Paul in Ephesus: (Acts 18:23-28; 19:1-41) Paul’s third missionary journey took him to Ephesus. Paul first went to Caesarea and greeted the members of the Church there. From there he came to Antioch and to Galatia and Phrygia. Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos came to Ephesus to preach the gospel message. But he did not preach it well and so Aquila and Priscilla educated him on the gospel message and soon became eloquent in it. He (Apollos) left Ephesus for Achaia and was well received by the Christians there.
Soon afterwards, Paul came to Ephesus for the second time as he had promised during his first visit (2nd Missionary journey). Paul’s second visit to Ephesus marked the beginning of his third missionary journey. Paul stayed for two years in Ephesus and succeeded in converting some of the Ephesians. He met twelve converts who had never heard of baptism with the Holy Spirit. Paul laid his hands on them and they received the gift of the Holy Spirit. The twelve converts spoke in tongues.
Paul taught a large number of people, both Jews and Greeks, about Jesus Christ. He also performed miracles of healing with the help of the Holy Spirit. Paul was so successful in his missionary work that even those who had believed in magic were converted to followers of Jesus. These converts brought their books on magic out into the streets and burned them in public.
In Ephesus, there was a great temple to the Greek goddess Artemis, the same as the Roman goddess, Diana. She was the goddess of fertility, and barren women prayed and offered sacrifices to her so that they might bear children. The image of the goddess Artemis had several breasts which symbolized: Fertility. This image was believed to have fallen down from the skies and was kept in the temple at Ephesus. Every year, several worshippers of Artemis travelled far and wide to worship at the temple of Artemis in Ephesus. The pilgrims bought little silver images of Artemis to take home to their families.
The silversmiths who made images of Artemis realized a lot of money each year. But now, they feared that the teachings of Paul might affect their trade. Demetrius, one of the silversmiths, organized the other silversmiths against Paul for destroying their profession and the worship of Artemis. He addressed them saying:
‘Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. And you see and hear that not only at Ephesus but also throughout Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a considerable company of people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. And there is danger not only that our trade may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may count for nothing’.
The crowd was enraged by what Demetrius said and they cried out in the street:
Great is Artemis of the Ephesians’.
They continued shouting for about two hours. And, the whole city was in uproar.
In the confusion, the crowd rushed into the theatre dragging along with them two of Paul’s companion, Gaius and Aristarchus. Paul wanted to go and speak to the people but the Asiarchs, who feared for his life, prevented him. Alexander, a Jew, tried to defend Paul, but the crowd did not allow him to do so.
After two hours, the town clerk came to the scene of the riot. He told the crowd that they were breaking the law by their action. If the Romans heard of this disturbance they might punish the city. If the silversmiths had any case against Paul and his group they should take it to the court. With these words of warning and advice, the people dispersed quietly to their homes.
Sometime later Paul delivered his farewell address to the elders of the Ephesian church.
Significance of Paul’s stay in Ephesus: The silversmiths opposed Christianity for economic reasons. The worshippers of Artemis opposed Christianity for cultural reasons. The opposition shows how economic and cultural factors hinder the spread of Christianity. Therefore, missionaries and evangelists must take these factors into consideration in their attempt to spread Christianity.
The conversion of the magicians and the burning of their magical books demonstrate clearly that magic or any other works of darkness cannot save people. Only Jesus can save.
Paul’s farewell address to the Ephesians at Miletus: (20:1-21:6): After the disturbances at Ephesus came to an end, Paul departed for Macedonia and then to Greece where he spent three months. The Jews plotted to kill him and he left for Philippi, and then to Troas.
Paul delivered a speech at Troas which lasted till midnight. Eutychus, a young boy by the window, fell asleep during the speech and eventually rolled over and fell to the ground, and died. Paul prayed over him and he arose from the dead. Paul then left for Miletus. And from here he invited the elders of the Ephesian church and delivered to them his farewell address.
Paul began his address by reminding the elders of the Ephesian church of his service to the Lord among them in all humility. In spite of threats to his life, he had preached the gospel message especially the need for repentance and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul spoke of his impending visit to Jerusalem. He said the Holy Spirit had warned him that he would face suffering and hardship in Jerusalem. But he was ready to go to Jerusalem as his task was to preach the gospel. He said they would not see him again. Paul then advised the elders that since the Holy Spirit had made them guardians of the Church, they should take good care of the members of the Church. He said that after his departure, enemies of the Church would rise up among them to divide and destroy the Church. Therefore, they should be on the alert.
Paul now commended the elders of the Ephesian church to the grace of God. He reminded them of the fact that during his entire stay, he did not depend on them for his living. Rather he worked hard to earn his living, and he used his money to help the weak among them. He advised them also to work hard to support the weak among them for the Lord Jesus Christ himself said:
“It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
After Paul had finished his farewell address, he prayed with the elders of the Ephesian church. They all embraced him and kissed him. They were all sorrowful because he said they would not see his face again. Then they brought Paul to the ship which he took to Cos. From Cos they came to Rhodes, and then Cyprus, and finally to Tyre. He stayed in Tyre with members of the Church there for seven days. Through the Spirit, they told Paul not to go to Jerusalem. After this they bade farewell to Paul who boarded the ship to continue his journey to Jerusalem.
