The Church At Ephesus
This month's study is about the church at Ephesus. Because this church was so intimately considered in Paul's travels and because it occupies more than nineteen separate passages in the New Testament, it stands out in importance. In Acts, the hardships of ministering in that area are well documented. In the book of I Corinthians (which some believe was written from Ephesus), Paul makes reference to it. Timothy was commissioned to go to Ephesus and "straighten out" the mélange of false ideologies forming there. Finally, Revelation addressed Ephesus' struggles, commended its progress and challenged its loss of first love.
Having four very different references from which to view this congregation, the reader has an advantage that is not readily available for the other six churches of Revelation. Ephesus was the first to be called up for appraisal. (Thyatira and Laodicea had brief contact with Paul through Lydia [Acts, met Paul at Philippi] and Epaphras [Col. 4]).
Ephesus in Revelation:
Focal Scripture: Revelation 2:1-7
"To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, 'These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: 2 "I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary.
4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place - unless you repent. 6 But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
7 "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God."'
As one segments these verses, it becomes apparent that the Lord Jesus has intimate knowledge of what is going on within the church community. What is interesting are those things that are meaningful to Him in light of what Acts and Timothy emphasize. Take a moment to review in sequence what Jesus says to them.
The assertion: I have walked into and through the midst of your congregation. I am present even though unseen.
(In other words, I was there when the riots started; I was there when the arguments among factions broke out; I was there when the false apostles and prophets came in. I watched how you handled each intrusion to the purity of the Word and the gospel message. I get deeply involved where My Name is used.)
"I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars. 3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary."
(Shortly, we will review the Acts passages and it will become clearer why Jesus emphasized these factors. Also, when one reads the Epistle to the Ephesians, evidence of these underlying factors will be visible in the teachings. This makes the passage, "Don't be weary in well doing," take on a new fervor. He is watching.)
"Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place - unless you repent"
(Paul, when he first encountered the Ephesian disciples, pointed out to them the first order of business was winning the lost. Doctrinally, he taught them the crowned Christ and how the Christian's continuous awareness must be of Christ and what He has done for them. Loving Him and loving God, the Father, and living by the Spirit sums up his epistle.)
"But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate."
Adam Clarke commented on Nicolaitans thusly,
Nicolaitanes: These were, as is commonly supposed, a sect of the Gnostics, who taught the most impure doctrines, and followed the most impure practices.
They are also supposed to have derived their origin from Nicolas, one of the seven deacons mentioned Acts 6:5 ... The Nicolaitanes taught the community of wives, that adultery and fornication were things indifferent, that eating meats offered to idols was quite lawful; and mixed several pagan rites with the Christian ceremonies.
(from Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1996 by Biblesoft)
Ephesus was offered (along with all who overcome) to eat of the tree of life in the midst of the paradise of God if they turned back to their first love. Yes, they had endured pain and suffering from the evil doers. Yes, they had overcome so many invasions they were seasoned warriors for Christ, but the erosion of their first love had blinded their spiritual perception. Focusing on "overcoming," they had lost contact with what mattered to the Savior. (Could this be said of today's church?)
Ephesus in Acts
Background: The Book of Acts, chapters 19-20.
And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions,came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples 2 he said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?"
So they said to him, "We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit."
3 And he said to them, "Into what then were you baptized?"
So they said, "Into John's baptism."
4 Then Paul said, "John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus."
5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. 7 Nowthe men were about twelve in all.
Because Ephesus had a synagogue, it could be assumed these disciples were Jews and had heard Apollos preach John's baptism.
Acts 18:24-28 Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. 25 This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him; and when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace; 28 for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.
These disciples (perhaps of Apollos) stood out from among the other Jews as Paul preached in the synagogue. Paul taught these twelve true baptism, showing the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus and themselves with Him. Paul laid hands on them to receive the Holy Spirit, and they manifested their baptism by speaking in tongues and prophesying (the testimony of Jesus Christ is the Spirit of prophecy).
Neither Paul nor his disciples lasted more than three months in the Ephesian synagogue. The twelve taught others "the Way." Before long, persecution began. "The Way was evil spoken of," because the power elite deemed it contrary to "their way." (How often this is the case today. Consider the oxymoron, "tongue talking Baptist.")
Paul took his disciples and resorted to a building housing Tyrannous' school. Once again, the Apostle proved his calling and opened a venue to those beyond the reach of established religion.
Acts 19:10 And this continued for two years, so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.
