Today’s selected reading is found in the New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were in Ephesus. More specifically today’s passage is found in the first chapter of this New Testament epistle. “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:1-2).
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: that in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:3-14).
“Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him o be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all” (Ephesians 1:15-23).
When you come to the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Ephesus you will find an epistle that was written unto a group of saints he devoted three years of ministry to. If you read the New Testament book of Acts you will find in the nineteenth and twentieth chapters incredibly powerful language concerning the apostle Paul and his tenure in the midst of the city of Ephesus. What’s more is when you think about and consider the epistle written unto the Ephesian saints you must recognize that this epistle wasn’t the only epistle that would be written unto them. As you read the words which are found in the New Testament you will find the New Testament gospel narrative concerning the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ written by the apostle John was either written in Ephesus or written unto the saints which were at Ephesus.The two epistles which were written by the apostle Paul unto Timothy were indeed written unto Timothy who was entrusted by the apostle Paul to oversee the saints, the elders, the deacons and those who believed in Ephesus. What’s more is the first epistle written by the apostle John was written unto the saints which were at Ephesus. As if this weren’t enough you will come to the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus the Christ and you will find that even Jesus Himself dictated an epistle that was to be written and delivered unto the saints which were at Ephesus.
There is something truly unique and captivating about the words which are found within the New Testament for the city of Ephesus was a chief city in what is the modern nation of Turkey. The city of Ephesus would be a city in which the apostle Paul would labor for three years—this despite the fact that while present in the midst of that city the apostle Paul would indeed suffer and experience tremendous persecution at the hands of the Gentiles. The city of Ephesus would be a city where great works and miracles would take place and yet where the powers of darkness would be very real and very active. This city was not only a chief city during the days in which the apostle Paul embarked upon his apostolic and missionary journeys but it was also a city that was steeped in idolatry. You will recall from the New Testament book of Acts as well as from ancient history that there was in the city of Ephesus a temple which was considered one of the ancient wonders of the world—the temple of Diana or what’s also considered the temple of Artemis. If you examine both the New Testament book of Acts as well as ancient history you will find that the city of Ephesus was not only a city that was steeped in idolatry but I would dare say it was also a city that was steeped in tremendous spiritual wickedness that was consumed in darkness. I can’t help but think about the tremendous idolatry the apostle Paul had to contend with during days as the apostle Paul would preach the one true God in direct opposition and juxtaposition against the worship of Diana among the Ephesians. What’s more is there would be an insurrection and revolt which would take place in the midst of the city of Ephesus based on this worship of the false god Diana and how the gospel which the apostle Paul preached was directly contrary to the worship of Diana. What’s more is this insurrection not only took place around the word and gospel which the apostle Paul preached but also how it would be in direct opposition to the industry and commercialization that surrounded the worship of Diana.
I recently watched a two-part documentary about the seven churches of the prophetic book of the Revelation and the first part was centered upon the first churches mentioned by Jesus in this New Testament book. What so struck me about the history of the city of Ephesus is that it was not only a city that was steeped in idolatry but it was also a city that had a thriving industry around the worship of this false god. Upon reading the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts you will find that the sole reason for the insurrection which took place in Ephesus engineered by Demetrius was because of the preaching of the word and gospel and it’s directly contradiction of the worship of the false god which the Ephesians worshipped. There is something to consider when reading the words presented in the New Testament book of Acts for what we find within it is a powerful picture of the word and gospel not only directly confronting and provoking the idolatry which was present in the midst of that city but the gospel would also directly oppose the commercialization that was centered around that idolatry. One of the greatest realities surrounding the city of Ephesus was that the worship of Diana, the temple of Diana itself and the whole scene surrounding Diana was a huge source of revenue and income for Demetrius and his fellow blacksmiths. The sole reason Demetrius incited the insurrection against the apostle Paul was because the word and gospel which he preached was directly against both the idolatry and worship of Diana as well as the commercial industry that was centered upon and around that idolatry. IN order to truly understand this I find it absolutely necessary to first call and draw your attention to the words which are found in the sixteenth and seventeenth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts.
