These articles on the Epistle to the Ephesians  are compiled from the notes put together for a Sunday School class taught at Northeast Baptist Church in Southlake, Texas in late 2010 through early 2011. It contains the author’s notes and thoughts along with quotes from some commentaries. When you see a word or phrase with a list of verses following they are most likely from the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (TSK).

Introduction to the Book of Ephesians

To best appreciate this church at Ephesus and the importance of this letter which Paul wrote to them from prison in Rome, we need to take note of the history of the Ephesians with Christ and the Gospel. From Paul’s first proclamation on his 2nd missionary journey, his 3 years of ministering there early in his third missionary journey, his warning to them (near the end of his third missionary journey) on his way to Jerusalem and then eventually to Rome and this letter written from him while in prison— and finally ending with Christ’s letter to this church in the 2nd chapter of the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, the Ephesian church(es) played a major role in the work of Paul and held a special place in the heart of our Lord Jesus Christ. From Ephesus the Gospel spread throughout its region to the other six churches written to by our Lord in Revelation chapters two and three.

The Place of Ephesus in the Times of the Roman Empire

  • Ephesus was a major Roman city in western Asia Minor located three miles from the Mediterranean Sea, but which had an artificial harbor available for the largest of ships in that time affording access deep into Asia Minor for the Gospel to spread. (1)
  • Ephesus had a large coliseum in which Paul was accused by the Diana adherents of opposing their goddess and thus ruining their business of selling her idols. Today it is in ruins.

The temple of Diana had lain in ruins for over 1700 years. Following is the ISBE section dealing with that temple’s influence:

  • “Tradition says that in early times near the place where the mother goddess of the earth was born, the Amazons built a city and a temple in which they might worship. This little city of the Amazons, bearing at different times the names of Samorna, Trachea, Ortygia and Ptelea, flourished until in the early Greek days it aroused the cupidity of Androclus, a prince of Athens. He captured it and made it a Greek city. Still another tradition says that Androclus was its founder. However, under Greek rule the Greek civilization gradually supplanted that of the Orientals, the Greek language was spoken in place of the Asiatic; and the Asiatic goddess of the temple assumed more or less the character of the Greek Artemis. Ephesus, therefore, and all that pertained to it, was a mixture of oriental and Greek Though the early history of the city is obscure, it seems that at different times it was in the hands of the Carians, the Leleges and Ionians; in the early historical period it was one of a league of twelve Ionfan cities. In 560 BC it came into the possession of the Lydians; 3 years later, in 557, it was taken by the Persians; and during the following years the Greeks and Persians were constantly disputing for its possession. Finally, Alexander the Great took it; and at his death it fell to Lysimachus, who gave it the name of Arsinoe, from his second wife. Upon the death of Attalus II (Philadelphus), king of Pergamos, it was bequeathed to the Roman Empire; and in 190, when the Roman province of Asia was formed, it became a part of it. Ephesus and Pergamos, the capital of Asia, were the two great rival cities of the province. Though Pergamos was the center of the Roman religion and of the government, Ephesus was the more accessible, the commercial center and the home of the native goddess Diana; and because of its wealth and situation it gradually became the chief city of the province. It is to the temple of Diana, however, that its great wealth and prominence are largely due. Like the city, it dates from the time of the Amazons, yet what the early temple was like we now have no means of knowing, and of its history we know little except that it was seven times destroyed by fire and rebuilt, each time on a scale larger and grander than before. The wealthy king Croesus supplied it with many of its stone columns, and the pilgrims from all the oriental world brought it of their wealth. In time the temple possessed valuable lands; it controlled the fisheries; its priests were the bankers of its enormous revenues. Because of its strength the people stored there their money for safe-keeping; and it became to the ancient world practically all that the Bank of England is to the modern world.

    “In 356 BC, on the very night when Alexander the Great was born, it was burned; and when he grew to manhood he offered to rebuild it at his own expense if his name might be inscribed upon its portals. This the priests of Ephesus were unwilling to permit, and they politely rejected his offer by saying that it was not fitting for one god to build a temple to another. The wealthy Ephesians themselves undertook its reconstruction, and 220 years passed before its final completion.

    “Not only was the temple of Diana a place of worship, and a treasure-house, but it was also a museum in which the best statuary and most beautiful paintings were preserved. Among the paintings was one by the famous Apelles, a native of Ephesus, representing Alexander the Great hurling a thunderbolt. It was also a sanctuary for the criminal, a kind of city of refuge, for none might be arrested for any crime whatever when within a bowshot of its walls. There sprang up, therefore, about the temple a village in which the thieves and murderers and other criminals made their homes. Not only did the temple bring vast numbers of pilgrims to the city, as does the Kaaba at Mecca at the present time, but it employed hosts of people apart from the priests and priestesses; among them were the large number of artisans who manufactured images of the goddess Diana, or shrines to sell to the visiting strangers.

