How To Obtain Heavenly Riches.
Have you ever observed how often the word "riches" is repeated in the Epistle to the Ephesians? In chapter i. 7, we read, "In whom we have redemption through His blood, according to the riches of His grace;" verse 18, "That ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints" ii. 4, 5. "But God who is rich in mercy . . . hath quickened us together with Christ." iii. 8, "Unto me . . . is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ." verses 14-16, "For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man."
Now why should the apostle have written so much on this theme to the Ephesians rather than to the Galatians or Corinthians? Can we find any reason why he especially unfolded to the Ephesians the blessed heavenly truths with which we are so familiar?
Some answer is to be found in the Acts of the Apostles. In chap. xix. we read that at Ephesus "many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men, and they counted the price of them, and found it "fifty thousand pieces of silver"; that is, as Mr. Newberry tells us in the margin of the Englishman's Bible, about £1,875. Is there any difficulty in finding a connection between Luke's narrative in the Acts and Paul's Epistle?
It has been said that of the gifts mentioned in the Gospels, the only amount stated is the widow's two mites, which make a farthing. The Lord has told us the sum as men reckon, and has put His own estimate upon it. Now here we have another sum, very great by contrast, and doubtless highly estimated also by the Lord. It was not a collection for poor saints, but it was a putting together of costly books and sacrificing them for Christ. These books might doubtless have been sold for money; but lest others should be harmed by them they made a pile and burned them all.
Mr. Hoyle could tell us how the priests at Leon collected all the copies of God's Word that he had circulated and then made a bonfire of them, the smoke of which would rise in judgment against themselves. But the odour of the Ephesians' offering must have been well-pleasing to God. We learn also that these books were their means of living, so that both their capital and employment were gone—their all was sacrificed for the Lord. "So mightily grew the Word of the Lord and prevailed."
Have we not thus a simple clue to the remarkable fullness of the Epistle to the Ephesians, and to the especial mention of riches? Into the bosoms of those who had sacrificed earthly things, God delighted to pour His heavenly treasures, and they would value them.
What then is the application? If we cleave to earthly things, can we expect an unfolding of the riches that are in Christ? We may have the words of this Epistle on our tongues, but what shall we know of their value and blessedness? With the needs of God's service crying out on every hand, if we cling to our money and give God, it may be, not a tenth, but a hundredth part of what He gives us, is it to be wondered at that there is spiritual poverty and leanness?
"Now ye are rich," was the apostle's solemn word of rebuke to the Corinthians, and it will apply to us if we keep all or nearly all to ourselves, and are not rich toward God. May our hearts heed the warning given by the Lord to Laodicea, "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayst be rich!" "There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing; there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches." (Prov. xiii. 7).