If you turn and direct your attention o the words which are found in the sixteenth and seventeenth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts you will find the accounts of the apostle Paul in both the Macedonian city of Philippi as well as within the Grecian city of Athens. As you take the time to read the words presented in each of these chapters you will find that while the apostle Paul was in Philippi the work of God would not only directly confront spiritual wickedness that was present in that place but it would also disrupt and interrupt the commercialization of that wickedness. In the sixteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find it written how while the apostle Paul would teach and preach in the midst of this city there would be a damsel who was possessed by an evil spirit who would follow the apostle Paul and his companions taunting him concerning the preaching of the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. This would continue to go time after time until the apostle Paul was not only grieved in the spirit but was also provoked in the spirit—so much so that the apostle Paul would turn and directly confront the evil spirit that possessed this damsel and commanded it to come out of her. Immediately the spirit came out of this damsel and it was this exorcism that would incite a great revolt against the apostle Paul. This damsel was a tremendous source of income and revenue for her masters for the unclean spirit that was present within her would be given to soothsaying and essentially fortune telling. This damsel and her possession of the evil spirit would make her masters great money and financial gain through this soothsaying that when the unclean spirit came out of her they realize their hope of financial gain was completely and utterly shattered. It would be this threat and perceived assault and attack against this commerce that would not only cause the masters of this damsel to raise themselves up against the apostle Paul but they would also be beaten and imprisoned. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the sixteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts concerning this account within the life and ministry of the apostle Paul:
“Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, Come over to Macedonia and help us. Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them. Therefore, sailing from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day came to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is the foremost city of that part of Macedonia, a colony. And we were staying in that city for some days. And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city of the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the two men who met there. Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira who worshipped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay. So she persuaded us” (Acts 16:6-16).
“Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune telling.This girl followed Paul and us, and c reed out, saying, These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation. And this she did for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out that very hour. But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities. And they brought them to the magistrates, and said, These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city; and they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe. Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. And when they had laid any stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. Having received such a charge, he put them. Into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. S dude lay there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. But Paul called with a. Loud voice, saying, Do yourself no harm, for we are all here. Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them. Out and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved. So they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household. Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to tall who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household. And when it was day, the magistrates sent the officers, saying, Let those men Go. So the keeper of the prison reported these words to Paul, saying, The magistrates have sent to let you go. Now therefore depart, and go in peace. But Paul said to them, They have beaten us openly, uncondemned Romans, and have thrown us into prison. And now do they put us out secretly? NO indeed! Let them come themselves and get us out. And the officers told these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Romans. Then they came and pleaded with them and brought them out, and asked them to depart from t he city. So they went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia; and when they had seen the brethren, they encouraged them and departed” (Acts 16:17-40).
We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the words which are found within this passage of Scripture for the sole reason the apostle Paul and those who were with him experienced such affliction in the midst of the city of Philippi was because the word and gospel which they preached caused a damsel who was possessed by an unclean spirit began following them declaring them to be servants of the Most High God who preached the word of God unto those in Philippi. This would happen day after day until the apostle Paul—greatly annoyed—turned to the young damsel and commanded the unclean spirit to depart from her. Immediately the unclean spirit came out of her and her masters immediately realized their hope for wealth, financial gain and prosperity were gone. This damsel would bring her masters great sums of money because of her soothsaying and fortune telling and all of that would be completely destroyed when the unclean spirit departed from her. This is something which we must needs recognize and understand for within the New Testament book of Acts you will find that the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ not only directly confronted the idolatry that was present in the cities of that time but it would also directly oppose the commercialization of that idolatry. There were at least two distinct times when the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ would directly confront the commercial industry and merchandise present during those days. As a direct result of this there would be those who realized their hope of financial gain was gone and would raise themselves up against the apostle Paul and those companions who were present with him. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for the true and authentic word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ can and will directly confront the idolatry that is present within cities, within regions and even within nations. I can’t help but dare to think what would happen if in these days the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ directly confronted the prosperity, the wealth, the financial gain and the prosperity that was present among us in our midst.
