Summary: How to be strong in the Lord is not just saying it, but showing you how to be strong in the Lord
Be Strong in the Lord
October 10, 2004
Paul is writing this letter, that we know as the book of Ephesians, to the people in the church of Ephesus. Ephesus was a pagan society. It was a prosperous city because it was the most accessible city in Asia, both by land and sea. But it was most noted for the temple of Ar te mis, the Greek goddess of fertility, which the Romans later named Diana. The temple Diana was one of the 7 wonders of the world. It was 425 feet in length. [That’s almost one and a half football fields]. Its width was 220 feet. Its chief attraction however was an image of Diana said to have fallen directly from heaven to earth. The temple was so popular among pagans that Ephesus emerged as the religious center of all Asia. And so it should be little wonder that when Paul showed up in Ephesus in the early 50’s that he met with such opposition from the locals as he preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which stated in no uncertain terms that there are no gods but one and that is the God revealed in the Scriptures and in Jesus Christ who is fully God and fully man and who rose bodily from the dead.
Keep in mind that Ephesus had a great thing going. In many ways it was a tourist town as people from all over Asia came to pay homage to Diana. They would buy statues and trinkets related to Diana. It was an entrepreneurs dream. There were merchants all over the city selling anything and everything related to Diana. The temple also acted as a treasure house where the rich would store their money for safekeeping. It became a very influential power in the ancient world. Artists would come to paint this great statue of this well-known goddess. Pilgrims would flock from all over to worship there in Ephesus, much like Mecca or Rome today. In this letter Paul has identified the enemy. He knows that the people of Ephesus know who the enemy at hand is. Paul knew the enemy and knew the temptation for those believers in this famous city.
I would have to say that the city and people of Ephesus are not too much different than the people of our nation. What is our Diana? What or who do we worship in this nation besides God, the Father, His Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised to send that is here with us and penetrates us and lead and guides us? What else do we worship besides our triune God? We worship our cars. We stay home on Sunday and wash it and wax it. We worship Atlantic City; we worship as the world turn, and one life to live with all my children in the general hospital. Soap Opera.
You see we worship all kinds of things, things that seem harmless. Even things that are helpful like cars and money, and our jobs. But when we worship these kinds of things it turns into our gods. No different than how the Ephesians’ were worshipping some statue made from stone. It is just a rock. Or in the Old Testament and the Hebrews, just exiled from Egypt by God, worship this man-made golden calf. What is the first commandment given to Moses? Do you think God just coincidentally made that one first? Or do you think God knew what he was doing, and knew that our challenges thousands of years after Moses carved those into a stone, that we would still face the same problem. And not only face it but that it would be a huge temptation – big enough that this commandment needed to be number one on that list of ten. In fact the first two commandments on this list deal with making false idols. Paul is here establishing a church and the people of Ephesus grew to become a struggling church. In Ephesians Chapter 4 up till chapter 6 verses 9 Paul had been discussing the believers walk. Now suddenly he shakes the reader and hearer, he changes course. He changes his homiletic direction. He says there is another way to look at the believer’s life in Christ. The believer’s life is a battlefield. Immediately upon receiving Christ, the believer finds himself in a constant struggle. He is engaged in an unceasing fight, an unending war. He is a fighter, a soldier in conflict. His calling is not to a life of enjoyment and ease, but to a life of hard conflict. There are foes within and foes without. From the cradle to the grave there is constant struggle against the corruptible lusts of the flesh and imposing temptations offered by the world and Satan.