Today’s selected reading is found in the New Testament epistle of the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Ephesus. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the first fourteen verses of the first chapter. With these fourteen verses the apostle Paul begins and opens his epistle which was written unto the saints which were located at Ephesus. What strikes me about the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto these saints in Ephesus is that this wasn’t the only epistle that was written unto the saints within this city. In fact, if you study the various writings contained within the New Testament you will discover that the gospel of John was most likely written to and unto the saints which were at Ephesus. What’s more, is that the epistles which the apostle John wrote in the New Testament were indeed most likely written unto the same Ephesian congregation. Furthermore, when writing unto his spiritual son in the faith the apostle Paul wrote two letters unto Timothy who most likely was present among the saints which were located in Ephesus. What’s more, is that when you journey to the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ you will find the first of seven letters which were written unto the seven churches in Asia was written unto the same Ephesian congregation. Even a cursory study of the New Testament will bring us face to face with the tremendous reality that the city of Ephesus—together with the church that was present therein—was of great significance and importance to men such as the apostle Paul and the apostle John. More over, if you study the New Testament book of the Acts of the apostles you will certainly notice that early on the city of Ephesus not only encountered a man by hue name of Apollo, but also the ministry of a man and woman by the name of Ananias and Sapphira. We dare not miss the tremendous significance—not only of the personalities which were present in Ephesus, but also in the letters which were written unto this congregation.
When I read the writings of the apostle Paul I can’t help but see certain epistles which could very well be grouped and paired together—almost as if they contained two sides to the same coin. I have previously written that the two epistles which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian congregation were most certainly joined together in their scope and message. The first Abe second epistles which were written unto the Thessalonians were also a pair as they were written unto the same congregation of saints. The more I read the epistles of Romans and Galatians the more I am gripped with the fact that these two epistles could very well be read together as they directly confront a vast area present within our hearts and lives as the saints of God. With that being said, I would also suggest that the epistle which was written unto the Colossians, as well as the epistle which was written unto the Ephesians could very well be read together. In fact, if you read and study these two epistle together you will quickly notice that there are a great deal of similarities that exist in the language that is contained therein. What do strikes me about the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Ephesian congregation is that there appears to be no word of correction, no rebuke, no indictment of specific mindsets and false gospels which crept into the church present within this city. This is absolutely tremendous when you consider the fact that the city of Ephesus was a tremendous hub for idolatry and false religions due to the temple of Artemis which was present in the midst thereof. How absolutely incredible it is that there was a congregation of believers present in a city that was consumed with such idolatry and false religion. I am convinced, however, that the only ways to truly understand the epistle which was written unto the saints which were located within the city of Ephesus is to turn your attention back to the New Testament book of the Acts of the apostles. It is within the New Testament book of the Acts where you will find the backdrop for how the church in Ephesus was started, and the tremendous difficulties it faced from its early days.
Beginning with the eighteenth verse of the eighteenth chapter of the New Testament book of the Acts you will find the following words which provide us with the initial mention of Ephesus as it pertains to the missionary journey of the apostle Paul. Consider if you will that which the beloved physician Luke writes and records concerning the apostle Paul’s first visit to the city of Ephesus: “And Paul after this tarried there yet a good while, and then took his leave of the brethren, and sailed thence into Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila; having shorn his head in Cenchrea: for he had a vow. And he came to Ephesus, and left them there: but he himself entered into the synagogue, and reasoned with the Jews. When they desired him to tarry longer time with them, he consented not; but bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feasts that cometh in Jerusalem: but I will return again unto you, if God will. And he sailed from Ephesus. And when he had landed at Caesarea, and gone up, and saluted the church, he went down to Antioch. And after he had spent some time there, he departed, and went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening the disciples. And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and might in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly. And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace: for he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, shewing by the Scriptures that Jesus was Christ” (Acts 18:18-28).
