The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
April 29, 2012


1) The Book of Ephesians: Introduction (Tom Edwards)


The Book of Ephesians: Introduction
by Tom Edwards

The letter to the Ephesians was another one of Paul's prison epistles, during his first incarceration in Rome, with the others being Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon.  It was actually a full two-year house arrest in his own rented quarters (Acts 28:30), in which he speaks of being in "chains" (Eph. 6:20) and was accompanied by a guard (v. 16).  According to Vincent Word Studies, the Greek word for "chains" (Eph. 6:20) is used for "the coupling-chain by which he was bound to the hand of his guard."  

Ephesus was a chief city and capital of the Roman province of Asia, which in the New Testament is not the Asia we know today.  Rather, it was only a part of Asia Minor.  So though it might sound to the contrary, Asia was smaller than Asia Minor and filled a western section of it.  According to Baker's Bible Atlas, Ephesus "ranked as one of the three greatest cities of the Eastern Mediterranean," with the other two being Antioch in Syria and Alexandria in Egypt.  Ephesus has also been noted as being a "transportation junction," due to its highways and seaways, with people and merchants from East and West continually passing through.    

Many of these tourists had come to worship Artemis (a.k.a. Diana) and buy small shrines to take back home with them.  Demetrius, for example, is said to have made his shrines of silver, which had brought a large business to the craftsmen (Acts 19:24).  

The colossal temple that was built for Artemis had become one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  According to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, the temple was 425 feet long, 220 feet wide, and had a roof supported by 127 pillars that were 60 feet high.  It is said to have been made with the "finest marble" over a period of 220 years.  The original temple had actually been burned down on the night that Alexander the Great was born; and when he reached manhood, he offered to build them another -- if they would allow for his name to be engraved on its portals.  The priests of Ephesus, however, would not consent to that.  So the people of Ephesus provided for its longtime construction.  

Another impressive building at Ephesus was the theater, which is said to have been the largest in the world at that time, accommodating up to about 25,000 spectators.  It was used for concerts; plays; religious, political, and philosophical discussions; gladiator and animal fights, and sometimes for fights between wild beasts and men.  

Paul first came to Ephesus during his second missionary journey.  He had actually been on his way back to Syria to complete that trip; but he briefly stopped in Ephesus on the way, which is recorded in Acts 18:18-21.  The brethren had wanted Paul to stay; but while departing, he told them, "I will return to you again if God wills" (v. 21).  

On leaving Ephesus, he also left Aquila and Priscilla in that city who then instructed Apollos in the way of the Lord more thoroughly, for he had not known about the baptism which Jesus commanded (Acts 18:18, 19, 24- 28).  

Paul did return to Ephesus during his third missionary journey (Acts 19); and his stay with them ended up being the longest he had with any of the churches, during all of his missionary journeys.  He was there for 3 years.  

At that time, he encountered 12 men who, like Apollos previously, did not know about the baptism Jesus had commanded.  Paul, therefore, taught them; and then baptized them in water so that their sins could be forgiven.  Next, he also imparted the Holy Spirit to them, through the laying on of his hands, so that they could have miraculous gifts (Acts 19:1-7).  

There are a few helpful inferences we can make from this passage:

First, the promise of "the gift of the Holy Spirit," of Acts 2:38, that is to be for all who obey the gospel plan of salvation, is not the Holy Spirit Himself -- but, rather, the blessings in Christ that the Holy Spirit had promised, such as forgiveness of sins (cf. Jer. 31:31-34).  For these men of Acts 19 did not receive the Holy Spirit after having obeyed the commands to become a Christian.  Instead, it required the laying on of an apostle's hands (which is also one of the reasons why we don't have the Holy Spirit in the same way today).  

Secondly, we are made to realize that we must be baptized for the right purpose.  For just because someone is immersed in water, it doesn't necessarily mean it is being done for the right reason.  Many of our denominational friends, for instance, know that Bible baptism must be immersion; but, though they do that correctly, they do not do it for the right purpose of obtaining the remission of sins (cf. Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21).  Rather, they view their sins as having already been forgiven, and baptism being a way of expressing that.  So it is not Bible baptism they receive.  

These men had received John's baptism -- and that was for the remission of sins -- but even that was not good enough for the Gospel Age.  For John's baptism was to help people repent of their failure in keeping the Law of Moses.  But the baptism that Jesus commands will  put one into Christ (Gal. 3:26,27), which also puts one into the church (1 Cor. 12:13).  We also learn in Romans 6:3,4 that through baptism, one is "baptized into His death," so that we can benefit from that atonement and be raised from spiritual death to "walk in newness of life," as Christ also arose from physical death.  Therefore, this baptism did not go into effect until after the death of Christ.  

