Jeremy Sarber, Reformed Baptist pastor

 

Ephesians, Sermon Transcripts

The Jewish Roots of the Church at Ephesus

After this, Paul stayed many days longer and then took leave of the brothers and set sail for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he had cut his hair, for he was under a vow. And they came to Ephesus, and he left them there, but he himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. When they asked him to stay for a longer period, he declined. But on taking leave of them he said, “I will return to you if God wills,” and he set sail from Ephesus.

When he had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church, and then went down to Antioch. After spending some time there, he departed and went from one place to the next through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.

Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.

And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

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. (Acts 18:18-19:7)

When you think about the problems that faced the early church, what first comes to mind?

Some of you would probably say persecution. But Scripture never presents persecution as a real problem. To the contrary, Paul said, “I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2Co 12:10). Similarly, Peter said, “If when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1Pe 2:20-21).

So what else? What did the authors of the Bible classify as a legitimate spiritual problem for the early church?

One possible answer is false doctrine. Paul could not have been more direct when he told the Galatian churches, “If we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Gal 1:8). Let that person be anathema. Let him be set aside for the purpose of destruction. That’s a serious warning.

Now when we follow Paul’s arguments in his letter to the Galatians, we see that he eventually traced the rise of what he called a “different gospel” to Jews within the church (Gal 1:6). After reaffirming his authority as an apostle in chapters 1 and 2, he told the story of Peter who was “eating with the Gentiles” (Gal 2:12). But when some of his Jewish brothers showed up with James, he “drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.” Soon enough, the entire church at Antioch was divided. The Jewish believers had completely separated themselves from the Gentile believers.

Paul was upset. He “opposed [Peter] to his face” in front of everyone (Gal 2:11). And he said to Peter, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (Gal 2:14). His point was that the customs and traditions that make someone distinctly Jewish no longer existed in the Christian church. Peter knew it, but he had succumbed to peer pressure and began treating the Gentiles like second-class citizens of the church.

This conflict between Jews and Gentiles remained prevalent in the church for years. It was so difficult for Jewish believers to accept the inclusion of Gentiles that some even endorsed false doctrines which required the Gentiles to keep certain aspects of the Old Covenant law (circumcision, in particular). That is why Paul referred to Peter’s Jewish friends in Galatians as the “circumcision party.”

Now in the worst cases, the Jews taught that a person can be justified before God only if he keeps certain points of the law such as circumcision. That is why Paul went on to say in Galatians 2, “We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ” (Gal 2:15-16).

The moment of justification comes when God turns a sinner’s heart to the Savior, and that sinner completely trusts in Christ for his or her salvation, knowing that we cannot save ourselves. We cannot do enough good or follow enough commandments to procure our salvation. Paul said, “I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose” (Gal 2:20-21).

Someone who is teaching salvation by works is to be accursed. Let him be anathema. To the Romans, Paul warned, “Watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ” (Ro 16:17-18).

The Diversity of Redemption

Of course, not every Jewish person in the early church promoted false doctrine. But many of them still caused problems and divisions. To them, it was important for people to not only embrace a biblical creed or affirm Old Testament theology, but also accept traditional interpretations of Scripture. Keep in mind that since the days of Abraham, God’s Old Covenant people had learned to follow legal prescriptions that kept them completely separated from the Gentile world. They were taught to think differently and act differently.

Needless to say, it was a real challenge for the Jews to fully embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Christian liberty that comes with it. Christ tore down the wall that once stood between Jews and Gentiles. By the way, that’s a major theme in The Book of Ephesians. In chapter 2, Paul told the Gentiles:

Remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. (Ephesians 2:11-16)

That is what Paul later referred to as “the mystery of Christ” (Eph 3:4). For many, many generations, no one fully understood God’s plan of redemption. In particular, no one realized that he had chosen even Gentile sinners “before the foundation of the world” to be “holy and blameless before him” (Eph 1:4). All the way back in Genesis 12, God told Abraham, “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Ge 12:3). No one realized that what God meant was that he would save people from “every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev 5:9).