What we must needs realize and recognize concerning the account of the apostle Paul in the city of Philippi is that the affliction and opposition would not be experienced until AFTER the power of the Holy Spirit was demonstrated and manifested among them. The preaching of the word and gospel of the Lord would indeed attract the attention of the unclean spirit within this young damsel and would incite her to follow the apostle Paul and his companions provoking them day after day. Eventually the apostle Paul would be annoyed and provoked beyond measure within his spirit that he would command the unclean spirit to come out of this young damsel in the name of Jesus of Nazareth. It would be this demonstration and manifestation of the Holy Spirit in the city of Philippi that would be the catalyst for the affliction, the persecution and the insurrection that would be raised up against the apostle Paul and his companions. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for when the masters of this girl realized and recognized that their hope of gain and prosperity was gone after the unclean spirit came out from her they would seize Paul and Silas and bring them before the magistrates accusing them of it troubling and distressing the city with unknown doctrines which were contrary to them as Roman citizens. As a direct result of this the apostle Paul and Silas were beaten with rods before being cast into prison and secured in the inner most prison and having their feet fastened in the stocks. How absolutely incredible this truly is when you take the time to think about it for it brings us face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding the word and gospel of Jesus Christ and how it provokes the spiritual wickedness, the powers of darkness and the unclean spirits and devils in cities, regions and even nations. What’s more is that this passage of Scripture demonstrates that the demonstration and power of the Holy Spirit can in fact directly confront the commercial industry surrounding idolatry—and not only idolatry but also unclean spiritual practices such as witchcraft, fortune telling and the like.
It is with this in mind I invite you to consider now the words which are found in the seventeenth chapter of this New Testament book of Acts. Within the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts we encounter the tremendous truth surrounding the apostle Paul coming unto the city of Athens after departing from Berea. The apostle Paul would come unto Athens and witness a city that was wholly given to idolatry and the worship of false gods which were no gods at all. What’s more is the apostle Paul would also come to a specific altar that was indeed an altar unto the Unkown god. While in Athens after departing from Berea the apostle Paul would indeed preach the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ unto all those who were present and would hear the words he would preach. The apostle Paul not only directly confronted the idolatry and pagan worship of false gods in that city but the apostle Paul would also preach the worship of the one true and living God. Not only this but the apostle Paul would also preach the resurrection of the person of Jesus of Nazareth from the dead on the third day. This is something we dare not and must not miss for it brings us face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the preaching of the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and how it not only confronts idolatry and the worship of false gods but it promotes the worship of the one true and living God. That which we find in this passage of Scripture is incredibly powerful for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful reality of the apostle preaching the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and how that gospel would not only confront idolatry and the worship of false gods but demand that men and women abandon their idolatry and worship the one true and living God. Not only this but the gospel also demands that men and women repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins and call upon the name of the Lord to be saved. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts concerning the apostle Paul and his time in the city of Athens:
“Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshippers, and in the marketplace daily with t hose who happened to be there. Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, What does this babbler want to say/ Others said, He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods, because he preached to them. Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean. For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing. Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshipped with. Men’s hands, as though he needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And he has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, For we are also His offspring.Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead. And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, We will hear you again on this matter. So Paul departed from among them. However, some men joined him and believed, among them Disnysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them” (Acts 17:16-34).
I absolutely love the words which are found within this passage of Scripture for while the apostle Paul was walking in the city of Athens waiting for Silas and Timothy his spirit was provoked and grieved within him because the city was wholly given to idolatry. You will recall that the Greeks were not only known for being given to philosophy and the wisdom of men but they were also given to idolatry as they would have a pantheon of false gods whom they worshipped. You cannot examine Greek history and Greek culture and not encounter and come face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding the idolatry they were given unto during the days preceding the rise of the Roman Empire and even during the days of the Roman Empire when Rome would be the dominant city and empire in the midst of the earth. The apostle Paul would indeed journey through the city of Athens and would be grieved and provoked within his spirit because of the tremendous idolatry that was present in the midst of the city. What’s more is that when the apostle Paul began reasoning in the midst of the synagogues among the Jews and certain of the Greek worshippers that were there the word and gospel he was preaching would draw the attention of the Stoics and the philosophers which were present in the midst of the city. Eventually the apostle Paul would be brought into the Areopagus where he would be asked to present his word and gospel unto all those who would hear and listen to him speak. This is something worth considering for as the apostle Paul stood before the Athenians and perhaps other Grecians who were present in the midst of the city he would not only confront the idolatry and worship of false gods which were present there but he would also preach the worship of the one true and living God. Moreover the apostle Paul indeed preach the word and gospel of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ as the witness of the covenant which the living God purposed and determined to preach among men.
