Within the Kingdom changes we have been discussing over the last few days there will be an increasing emphasis on the regional apostolic church. Recently in this series of teachings I have looked at the regional centers of Jerusalem and Antioch.
So, let’s turn our attention to the third apostolic regional center found in the city of Ephesus.
But first remind you of where we have been in this discussion…
God is changing the Church.
He is breaking off those things that were not part of His design for the Church that Jesus came to establish.
He is breaking off old traditional mindsets
He is calling us back to His original plan
We live in a day when religion and rituals and “doing what we have always done” is no longer working – if it ever really did work
God wants the Church to rise up with power, so nations and regions can be transformed by the power of the Gospel of the Kingdom.
We have caught a glimpse of how the Early Church operated through apostolic centers in Jerusalem and Antioch, to impact their regions.
The next apostolic center we want to look at was in Ephesus. This is the third apostolic center to be established and we find the story in the book of Acts, chapter nineteen.
Acts 19:1-6 “And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. There were about twelve men in all.”
With a population approaching 500,000 people, Ephesus was the 4th largest city in the world. Located in the Roman Province of Asia Minor, in what is now western Turkey, Ephesus was also a great commercial, trade and business center. The city’s main claim to fame, however, was the Temple of Diana, or Artemis – one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Diana’s massive temple was three times the size of the Parthenon of Athens. People came from all over the Roman Empire just to see it. Ephesus was not only a hub for pagan religion, but it was also known as the center for magic and the occult in the Roman Empire
When we say “magic” we are not talking about slight of hand. We are talking about witches and warlocks, sorcerers and casting spells. Spiritually, Ephesus was a dark place. In the Roman world, books of spells, incantations, and magical formulas were called “Ephesus writings.”. This was the city’s main reputation. In the ancient world, if you wanted a spell cast on someone, or if you wanted to be delivered from evil spirits, you would go to Ephesus, in hope that its magicians would have the power to help you
Ephesus would have been an intimidating place for someone planting the seeds of the Gospel of the Kingdom – even someone like Paul, the apostle
It was a huge city
It was a proud and prosperous city
And it was overrun with the occult and pagan religions
Yet, in the dark city of Ephesus, God chose to establish a light that would influence and impact the whole region – the whole trading area
In fact, Ephesus became one of the most important apostolic centers in the Early Church
The growth of the Church in Ephesus was explosive
In Acts 19 Paul and his team come to Ephesus, ministered by the side of the river, saw their first converts from among the disciples of John the Baptist, and the Church began. Paul remained in the city of Ephesus for two years teaching the converts. During that two year period, the entire city of Ephesus was evangelized. Close to half a million people received the Gospel of the Kingdom and many became believers. Not only was that amazing and supernatural – but “all of the cities and the surrounding province” were reached with the message of this new life. Revelation, chapters 1 to 3 lists the seven churches in the province of Asia Minor. Those churches are most likely planted by apostolic teams from Ephesus, during this two year period. The Ephesian Church grew so rapidly during this time that the economy of the city was disrupted
One of the major industries in Ephesus was the manufacturing and selling of images of the goddess Diana. By the end of Paul’s two years of ministry in the city, so many people were turning to Jesus that the industry of making and selling of idols was in major trouble. The idol makers and sellers literally rioted in the streets to protest their loss of business.
By the time Paul set Timothy (another apostle and disciple of Paul) in place as the church’s apostolic leader around AD 62, the Ephesian Church may have had as many as 100,000 members. This might be why Timothy felt intimidated when he was first given the opportunity to oversee this work. Some historians estimate that at its height, half the population of the city was saved and in the Church. About 50 years after Paul’s visit to Ephesus, the Roman writer Pliny wrote a letter to Emperor Trajan complaining about the situation in the Ephesus region. He wrote, “Temples to heathen gods are almost totally forsaken and Christians are everywhere in multitude.”
The church was having a major impact…