Well, throughout The Book of Acts, Jewish believers were in the process of learning this fact and coming to terms with it. And it wasn’t easy for them. Even the apostles struggled to let go of old customs and patterns during this transitional period. In Acts 2, the church was still meeting in the temple. In Acts 3, Peter and John were still praying at specifically designated times of day. In Acts 10, Peter refused to abandon the dietary restrictions of the Old Testament. In Acts 18, we read that Paul was still taking Nazarite vows.

Obviously, God was very patient throughout this transition. If you want proof of that, read Romans chapter 14. Paul told the church to be patient with one another because not everyone had yet embraced Christian liberty as they should. Now God and the apostles were not tolerant of so-called different gospels. And, of course, Paul quickly got upset when he saw Jews snubbing Gentiles in the church. But overall, God was very patient with his people as they transitioned from the Old Covenant to the New.

These passages in Acts 18 and 19 are part of that transition. There are three examples here of Jewish believers (or soon-to-be believers) somewhere in that transition. First, we have Paul. Second, we have Apollos. Third, we have twelve disciples of John the Baptist. While there are no Gentiles in view here, I want you to notice that the city of Ephesus is the backdrop of all three. So as we continue learning about the Church at Ephesus, these stories are a relevant part of their history.

Paul Makes a Brief Stop In Ephesus

Let’s take a look beginning with Paul in verse 18:

After this, Paul stayed many days longer and then took leave of the brothers and set sail for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he had cut his hair, for he was under a vow. And they came to Ephesus, and he left them there, but he himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. When they asked him to stay for a longer period, he declined. But on taking leave of them he said, “I will return to you if God wills,” and he set sail from Ephesus.

When he had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church, and then went down to Antioch. After spending some time there, he departed and went from one place to the next through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples. (Acts 18:18-23)

Prior to this moment, Paul had been in the city of Corinth. That is where he met Aquila and his wife, Priscilla. According to verse 3 of this chapter, they were tentmakers so they shared that in common with one another. Well, after a year and a half teaching and forming a church, Paul found himself in the midst of controversy, which was not unusual for him. But the rulers in that place believed the matter was little more than internal conflict among the Jews, so he ignored it and let Paul go.

Picking up the story at verse 18, Paul had a desire to return to Palestine. Specifically, the text says that they “set sail for Syria,” which was just north of Israel. I assume he was heading back to the Church at Antioch where this mission trip began. And for reasons that will become obvious to us, he took Aquila and Priscilla with him.

Now they didn’t get any further than Cenchreae, which was a port on the eastern side of Corinth, when Paul came to the end of a Nazarite vow and cut his hair. Before I talk about why, let’s make sure we understand what this vow was.

The Nazarite vow was originally given by God to the people of Israel through Moses. In Numbers chapter 6, God gave these instructions:

“When either a man or a woman makes a special vow, the vow of a Nazirite, to separate himself to the Lord, he shall separate himself from wine and strong drink. He shall drink no vinegar made from wine or strong drink and shall not drink any juice of grapes or eat grapes, fresh or dried. All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is produced by the grapevine, not even the seeds or the skins.

“All the days of his vow of separation, no razor shall touch his head. Until the time is completed for which he separates himself to the Lord, he shall be holy. He shall let the locks of hair of his head grow long.

“All the days that he separates himself to the Lord he shall not go near a dead body. Not even for his father or for his mother, for brother or sister, if they die, shall he make himself unclean, because his separation to God is on his head. All the days of his separation he is holy to the Lord.” (Numbers 6:2-8)

The rules for a Nazarite vow continue, but I’ll stop right there.

The purpose of this vow was to dedicate oneself to the Lord above and beyond what was typically required. It was a special act of devotion to God. I guess we could compare it to Lent where Christians will fast and give up certain comforts for forty days prior to Easter. The Nazarite vow required certain sacrifices and usually lasted for about a month. The only exceptions that I know of were Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist who all took the vow for life.

