The roots of their tender faith grew deep during the three years the apostle Paul taught them the whole counsel of God on a daily basis (Acts 19:8-9; 20:20, 27). Their faith was further cultivated by gifted workers like Aquila, Pricilla, Apollos, and Timothy.
As a result, they were grounded in the truth (Acts 18:26; Rev. 2:2) and would not keep it to themselves. Within two years “all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:10, 20). The seven churches Jesus addresses in the opening pages of Revelation were most likely started by the soul loving saints of Ephesus.
Ephesus: An Unlikely City
Yet, Ephesus seems like an unlikely place for such spiritual success, because it was a city obsessed with greed. Every major road in Asia converged on this city. Teeming markets lined the city streets and at the end of a marble road sat a 130,000 sq.ft. monument to material excess, called the commercial agora. The sprouting church in Ephesus faced the scorching heat of economic pressures (Acts 19:24-25, 29). They had to find their value somewhere else than the marketplace.
The soil of Ephesus was also made foul by their obsession with idolatry. Pagan temples were on every street, and towering in the distance was the famed temple of Artemis. Carved idols and mystical books filled their homes and captured their imaginations. The people of Ephesus would not tolerate anyone calling those things, “worthless.” The church had to find their security somewhere else than the temples.
Regardless of the polluted soil of Ephesus the church flourished—their faith was deepened and the gospel was spread. The question for us becomes: If a church thrived in the inhospitable soil of Ephesus, then what could God do through the church in my city?
Ephesians: A Glorious Letter
While imprisoned in Rome Paul wrote the church in Ephesus a letter. Yet, the letter lacks many of the personal references found in Paul’s other letters, which seems strange since Paul spent three years with the church. Instead, the content of the letter is general. In addition, some manuscripts omit the word “Ephesus” in the introductory line (Eph. 1:1). This has caused some to think that Ephesians was originally a circular letter intended for all of the churches. It might very well be appropriate to put the name of our city in its opening words, “To the saints who are in….”
The content of the letter is also grand. In the first half of the letter Paul sketches out the cosmic, eternal plan of God, which is unbounded by time. It began “before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4) and will last “forever and ever” (Eph. 3:21). It is unbounded by space, including those in “heavenly realms” and those “on earth” (Eph. 1:10; 3:10-11). God’s plan is vast!
What is the purpose of the grand plan of God? It is that God may be glorified (Eph. 3:21); that Christ might be “head over all things” (Eph. 1:22-23), so that we might live “to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:14). We have gloried in the ways of the world, lived by our flesh, and treated the devil as our prince (Eph. 2:2-3). But God’s plan is to create a people whose very existence displays His wisdom and whose purpose is to live for His glory.
Paul gives us two reasons why we ought to live for God’s glory. First, because God gave us life (Eph. 1:1-2:10). We were dead in our sins, Destined for wrath. But by His rich mercy God redeemed us through the blood of Jesus. So that now we are alive, sitting with Christ, holy and blameless, and endowed with every spiritual blessing. Yes, God deserves to be glorified in us!
Secondly, God made us one (Eph. 2:11-3:21). Sin has also shattered our relationship with each other, but God’s plan restores the peace. It does what no army or political power can do, it makes us one people and one family. Yes, God deserves to be glorified!
The question then becomes, “How do you glorify God?” At this point the content of the letter is intensely practical. Paul begs the reader to “have a walk worthy of the calling with which you were called” (Eph. 4:1). Glorifying God is not just some feeling you have during an emotional song.
No, God is glorified when we adopt a new way of life (Eph. 4:1-5:21); a life that is devoted to the local body of believers (Eph. 4:2-16), and is devoted to living righteously in a sin-hardened world (4:17-5:21). God doesn’t need buildings, programs, and techniques to be glorified. He desires a people who are unified in His truth and devoted to His righteousness.
In addition, God is glorified by how we act in the relationships of our lives (Eph. 5:22-6:24). Expressing God’s glorious nature becomes the motivating factor in our marriage, the way we raise our children, and the way to do our jobs. We put on God’s armor, stand in His might, and live for His glory.
Glorifying God is not restricted to the walls of a church building. His glory cannot be confined to times of worship. God’s glory is to shine through the daily activities of our lives. How much glory will you give Him in your life today?
The little letter to the Ephesians is worth your investigation because it reveals a glorious God who is worthy of your life. He has a glorious plan for this world and it includes you!
“Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Cor. 16:14)
Extra: A “Number” Of Things About Ephesians
Three Prayers In Ephesians
Prayer plays an important role in the structure of the letter of Ephesians.
