Adapted from: The Pondering Preacher THE MUSINGS OF A CURIOUS CLERIChttp://ponderingpreacher.com/2012/03/02/having-an- ephesus-moment/
There, I admitted it. I think most of us thinkit sounds arrogant or somehow „unchristian‟ to say such a thing but the fact is, most of us like being right. We like knowing the facts are on our side. We like knowing thatwhat we believe is true. In fact, everyone in the universe thinks they are right. The problem arises when we realize not everyone has the same opinion. That is when we engage in discussions to prove just how right we are.
As a movement the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ have often prided themselves on being able to „get it right.‟ Does the pride of being right hinder us from winning the lost to Christ thus fulfilling Jesus commission? Is „getting itright‟ the only feather in our cap? To answer this question, let‟s look at a Biblical church as a test case; a church that nearly always „got it right.‟
We first see Ephesus on Paul‟s 2nd missionary journey. It seems Paul leftPriscilla and Aquila in Ephesus to plant the church. Acts 18:18 NET Paul, after staying many more days in Corinth, said farewell to the brothers and sailed away to Syria accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Hehad his hair cut off at Cenchrea because he had made a vow.
19 When they reached Ephesus, Paul left Priscilla and Aquila behind there, but he himself went into the synagogue and addressed the Jews. 20 When they askedhim to stay longer, he would not consent, 21 but said farewell to them and added, "I will come back to you again if God wills." Then he set sail from Ephesus,
When you study the church in Ephesus you realize that their lineage reads like an all- star roster of Biblical proportions. We see the effect Paul, the guy who wrote half of the books in the New Testament, had onEphesus. Apollos, a man Luke describes as “eloquent,” “well-versed, accurate” and“enthusiastic, fearless,” does a mighty work proclaiming the Good News.
Acts 18:24 NET Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, arrived in Ephesus.He was an eloquent speaker, well-versed inthe scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and with greatenthusiasm he spoke and taught accurately the facts about Jesus, although he knew only the baptism of John.
26 He began to speak out fearlessly in thesynagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the way of God to him more accurately.Timothy, (1st & 2nd Timothy,) also ministered in Ephesus, The „disciple whom Jesus loved,‟ the Apostle John, according to tradition, spent many years in Ephesus, where he died and was buried. (Easton)
With such men as „founding fathers‟ it islittle wonder that the church succeeded in such a mighty way. Ephesus is next seen on Paul‟s third missionary journey.Let‟s take a moment and read Acts 19 tosee the impact of the church in Ephesus.
Acts 19:1 NET While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul went through the inland regions and came to Ephesus. He found some disciples there 2 and said tothem, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" They replied, "No, we havenot even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." 3 So Paul said, "Into what then were you baptized?" "Into Johns baptism," they replied.
4 Paul said, "John baptized with a baptismof repentance, telling the people to believein the one who was to come after him, thatis, in Jesus." 5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, 6 and when Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came uponthem, and they began to speak in tonguesand to prophesy. 7 (Now there were about twelve men in all.)
8 So Paul entered the synagogue and spoke out fearlessly for threemonths, addressing and convincing them about the kingdom of God. 9 But when some were stubborn and refused to believe, reviling the Way before the congregation, he left them and took thedisciples with him, addressing them every day in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.
10 This went on for two years, so that allwho lived in the province of Asia, both Jewsand Greeks, heard the word of the Lord. 11God was performing extraordinary miracles by Pauls hands, 12 so that when even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his body were brought to the sick, theirdiseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them.
13 But some itinerant Jewish exorcists tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were possessed by evilspirits, saying, "I sternly warn you by Jesuswhom Paul preaches." 14 (Now seven sons of a man named Sceva, a Jewish highpriest, were doing this.) 15 But the evil spirit replied to them, "I know about Jesus and Iam acquainted with Paul, but who are you?"
16 Then the man who was possessed by the evil spirit jumped on them and beat them all into submission. He prevailed against them so that they fled from that house naked and wounded. 17 This became known to all who lived inEphesus, both Jews and Greeks; fear came over them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was praised.
18 Many of those who had believed cameforward, confessing and making their deedsknown. 19 Large numbers of those who had practiced magic collected their books and burned them up in the presence ofeveryone. When the value of the books was added up, it was found to total fifty thousand silver coins. 20 In this way theword of the Lord continued to grow in power and to prevail.
21 Now after all these things had taken place, Paul resolved to go toJerusalem, passing through Macedonia andAchaia. He said, "After I have been there, I must also see Rome." 22 So after sending two of his assistants, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, he himself stayed on for a while in the province of Asia. 23 At that time a great disturbance took place concerning the Way.
24 For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith who made silver shrines ofArtemis, brought a great deal of business to the craftsmen. 25 He gathered thesetogether, along with the workmen in similar trades, and said, "Men, you know that our prosperity comes from this business.
26 And you see and hear that this Paul has persuaded and turned away a largecrowd, not only in Ephesus but in practically all of the province of Asia, by saying thatgods made by hands are not gods at all. 27 There is danger not only that this business of ours will come into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be regarded as nothing, and she whom all the province of Asia and the world worship will suffer the loss of her greatness."
