Summary: Light the fire again.
Letter to the Church in Ephesus
I would like us to look at the letters written to the Seven Churches in Asia as a series. We are a new Fellowship and it is good for us to watch for the pitfalls that other churches fell into. It is also good for us to consider what the Lord requires from his church.
The book of Revelation was written by the apostle John whilst he was banished to the island of Patmos in traditionally AD 96.
1)Ephesus Rev. 2:1-7
Ephesus was the commercial, political and religious centre of western Asia. It was located at the mouth of two rivers, the Meander and the Cayster where they enter the Aegean Sea.
Like other cities, it was deeply religious and had a famous Temple of Diana (also called Artemis) the goddess of fertility - one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
There were two temples constructed to Diana over the years as well as three shrines.
The first Temple was started in about 550 BC, dedicated in 430 BC and burnt in 356 BC on the day of Alexander the Great’s birth.
The second Temple took more than thirty years to build and was completed in 323 BC. It was so extravagant that the women of Ephesus sold their jewels to pay for it and kings presented columns, gifts of gold and furnishings of every kind. It was the Ephesians’ national pride and this explains well how Demetrius was able to stir up the crowds against Paul in Acts 19.
The city was a centre of witchcraft and sorcery. Paul, however, built a very strong church there . We read in Acts 19:19 that his ministry was powerful. All the believers, who had been reached by Paul’s ministry "who had practices sorcery brought their scrolls together and burnt them publicly (Acts 19:19).
The value of these was 50 000 drachmas = 500 000 dollars. A lot of money - a lot of sorcery!!
It was as I said a very religious city and there was a lot of opposition to the Christian Gospel from the religious people.
Acts 19 tells us much about the city and its people and you might care to read it sometime.
THE EPISTLE (LETTER) TO THE EPHESIANS
The Epistle to the Ephesians (and I shall use this term to distinguish it from the Letter to the Ephesians in Revelation) was written by Paul and is to be found after Galatians in the New Testament.
It was dated about 60-64 AD. The reason for writing the letter was that the converted Jews in the early church appear to have been inclined to be exclusive and separate themselves from their Gentile brethren. The keynote of the letter is Christian Unity.
In other words the theme is unity within the Church between Jew and Gentile Christian. The Christian who is saved by Grace has no right to be snooty towards his brother.
The letter can be broken into two parts:
Part I : The Church and the Plan of Salvation.
Here Paul provides a different approach to that in Romans, where he dwells on faith apart from works and Galatians where he dwells on faith apart from ceremonial rituals.
In Ephesians, he dwells on the unity of believers. The redemptive work of Christ is universal in scope. Indeed in Chapter 2 v.7 to 10 we see that Paul reminds the Ephesians that:
"it is by Grace you have been saved, through Faith and this not of yourselves, it is the Gift of God not by works so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."
Part II : Practical application
What the divine plan calls for on the part of the Church.
i) The unity of believers
ii) Consistent Christian life
iii) Home Life; and
iv) Spiritual warfare.
I mention the Epistle in passing so we can get a better insight into the Church itself.
In my opinion, it was still legalistic and works orientated, if Ephesians 2, 8-9 is anything to go by.
In other words the Jews still felt that they were better then the Gentile believers.
Reading the epistle of the Ephesians together with the Letter in Revelation you get the feeling that their works orientation and disunity might well have brought about their loss of love for the Lord.
In other words, when we look down on Christian brothers (which is what division brings) we quench our love for God. Perhaps the famous parody of Onwards Christians Soldiers might apply.
"Like a mighty tortoise moves the Church of God
Brothers we are treading where we always trod
We are all divided, much disharmony