Now according to Numbers 6, this vow would conclude with an elaborate ceremony in the tabernacle or temple where the person who made the vow would offer burnt offerings and finally cut his hair, throwing his hair into the fire. And according to Josephus, a 1st-century Jewish historian, that person had thirty days to bring his hair to the temple if he wasn’t already in Jerusalem.

The question is, why did Paul make an Old Covenant vow while ministering to the Gentiles? He certainly knew it wasn’t necessary. He once claimed to be “blameless” “under the law,” saying, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Php 3:6, 8). In other words, he was willing to trade his reputation among the legalistic Jews to follow Christ. So why make a Nazarite vow?

First of all, we should understand that Paul never lost his love and respect for God’s law. In Romans 7, he wrote, “The law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good” (Ro 7:12).

Second, he was in the middle of the same transition as everyone else. I get the impression that he was deeply thankful for what God was doing through his ministry in Corinth. And after a lifetime of Judaism, his natural response was to make this special vow. It wasn’t necessary, but that’s not to say it was wrong. “Whatever you do,” Paul told the Corinthians, “do all to the glory of God” (1Co 10:31). He also added, “Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God” (1Co 10:32). In this case, Paul must have felt that a Nazarite vow would not offend anyone.

Well, the end of the vow had come, so Paul cut his hair. The clock was now ticking. If Josephus was right—and I have no reason to believe he wasn’t—Paul now had thirty days to get his hair to Jerusalem. He planned to go to Antioch, which he eventually did, but he would need to make a quick stop in Jerusalem first.

So Paul and his gang set sail from Corinth, stopping briefly in Ephesus where Paul went straight to the local synagogue. While he didn’t have a lot of time to spare, he had been anxious to preach the gospel in Ephesus for quite awhile. He tried once before, but Acts 16 tells us that the Spirit prevented him from going to Asia Minor. It wasn’t the right time. Apparently, now it was. And here we see the very beginning of the Church at Ephesus.

Paul “reasoned with the Jews” in the synagogue. That was his customary starting place when he entered a new city. He went straight to the Jews because they were already gathered to hear the Word of God and they already believed in the very Scriptures from which he would preach Christ. It was an obvious place for him to start even though his primary mission was to minister among the Gentiles.

It went well. Surprisingly, there is no mention here of any conflict at all. In fact, the Jews wanted him to stay longer. And I think he would have if it weren’t for the vow he made. But for the time being, he needed to get to Jerusalem.

His trip to Jerusalem isn’t obvious in the text, but there are subtle clues. You’ll notice in verse 22 that he “went up and greeted the church, and went down to Antioch.” First of all, if Paul was going straight to Antioch from Ephesus, he went well out of his way by sailing to Caesarea. Just look at the map in the back of your Bible if you have one.

Second, he clearly didn’t go up to Antioch from Caesarea because the text says he went up before going down to Antioch. What is the one city in the Bible that no matter where people traveled from they are always described as going up? The answer is Jerusalem. Jerusalem was at a higher elevation. So even if someone came from the north, they went up. And when they left Jerusalem, of course, they went down.

So Paul went to the temple in Jerusalem to finish his vow. Then, he traveled to Antioch where his mission trip began. He traveled 1,500 miles here with barely a mention. And now it was time to start all over again. He had already planted several churches in the region of Galatia, and he decided to revisit them before returning to Ephesus.

Apollos Is Fully Converted In Ephesus

Meanwhile, verse 24 takes us back to the city of Ephesus so we can see what was happening while Paul was away.

Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.

And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus. (Acts 18:24-28)

In Alexandria, Egypt, there was a relatively large Jewish settlement. So even though Apollos was not from Israel or any place we typically associate with Judaism, he did grow up in a distinctly Jewish culture. Luke says, “He had been instructed in the way of the Lord.” What brought him to Ephesus is anyone’s guess. I don’t know.

Apollos was an “eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures.” He knew the Word of God and was able to articulate it very well. To say he was competent—well, that word is from the Greek, dynatos. It’s the same word from which get “dynamite.” In other words, Apollos was explosive when he debated Scripture. He was also “fervent in spirit.” He was extremely enthusiastic.

