Gospel At Ephesus

INTRODUCTION: Ephesus was a center of worship for the false goddess Diana, but the gospel of Christ broke through to many who became worshippers of the true and living God. Barnabas was the first man to travel with Paul when they were sent out by the church at Antioch; and Silas accompanied Paul on the second missionary journey that started from Antioch; but neither is mentioned with Paul at Ephesus. The apostle Paul, Priscilla and Aquila, and Timothy were key leaders in establishing a good foundation for the Jewish and Gentile believers who resided at Ephesus.

NOTE: Scripture passages are from the 1901 American Standard Version.


A - THE FIRST RECORDED VISIT TO EPHESUS BY PAUL

Acts 18 "18 And Paul, having tarried after this yet many days, took his leave of the brethren, and sailed thence for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila: having shorn his head in Cenchreae; for he had a vow. 19 And they came to Ephesus, and he left them there: but he himself entered into the synagogue, and reasoned with the Jews. 20 And when they asked him to abide a longer time, he consented not; 21 but taking his leave of them, and saying, I will return again unto you if God will, he set sail from Ephesus. 22 And when he had landed at Caesarea, he went up and saluted the church, and went down to Antioch. 23 And having spent some time [there], he departed, and went through the region of Galatia, and Phrygia, in order, establishing all the disciples. 24 Now a certain Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by race, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the scriptures. 25 This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spake and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, knowing only the baptism of John: 26 and he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he was minded to pass over into Achaia, the brethren encouraged him, and wrote to the disciples to receive him: and when he was come, he helped them much that had believed through grace; 28 for he powerfully confuted the Jews, [and that] publicly, showing by the scriptures that Jesus was the Christ."

COMMENTS: Priscilla and Aquila are the only two mentioned by name as those who went with Paul to Ephesus, but the wording implies that they did not work directly with Paul in the synagogue. Paul stayed for an unspecified brief time and discoursed with a receptive group at the synagogue, but it was his desire to travel to other churches that had been established during his journey when he had been commissioned by the church at Antioch to spread the gospel of Christ. Silas (or Sylvanus) is not mentioned anymore in Acts after he was with Paul at Corinth.

A Jew from Alexandria named Apollos arrived at Ephesus while Paul was away, and he was very well learned in scripture, but there is no further explanation of his background and training. . We also are not told how he had been taught the way of the Lord, but he was fervent and eloquent in his presentation of Jesus as the Christ. He spoke boldly and convincingly about Jesus in the synagogue; however he was only acquainted with the baptism of john. Priscilla and Aquila heard him and took him aside and expounded to him the way of God more accurately. When he planned to go into Achaia, the brethren encouraged him, and wrote to the disciples to receive him. When he was in Achaia he was very helpful to strengthen the faith of those who had believed through grace. He publicly proved the unconverted Jews to be wrong in their opposition to the truth as he showed by the scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.


B - BAPTISM INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS

Acts 19 "1 And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper country came to Ephesus, and found certain disciples: 2 and he said unto them, Did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed? And they [said] unto him, Nay, we did not so much as hear whether the Holy Spirit was [given]. 3 And he said, Into what then were ye baptized? And they said, Into John's baptism. 4 And Paul said, John baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people that they should believe on him that should come after him, that is, on Jesus. 5 And when they heard this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. 7 And they were in all about twelve men."

COMMENTS: There is no explanation of why Paul questioned these men about the Holy Spirit, but the Lord had a special purpose for the result of their conversation. Perhaps they were not among disciples known to Paul before he left Ephesus, and he wanted to be certain that their foundation in faith was properly based. The key point hear in the text directed by the Holy Spirit was to record the power of spiritual baptism and the way these twelve men were then specially gifted to witness for the Lord at Ephesus.


C - WHEN PAUL RETURNED TO THE SYNAGOGUE HE SPOKE ABOUT THE KINGDOM OF GOD

Acts 19 "8 And he entered into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, reasoning and persuading [as to] the things concerning the kingdom of God. 9 But when some were hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. 10 And this continued for the space of two years; so that all they that dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. 11 And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: 12 insomuch that unto the sick were carried away from his body handkerchiefs or aprons, and the evil spirits went out."