IN this particular passage of Scripture we notice that when the apostle Paul initially came unto the city of Ephesus he did so accompanied by Aquila and Priscilla. Upon arriving at the city of Ephesus the apostle Paul left Aquila and Priscilla behind while he himself had journeyed unto the synagogue to reason with the Jews. Luke records how the Jews desired the apostle Paul to tarry with them longer, but how the apostle Paul respectfully declined because of a feast he needed to keep in the city of Jerusalem. When you come to the twenty-fourth verse of the eighteenth chapter you will find that upon the departure of the apostle Paul from the city of Ephesus a certain Jew named Apollos who was born at Alexandria began ministering publicly according to the word of God. In fact, Luke records how Apollos was an eloquent man, and was mighty in the Scriptures, and came unto the city of Ephesus. From where Apollos comes from we aren’t made aware, but what we do know is that he came unto the city of Ephesus and began speaking and teaching diligently the things of the Lord, being fervent in the spirit. One thing we must understand about this man Apollos is that while it was true he was an eloquent man, while it was true that he was a man who was fervent in the spirit, and while he was mighty in the Scriptures, he knew only the baptism of John. Although Apollos was instructed in the ways of the Lord and spoke and taught diligently the things of the Lord, he only knew the baptism of John which was a baptism of water. This is actually quite powerful and necessary, for when we come to the nineteenth chapter of the same New Testament book we read and discover that when the apostle Paul returned to the city of Ephesus and encountered certain disciples there, they had only heard of John’s baptism. Initially, the city of Ephesus only knew the baptism of John, which was a baptism in water unto the repentance and remission of sins. Of course Scripture goes on to describe and declare that there wasn’t simply one baptism—the baptism of John, which was a baptism of repentance unto the remission of sins—but there was a second baptism which came from above. Even John the Baptist declared that he himself baptized with water, and yet there was coming One greater and mightier than he who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. It is true that the disciples and saints which were located in Ephesus knew only the baptism of John, for when Apollos came and began speaking and teaching them the ways of the Lord, he himself only knew of the baptism of John.
Having understood that the ministry of Apollos centered upon the baptism of John—despite the fact that he instructed and taught them in the ways of the Lord—we have a clearer understanding of what happens when the apostle Paul returns to the city of Ephesus. If you begin reading with and from the first verse of the nineteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts we find and discover the following words: “And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, he said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. And all the men were about twelve” (Acts 19:1-7). When the eighteenth chapter of the book of the Acts draws to a close it does so with Apollos having taught and instructed the disciples in the ways of the Lord—although, Apollos at that time only knew the baptism of John. When we come to the nineteenth chapter of the book of the Acts we find the apostle Paul returning to Ephesus and encountering certain disciples which were present there. It’s actually quite interesting that the apostle Paul asked the disciples whom he encountered whether or not they had received the Holy Ghost since they believed. The disciples whom Paul encountered revealed that they had never heard of the Holy Ghost, and that they had only received the baptism of John in water unto repentance for the remission of sins. Immediately, the apostle Paul declared unto them that John indeed baptized with the baptism of repentance, that they which came unto him should believe on Him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. Upon hearing these words, these twelve disciples were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, and when the apostle Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying.
As the nineteenth chapter of the New Testament book of the Acts continues we find that after these twelve disciples received the baptism of the Holy Ghost and began prophesying and speaking in tongues, the apostle Paul went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God. Immediately, however, the hearts of certain among the Jews were hardened, and they believed not, but spoke evil of that way before the multitude. In response to the hardening of the hearts of the Jews the apostle Paul departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrranus. Luke records how this disputing in the school of TYrannus continued the space of two years, so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks. What’s more, is that Luke records how God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul, so that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them” (Acts 19:8-12). The beloved physician Luke records how the apostle Paul continued for three months in the synagogue disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God, but that he spent two years disputing daily in the school of one named Tyrannus. What’s more, is that when the apostle Paul experienced and encountered the hardening of the hearts of the Jews which were in Ephesus he first separated the disciples from among them, and then began disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus. This is actually quite remarkable, for when we come to the tenth verse of the nineteenth chapter we find that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks. What’s more, is that not only did all those which were in Asia hear the word of the Lord Jesus, but God also wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul within the city’s of Ephesus. For the space of two years all those dwelling in Asia heard the word of the Lord and witnessed the power and demonstration of the Spirit of Christ through various and divers miracles by the hands of Paul.