There was just one problem, which is not an easy problem to define. Yes, he knew “the way of the Lord,” but that doesn’t mean he knew the gospel, not fully. Under the Old Covenant, God often told his people to “keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice” (Ge 18:19). Psalm 25 says, “Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way” (Ps 25:8).

Luke tells us that Apollos “taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John.” Clearly, his understanding was lacking because Aquila and Priscilla had to “[explain] to him the way of God more accurately.” As right as he was about Jesus, his knowledge still had some gaps to be filled. But what were they? What did he understand and what was he still ignorant about?

I believe the ministry of John the Baptist is key here. Let me remind you again that The Book of Acts chronicles a unique time in history. This book describes a transitional period from the Old Testament to the New Testament which, in some respects, began with John the Baptist.

By the way, when Luke referred to “the baptism of John,” he was talking about the totality of John’s ministry, not just his water baptisms. Plus, John’s ministry continued even after his death. There were still disciples of John the Baptist preaching the same message as late as the 2nd century. Apparently, Apollos was one of them. Maybe that’s why he was in Ephesus. Perhaps he was there to preach John’s message.

What was John’s message? Boiling it down to its simplest form, John preached the imminency of the Messiah’s arrival. He declared, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt 3:2). He essentially took the same message that was delivered by Old Testament prophets long before and preached it with a sense of urgency. “You’ve been waiting for the Messiah. Well, I’m here to tell you that he’s coming soon. Get ready. Be baptized in the spirit of repentance.”

Unfortunately, not everyone who was exposed to John’s ministry was around long enough to realize that the Messiah had come. In fact, John baptized the Messiah. John saw Jesus walking toward him and shouted, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn 1:29). You see, by that time, many of John’s disciples were gone. They returned home. Many of them lived outside of Israel, so they were completely ignorant of what was happening in Israel over the next three years. They knew the Messiah’s arrival was imminent, but they missed it.

So the disciples of John were only inches to closer to knowing the fullness of the gospel than the Old Testament saints who came before them. Theologically, they were no different. They were probably more excited than the people in the Old Testament, but they too were stuck on the back side of the cross. They failed to see that the Savior had come, died, and rose again.

A man such as Apollos, especially since he “taught accurately the things concerning Jesus,” knew everything there was to know about Jesus prior to the coming of Jesus. And I suspect that had he been exposed to Christ’s ministry he would have believed.

I’m confident that he already believed the gospel to the degree that any Old Testament saint could believe the gospel. For instance, Abraham believed the gospel even though he knew the gospel only in a limited sense. Paul said, “The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.’ So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith” (Gal 3:8-9).

So Apollos was primed and ready to hear the full message of Christ. And Aquila and Priscilla privately and gently showed him that everything he believed about the Messiah was correct, yet he was missing the best part; the Messiah had already come. He had walked this earth, he made atonement for our sins, he rose from the dead so that we might live also, and now all of God’s people live in glad anticipation of his return.

It may have been the best day of Apollos’s life. He was already eager to preach about Christ, but now his enthusiasm had probably reached new heights. In fact, he was ready to go elsewhere and deliver the message to others. The Church at Ephesus was already in good hands with Aquila and Priscilla, so he set his sights on the region of Achaia where Corinth was located. Remember, that’s where Paul had been. “[Paul] planted, Apollos watered” (1Co 3:6).

The Ephesians recognized his gift and were more than happy to send him off with a letter of recommendation. And as we see in the final verses of chapter 18, he had great success. He helped the established believers, “powerfully refuted the Jews” who opposed the gospel, and “[showed] by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.”

Paul Returns To Ephesus

Now as we move into chapter 19, Paul returned to Ephesus just as he promised he would. When he arrived, he discovered that Apollos wasn’t the only disciple of John in that city. Chapter 19:

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. (Acts 19:1-7)

It would seem that before Paul met up with fellow believers or even the Jews in the synagogue, he found this group of approximately twelve men which Luke identified as “disciples.” Keep in mind that a disciple is not necessarily a disciple of Christ. The Bible refers to disciples of John the Baptist and disciples of the Pharisees. That term is even used to describe students of Jesus who did not believe or truly follow Jesus. See John chapter 6, for instance.