COMMENTS: Paul taught things pertaining to the kingdom of God with reason and persuasion in the synagogue until some there began to strongly oppose his message. He had been at the synagogue for three months before he separated the disciples and taught them about Christ Jesus at the school of Tyrannus for a period of about two years. As a result, many Jews and Greeks in Asia heard the word of the Lord. God also worked special miracles through Paul, even to the point that handkerchiefs or aprons that he had worn were taken to the sick and they were healed and evil spirits left them. We are not at this point given any names of others who might have been directly helping Paul in his ministry there at Ephesus, though we know that Priscilla and Aquila had spent time with Apollos while Paul was away. There were apparently meetings of believers outside the synagogue even before Paul returned to Ephesus.


D - THE WORD OF THE LORD GREW MIGHTILY AND PREVAILED

Acts 19 "13 But certain also of the strolling Jews, exorcists, took upon them to name over them that had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth. 14 And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, a chief priest, who did this. 15 And the evil spirit answered and said unto them, Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are ye? 16 And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and mastered both of them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. 17 And this became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, that dwelt at Ephesus; and fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. 18 Many also of them that had believed came, confessing, and declaring their deeds. 19 And not a few of them that practiced magical arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all; and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So mightily grew the word of the Lord and prevailed."

COMMENTS: Some Jews considered themselves to be able to expel evil spirits through exorcism, and they began to command the evil spirits to come out by the name of Jesus whom Paul preached. Seven sons of a chief priest named Sceva used this approach on a man controlled by evil spirits with a disastrous result to themselves. The evil spirit answered and said unto them, Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you? The man in whom the evil spirit was, beat them violently so they fled from the house naked and bleeding. When word of this spread among all the Jews and Greeks at Ephesus, there was great fear and the name of the Lord Jesus was highly exalted. This prompted a public showing as many who had believed freely confessed their evil deeds. Also a significant number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together, with a total value of 50,000 pieces of silver, and burned them in front of everyone. The passage above closes with the conclusion that the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed, which underscores the extensive impact it was having on people in this important city in Asia.


E - DEMETRIUS THE SILVERSMITH SPARKED A PUBLIC UPROAR AGAINST PAUL

Acts 19 "21 Now after these things were ended, Paul purposed in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome. 22 And having sent into Macedonia two of them that ministered unto him, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while. 23 And about that time there arose no small stir concerning the Way. 24 For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Diana, brought no little business unto the craftsmen; 25 whom he gathered together, with the workmen of like occupation, and said, Sirs, ye know that by this business we have our wealth. 26 And ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they are no gods, that are made with hands: 27 and not only is there danger that this our trade come into disrepute; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana be made of no account, and that she should even be deposed from her magnificence whom all Asia and the world worshippeth. 28 And when they heard this they were filled with wrath, and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesus."

COMMENTS: Paul determined in his thoughts to travel through Macedonia and Achaia, and then on to Jerusalem. He said that afterward he must go to Rome. He sent Timothy and Erastus ahead to Macedonia but he remained in Asia for awhile. At the same time however, serious trouble was brewing in Ephesus by those who did not want to see loss for the devoted idol worship of Diana to the growing trend toward the way of the Lord. Demetrius the silversmith made silver shrines of Diana and he brought together others who profited from the same trade. He charged that Paul had persuaded and turned away many people in Asia, saying that they are no gods that are made with hands. His first concern was for the lucrative trade that would be lost if the trend continued. He also asserted that the temple of the great goddess Diana would become worthless, and that Diana would even be deposed from her magnificence of being worshipped by all of Asia. The crowd responded to his prompting, and a great public disturbance raged for over two hours. The strict Jews had known the truth about idols for centuries and avoided them, but the coming of Christ had sparked a new boldness in followers of the Lord to declare that truth before the nations. Psalm 135 "15 The idols of the nations are silver and gold, The work of men's hands. 16 They have mouths, but they speak not; Eyes have they, but they see not; 17 They have ears, but they hear not; Neither is there any breath in their mouths. 18 They that make them shall be like unto them; Yea, every one that trusteth in them. 19 O house of Israel, bless ye Jehovah: O house of Aaron, bless ye Jehovah: 20 O house of Levi, bless ye Jehovah: Ye that fear Jehovah, bless ye Jehovah." Paul's preaching and praise for Christ Jesus and against the worthless idols made by man provoked a strong response.


