|International Bible Studies|
LESSON FOR MAY 3, 1953
Building the Church at Ephesus
GOLDEN TEXT: “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” —I Corinthians 3:11
WHEN Paul first visited Ephesus he found there a few who had learned about Christ and had become his followers. “All the men were about twelve,” the account states. However, this little group was not very well grounded in the truth. They had not heard of the Holy Spirit, and did not have a clear understanding of Christian baptism. Paul explained these points to them, and they were baptized into Christ and gave evidence of receiving the Holy Spirit.
Then, for a period of three months Paul ministered in the synagogue. He discussed with them the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. The fact that he was able to continue teaching the truth in this one synagogue for three months indicates that a goodly proportion of those who attended were favorably disposed to the kingdom message.
But “divers,” or various ones, in the synagogue “were hardened, and believed not.” The Revised Version says they were stubborn. These spoke publicly against Paul and the truth, so he decided it would be best to separate himself from this congregation, which he did. Seemingly the twelve disciples he first met when he went to Ephesus became associated with him in the synagogue. Others believed as a result of his ministry, and when he separated himself from the synagogue, all these left with him.
Then Paul made use of the “school of one Tyrannus.” The presumption is that Tyrannus was a Greek, and a teacher of philosophy. He may have accepted the truth as taught by Paul and offered the apostle the use of his schoolroom as a place of meeting. Or, it is possible that Tyrannus had no special interest in the truth, and that the little group of believers in Ephesus rented his auditorium, finding it a suitable place in which to hold their meetings.
In any event, Paul continued his ministry at this address in Ephesus for another two years. As a result, “all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.” The “Asia” referred to here was a Roman province embracing the western part of the peninsula of Asia Minor. Ephesus was the capital of the province.
That a witness should reach out to all in this province during the two years in which Paul preached in the school of Tyrannus indicates zealous activity on the part of the church at Ephesus. Probably many from various parts of the province attended the school and thus came in contact with the message.
PAUL returned to Asia on his way to Jerusalem. Meanwhile he had spent considerable time in Macedonia and in Greece. He was very desirous of reaching Jerusalem by Pentecost, so did not take time to visit the entire ecclesia in Ephesus, but sent for the elders to meet him at Miletus.
It was a sad meeting, from some standpoints. Paul knew that bonds awaited him at Jerusalem. He had also in mind a proposed visit to Rome, so with the uncertainties of the future he felt reasonably sure that this would be the last time he would see these brethren with whom he had labored in Asia, and that they would see his face no more.
Paul had taught them publicly and from house to house. This house to house ministry was quite different from the present day custom of selling religious books from house to house; although this latter ministry has, in the past, been richly blessed by God. Paul’s reference is to the fact that, in addition to his public ministry, he had visited with these brethren in their homes, and in a personal, heart-to-heart manner had discussed the kingdom truths with them in order that they might be built up more fully in the faith.
Another note of sadness in Paul’s farewell message to the elders of Ephesus was his warning that after his departure grievous wolves would enter in among them “not sparing the flock”; also that from among themselves some would arise, speaking “perverse things to draw away disciples after them.” This has happened in nearly every congregation of the Lord’s people from that day until now.
Our Golden Text lays down the foundation upon which every Christian must build, which is Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “One is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.” (Matt. 23:8) Any influence in the church which tends to draw away disciples and thus to destroy this “all ye are brethren” ideal is wrong, and should be shunned.
How many were in the original church in Ephesus, and what was their spiritual condition when Paul first met them?
How long did Paul minister in the synagogue at Ephesus, and what were the results?
Where did Paul make his headquarters in Ephesus after leaving the synagogue, and how long did he serve there, and with what results?
What two things made Paul’s final meeting with the elders of Ephesus a sad occasion?