Second Sunday after Trinity – June 21, 2020
Reading: Acts 19:1-10 – Lynne
““While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2 and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied. Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. 7 There were about twelve men in all.
8 Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. 9 But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. 10 This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.”
SLIDE 3-title slide
- Today, really excited to be able to teach right from a text….for last 3 months, some important subjects we’ve needed to address to lay a solid foundation for the church. Today, though, we will begin to look at the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians inductively.
- Why study this ancient letter? Of all the writings in the bible, this is probably more concentrated with theological truth combined with doxological fervor than any other text. You’ve got this high truth content expressed in the language of worship to an extraordinary degree…. “Queen of the Epistles”
- Here’s was I can safely promise you: if we can get the truths to penetrate and saturate our thoughts, feelings and loves, the process will utterly transform us into the people we want to be and God intended us to be.
- We’re going to slowly make our way through the letter. Each week, we’ll pay attention to the most important truths being taught, especially ones that influence how we see God, understand ourselves as new creations in Christ, and how we live out the Christian life. We will study the letter at the speed of our ability to comprehend and apply it. Each week, get as far as we can, leave off and pick up the next.
- We will take breaks as special days come up—liturgical seasons, special occasions like world events that require some commentary. The important thing is not the speed at which we get through the letter but the thoroughness with which it gets in and through us.
- Today, I want to give a little background to understand the letter’s cultural and historical context. Then we will begin our in depth study starting with verse 1 of Chapter 1. Sound good?
- Let’s pray… all of you take a minute to ask the Lord to open your spiritual eyes…
- Who were these Ephesians and why were they important? SLIDE 4
- Ephesus was the major port city of Asia and the trading and commercial capital of the richest region of the Roman Empire. Here you see it on a map… Here is how the city was laid out… SLIDE 5
- Here are some photos of the ruins of the city that give an idea of its size and grandeur:
- Looking down on the city center SLIDE 6
- The façade to the Library of Celsus SLIDE 7
- One of the colonnaded streets SLIDE 8
- The ampitheatre… could hold 25k people SLIDE 9
- Like New York City, Paris or London today, Ephesus was one of the great cities of the ancient world, behind only Rome and Alexandria in size and importance. It had a population of between 200,000-250,000.
- The city was cosmopolitan and multi-ethnic with native Anatolians, Greeks, Egyptians and Romans. Large Jewish population, with 10-20,000 Jews meeting in multiple synagogues.
- Religiously, the city was pluralistic like all Greco Roman cities. About 50 gods worshipped there including Aphrodite, Athena, Demeter, Zeus and Apollo. SLIDE 10
- But the greatest by far was Diana or Artemis, who was their patron deity. This was her temple. She was regarded as guardian and protector of the city. The temple 425 x 220 feet with 60 ft. tall columns. Regarded as one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world. Twice each week, a huge procession honoring her would snake down from the temple, through the city center back up to the temple. One month of year named for her and an Olympic style athletic event held yearly in her honor. SLIDE 11
- This is an image of her. Artemis was called “Savior”, “Lord” and “Queen of Heaven”: believed she wielded authority over heaven, earth and the underworld. Close up of her necklace: signs of the Zodiac SLIDE 12
- Astral cult was widespread in ancient world. Magic, sorcery and folk belief were endemic in Ephesus. Acts 19 – bonfire, 50,000 day’s wages (137 yrs). Typical Gentile convert in Ephesus would have used amulets, invocations, incantations, rituals, curses, spells, charms and other magic to try to manipulate the gods and thereby navigate the different spiritual forces at work in their world.
- Okay, that gives you a feel for the character of the city and the people making up the church there. Let’s now look at the letter itself. SLIDE 13
- This is actually one of the early copies of the first page of the letter written on papyrus. This particular one is referred to as P46.
The Big Picture
- The letter to the Ephesians was written to educate and encourage the believers in Ephesus and the surrounding towns and cities. These early Christian letters would be written to one place and widely circulated among other churches throughout the empire to build up believers, most of whom couldn’t read. So, they would be read aloud in their church gatherings and became an important means of edifying the Christian churches.
- Unlike many of the other letters Paul wrote (e.g., Galatians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Corinthians) there appear to be no major problems in the city of Ephesus that occasioned the letter. The closest thing to it might be some tension between the Jewish and Gentile groups that made up the churches in the city.
- Putting the letter in its historical context. SLIDE 14 Most scholars date the letter to around AD 60-62 during Paul’s imprisonment in Rome… Here you see Paul’s conversion in 34, his third missionary tour… Ephesus for 3 yrs…. then his writing of the prison epistles.
- The letter to the Ephesians was written at same time as two other letters: Colossians (church to Colossae 100 mile from Ephesus inland) and Philemon (a church leader in Colossae), all delivered by an associate of Paul by the name of Tychicus (Too-he-kas).
- SLIDE 15 The structure of the letter is straight forward. Similar to other letters Paul wrote: chapters 1-3 – a description of who they are in Christ as a result of God’s work; chapters 4-6 – a prescription of what they are to now do because they are who they are; old adage in biblical interpretation: the indicative is antecedent to the imperative. Here is one way to label the two sections: Theological, Practical; SLIDE 16 Here’s another by the Bible Project: the Gospel Story, Our Story. BTW, you should check out the Bible Project overview of book of Ephesians online.
