to walk in the new life they’ve been given in Christ Jesus—a life of fullness, love, and unity.