Religious Guidance and Counselling
God wants you to spread the Gospel in spite of obstacles
In our country, the spread of the Gospel is hindered by magic, juju or bad medicine, superstition and persecution. But God wants us to continue to help spread the Gospel in spite of all the obstacles. This we can do when we call upon Jesus to give us the spiritual courage to do so.
Therefore, God wants all of you to pray to Him through Jesus to give you the spiritual courage to spread the gospel in spite of all obstacles.
God wants you to settle disputes peacefully
Some of us are still in the habit of settling quarrels and disputes in a violent manner by fighting or shouting. This is because we have not got the spiritual wisdom to settle disputes peacefully. Jesus is ready to give us that spiritual wisdom to settle disputes peacefully.
God wants all of you to pray to Him through Jesus to give us that spiritual wisdom to settle disputes in a friendly and peaceful manner so that there will be peaceful co-existence and unity amongst you in your church, school, home, community, State or Nation, like the Jerusalem Council did.
God wants you to respond faithfully to the call to serve Him
Some of us find it difficult to respond faithfully to God’s call to help the needy in order that we can offer salvation to others. Whatever our problems are, Jesus is there to help us solve them so that we can respond faithfully to God’s call to serve Him as he (Jesus) did.
Therefore, you should all pray to God through Jesus to remove all the obstacles so that you can respond faithfully to God’s call to serve Him.
God wants you to be fair in your judgement
When you grow up some of you will become magistrates and judges. Many cases will be brought before you. When the time comes, you should pray to Jesus to give you wisdom and understanding to be fair by interpreting the law correctly. In this way you shall not be tempted to take bribe to corrupt justice by being partial in your judgement. You shall be fair in your judgment, like Gallio was.
God wants you to be tolerant towards other religions
Some of us are intolerant of the religion of others. We condemn the believers of such religion and say bad things about them. This does not bring about good neighbourliness, and peaceful co-existence. The main cause of religious intolerance is ignorance of the beliefs and practices of other religions. Once we have knowledge of them, the understanding comes. And once the understanding is there, there is tolerance, respect and peaceful co-existence.
God wants all of you, to have knowledge of the beliefs and practices of other religions so that you can understand them; have tolerance and respect for their religion and live peacefully with them.
God wants you to always repent and have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ
As you grow up as Christians, there are two things God wants you to always keep in mind.
The first is the need for repentance. No one is perfect. You offend God and your friends everyday. And the good relationship with God and your friends is broken. Only repentance and forgiveness of sins can restore the good relationship that has been broken.
The second is the need to have faith in Jesus because he is our Personal Lord and Saviour. With faith in him, he will help you face all the challenges and difficulties in life and to overcome them all.
Therefore, God wants all of you to repent at all times and have abiding faith in him (Jesus).
God wants you to work for the progress of Christianity
There are some economic and cultural factors that affect the progress of Christianity in our society. God wants all of you to pray to Him though Jesus to help you identify these negative factors and eliminate them so that Christianity can grow from strength to strength.
Religious and Moral Lessons
- The apostles began their missionary journey under the guidance and protection of the Holy Spirit. You must learn to seek the guidance and protection of the Holy Spirit in all that you do in life, like the apostles did.
- Paul defeated Elymas with the Holy Spirit’s help to show that the power of God is greater than that of magicians and fortune-tellers. You must learn to put your trust in God, and not in the power of magic or juju or bad medicine.
- Peaceful settlements of disputes lead to peace and unity in the Church, home, school, and community. You must learn to pray to God through Jesus to give you wisdom and understanding to settle disputes peacefully so that you can achieve peace and unity in the Church, home, school and community.
- Paul showed his readiness to serve God by responding positively to the call to take salvation to the Macedonians, in spite of the dangers and hardships involved. You must learn to show your readiness to serve God by responding positively to His call to take salvation to others, like Paul did, in spite of the dangers and hardships involved.
- Lydia supported the missionary work of the apostles by offering her home to Paul and Silas to use as their base in Philippi. You must learn to pray to support the work of missionaries and evangelists when they come to your area or community to preach the gospel. We should help them find accommodation and arrange chairs for their crusades, like Lydia did.
- Gallio was fair in interpreting the law. You must learn to pray to God through Jesus to give you wisdom and understanding to be fair in interpreting the law when you grow up to be a magistrate or judge.
- Some educated people, like the Athenians, find it difficult to believe in the resurrection because they have no faith. But other educated Athenians who had faith believed in the resurrection. You must learn to proclaim the truth of the resurrection to others, like Paul did, because nothing is too difficult for God to do.
- Paul used his money to support the weak in the Ephesian school. As you grow up, you must learn to use your money to support the weak in the church and in your community.
- The town clerk of Ephesus taught that demonstrations and riots are not the best way to settle disputes with the authorities. Law courts are meant for the settlement of disputes and grievances. You must learn to condemn demonstrations and riots, and settle disputes with the authorities in a peaceful manner in the courts, like the Ephesian town clerk advised.