    “Such was Ephesus when Paul on his 2nd missionary journey in Acts (18:19-21) first visited the city, and when, on his 3rd journey (19:8-10; 20:31), he remained there for two years preaching in the synagogue (19:8,10), in the school of Tyrannus (19:9) and in private houses (20:20). Though Paul was probably not the first to bring Christianity to Ephesus, for Jews had long lived there (2:9; 6:9), he was the first to make progress against the worship of Diana. As the fame of his teachings was carried by the pilgrims to their distant homes, his influence extended to every part of Asia Minor. In time the pilgrims, with decreasing faith in Diana, came in fewer numbers; the sales of the shrines of the goddess fell off; Diana of the Ephesians was no longer great; a Christian church was rounded there and flourished, and one of its first leaders was the apostle John. Finally in 262 AD, when the temple of Diana was again burned, its influence had so far departed that it was never again rebuilt. Diana was dead. Ephesus became a Christian city, and in 341 AD a council of the Christian church was held there. The city itself soon lost its importance and decreased in population. The sculptured stones of its great buildings, which were no longer in use and were falling to ruins, were carried away to Italy, and especially to Constantinople for the great church of Saint Sophia. In 1308 the Turks took possession of the little that remained of the city, and deported or murdered its inhabitants. The Cayster river, overflowing its banks, gradually covered with its muddy deposit the spot where the temple of Diana had once stood, and at last its very site was forgotten.”

 