F - the EPHESUS town clerk was able to dismiss the crowd

Acts 19 "35 And when the townclerk had quieted the multitude, he saith, Ye men of Ephesus, what man is there who knoweth not that the city of the Ephesians is temple-keeper of the great Diana, and of the [image] which fell down from Jupiter? 36 Seeing then that these things cannot be gainsaid, ye ought to be quiet, and to do nothing rash. 37 For ye have brought [hither] these men, who are neither robbers of temples nor blasphemers of our goddess. 38 If therefore Demetrius, and the craftsmen that are with him, have a matter against any man, the courts are open, and there are proconsuls: let them accuse one another. 39 But if ye seek anything about other matters, it shall be settled in the regular assembly. 40 For indeed we are in danger to be accused concerning this day's riot, there being no cause [for it]: and as touching it we shall not be able to give account of this concourse. 41 And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly."

Acts 20 "1 And after the uproar ceased, Paul having sent for the disciples and exhorted them, took leave of them, and departed to go into Macedonia. 2 And when he had gone through those parts, and had given them much exhortation, he came into Greece. 3 And when he had spent three months [there,] and a plot was laid against him by Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, he determined to return through Macedonia. 4 And there accompanied him as far as Asia, Sopater of Beroea, [the son] of Pyrrhus; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy; and of Asia, Tychicus and Trophimus."

COMMENTS: Since Ephesus was under Roman rule, the town clerk gained the attention of the crowd and reminded them that it was well known that the city of the Ephesians was the location of the temple of the great Diana, and of the image which fell down from Jupiter. He said since these facts were undeniable, the crowd should cease the uproar and avoid doing anything rash. The clerk said the men they were accusing had neither robbed temples nor blasphemed their goddess. Therefore if Demetrius and the other craftsmen had a matter against any man it should be taken before the courts and the proconsuls so both sides could present their arguments to be settled in the regular assembly. Otherwise there was danger that they would be accused concerning the riot, and they would not be able to give a legitimate cause for the large gathering. The crowd apparently accepted what he had said, and he then dismissed them. The authority of the Roman empire had been used of God for his own purpose in a very subtle manner.

After the uproar ceased, Paul gathered with the disciples to encourage them before he left for Macedonia. As he went through Macedonia, Paul gave much encouragement to the believers, and then he went on into Greece. After he had been there for three months, a plot was laid against him by the Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, so he instead decided to return to Syria through Macedonia. There is no detail about these Jews or where Paul was at the time of the threat to his life. Timothy was among seven men who were named as accompanying Paul as he traveled back to Syria. It was Paul's intention to go to Jerusalem as he had earlier settled in his mind (see Acts 19:21 above).


G - PAUL SPOKE TO LEADERS FROM EPHESUS ON HIS WAY TO JERUSALEM

Acts 20 "15 And sailing from thence, we came the following day over against Chios; and the next day we touched at Samos; and the day after we came to Miletus. 16 For Paul had determined to sail past Ephesus, that he might not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hastening, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost. 17 And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called to him the elders of the church. 18 And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, after what manner I was with you all the time, 19 serving the Lord with all lowliness of mind, and with tears, and with trials which befell me by the plots of the Jews; 20 how I shrank not from declaring unto you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly, and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: 23 save that the Holy Spirit testifieth unto me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. 24 But I hold not my life of any account as dear unto myself, so that I may accomplish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. 25 And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, shall see my face no more. 26 Wherefore I testify unto you this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. 27 For I shrank not from declaring unto you the whole counsel of God. 28 Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit hath made you bishops, to feed the church of the Lord which he purchased with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departing grievous wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Wherefore watch ye, remembering that by the space of three years I ceased not to admonish every one night and day with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build [you] up, and to give [you] the inheritance among all them that are sanctified."