- Okay, so that’s the big picture. Let’s begin the exposition or explanation of the text. We’re just going to look at v.1 today. SLIDE 17
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.
To the holy ones in Ephesus, the trusting ones in Christ Jesus.”
Exposition of v.1
- In our day, when write letter or email, begin with a greeting (Hello or Hey or Dear), then the recipients name (Bob or Congressman LaMalfa), then the contents, at the end, the authors name: (yours truly or sincerely or love, Tom).
- In the first century letters would begin with the sender’s name (Paul), then state the recipient (the holy ones in Ephesus), then a greeting; in Grk. chorein, “greetings”.
- Paul follows this format in most all of his letters except that he does a word-play on the greeting. Instead of chorein, “greetings”, he usually writes charis, meaning “grace”, which is kind of a summary word that encapsulates the whole gospel.
- So, Paul begins his letter: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God”
- SLIDE 18 What is an apostle?
- In Grk.the word apostolos, lit. means “one sent out” or “sent forth”, referring to a person who is given full authority to represent another: we might call him an envoy, emissary, ambassador. Being an apostle for someone involves two key ideas: 1) You have a message from the one who sent you, and 2) You have complete authority to represent the one sending you.
- In NT, you have the Twelve Apostles, selected by Jesus during the time of his earthly ministry (found in Luke 6): includes guys like Peter, James, John and Andrew.
- And you also have other apostles named in the NT: Barnabas (Acts 14, 1 Cor 9), James the Lord’s brother (1 Cor 15, Gal 1); probably also guys like Apollos, Andronicus, Titus and Silvanus. Even a person named Junias, whom some scholars believe to have been a woman.
- What all of these have in common is an apostolic gifting to lead ministries that are trans-local in nature; IOW, not confined to a specific geographical location. In early church, you had elders/overseers/pastors and deacons who would exercise leadership in local churches; then you had others like prophets, apostles and evangelists (Eph 4.11) who had a broader ministry, and they would travel from church to church throughout the Mediterranean world engaging in ministry.
- A question that gets asked a lot is: are there apostles today? Well, yes, there is no indication in the bible that Jesus withdrew the gift of apostleship to the church. It’s mentioned in Eph 4.11 as one of five gifts Jesus gave to his Church.
- So today, we evidence of the apostolic gift church planters who plant multiple churches; leaders of large Christian movements (Bill Bright, Campus Crusade; AB Simpson, C&MA; Jim Dobson, Focus on the Family). So, yes, it is an important gift today. These people would be the last to say they were apostles.
- Which brings up an important point: I think you should be very, very careful of anyone who refers to him/herself as an apostle. Just my experience that people who do so…Some people like to this title…NAR….etc.
- For that matter, we should also beware of those who insist on being called Pastor or Doctor.
- So Paul begins with the fact that he is an official representative. And whom does he represent? He tells us: “Christ Jesus”. SLIDE 19
- “Christ” is from the Grk. Christos, translating the Heb. mashiyach, “messiah” meaning “anointed one”. In ancient Israel, the priests and kings would be anointed with oil, representing their having been chosen by God and empowered by Him to accomplish their callings. Often, their anointing would portend a visitation of the Holy Spirit.
- For example, in 1 Sam 10:1, the prophet Samuel anointed Saul as king over Israel by pouring oil on his head. A few verses later, the Holy Spirit comes on Saul, and he begins to prophesy. And in 1 Sam 12:3, Samuel refers to Saul as “messiah”, “God’s anointed”.
- So you see, Christ is not Jesus’ last name; it is a title referring to the fact that he has been anointed, officially recognized and empowered by God, to do God’s calling.
- When did Jesus become the “Christ”, “Messiah” or Anointed One? At his baptism, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on Him (HS came like a dove, Lk 3:22). In Luke 4:18, Jesus read from the scroll of Isa, “The Spirit of God is upon me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor, liberty….captives, recovery of sight…. blind…set free all the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
- BTW, who else is spoken of as having been anointed in the NT? We are! Have a look at 1 John 2:20 and 27 SLIDE 20
1 John 2:20, 27
“But you have an anointing (chrisma) from the Holy One… the anointing you received from Him resides in you… His anointing teaches you about everything.”
- We are now “anointed ones”, “messiahs”: set apart and empowered to walk in the steps and do the will of The Messiah, our Lord Jesus, The Anointed One.
- SLIDE 21 Jesus comes from Ieosus is Grk for Heb Yeshua, a variant of Yehoshua, Joshua, “Yahweh saves” or “Yahweh is my salvation”. It’s the name Joseph was told to give the child of Mary by the angel in Matt 1:21 “you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
- Paul, then is a representative of this one who is Yahweh in the flesh, the God who saves. Finally, Paul makes it clear that his apostleship is not something that he achieved by his own ingenuity or ambition or decision. Rather, it came…. SLIDE 22
by the will of God
- IOW, Paul here claims it was God’s will that was the efficient means by which he was made an apostle, a point he makes in others of his letters.
- He is saying in effect: I was hand picked by God according to God’s pleasure and will, and given the power and gifts needed to fulfill my apostolic ministry.
- That’s as far as we’re going to go today. As we wrap up, I want to end on this note: As Christ-followers, we have been anointed with the same Spirit as Jesus to continue doing on earth what He began. He has called us, empowered us, giving us everything we need to live life in the kingdom and help others to do the same.
- Let’s pray