History of the church at Ephesus

  • Near the end of Paul’s Second Missionary Journey, after leaving Corinth and his long period of ministry there he set sail for Syria, Acts 18:18. Apparently the ship made a stop at the port of Ephesus, for we find he visited the synagogue there and reasoned with the Jews concerning Jesus as was his custom. But instead of remaining, at their request, he departed, intending to return if the Lord would permit it and then went up to the temple and performed his vow as mentioned in verse 18, Act 18:19-22.
  • Paul’s Third Missionary Journey. On his third missionary journey, after visiting and strengthening the churches of Galatia and Phrygia, came did indeed return to Ephesus. Here he met twelve disciples of John the Baptist and led them to Jesus and then he reasoned in the Jews synagogue for three months, Act 19:1-8. After some of them started speaking evil of the Lord Jesus and His way, Paul departed to the school of one Tyrannus, in which he freely proclaimed the Gospel and taught the whole counsel of God for about two years. This was an especially fruitful time of ministry, for the whole region of Asia were able to hear the word of the Lord Jesus. And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul, Acts 19:9-11. Two factors accounted for the physical spread of the Gospel and the Word of the Lord Jesus: the draw of the Temple of Diana for the whole region, and two the easy access from Ephesus to all the areas inland from it.
  • We see in Paul’s proclaiming the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) the fruits of repentance and renunciation of every false way that true revival produces. The former practitioners of the curious arts confess, renounced and burned their books. Their value was stated at 50,000 pieces of silver. That is quite a sum! But such is the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those truly converted to the Lord Jesus Christ. They no longer want to have anything to do with those things that they formally lived for and by which they prospered. The Greek word translated curious arts is Strong’s G4021 Periergos and is only used twice in the Bible. Here it is translated curious arts and in 2 Tim 5:13 it is translated busybody. The Extended Strongs says that Periergos represents one who is “busy about trifles and neglectful of important matters, especially busy about other folk’s affairs, a busybody.” Secondly, concerning things “impertinent and superfluous … of magic arts.” These were books of magic that they were burning. They were turning their backs on magic and fables and walking toward the light of the truth of Christ. What are we as Christians in modern society occupying our times and efforts with that is contrary to truth? Perhaps astrology and its attending horoscopes, maybe palm readings or other visits to psychics. Or it might by science fiction and its vain imaginations. That is one area that was developed from the Greek philosophers and Greek religious superstitions, that have drifted down to all western cultures. Aesop’s Fables were ancient. The Grimm brothers fairy tales were not much different. Disney and their efforts of bringing fables to life has had a very damaging impact upon the minds of many in America, even Christians. It is an imaginary escape from reality that lures our time and attention away from Scripture and our God and towards superficial things that can bring absolutely no benefit to a person’s life. It is pure vanity.
  • Or, perhaps it is an allegiance to sport’s entertainment. I have to admit that I have wiled away many an hour and even entire days sitting in front of the one-eyed devil watching baseball and football games that have had absolutely no lasting benefit to my soul and spirit. As Christians, as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, we are commanded to come out from among these idols, separate ourselves from them, 2 Cor 6:16-7:1. These Ephesian followers of Christ removed those things that hindered them in their walk with and devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ. They are not only to be commended, but followed as an example by us as well. How did they accomplish this and how can we? So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed, Act 19:20. Has the Word of God grown in your heart? Has it prevailed in your life?
  • Near the end of Paul’s ministry in Ephesus, troubles began, not with the Jews of the synagogue from which he had separated some two years earlier, but with the adherents of the pagan goddess Diana, Act 19:23-34. Instigated by Demetrius the silversmith, the pagan profiteers and adherents seized upon two of Paul’s companions and carrying them rushed to the theatre, Act 19:28-29. It took the town clerk to finally calm the crowd, Acts 19:35-41. After this matter, Paul gathered the disciples in Ephesus and bid them farewell and departed to Macedonia, Acts 20:1. But he would see the pastors/elders of Ephesus one final time.
  • Acts 20:17-38 tells us of Paul’s last meeting with the Ephesians when he met their pastors/elders. He loved them dearly and spent much time with them instructing them in the ways of the Christian life. He gave them a final charge as he was on his way to Jerusalem where he would eventually be arrested and later taken to Rome from which he later would write his prison epistle to these Ephesians that is the subject of our study. He knew the importance of this city in setting the tone for the Christian faith in the region of Asia and the impact that heresy could have in destroying and crippling whole churches. And so he set forth to encourage them and warn them of the dangers that lay ahead for them.
  • Paul recounted with them as they met him in Miletus, how that from the start he had kept back nothing of the faith, and how that he taught them from house to house repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, Acts 20:18-21. He reminded them that he had taught all the counsel of God in their midst and that he was innocent of every man;s blood, Act 20:25-27. It is good for us to take note, that the man that God calls to minister needs to teach all the counsel of God as time permits in preaching and/or teaching God’s people from God’s word. Otherwise, he will be accountable to God for not teaching all the doctrines of the Christian faith, and for the shipwreck that the lacking teachings can result in for the ill equipped Christian.
  • His warning came next in Acts 20:28-31. He charged them that God in the person of the Holy Spirit had placed them as overseers of the Lord’s churches there at Ephesus. That is the first role of a Pastor, to take heed to himself and his church, to oversee God’s church, to watch for problems, errors and dangers in his doctrine and the doctrines that his flock holds to. A first error to watch for is remembering that it is God Himself that purchased His churches with His own blood, the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. The doctrine of the deity of Christ, and the tri-unity of the Godhead, is first and foremost to be guarded. Paul next warned that after his departure as the one who had taught them to oversee the flock, that grievous wolves would enter into their midst. Dangers from without the church are to be expected. They come in led by devils pretending to be ministers of the truth but yet teaching false doctrines just as the Serpent did to Eve, 2 Cor 11:12-14; Gen 3:1-5. The other area from which error arises in from among the members themselves! It is easy to err from the truth, even for saints. Paul warned that from among themselves men would arise teaching perverse things to draw away followers to themselves, Act 20:30. It was of vital importance to Paul that these Ephesians be diligent in watching out for error and working hard to stop the error before it drew believers away from the Truth. That is one reason I have a great appreciation for men like David Cloud of Way of Life Ministries. He has spent much of his Christian life as a missionary to Nepal, establishing churches there and spreading the Gospel and all the counsel of God. But he also has a ministry of warning that has helped many pastors, teachers and believers in general.