It’s worth noting that with every genuine move and work of the Lord, there will always be the counterfeit and the fake. With every true, genuine and authentic move of the Spirit among men there will always be those present among us who will attempt to imitate that work. When we come to the thirteenth verse of the nineteenth chapter we find certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, taking upon themselves to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus. These Jews attempted to proclaim and declare unto the evil spirits, saying, “We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth,” and were comprised of seven sons of one Sceva who was a Jew and chief of the priests. How absolutely incredible is it that the evil spirit which heard the words they spoke in an attempt to bring deliverance responded unto them by declaring how he knew Jesus, and he knew the apostle Paul, but he had absolutely no clue or idea who they were. Immediately after asking these men who they were the man who was possessed with the evil spirit leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. As certainly as the actions of these seven sons of Sceva were a counterfeit and false attempt to work the works of the Lord among the saints located in Ephesus, there was an absolutely incredible outcome which came as a result of their misguided attempt to minister the works of the Lord. “And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds. Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed” (Acts 19:18-19). Please don’t miss this, for not only were the disciples baptized with the Holy Spirit, not only did all who were in Asia hear the word of the Lord Jesus, not only did God work special miracles through the apostle Paul, but now we also discover that as a direct result of the actions of this counterfeit attempt at the works of the Lord the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified, as many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds. Many of those who used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men. It is quite clear and obvious from the words we read in this New Testament book that a genuine revival and move of God was taking place within the city of Ephesus, and that many believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds.
I have already stated that with every true and authentic move of the Spirit there will always be a counterfeit and a fake that will attempt to deceive the people. With that being said, I am convinced that in addition to there being a counterfeit and false attempt at the works of the Lord, there will also be the inciting of men and women against the genuine move of God among men. If you continue reading the nineteenth chapter of the New Testament book of the Acts you will find that Satan sought to destroy the revival and awakening of the Spirit within the city of Ephesus by inciting a riot among those. It was through one single man within the city of Ephesus that a full-scale riot was incited within the city of Ephesus as the entire city was thrown into confusion and discord. There was a man by the name of Demetrius, a silversmith, which made silver shrines for Diana—one who brought no small gain unto the craftsmen. This one man Demetrius sought to incite a tremendous riot and rebellion against the work of the Lord, against the word of the Lord Jesus, and against the genuine and authentic move of the Spirit, for he declared that the apostle Paul persuaded and turned away many people within the city, saying that those gods which were made by human hands were in fact not gods at all. Essentially, that which the apostle Paul sought to accomplish within the city of Ephesus was directly confronting the idolatry that was present within the city, for he declared that those gods which were made by human hands were not gods at all. I can’t help but be be reminded of the words of the prophet Isaiah which are recorded for us in the Old Testament prophetic book which bears his name. Beginning with the eighth verse of the the forty-fourth chapter we find and read the following words:
“Is there a God beside me? Yea, there is no God; I know not any. They that make a graven image are all of them vanity; and their deletable things shall not profit; and they are their own witnesses; they see not, nor know; that they may be ashamed. Who hath formed a god, or molten a graven image that is profitable for nothing? Behold, all his fellows shall be ashamed: and the workmen, they are of men: let them all be gathered together, let them stand up; yet they shall fear, and they shall be ashamed together. The smith with the tongues both worked in the coals, and fashioned it with hammers, and worketh it with the strength of his arms: yea, he is hungry, and his strength faileth: he drinketh no water, and is faint. The carpenter stretcheth out his rule; he markets it out with the compass, and maketh it after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man; that it may remain in the house. Hew heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak, which he strengtheneth for himself among the trees of the forest: he planets an ash, and the rain doth nourish it. Then shall it be for a man to burn: for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yea, he kindleth it, and baketh bread; yea, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto. He burneth part thereof in the fire; with part thereof he eateth the flesh; he roasters roast, and is satisfied: yea, he warmth himself, and saith Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire: and the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god. They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand. And none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, I have burned part of it in the fire; yea, also I have baked bread upon the coals thereof; I have roasted flesh, and eaten it: and shall I make the residue thereof an abomation” (Isaiah 44:8-19).