1) Prayer At The Beginning. As is customary, Paul offers a prayer at the beginning of the letter (Eph. 1:15-23, although it follows a lengthy introductory statement.)
2) Prayer In The Middle. Prayer then is seen at the middle of the letter, where the content pivots from doctrinal to practical (Eph. 3:14-21).
3) Prayer At The End. Finally, the letter ends on the note of prayer, where Paul asks for their prayers (Eph. 6:18-20), and then offers a prayer for them (Eph. 6:24).
When you see the glory of God’s great plan you must pray for two reasons: First, to praise Him! Second, to ask Him to help you live worthy of His grace!
Five “Heavenly Places” In Ephesians
The term “heavenly places” is found five times in Ephesians and comes from one Greek word, “heavenlies.” In Ephesians it does not refer to the sky as opposed to the land, nor to the home of God as opposed to hell. Rather, as John Stott puts it describes “the unseen world of spiritual reality” (The Message of Ephesians. IVP. 1986. pg. 35). This physical world is not all there is. There is spiritual realm that is just as real, and it affects the world in which we live.
- Blessing! The heavenlies is where all spiritual blessings are found in Christ (1:3)
- Authority! The heavenlies is where Christ is exalted at God’s right hand to be head of the church (1:20-21)
- Security! The heavenlies is where the saved now sit with Christ (2:6)
- Purpose! The heavenlies is where the church makes known God’s wisdom (3:10)
- Battle! The heavenlies is where our spiritual enemies reside (6:12)
Five Worthy Ways To Walk
A key word in the last half of the letter is “walk.” This metaphor describes the new way of life of the person saved by grace.
- Walk Worthy (4:1-15) “have a walk worthy of the calling”
- Walk Differently (4:17-32) “no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk”
- Walk In Love (5:1-7) “walk in love, as Christ also has loved us”
- Walk In Light (5:8-14) “walk as children of light”
- Walk In Wisdom (5:15-21) “walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise.”
Three Lists Of Seven
Paul also includes a list of seven things at the beginning, middle and end of the book.
Seven Spiritual Blessings In Christ – Ephesians 1:1-14
- Chosen before Creation to be holy and blameless (:4)
- Adopted as God’s children (:5)
- Redeemed (:7a)
- Forgiven our sins (:7b)
- Made to know God’s eternal plan (:9-10)
- Obtained an inheritance (:11)
- Sealed by the Holy Spirit (:13b-14)
Seven Truths For Christian Unity – Ephesians 4:4-6
- One body,
- One Spirit,
- One hope,
- One Lord,
- One faith,
- One baptism,
- One God and Father of all!
Seven Pieces Of The Armor Of God – Ephesians 6:10-18
- Peace with God
- Sword of the Spirit, God’s Word
Five Pictures Of The Ephesian Church
It is possible we know about the church in Ephesus than any other church in the New Testament. When you consider the record in Acts, we are given give different accounts of the life this church, covering a period of over 40 years. Bill Boverie described these five portraits with a memorable metaphor taken from the school system. The following are loose quotes from his book, “From Caves To Cathedrals” (Quality Publications. 1988).
1) Acts – Elementary Stage: They were full of zeal and were growing rapidly. It was a time of innocence. Their faith and knowledge had not really been tested, and they were somewhat immature as result. The challenge before them was to preserve their purity and growth while maturing and developing.
2) Ephesians – Freshman Stage: A time for doctrinal growth. They are still noted for their faith and love (Eph. 1:15). They were challenged to identify with and be proud of the Lord’s Church. Moral questions and petty jealousy were beginning to arise.
3) 1 Timothy – Sophomore Stage: This is a stage of false pride and egotism. Sophomores use big words they do not understand and talk about controversial subjects they don’t understand (1 Tim. 1:7). Materialism was starting to become a problem (1 Tim. 6). They needed teaching, but resented it (4:12)
4) 2 Timothy – Junior Stage: This is a transition stage, trigged by persecution, they were revaluating everything they believed and practiced. The junior stage is most like mid-life crises in individuals. The question was, “Will you be faithful when it’s not easy?”
5) Revelation – Senior Stage: There is a 29 year gap between 2 Timothy and Revelation. And we find they have lost their first love. They needed to go back and capture that passion for repentance they had experienced in Acts.
Ephesus: A Study On How To Grow The Kingdom
How To Grow The Kingdom!
The gospel had a powerful effect on the city of Ephesus. Acts 19:8-20 contains three statements of kingdom growth. Three distinct activities took place before each new expansion of the church. May we follow their example, and may God give the same result. (click on the picture below)