I sit here today thinking about the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and I am brought face to face with the tremendous reality that the word and gospel of Jesus Christ directly confronts the sin, the rebellion, the iniquity and transgression that is present within our hearts and minds. You cannot have a discussion about the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and not encounter the absolutely wonderful reality of how it calls men and women to forsake their idols and to abandon their worship of anything and anyone other than the living God. The word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ demands that all men everywhere repent and be baptized unto the remission of sins and call upon the name of the Lord that they be saved. We must needs acknowledge and understand this for it brings us face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and how it reveals and demonstrates the call of God upon our lives to repent, to be baptized in water unto the remission of sins and even to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. What’s more is that when you consider the work and demonstration of the Holy Spirit you will encounter the reality that the works of the Holy Spirit directly confronts the spiritual wickedness, the principalities, the powers of darkness and the rulers of this present age. It was the work and presence and power of the Holy Spirit in the midst of the city of Philippi that would not only cause the unclean spirit to come out of the young damsel but it would also directly confront the commercialization that is found in spiritual wickedness. Oh we would be incredibly naïve to think and consider that there isn’t an entire industry centered upon and surrounding idolatry—and not only idolatry but also around the works of darkness such as witchcraft, fortune telling, astrology, horoscopes and the like.
When I come to the nineteenth and twentieth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts I am directly confronted with the apostle Paul and his journey unto the city of Ephesus in the region of Asia during those days. The apostle Paul initially came unto the city of Ephesus and would encounter disciples who had only been baptized in the baptism of John and had not so much as heard about the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul would begin preaching unto them Jesus of Nazareth and it would be as a direct result of this they would be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. The apostle Paul would then lay his hands on and pray for them and they would receive the promise of the Holy Spirit and would be baptized. This would be the beginning of a great work which would take place in the midst of the city of Ephesus as from the city of Ephesus the word of God would spread throughout and unto all Asia. Because of the strategic influence and location of the city of Ephesus and the large number of visitors that would come unto the city because of the temple of Diana present among them the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ would indeed be preached unto countless thousands of men and women during those days. Oh I can’t help but wonder how many people heard the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ during the three years the apostle Paul preached the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ unto and among them. I can’t help but wonder how many throughout Asia would come unto Ephesus—perhaps to worship the false god Diana—and would encounter the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ instead. What’s more is I can’t help but wonder how many men and women would believe the word which the apostle Paul preached, would believe on Jesus of Nazareth, would repent and be baptized and would even receive the promise of the Holy Spirit. We know that during those three years a church and congregation was established for the epistle written unto the Ephesians was one that was written unto saints which were gathered together as a body of believers there in the midst of the city.
Before turning and directing my attention to the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the first chapter of the epistle written unto the Ephesian saints I find it absolutely necessary to present you with the history of the city of Ephesus as it was written and recorded in the New Testament book of Acts. In order to understand the importance of the word and gospel being preached unto those in Ephesus and the church that was indeed established among them there is a great need to understand the history of what took place there. From those first disciples receiving and being baptized with the Holy Spirit, to the demonstration and manifestation of the Holy Spirit among them in their midst to heal diseases and cause unclean spirits to come out of individuals, to the bringing of countless books of sorcery, dark magic, the dark arts and the like to be burned in the midst of the city, and even to the word of the Lord being preached unto countless men and women and reaching all of Asia there was a great amount of activity that took place in the midst of the city. This isn’t even considering the opposition, the affliction and the persecution the apostle Paul experienced in the midst of the city at the hands of Demetrius and those whom he would incite against the apostle Paul based on the assault of the industry of the worship of Diana which was present among them. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the nineteenth and twentieth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts beginning with the first verse of the nineteenth chapter:
“And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? So they said to him, We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit. And he said to them, Into what then were you baptized? So they said, Into John’s baptism. Then Paul said, John indeed baptized with a. Baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would 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 hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. Now the men were about twelve in all. And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God. But when some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them and withdrew the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. And this continued for two years, so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:1-10).
“Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them. Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcist took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul o preaches. Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you? Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. This became known both to all jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds. Also many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed” (Acts 19:11-20).