Miracles broke out in their midst, handkerchiefs were anointed and people were healed simply by touching them. Jewish mystics began to evoke the Name and found themselves bludgeoned by demons. Yet these demons were being cast out by the humblest of converts.
Acts 19: 17 This became known both to all Jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. 18 And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds. 19 Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.
So significant were these transactions that it disrupted the economy of the area. Silversmiths, casting companies and retailers began losing customers and income due to the preaching of this growing group. (Any time true revival grasps a community then evidences, like those in Ephesus, sweep the public arena.)
Acts 19: 23 And about that time there arose a great commotion about the Way. 24 For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Diana, brought no small profit to the craftsmen. 25 He called them together with the workers of similar occupation, and said: "Men, you know that we have our prosperity by this trade. 26 Moreover you see and hear that not only at Ephesus, but throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that they are not gods which are made with hands. 27 So not only is this trade of ours in danger of falling into disrepute, but also the temple of the great goddess Diana may be despised and her magnificence destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worship."
(Please remember that Jesus was accused of proclaiming the overthrow of both Temple and Emperor. Remember that all of Jesus' disciples ran into difficulty with authorities, both political and religious. Remember that Paul was imprisoned because of these forces.
Note also, the mother-goddess, Diana, was contrasted by Paul in his Ephesian letter by his teaching on the creator, the son and the saints. Much of the work in the book of Ephesians refute false teaching and replaces it with sound theology.)
Listen to pagan logic:
The city clerk quieted the crowd and said: "Men of Ephesus, doesn't all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven? 36 Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to be quiet and not do anything rash."
(Today, citadel cities, acting as guardians of false gods, still exist. Take the Vatican for instance, Roman Catholics have replaced Diana with Mary, as a type of mother-goddess. They have sainted and canonized and introduced mysticism and paganism into Christian worship as well.)
(Review Clarke's comment:
Many of the Italian papists believe that the shrine of our lady of Loretto was also a divine gift to their country. [Meaning: coming directly from heaven.]
Most of the outcries that have been made against all revivals of religion--revivals by which the church has been called back to its primitive principles and purity, have arisen out of self-interest. Ephesus had a real, old-fashioned, revival!)
After this disturbance, however, Paul departed. The riot over the silversmiths propelled him toward his original goal. Heading toward Jerusalem, he called for the elders of the Ephesian church to come to him for a final convocation. Paul knew this would be a final meeting. He knew he would never see them again, so what was said to them was of most importance. (Man's final words, though spoken in brevity, carry great weight.)
Acts 20:17 The Ephesian Elders were Exhorted
From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church. 18 And when they had come to him, he said to them: "You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you, 19 serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews; 20 how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, 21 testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ."
... Acts 20:25-38
(Regard these verses carefully for they are reflected in Revelation 2.).
"And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. 28 Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. 31 Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.
32 "So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I have coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. 34 Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me. 35 I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"
36 And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37 Then they all wept freely, and fell on Paul's neck and kissed him, 38 sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke, that they would see his face no more. And they accompanied him to the ship.
(Author's Note: It is time to kiss the saints that have blessed you. In these perilous hours ahead, don't let the opportunity pass to bless and show affection for those who have guarded your soul!)
Paul taught against savage wolves among the sheep ... the elders listened and they watched and prayed and stayed faithful and Jesus rewarded them in Revelation 2.
Ephesus in the Corinthian Passages
The Corinthian letters were written by Paul while facing opposition in Ephesus. Here are a couple of passages found in I Corinthians related to his ordeals in that city. Countering false teachings in Corinth, he cites his battle against untruth in Ephesus.
1 Corinthians 15:32
If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained?
Who were these wild or savage beasts? Perhaps it was Demetrius and the wild crowd in the theater. It could have been savage personal attacks fomented by the unbelieving Jews. It could have been local authorities. We do know that "Heraclitus, of Ephesus, had termed his countrymen 'wild beasts' 400 years before." (Christians in America are about to face "wild beasts." )
Paul again mentions Ephesus.
1 Corinthians 16:8-9
8 But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, 9 because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.
(Author's Note: I have had the privilege of knowing many missionaries. Every last one of the worthwhile ones talk just as Paul did in this passage. They count the open door greater than the opposition against them, and I know of absolutely none who do not have great forces working against them. I have heard many accounts. [Being escorted out of Catholic dominated countries by Jesuits, being tortured and killed by Communists, being daily threatened by military forces, being intimidated by government officials and thugs, loved ones targeted and killed by Islamists-all during my lifetime.]
