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Ephesians

Have you ever seen a photograph and it took you a moment to recognize yourself?  Our image of ourself is sometimes vastly different than what is captured by the camera; and by other people.  As Paul writes to the Ephesians, its as if he holds up a picture of the life of a Christian.  Would the Ephesians recognize themselves in the photo?  Would Christians across the ages recognize themselves as a follower of Christ?  How about you, today, now; do you recognize yourself in Christ? 

The apostle Paul wrote this letter to the church of Ephesus somewhere in about 60 A.D.  That makes this a 1950 year old letter!  The most amazing part, as with all the New Testament books, is this letter is still relevant and meaningful to Christians today. 

Ephesians is known as a prison epistle because Paul wrote this letter from Prison in Rome.  So, as you read this, you can picture Paul sitting in prison, thinking about the church in Ephesus.  Do you think while he sat in that prison writing that it even crossed his mind that people like us would be reading the words he wrote?  There is no way he could have anticipated the change in technology and culture.  But the one thing I think he did know was his writing was inspired by the Holy Spirit and that the nature of man would never change.  So even though the letter is nearly 2000 years old, we can read it and learn and be exhorted and be encouraged.  The Holy Spirit speaks to us with Paul's words, across time, because neither God nor the nature of man has changed in all these years.

Ephesus was one of 5 major cities in the Roman Empire (Rome, Antioch, Alexandria, Corinth, Ephesus).  The city of Ephesus was home of one of the 7 ancient wonders of the world.  That is the temple of Artemis or the temple of Dianna.  The Temple of Artemis was also known as the central bank of Asia.  So, there were great riches in Ephesus and the people there were very aware of these great riches.  Paul will tell them of another type of great riches in this letter.

We know Paul had a lot of time invested in the church of Ephesus.  He knew about the culture, the temple of Dianna, the worship of other gods.  He knew what was going on there.  He first passed through Ephesus right at the end of his 2nd missionary Journey.  We know this from the book of Acts.  He left Priscilla and Aquilla there and they started the church.  Apollos was teaching there at the time.  He was a man of the scriptures and very knowledgeable.  Apollos was teaching the OT scriptures and knew of the coming messiah because he believed the baptism of the John.  However, his teaching was lacking in the knowledge of the specifics of the Lord; the virgin birth, his crucifixion, resurrection, and the Holy Spirit.  There was a lack of complete knowledge of the things of the Lord in Ephesus. The bible says Priscilla and Aquilla took Apollos aside and explained to him more accurately the ways of God. 

Later, Apollos left Ephesus and then Paul came right back there at the beginning of his 3rd missionary journey.  This was when Paul asked the disciples if they received the Spirit.  The disciples said, we didn't even know there was a spirit.  This is more evidence that they had some basic teaching but there was a lot missing.

So, Paul stayed in Ephesus for over 2 years teaching & preaching.  When he left, Timothy became the pastor of the church there.  The church was being influenced by some false teachers and Timothy was trying to counter their teachings.  We know from 1 Timothy 1:4 that the church there was afflicted with 'myths and endless genealogies'.  These were fanciful stories that were made from scriptures using allegories or interpretations of genealogies.  This was the work of those false teachers as it was influenced by the legalists and Judaizers.  Paul called these myths and genealogies the doctrines of demons.

It is clear there were problems.  It seems they went from incomplete teaching to bad teaching.  Not too many years after this letter and after Timothy, the Apostle John was serving in the church of Ephesus.  That's where John was when he was arrested and exiled to the island of Patmos.  Patmos is just 50mi southwest of Ephesus.  That is where John received the revelation from Jesus and wrote what we know as the book of revelation.

Jesus said this about the church of Ephesus and John wrote it down in Revelation 2…verse 1:

These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: 2I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. 4Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 5Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. 6But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

 

So, in the early years, the Ephesians held fast to their first love.  I believe this first love was a relationship with Jesus Christ.  It was a pure desire to be like Him.  Somewhere over a fairly short time, John said they lost their first love.  And right between these two marks in time, of having found their first love and of having lost it, resides this letter from Paul.

Now Paul wasn't writing this letter to correct them but to inform them.  But, you have to wonder if Paul was writing them to fan the flames of their first love.  Maybe he saw the beginning of something that bothered him.  Maybe he knew it was in the nature of man to stray from his first love; to be tempted and drawn away; to be hindered by the enemy as we walk in our Christian lives.

Regardless of the exact details behind Paul's motivation, the messages are clear in this letter.  And If you were going to outline this letter, it could be broken into two parts.  The first part is the first 3 chapters and they deal in doctrine and theology.  This teaches us of our relationship and our place in the Lord.  It's like saying, "Okay, now that your saved, let me explain what's going on."  Then the second part, the last 3 chapters are more practical.  They deal in Christian behavior, offering admonition and encouragement, reminding us of the amazing blessings we have and how we should walk in a manner worthy of them.

Now Paul wasn't writing this letter to correct them but to inform them.  But, you have to wonder if Paul was writing them to fan the flames of their first love.  Maybe he saw the beginning of something that bothered him.  Maybe he knew it was in the nature of man to stray from his first love; to be tempted and drawn away; to be hindered by the enemy as we walk in our Christian lives.

 

Regardless of the exact details behind Paul's motivation, the messages are clear in this letter.  And If you were going to outline this letter, it could be broke into two parts.  The first part is the first 3 chapters and they deal in doctrine and theology.  This teaches us of our relationship and our place in the Lord.  It's like saying, "Okay, now that your saved, let me explain what's going on."  Then the second part, the last 3 chapters are more practical.  They deal in Christian behavior, offering admonition and encouragement, reminding us of the amazing blessings we have and how we should walk in a manner worthy of them.

 
© 2017 Doug Ford

No distribution beyond personal use without permission.

 
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