  • What are some of the dangers that we face today? First I tend to believe is “soft separation” that has arisen from the attitude that only “essential doctrine” matters and that we should not separate from other believers over non-essential doctrinal differences. All doctrine is essential and that is where the proverbial camel gets his foul nose into the tent. All doctrine is important and to be adhered to, although some doctrines are more important than others, they all are important. See Matt 28:18-20. We will have another lesson on this matter later. A second danger, and this creeps in from the first error mentioned, is the error of the ecumenical movement. This error teaches that we can all join together in worship and/or service to the Lord no matter what doctrinal differences we hold. Rome has been calling for other denominations and religions to join together in prayer, worship and work for God. But this flies in the face of all the counsel of God. We will also post a lesson on the errors of Roman Catholicism in another article. Promise Keepers in the 1990s was a major force in the ecumenical movement. One of its Doctrines was that we should not let Doctrine divide us! Now wait just a minute here. If I don’t agree with the Promise Keepers stance on Doctrine and hold to a different doctrine that the Promise Keepers will separate from me over Doctrine ??? It is the Devil’s favorite ruse to say “Yea hath God said” and that God doesn’t really mean what He said and that you can do as you please, for after all unity of mankind is more important than unity in Truth. Promise Keepers like to say that the only doctrine that matters is Do You Love Jesus? But Jesus said if you love me you will keep my commandments, John 14:15, 23. You can’t love Jesus in the way of the Promise Keepers and be in truth one that Loves Jesus. Notice also what the Promise Keepers used to draw men to their stadiums: well respected neo-evangelical preachers and music. They featured men who would not preach “all the counsel of God” and then music that appealed to the emotions and and physical senses of the men there in making them feel  worshipful. It worked on me. For a time until I heard the truths of the errors and looked into, I had bought into it. I enjoyed the time with my brother and son as we sang praises to the Lord along with 30-40,000 other men and heard from men at the time that I respected such as Chuck Swindoll and Tony Evans and others. But it was later before I learned the need for a strong separation stance in a Christians life. The third danger I see is the modern contemporary christian music, from soft rock to hard rock. It’s lyrics sometimes are based on truth, but sometimes not. But what it has in common by most who record it and perform it is a call for unity among Christians in worship together in an ecumenical manner. Another thing it does is appeal to the senses of the flesh in a carnal manner. Rock music is all about the flesh and its lusts. It is easy to find interviews with famous rock musicians that have declared such. David Cloud has articles and even free e-books on this subject and I’ll not go into details here. But modern contemporary christian music focuses on bringing Christians together so that they can sell more albums and tickets. These artists are breaking down the walls of separation that Paul was so diligent to erect and strongly urged the Ephesians to maintain and defend!
  • I’ll give an example that I believe reflects the “judge not” mentality that is common among many of the CCM artists and their followers. I recall sometime in the mid-1990s I was riding with my parents and brother and his family in my parents’ van. A tape by the Gaither Vocal Band was playing and I heard Mark Lowry say something to the effect that “fundamentalists are all a bunch of pharisees.” I remember thinking at the time that he had just called me a pharisee, because I was, and am, definitely fundamental in my faith. I believe that we are to live by every word of God. I believe in everything that the Bible has to say. I know that I am saved because of what the Bible says and commanded me to do: turn to God from my sin and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as my savior and Lord. I believe all the Bible says and that gives me assurance for living for my Savior. I believe all the promises, exhortations, rebukes, corrections, doctrines and commandments that are there to equip me to be a mature follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am fundamental in my beliefs and that makes me a fundamentalist. I hope that I am not a pharisee. I don’t have any self-righteousness. All my righteousness I have is that that is in Christ and that He has provided me. There is no good thing that dwells in my flesh. The only good I have is the goodness of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ that lives in me. And I know He is in me not because I feel Him, but because He is there by faith in God’s Word, His Holy Bible has told me! The Mark Lowry’s of this world can fire away all they want at fundamentalists like myself. But I know who holds the future. It is not the Gaithers, nor any other CCM group, nor the KCBI broadcasters (local DFW Baptist radio station playing soft and hard Rock CCM and having the Catholic Charities of Dallas as one of their sponsors as of November, 2015). No, my God–who I know from the Bible is the One who holds the future as well as the present, and according to what I read and believe with all my heart, that future is very bright for those of us who are derided as those “dirty fundamentalists.” Call me what you will, it hurts — but not that much. As faithful followers of Christ we fundamentalists have grown used to slanders and insults. What matters most though is that I know what the Lord has called me. He has called me saved. He has called me sanctified. He has called me justified. And He has called me glorified. And all of this He has called me because I am in Christ. Finally, He has called me to follow His Son and obey His word, to love the Lord with all my being and to love others as I love myself. Truth without love is an evil error. But love without the guidance of truth leads to wickedness in the Christian life and church which is also an evil error. We must be guided by both. This is what guided Paul in all his ministry, and especially here to the Ephesian saints.

Christ’s Letter, 90-100AD

Rev 2:1-3

Labour –

Strong’s says:  “labour …

B. intense labour united with trouble and toil”

Labour that causes weariness. But they also had patience, in other words they persisted and continued in their wearisome labor.

They tried the false-apostles. This would take patience and persistence also. They tried them before they condemned them as liars. They kept Paul’s exhortation to take heed for the church of God that He had purchased with His own blood.

J. Vernon McGee’s commentary:

“And hast not fainted.” … [That is they had] “not grown weary.” What does He mean by this? Earlier He said that they had grown weary, and now He says they have not grown weary. Well, this is one of the great paradoxes of the Christian faith. I can illustrate it by what Dwight L. Moody once said when he came home exhausted after a campaign and his family begged him not to go to the next campaign. He said to them, “I grow weary in the work but not of the work.” There is a lot of difference. You can get weary in the work of Christ, but it is tragic if you get weary of the work of Christ.”

Rev 2:4-7

Did they remember and repent?

I believe they did … for a time. Eventually, they fell from Christ altogether. For there is only ruins at Ephesus today.

Let this study strengthen our love for Christ and let us renew our passion for Him, His word, His people and His Gospel.