The end of the nineteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts describes a full-scale and full-blown riot that took place in the city—one that was undoubtedly incited by the adversary in an attempt to subvert and contradict the word and works of the Lord Jesus among them in their midst. In fact, Luke describes how the whole city was filled with confusion, and how Gaius and Aristarchus who were Paul’s companions in travel were caught within the city, and how the men in the city rushed with one accord into the theater. Why? What was the nature of this riot and revolt within the city of Ephesus? It is quite clear and quite obvious that there was an attempt to discredit the work and word of the Lord Jesus within the city, as well as to defend the idolatry which was present therein. There was in fact a revolt and riot which took place within the city of Ephesus as a direct result of confusion which was fanned into flame by a single man named Demetrius. We dare not miss or lose sight of this reality, for the church that was located within the city of Ephesus not only experienced and encountered a counterfeit attempt to work the works of the Lord Jesus, but they also encountered a full-scale riot and revolt as the entire city was thrown into confusion by the words of a single man. Eventually and ultimately the uproar was ceased within the midst of the city, and the apostle Paul—preparing to depart from the city of Ephesus—called unto him the disciples, and embraced them, and departed to go into Macedonia. Ultimately in the twentieth chapter of the New Testament book of the Acts we find the apostle Paul calling unto himself the elders of the church which were in Ephesus in order that he might impart unto them final words of farewell and instruction. When speaking unto the elders of the church of Ephesus we find the apostle Paul recounting for them his ministry among them, and how he served with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell him by the lying in wait of the Jews. The apostle Paul kept and held back nothing that was profitable unto them, but shewed them, and taught them publicly, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus. What’s more, is that as you continue reading this particular chapter you will find that for the space of three years the apostle Paul warned the church, the disciples, and the elders that upon his departure savage and grevious wolves would enter in among them, not sparing the flock. There would be some from among their own selves who would arise, which would speak perverse things in order that they might draw away disciples after them. What we read in the final words of the apostle Paul helps set the stage for what we find and read in the first chapter of the epistle which was written unto the Ephesians, for prior to his departure from the elders of the church in Ephesus the apostle Paul declared “I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified” (Acts 20:32).
Now, you might be wondering why I took the time to include all the backdrop for the activity which took place in the city of Ephesus, however, it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we understand the events which took place within the city. It is only when we understand the activity which took place in the New Testament book of Acts that we can truly understand the nature of the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Ephesus. When reading the final words of Paul’s farewell speech to the elders of the church in Ephesus we not only find the apostle Paul speaking of inheritance, but also of maturity and growth in Jesus who is both Christ and Lord. This is necessary for us to read and consider, for if you read the New Testament epistle which Paul wrote unto the saints which were in Ephesus you will notice and discover that the entire epistle is essentially centered upon the inheritance the saints of God have in Christ, and how they have been called to grow up in the Lord into a place of maturity. When you begin reading the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints in Ephesus you will quickly notice that he immediately begins speaking to them concerning the inheritance which they had in the person of Jesus who is both Christ and Lord. Beginning with verse three of the first chapter the apostle Paul writes unto this church and congregation that God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. Please don’t miss or lose sight of the tremendous significance of what we read and find in these words, for that which the apostle Paul is declaring is that God who is our Father and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has blessed—past tense—us with all spiritual blessings which are in heavenly places. It is necessary that we recognize and understand these words for directly connected to the reality and concept of inheritance is that idea that we have been blessed with every and all spiritual blessings—that which is needed within our lives to stand and serve as true and genuine disciples and followers of Jesus Christ. When speaking of our inheritance as the saints of God.it is necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that with inheritance comes our being blessed with every spiritual blessing—everything we need to take possession of the inheritance we have been given in Christ Jesus.