“When these things were accomplished, 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. So he sent into Macedonia two of those who ministered to him, Timothy and Erastus, but he himself stayed in Asia for a time. And about that time there arose a great commotion about the Way. For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Diana, brought no small profit to the craftsmen. He called them together with the workers of similar occupation, and aid: Men, you know that we have our prosperity by this trade. Moreover you see and hear that not only at Ephesus, but throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that they are not gods which are made with hands. So not only is this trace of ours in danger of falling into disrepute, but also the temple of the great goddess Dianamay be despised and her magnificence destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worship. Now when they heard this, they were full of wrath and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians! So the whole city was filled with confusion, and rushed into the theater with one accord, having seized Gaius, andAristarchus, Macedonians, Paul’s travel companions.A nd when Paul wanted to go into the people, the disciples would not allow him. Then some of the officials of Asia, who were his friends, sent to him pleading that he would not venture into the theater. Some therefore cried one thing and some another, for the assembly was confused, and most of them did not know why they had come together. And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward.And Alexander motioned with his hand, and wanted to make his defense to the people. But when they found out that he was a Jew, all with one voice cried out for about two hours, Great is Diana of the Ephesians. And when the city clerks had quieted the crowd, he said: Men ofEphesus, what man is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple guardian of the great goddess Diana, and of the image which fell down from Zeus? Therefore, since these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rashly. For you have brought these men here who are neither robbers of temples nor blasphemers of your goddess. Therefore, if Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a case against anyone, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. Let them bring chargers against one another. But if you have any other iniquity to make, it shall be determined in the lawful assembly. For we are in danger of being called in question for today’s uproar, there being no reason which we may give to account for this disorderly gathering. And when he had said these things, he dismissed the assembly” (Acts19:21-41).
“Then we went ahead to the ship and sailed to Assos, there intending to take Paul on board; for so he had given orders, intending himself to go on foot. And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and came to Mitylene. We sailed from there, and the next day came opposite of Chios. The following day we arrived at Samos and stayed at Trogyllium. The next day came to Miletus. For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he would not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hurrying to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost. From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church. And when they had come to him, he said to them: You know, from the first day that I cam to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you, serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews; how I kept back nothing that was helpful but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men.For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which he purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departure saved wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me. I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. Then they all wept freely, and fell on Paul’s neck and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke, that they would see his face no more.And they accompanied him to the ship” (Acts 20:13-38).
It is at this juncture I find it absolutely necessary to return to the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Ephesus. When the apostle Paul called for the elders of the Ephesian congregation to come unto him at Miletus he knew that they would see his face no more. The apostle Paul sought to venture unto Jerusalem if possible to be there at the time of the feast of Pentecost. The apostle Paul was very much aware of the fact that his journey to Jerusalem would indeed result in tremendous affliction, persecution and suffering. The apostle Paul knew and understood that the Spirit bore witness unto and with him that in every city he journeyed bonds, chains and afflictions awaited him. When the time came for the apostle Paul to depart from the elders of the Ephesian congregation in Ephesus they all wept bitterly because of the words which he spoke—and not only because of the words which he spoke but also because they knew they would see his face no more. This is something which must needs be recognized and understood for although they would see his face no more that did not and would not mean they would not hear from him again. In fact the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Ephesians is known as one of the Prison Epistles—epistles which the apostle Paul would write while in prison in the midst of the city of Rome. The epistles written by the apostle Paul unto the Ephesian saints, unto the Philipian saints and unto the Colossian saints were epistles which were written by the apostle Paul while he was in prison—perhaps even in prison in the city of Rome based on the language he used when speaking of the armor of God. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for the apostle Paul spoke unto the elders of the Ephesian church of chains, bonds and afflictions awaiting him in every city he journeyed being witnessed by the Holy Spirit and while writing this epistle he would indeed be in bonds and would be a prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ.