COMMENTS: The passage above brings the focus to Paul's discussion with Christian leadership from Ephesus, as he intentionally did not go into the city because he wanted to be in Jerusalem by the day of Pentecost. Paul sent for the elders of the church at Ephesus so he could talk with them at the seaport. He said they knew from the first day he arrived in Asia that he followed a manner of humility as he served the Lord, even counseling and warning with tears, and with trials that befell him by plots from the Jews. He said he never shrank from declaring anything that was profitable as he taught publicly and in gatherings in houses, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul then told them that he was going bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the details of what would happen there except the Holy Spirit had been telling him in every city that bonds and affliction awaited him. Despite this, he declared that he did not value his life here for himself so he could accomplish his course, and the ministry which he had received from the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.

Then he told them that none of them among whom he had preached the kingdom would see his face again. So he wanted them to know that he had given them the whole counsel of God and therefore if any who heard him failed to obtain eternal life he felt no guilt that he had not fulfilled his part in delivering the gospel. he then warned them to be sure as pastors to feed the whole assembly with the true word of God. The Holy Spirit had appointed them to feed the church of the Lord which he purchased with his own blood. Paul knew that the church would not be free from internal turmoil as he warned that after he was gone there would be some who would enter the assembly with a manner that could be compared to wolves scattering and killing in a flock. He continued by saying There would be some within the assembly who would deviate from the true gospel and would draw away disciples to follow them. Paul urged them to watch for those developments, remembering that for about three years he had not ceased to admonish everyone night and day with tears. Paul concluded by commending them to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build up, and to give the inheritance among all who are set apart.


H - BRIEF EXCERPTS ABOUT EPHESUS FROM OTHER LETTERS BY PAUL

1 Corinthians 16 "7 For I do not wish to see you now by the way; for I hope to tarry a while with you, if the Lord permit. 8 But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost; 9 for a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries."

1 Timothy 1 "2 unto Timothy, my true child in faith: Grace, mercy, peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 3 As I exhorted thee to tarry at Ephesus, when I was going into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge certain men not to teach a different doctrine, 4 neither to give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questionings, rather than a dispensation of God which is in faith; [so do I now]."

COMMENTS: When Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians he expressed his desire to return to spend some time with them. But his plan was to stay in Ephesus until Pentecost because he saw great potential to continue spreading the gospel there even though there were many adversaries. When Paul left for Macedonia there were certain men at Ephesus who needed to be constrained from erroneous teaching and Paul instructed Timothy to prevent them from spreading any doctrine other than that of Christ. Further, there should be no attention given to fables and endless genealogies, which will develop much questionings, rather than a building up of the faith which is in God. There were very notable numbers of conversions to faith at Ephesus, especially from not a few who had been committed to sorcery, but there also was strong opposition to the continued spread of the gospel from both outside and inside the church.

--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

Lord, there are many blessings in reviewing the way your gospel reached into a center of idol worship with a temple and silver shrines made for the goddess Diana. There was a Jewish synagogue there which had suffered no apparent conflict from the pagans, but when the gospel of Christ Jesus began to be publicly spread, opposition to followers of Christ rapidly developed from worshippers of false gods. The apostle Paul had started his preaching at the synagogue to those who had the scriptures that gave the proof that Jesus is the Christ. Later, the effort of the exorcist Jews who tried to drive out a demon with dramatic results was used of you, Lord, to bring many people to consider the claims of Christ. Help me, Lord, to be prepared to share my faith, and to use the opportunities you present before me. When there was a public uproar of opposition to the spread of the gospel, the believers wisely resisted unnecessary confrontation. Give me wisdom, Lord, to use discernment about difficult situations that confront me. I am thankful to you that you have recorded the experience of this church to help me be aware that it should not be surprising when local assemblies continue to face attacks to sound doctrine from the society and also from within the body of believers. I look to you, Lord, to keep me focused on the truth of scripture revealed by your Spirit for building up of the faith which is in the true and living God. All praise to my Lord and Savior Christ Jesus! Amen.

Published 19 March 2015