Verses three through fourteen of the first chapter of the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were in Ephesus not only describe the inheritance we have been given in Christ Jesus, but also that directly connected to that inheritance is the receipt of all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. Let us not forget or neglect that fact that the spiritual blessings we have received are secured in heavenly places, and therefore cannot be touched by human hands. When we read of the spiritual blessings which are directly connected to our inheritance it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we understand that since they are secured in heavenly places—not only did they not originate within and upon the earth, but neither can any human hand touch or destroy those blessings. When we speak of the inheritance which we as the saints of God and disciples of Christ have received in the person of Jesus Christ, we must understand that this inheritance is found in heavenly places, and cannot be touched, harmed or destroyed by human hands. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which our Lord Jesus spoke in His Sermon on the Mount concerning the treasure(s) we as men and women hold and behold within our lives. Beginning with the nineteenth verse of the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew we find and read the following words: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth decrypt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). When reading and considering the words which Jesus who is both Christ and Lord spoke in this passage of Scripture we must carefully understand them as being directly connected to the inheritance we have in Him—an inheritance which is secured in heavenly places, and cannot be touched or altered by moth or rust. When writing and speaking of the inheritance we as believers have in the person of Jesus Christ we must recognize and understand that this. Inheritance is found in heavenly places, for it is in heavenly places were neither moth nor rust corrupt, and where thieves do not break through or steal. If we are to understand one thing concerning the inheritance we have been given in the person of Jesus Christ, as well as the spiritual blessings that are directly connected to that inheritance, we must understand that there it cannot be broken through nor stolen by thieves who would seek to steal, kill and destroy. How absolutely incredible and powerful it is to read and consider the fact that the inheritance we have received in the person of Jesus Christ cannot be touched or altered by human hands—much like the temple that is made without human hands can never be touched or destroyed by human hands. It was not human hands which produced the inheritance we have in the person of Jesus Christ, and it was not human hands which produced the spiritual blessings we have in the person of Jesus Christ, nor was it with human hands that the temple of the Holy Spirit was made within and upon the earth.
When you read the words which the apostle Paul wrote in verses three through fourteen of the first chapter of this epistle unto the Ephesian church you will notice the activity of God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ within our lives. You cannot read these verses and not be directly confronted with and by the activity of God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ within our lives. Consider if you will the language that is found and contained within this particular passage of Scripture: “hath blessed us,” “hath chosen us,” “having predstinated us unto the adoption of children,” “hath made us accepted in the beloved,” “hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence,” “making made known unto us the mystery of his will,” “He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth,” in whom also we have obtained an inheritance,” “that we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ.” Not only have we been blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ, but we have also been chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and without blame in Him. As if this weren’t enough, we also read how the Lord predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will. Furthermore, He had made us accepted in the beloved having giving us redemption through His blood, and the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace. In all reality, that which we find and read in this passage of Scripture brings us face to face with the tremendous reality that there is absolutely nothing we have done to bring about any of these realities within our lives, nor is there anything we can do to secure that which Christ has done within our lives. What we find and what we read in this passage of Scripture perfectly describes how we cannot, we dare not, we must not take any credit for anything and everything we have in Christ, for it was God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places. What’s more, is that we read this passage of Scripture and we read the word “spiritual” being directly connected to the reality of blessing, thus indicating that there is a fundamental difference between earthly, carnal, natural, and temporal blessings which we so often earnestly desire and crave. I absolutely love that which we find and read within this passage of Scripture, for while it is true that we desire those blessings which are natural, those blessings which are temporal, those blessings which are monetary and of the earth, there are greater blessings which we should earnestly desire and pursue with all diligence. The question I can’t help but ask when reading this passage is which blessing(s) am I truly desirous of within my life? Am I desirous of those blessings which are earthly and natural, or am I desirous of those blessings which are spiritual? Am I desirous of those blessings which are found within and upon the earth, or those blessings which are in heavenly places? AM I desirous of those blessings which are found within myself, or those blessings which are found in the person of Jesus Christ?