When the apostle Paul began writing the epistle written unto the Ephesian church he would indeed begin the way he began all his epistles—by providing his name and then the call of God which was upon his life. The apostle Paul would open the epistle by providing his name and that he was an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God. The apostle Paul would then address his audience and his readers in the epistles for he would write “to the saints who are in Ephesus, and faith in in Christ Jesus.” Within the first verse we not only learn of the author of this epistle but we also learn of the audience of the epistle as the epistle was clearly written unto the saints which were in Ephesus who were the faithful in Christ Jesus. The apostle Paul would then proclaim grace and peace from God their Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. This is something we must needs recognize for as you continue reading the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the first and opening chapter of this epistle you will find him beginning with the inheritance the saints of God had from God in Christ Jesus before transitioning to his prayer for the saints. I have to admit that the words which I find it the latter portion of the first chapter of this epistle are truly captivating when you think about it for they express in beautiful and wonderful terms the compassion and affection the apostle Paul had for the churches. What’s more is the apostle Paul would not only demonstrate his affection and compassion for the saints and brethren by laboring among them but also by and through prayer(s) for them. There would be those who would think that the greatest demonstration and manifestation of compassion, affection and love for the brethren is through laboring among them. The truth of the matter, however, is that this simply is not the case for more often than not the single greatest thing we can do for another is praying and interceding for them. That which we find in the latter half of this opening chapter is indeed the heart of the apostle Paul for the Ephesian saints as the apostle Paul would indeed give himself to prayer for them. The apostle Paul would indeed give himself to prayer and intercession on behalf of the saints which were in Ephesus knowing that more often than not prayer and intercession is in most cases the single greatest thing we can offer others.
I sit here writing these words and I am confronted with the tremendous urgency and need for prayer and intercession in these last days. What’s more is this prayer and intercession is not only needed for the world around us but is earnestly and eagerly desired and needed for the saints and brethren who are present among us. It was the apostle Peter who would write and speak of the saints and brethren throughout the world who were experience the same suffering and similar afflictions and persecution which we ourselves are experiencing. If there is one thing prayer and intercession demonstrates and reveals it’s that we as the saints of God and the brethren are not alone in this world and are indeed connected. Regardless of how much distance and space there might be between us we must needs recognize and understand that we are indeed interconnected and joined together as saints and brethren in the sight of the living God in the person of Jesus Christ. There is something to be said about saints across the world who are willing to lift up their brethren in prayer and intercession knowing that the same suffering, the same afflictions, the same trials, the same troubles we all face are not uncommon to us. What’s more is that when we pray we do not have a High Priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities but was in every way tempted as we are and yet without sin. This is something we must needs recognize when reading the words which are found in this epistle for the apostle Paul was perfectly clear that his heart’s desire was the edification, the growth, the maturity and the sanctification of the saints which were at Ephesus. The apostle Paul desired that all men everywhere would lift up holy hands in praise, in worship and in prayer before and unto the living God who sits upon the throne. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the New Testament epistle written unto the Hebrews as well as the words which are found in the epistle written by the apostle Peter unto the saints which were scattered and suffering throughout and upon the earth:
“Insomuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:14-18).
“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16).
Now consider if you will the following words which are found in the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were scattered and suffering beginning with the twelfth verse of the fourth chapter:
“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Sprit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now, If the righteous one is scarcely saved, Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear? Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:12-19).
“Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, stablish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:5-11).
We dare not miss and lose sight of the words which are found in these passages of Scripture for within them we encounter the undeniable need that suffering is not an isolated incident nor does it occur in a vacuum. There would be those who think that suffering is exclusive to a particular part of the world or even to a certain group of people and yet the words the apostle Peter writes describes how suffering is universal among the brethren which are present in the midst of the earth. What’s more is that we as the saints of God and brethren have a faithful and merciful High Priest who is one who is indeed and can in fact be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. What’s more is that we have a faithful High Priest who was in all ways tempted as we are and yet was without sin. As such we can come boldly before the throne of grace that we might receive mercy to help and grace in time of need. When we read the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the first chapter of the epistle written unto the Ephesian saints we find him writing of their faith in the Lord Jesus and their love for all the saints. This is something we absolutely must recognize and pay close attention to within our hearts and lives for if there is one thing we have been called to in this life it’s having faith in the Lord Jesus and having a love for all the saints. Please don’t miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding two of the greatest manifestations of the life of Christ and the work of the Spirit within us—a love for all the saints and faith in the Lord Jesus. What’s more is that it is the faith we have in the Lord Jesus that directly fuels and gives strength to the love we have for all the saints. Perhaps one of the greatest questions we must needs ask ourselves is whether or not we as those who call ourselves saints of God and disciples of Jesus do indeed and do in fact have a love for all the saints.