28 When they heard this they became enraged and began to shout, "Great isArtemis of the Ephesians!" 29 The city wasfilled with the uproar, and the crowd rushedto the theater together, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, the Macedonians who were Pauls traveling companions. 30 But when Paul wanted to enter the public assembly, the disciples would not let him.
31 Even some of the provincial authorities who were his friends sent a message to him, urging him not to venture into the theater. 32 So then some were shoutingone thing, some another, for the assemblywas in confusion, and most of them did notknow why they had met together. 33 Some of the crowd concluded it was about Alexander because the Jews had pushed him to the front.
Alexander, gesturing with his hand, was wanting to make a defense before the public assembly. 34 But when they recognized that he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!" for about two hours. 35 After the city secretary quieted the crowd, hesaid, "Men of Ephesus, what person is there who does not know that the city of theEphesians is the keeper of the temple of thegreat Artemis and of her image that fell from heaven?
36 So because these facts areindisputable, you must keep quiet and not do anything reckless. 37 For you have brought these men here who are neither temple robbers nor blasphemers of our goddess. 38 If then Demetrius and the craftsmen who are with him have acomplaint against someone, the courts are open and there are proconsuls;
let them bring charges against one another there. 39 But if you want anything in addition, it will have to be settled in a legalassembly. 40 For we are in danger of beingcharged with rioting today, since there is nocause we can give to explain this disorderly gathering." 41 After he had said this, he dismissed the assembly.
It was so dramatic that idol-makers were losing business because of the impact of the Gospel on the local culture. Imagine a church being planted in Las Vegas forcing casinos and strip-joints to close shopbecause of the change in the lives of people there. That was the impact of the church in Ephesus.
So great was the work, that Paul stayedthere longer (two years) than he did in any city where he planted a church. Perhapsthis is why the church in Ephesus receives so much attention in the New Testament.On his return from his journey, Paul didn‟t stop in Ephesus, but he still needed to prepare the leaders about up-coming attacks.
Acts 20:16 NET For Paul had decided tosail past Ephesus so as not to spend time in the province of Asia, for he was hurrying to arrive in Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost. 17 From Miletus he sent a message to Ephesus, telling the elders of the church to come to him. The next 5 verses he reminds them of his work in Ephesus, then he gives them shocking prophecy about himself.
Acts 20:22 NET And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem without knowing what will happen to me there, 23except that the Holy Spirit warns me in town after town that imprisonment andpersecutions are waiting for me. 24 But I do not consider my life worth anything tomyself, so that I may finish my task and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of Gods grace.
25 “And now I know that none of youamong whom I went around proclaiming the kingdom will see me again. 3 verses later comes a stern warning! 28 Watch out for yourselves and for all theflock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son.
29 I know that after I am gone fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing theflock. 30 Even from among your own group men will arise, teaching perversions of thetruth to draw the disciples away after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that night and day for three years I did not stop warning each one of you with tears.
32 And now I entrust you to God and to themessage of his grace. This message is ableto build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. Paul warned that false teachers would trouble the church. This proved to be so, and Paul‟s letter to the Ephesians, which he wrote during his firstimprisonment in Rome, deals with some of the wrong ideas that had become widespread in and around Ephesus.
After his release from Rome, Paul revisited the church in Ephesus to try to correct thewrong teaching. When he moved on, he left Timothy behind to continue correctiveteaching. He also wrote Timothy two letters to help him in this task. (Bridgeway) 1 Timothy 1:3 NET As I urged you when I was leaving for Macedonia, stay on in Ephesus to instruct certain people not to spread false teachings,
4 nor to occupy themselves with myths and interminable genealogies. Such things promote useless speculations rather than Gods redemptive plan that operates byfaith. 5 But the aim of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.
6 Some have strayed from these and turned away to empty discussion. 7 They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not understand what they are saying or the things they insist on so confidently. 1 Timothy 6:3 NET If someone spreads false teachings and does not agree with sound words (that is, those of our Lord Jesus Christ) and with the teaching that accords with godliness,
4 he is conceited and understands nothing, but has an unhealthy interest in controversies and verbal disputes. Thisgives rise to envy, dissension, slanders, evil suspicions, 5 and constant bickering by people corrupted in their minds and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a way of making a profit.
2 Timothy 2:14 NET Remind people of these things and solemnly charge thembefore the Lord not to wrangle over words. This is of no benefit; it just brings ruin on those who listen. 15 Make every effort to present yourself before God as a proven worker who does not need to be ashamed, teaching the message of truth accurately.
16 But avoid profane chatter, becausethose occupied with it will stray further and further into ungodliness, 17 and their message will spread its infection like gangrene. The false teaching that the apostle Johncondemned in his letters (written towards theend of the first century) was also centered in Ephesus. (Bridgeway)
3 chapters in Acts talk much about Ephesus, we have Paul‟s letter to theEphesians as well as Paul‟s 1st & 2nd letters to Timothy, who ministered in Ephesus.Paul mentions Ephesus twice in his 1st letter to the Corinthian Saints.With so much in the New Testament written to & about Ephesus it seems obvious God wants us to learn from the Ephesian Church.