Acts 19 is also one of the examples of the Holy Spirit given through the laying on of the hands of an apostle.  And from elsewhere in Scripture (cf. Acts 8:12-18), it establishes the fact that the apostles were the only people who could do that.  Even other Christians who had miraculous gifts, such as Philip, did not have the ability to pass on the Holy Spirit through the laying on of their hands.  So when Paul tells the Corinthians that "The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles" (2 Cor. 12:12), that might have very well included the ability they had to transmit the Holy Spirit, which would certainly be an identifying sign of a true apostle that would also distinguish him from other miraculously gifted Christians.  

Acts 19:8 shows that Paul taught at Ephesus in their synagogue for 3 months "persuading them about the kingdom of God."  The primary meaning of the Greek word for "kingdom" (basileia) pertains to rule; so in this passage, God's rule. Thayer defines it as "1) royal power, kingship, dominion, rule  1a) not to be confused with an actual kingdom but rather the right or authority to rule over a kingdom  1b) of the royal power of Jesus as the triumphant Messiah  1c) of the royal power and dignity conferred on Christians in the Messiah's kingdom  2) a kingdom, the territory subject to the rule of a king  3) used in the N.T. to refer to the reign of the Messiah."  

But even if we didn't know this primary meaning, how much could one even teach about the secondary meaning of kingdom (being the church) without teaching about the kingship and rule of God?  For no one ever became a Christian by accident or simply stumbled into the kingdom of God.  Rather, one must hear the gospel message and respond to it.  Then after becoming a Christian, one will need to hear more of God's word to know how to conduct oneself in that kingdom (cf. 1 Tim. 3:15).  So the church is simply made up of those who have submitted to the rule of God and, thus, have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus, have become recipients of the Lord's grace, mercy, and lovingkindness, and have been translated into the Lord's kingdom (Col. 1:13), which, in this case, is synonymous with the church.  

Acts 19:9 then shows that because there were some who started speaking evil of the way, Paul withdrew from them and began reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus.   Note, too, in Acts 19:10, how much of an outreach Paul had through that ministry: "This took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks."  

Paul was not only teaching God's word in Ephesus, but also confirming the word by the miracles he performed there.  Acts 19:11,12 declares: "God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out."

It was also here at Ephesus where the seven sons of Sceva, who were Jewish exorcists, attempted to cast out an evil spirit by saying, "I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches"; but it backfired on them.  The evil spirit said, "I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?"  They were then attacked and overpowered by the man with this evil spirit, so that they had to flee naked and wounded (Acts 19:13-16).  

Notice, too, the reaction this had on a great multitude of people: "This became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, who lived in Ephesus; and fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified. Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices.  And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.  So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing" (vv. 17-20).  

If these pieces of silver were just the Greek drachma, 50,000 of them would be about $8,000; but if it be the silver shekel, then 4 times that value; so $32,000.  And keep in mind that this was during a time when the drachma (which was the same value as the denarius) was the standard day's pay for a common laborer, which was 16 cents a day.  So working 300 days a year, he would earn $48.  

In Acts 19:23-41, we read about the great disturbance that was made toward the gospel.  Demetrius, a silversmith, appears to have been the instigator of this.  He was agitated because he made his living by selling idols of Artemis.  Therefore, he spoke with the other craftsmen to point out the danger their businesses were in, since Paul was preaching against idolatry.  Demetrius also said that even the temple of Artemis might become worthless, as a result of the gospel.  

This put the people into a rage, and they cried out for about two hours, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!" What a wild emotional display that must have been!  They had actually been "shouting" different things and in "confusion" even prior to this long outcry (Acts 19:32).   

One source pointed out that the wealth of Ephesus was primarily because of the temple or Artemis; so they were probably envisioning how losing that would greatly effect their economy.  

Acts 20:1 shows that after this frenzy, Paul then left Ephesus to go into Macedonia.  

On his return, from this third missionary journey, he had planned to sail pass Ephesus, so that he would not have to spend time in Asia, for he was now hurrying to make it to Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost, as Acts 20:16 shows.  

But while at Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church to come to him, in Acts 20:17.  His departing words to them can be read in Acts 20:18-38.  Paul would not see their faces again, but he certainly would not forget about them.  And one of his concerns for them, as seen in this passage, would be of the "savage wolves" who would not spare the flock at Ephesus.  

This, therefore, is a main purpose for his letter to them.  These "savage wolves" would be false teachers.  Some would be Judaizers, and others would be Gnostics.  So the Christians in Ephesus would need to put on that full armor of God that Paul speaks of in Ephesians 6 and to submit to all the gospel message, to not be devoured by these false teachers.  

The book of Ephesians was written about A.D. 62 or 63.  We will be considering more of it in our upcoming installments in this weekly bulletin.  

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA  70817
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 6 PM (worship)
Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
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