I sit here today thinking about the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and I am brought face to face with the reality of whether or not my life can be described as being one filled with faith in the Lord Jesus and a love for all the saints. If we are being truly honest with ourselves we must acknowledge from Scripture that the single greatest commandment is to love the LORD our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind and with all our strength. The second commandment is likened unto the first for we have been called to love our neighbor as ourselves. When Jesus was preparing to suffer in the flesh, be delivered into the hands of sinners to be crucified and even being raised from death to life that He might return unto His Father which was in heaven He left his disciples with a new commandment—namely to love one another. One of the greatest realities we must needs recognize and understand is that we have indeed and have in fact been called to love God and love others and there is absolutely no way around this. We dare not, we cannot and must not seek to be those who would depart from this truth within our lives for one of the greatest tests and measurements of our walk with the Lord is the faith in the Lord Jesus and the love we ought to have for all the saints. In all reality I am becoming increasingly convinced that in these Last Days there is and there will be a great need for us as those who profess to be the saints of God to have within our hearts and spirits a love for all the saints. We as those who profess to be the saints of God and disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ must needs be those who are entirely and altogether filled with a love for all the saints that we might give ourselves faithfully unto the ministry of and ministry unto the saints.
The more you read the words which are found in the first chapter of the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints at Ephesus the more you will encounter the reality of who we are in Christ. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand in this generation and hour it’s who we are in Christ and who we are as the saints of God. We dare not and must not lose sight of and forget who we are in Christ for knowing who Christ is and knowing our identity in Him sits at the very forefront of who we are and how we live our lives in this life. I am firmly convinced that knowing God and knowing who are in Christ are indeed two of the greatest realities which are present within our lives and can and will sustain us in the coming days. The apostle Paul would write unto the saints which were in Ephesus blessing the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and then goes on to describe everything God has done for us and has given unto us. The apostle Paul would describe how the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. Pause for a moment and consider the tremendous truth surrounding that statement for the language the apostle Paul used is incredibly unique and powerful. The apostle Paul emphatically declared that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has indeed blessed us with EVERY spiritual blessing. What’s more is that not only has the living and eternal God blessed us with every spiritual blessing but those spiritual blessings are secured in the heavenly places in and with Christ. This is something which we need to recognize for although the apostle Paul spoke of every blessing he did not speak of earthly, natural or temporal blessings in this earth. This is something which warrants strong consideration on our parts for we must make the conscious and deliberate decision whether we are going to be those who store up for ourselves earthly and natural treasures upon the earth which can be stolen, destroyed, or even given over to rust and the like. In fact this is precisely what the Lord Jesus Christ spoke of when delivering the Sermon on the Mount and how no man can serve two masters. Consider if you will the following words which are found in both the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew as well as the words which are found in the New Testament gospel narrative written by Luke:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, who they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, What shall we eat? Or What shall we drink? Or What shall we wear? For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your Heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:19-34).
“Then one from the crowd said to Him, Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me. But He said to Him, Man, who made me a judge or an arbitrator over you? And He said to them, Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses. Then he spoke a parable to them, saying, The Ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops? So he said, I w ill do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry. But God said to him, Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided? SO is he who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:13-21).
As I bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary for us be men and women who recognize that which truly matters. The seventy-two whom Jesus appointed and sent out returned unto Him declaring that even the devils were subject unto them in His name and He immediately responded by declaring that He saw Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Jesus also instructed them not to rejoice that the demons are subject to them in His name but their names were written in heaven. This is what is at the very heart of what we read in the first chapter of the epistle written unto the Ephesian saints for it brings us face to face with the source of our blessings—and not only the source of our blessings but also the flowing forth of those blessings. The apostle Paul spoke unto the Ephesian saints concerning spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ and then goes on to describe those blessings—chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, accepted in the beloved, heaven redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, made known to us the mystery of His will, he might gather together in one all things in Christ, we have obtained an inheritance, predestined according to His purpose, sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. It is absolutely necessary we read the words presented in this Scripture and recognize the spiritual blessings we have indeed been blessed with and that we would lay aside and trade the treasures we have in this life and in this world that we might take up the blessings we have been afforded and provided in heaven in Christ Jesus who is our Lord.