Summary: Ephesus has had a strong start that defined their identity. What defines our identity and how does it motivate our actions?
God can expand the ministry
Ephesus - Years 2 - 4
Ephesus has had a strong start that defined their identity
• Competent church planters
• Personal discipleship
• Paul’s and Apollos’ dynamic work among them
Following this vital groundwork, a great repentance that purified the church expanded the spiritual landscape among them, a necessary first step. With a people who were ready and willing to follow God at any price, this is what developed:
Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.
Acts 19:8-10 (NIV)
In the next year, Paul planned to move on, but he was delaying slightly, waiting until spring to move. He wanted to solidify a work that was continuing to grow:
But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me. 1 Corinthians 16:8-9 (NIV)
In the mean time, the pagans were alarmed about their religion and profits:
And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that man made gods are no gods at all. There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited, and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.”
Acts 19:26-27 (NIV)
What did Ephesus have?
They were in a strategic location
Ephesus was a port city, considered the capital of this region of Asia Minor, which we now call Turkey. It had a natural harbor created by the mouth of a river. The coast-line is closed off by a range of mountains, so the river is the easiest road to the inland. Traffic from Europe came to the entire province of Asia Minor through Ephesus. It was like the Delaware River in the 1700s. The mouth of the Delaware River provided a perfect easy route into Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and even further North.
The Church had powerful convictions
They took a stand. They had seen graphic examples of evil at work among them, and God demonstrated His power to overthrow it. A decisive step was made to reject the pagan ways of the past, and to purify their lives for God. They stood for the God of the Jews and His Messiah Jesus. No compromise could be tolerated. The bonfire in the town square was their rejection of evil and the forge of their conviction.
They were committed
When they moved their gathering from the synagogue to the school of Tyrannus, they met daily. In some ways, the situation was different, and we do not need to meet daily. But, in other ways, there is no doubt that the kingdom of God was a priority to them.
So what happened as a result?
The Bible describes the situation in several specific ways. Remember the quotes:
• All the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord
• a great door for effective work has opened to me
• Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia
This is a massive, locally-based movement that is spreading. Modern Turkey is our reference point, the kingdom gospel was going out effectively from Ephesus to an area roughly the size of Texas.
The movement was so complete that the people who worshiped Artemis were so worried about the effect it was having on their religion and business they rioted. This is no small thing. There were 7 wonders of the ancient world:
• The Great Pyramid of Giza (the only one left)
• The hanging gardens of Babylon
• The statue of Zeus at Olympus
• The mausoleum at Halicarnassus
• The lighthouse of Alexandria
• The colossus of Rhodes
• And the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
All of these structures were impressive. The greatest historians and wealthy travelers of the ancient world recorded their efforts to see all seven. Obviously, some of them had religious significance and were not just tourist attractions. Visiting them was a pilgrimage.