This very morning a skillful man of God said in conversation, "A great door is opening, one that will include Asia and ultimately the world, I am laying all my resources and life into this project." [How can a church with all its many millions of resources withhold them for themselves or their sainted few, while this man labors secularly to fund that which God has endorsed?])
Ephesus in I Timothy
Once again, in his writing to Timothy, the great heart of Paul is concerned about the work in Ephesus. He commissioned Timothy to go there and minister the true gospel and to expel that which would corrupt it. (Jesus commended the church for expelling evil and testing for false doctrine and false apostles and prophets. Paul and Timothy did a great job with their assignments.)
1 Timothy 1:3-11
3 As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may commandcertain men not to teach false doctrines any longer 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God's work-which is by faith. 5 The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. 7 They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.
8 We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9 We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers-and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.
(Barnes was correct when he said , "One of the most successful arts of the adversary of souls has been to mingle fable with truth; and when the evil one cannot overthrow the truth by direct opposition, he seeks to neutralize it by mingling with it much that is false and frivolous." [Is your ear as heavy as mine in listening to frivolity? While sounding like gospel, it saps the soul of its vigor and power.] They looked inward and not outward. They listened to the voice of man's reason instead of the Holy Ghost, but they had the opportunity to repent and so do we.)
Personally, I like the word "swerved" that Paul used to describe to young Timothy those who pursued error.
1 Tim 1:6
... Some having swerved have turned aside unto vain talking;
Swerved:(NT:795 astocheo (as-tokh-eh'-o); from a compound of NT:1 (as a negative particle) and stoichos (an aim); to miss the mark, i.e. (figuratively) deviate from truth: KJV - err, swerve.
Some might have started out right and been faithful to the truth, but then they swerved. That about describes the apostasy we hear today.
(I even like the phrase, "vain tangling" translated "vain talking." Vain jangling means vain talk, empty declamation, discourses without sense. )
So much of what one hears from today's clergy is best catalogued as "swerved minded vain jangling." Many saints are hard pressed to find a congregation that teaches the full gospel in purity and power because of the off course vain jangling.
(Clarke sums it succinctly:
After describing the conditions that would arise from false Apostles and upstart lawyers trying to capture the limelight and then be dispossessed, he states:
"In this state of distraction, it is a high proof of God's love to his heritage, if one be found who, possessing the true apostolic doctrine and spirit, rises up to call men back to the primitive truth, and restore the primitive discipline. How soon the grievous wolves and perverse teachers arose in the churches of Asia Minor, the first chapters of the Apocalypse inform us. The Nicolaitans had nearly ruined the church of Ephesus, Rev 2:2, 6. The same sect, with other false teachers, infested the church of Pergamos, and preached there the doctrine of Balaam. A false prophetess seduced the church of Thyatira."
The Epistle to the Ephesians
Now it will be rather simple to cruise through the Epistle to Ephesus and locate passages which address the issues found in Revelation 2 and the other references. After preaching the wondrous gospel, where he reached back to the foundation of the world in chapters 1-3, Paul uses the "knowledge and wisdom" prayed for in chapter one. Upon declaring the position of the saint in Christ, he moves to the "thorns in his flesh (the issues which attack his very being)."
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head - Christ.
This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
Ephesians 5:3-7 3 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; 4 neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them.
Author's Note: Bully for this Baptist Pastor, Robert Jeffries:
Dallas News.com, Jan.31, 2013,
First Baptist Dallas pastor changing ways he addresses homosexuality (Headline)
"It would be the height of hypocrisy to condemn homosexuality and not adultery or unbiblical divorce," he said, explaining that the Bible allows divorce only in cases of adultery or desertion. He also includes premarital sex on that list.
See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
If the reader gleans nothing more from this study than this-- let it teach that the church at Ephesus LISTENED when they were taught. They actually DID what the apostles and prophets told them. They discerned in the Spirit and prevailed against all kinds of interruptions and hell sent divisiveness. For this they were given accolade. They laid waste the Nicolaitans, hated evil, stood against the savage beasts and having done all---fell away from their first love.
O how we must think like Jesus thinks and not like man thinks.
Jesus promised if the church at Ephesus would repent, they could eat of the tree forbidden to Adam and Eve. They would stand complete before Him, just as the first of creation did in the garden--before sin. Gone is the flaming sword; present is the flaming heart.
Tag der Veröffentlichung: 26.03.2013
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Thanks to C. R. Oliver and Zadok Publications newsletter Div. for allowing Gospel Outreach Association to use his newsletters.