I would dare say that if Ephesus ChristianChurch existed today, we would all flock to itto see how church should be done. But she doesn‟t exist, which means something, somewhere went wrong. Todiscover that, we must look at the final New Testament reference to the church in Ephesus: Revelation 2.
Revelation 2:1 NET "To the angel of thechurch in Ephesus, write the following: "This is the solemn pronouncement of the one who has a firm grasp on the seven stars inhis right hand — the one who walks among the seven golden lampstands:
2 I know your works as well as your labor and steadfast endurance, and that you cannot tolerate evil. You have even put to the test those who refer to themselves asapostles (but are not), and have discovered that they are false. 3 I am also aware that you have persisted steadfastly, endured much for the sake of my name, and have not grown weary.
What would a letter directly from Jesuswritten to our congregation look like? I hope it would start off as well as the one Jesuswrote to Ephesus does. Notice all the things Ephesus was doing well:Good work ethicSteadfast enduranceCannot tolerate evilTest false apostles (in other words, theywere committed to doctrinally pureteaching)Have not grown weary
What a list of accomplishments! From the outside Ephesus looked like the ideal Church. With hard working members, doctrinally pure teaching, enduring persecution with dignity, this was THEchurch to belong to and get involved. Forthose of us with a Restoration Movementbackground, their goal for doctrinal puritybased on the Apostles‟ teaching resounds deeply within us.
If we lived in the first century we would bepointing at Ephesus saying, “That is what God‟s Church is supposed to look like!”But Jesus isn‟t finished with His letter yet.
Revelation 2:4 NET But I have this againstyou: You have departed from your first love!5 Therefore, remember from what high state you have fallen and repent! Do the deeds you did at the first; if not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place — that is, if you do not repent.
Imagine this letter being read aloud in our congregation. Can‟t you see the chests puffing out in pride, only to be deflated by these final words? Can‟t you see the nervous glances around the auditorium as people start to contemplate the meaning of „You have departed from your first love?‟You may even think of a few individuals who would be defensive and try to justifythemselves with phrases like, „We show our love by working hard!
We show our love by being committed to proper teaching! We show our love by hating evil deeds!‟Lest you think that I am proposing we need to be soft on things like doctrine and service, let me assure you I am not, and neither was Jesus. The problem thatEphesus had is the same problem seen in more than one church: They loved pure doctrine more than they loved Jesus.
They love being right more than they lovedpeople. They valued the work that went into the Great Commission more than the commission itself. They had lost sight of their first love, and Jesus, who sees the motive behind the action, lovingly rebuked them for it. All‟s not lost! In the 5th verse He called for them to repent, then in the 6th gives them another big pat on the back.
Revelation 2:6 NET But you do have thisgoing for you: You hate what the Nicolaitanspractice — practices I also hate. 7 The one who has an ear had better hear what theSpirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers, I will permit him to eat from the tree of life that is in the paradise of God.‘I can find no evidence the Ephesians failed to repent & return to their first love. They might have returned to Do the deeds they did at the first.
When the Turks conquered Ephesus in 1090, it was a small village. The townknew again a short period of flourishing during the 14th century. Ephesus waseventually completely abandoned in the 15th century and lost her former glory. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ephesus#Turkish_era)
Maybe this is how the Lord removed theirlampstand from its place because they did not repent & return to their first love? It wouldn‟t have been the first time He wiped out an entire city because of disobedience!
I believe that our brotherhood of churches finds themselves at a similar crossroads inhistory that the church in Ephesus did. Like Ephesus, we look into a future clouded byuncertain times. The American church may be heading for a period of persecution asmore and more of our rights are suppressed by earthly government. I have no doubt many of our brothers will stand firm.
I also have no doubt that doctrinal purity willalways remain a hallmark of our movement. But, I must ask this question: What do we love more? Do we value being right more than we value King Jesus? Do we value doctrinal purity more than the lost soul in search of grace? I pray that we do not, andthat we return to the roots of Christianity: an intense love for Christ and His Bride.
There is hope. Our lampstand is still burning. Jesus has not removed it, yet. Let us return to our first love. Matthew 22:36 NET "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?"37 Jesus said to him, " Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all yoursoul, and with all your mind. (Deu 6:5) 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. (Lev 19:18)
Just how do we show our love for Jesus?John 14:21a NET The person who has mycommandments and obeys them is the one who loves me. Why did Jesus, God the Son, come toearth? Luke 19:10 NET For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost."
We show our love by continuing His work.Matthew 28:19 NET Therefore go and makedisciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Andremember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
Did you catch the promise Jesus made to those who keep their first love first? 7 The one who has an ear had better hearwhat the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers, I will permit him to eatfrom the tree of life that is in the paradise of God.’ Eternal Life in Heaven!