Well, as Paul was talking to these men, he noticed that something wasn’t quite right. Again, this period of time was a time of transition. It was not uncommon for Paul to come across all sorts of people with varying degrees of theological understanding. There were Jews who knew the Old Testament Scriptures but had almost no clarity concerning God’s plan of salvation. There were others like Apollos who knew the plan but failed to see its fulfillment in Jesus. And, of course, there were Christian believers. (At this point in Ephesus, most if not all of the Christians were Jewish.)

As Paul was speaking to these men—I don’t know exactly what their conversation was about—it became apparent that they did not believe in Jesus. But unlike Apollos, there’s an even deeper issue here. You see, Apollos believed in the gospel. Despite his shortcomings, I believe he shared the faith of Abraham and John the Baptist. But these men were not only ignorant of the full message of the gospel; they didn’t believe in the gospel at all. Let me show you.

Paul got curious and finally asked, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” Why did he ask that? Why not quiz them about the crucifixion or resurrection of Christ? Why not mention the name of Jesus to see how they respond? It is because their reception of the Spirit or lack thereof would tell Paul all he needed to know.

Listen, every genuine conversion involves the Spirit of God. Jesus taught, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Jn 3:5). Paul told the Corinthians, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1Co 12:13). Apart from the Spirit’s drawing, enabling power, no one can enter the kingdom of God; no one can come to Christ.

But that’s not all. Once the Spirit has brought us to the point of conversion where we are compelled to put our faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, the Spirit then acts as confirmation of our faith and salvation. Listen to what Paul said in Ephesians 1:13: “In [Christ] you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Eph 1:13-14).

In the days of the early church, the Spirit’s sealing was especially prominent. As God was establishing his church throughout the nations, the Spirit was manifesting itself in bold and obvious ways. In most cases, those who first believed in the gospel began speaking in tongues or prophesying just as the prophet, Joel, predicted they would. In the earliest days of the church, the Spirit was providing clear confirmation of the truth to both believers and witnesses.

Suffice it to say, it was highly suspect if someone had not clearly received the Spirit, especially since even John the Baptist preached, “[Christ] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (Lk 3:16). Perhaps Paul asked these men, “Do you believe in the Christ, the Lamb of God?” And maybe they said, “Oh, yes, we believe. John said he was coming soon.” But unlike Apollos, there was something dramatically missing, namely, the Spirit.

Apollos had his shortcomings, of course, but these men go as far as to confess, “We have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” I think there is a hint of hyperbole in that statement. I’m sure that they had a limited understanding of God’s Spirit from the Old Testament. Even so, they had never experienced the Holy Spirit. That was a completely foreign concept to them, which led Paul to ask a follow-up question: “Into what then were you baptized?”

It was at this point that Paul realized that these men were not believers at all. They did not possess the gift of faith. They were not looking to the cross of Christ for salvation from either side. In Ephesians 2, Paul said, “For by grace you have been saved through faith…we are [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:8, 10). He went on to say, “For through him we both [Jews and Gentiles] have access in one Spirit to the Father” (Eph 2:18). Without the Spirit, there can be no genuine faith, no salvation, and no access to God the Father.

So what did Paul do? He preached Christ. Using John’s message as his starting point, he declared the gospel, showing these men that John’s ministry pointed to Jesus. Furthermore, he incited them to believe in Jesus. After all, that’s what John the Baptist was trying to do. And these men did believe. Notice that Paul baptized them “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” More than the Spirit, these men needed to learn about Christ himself, the Savior.

Then, in a gesture of apostolic affirmation, Paul laid his hands on them. “The Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.” At this moment, they “heard the word of truth, the gospel of [their] salvation, and [they] believed” (Eph 1:13). Finally, they were “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.”

So right in the middle of a predominately Gentile city, God was slowly moving Paul, Apollos, and a few other Jews away from the Old Covenant and into the New. By his grace, he was laying the first stones of what was becoming the Church at Ephesus. The next step would be for Paul and others to take the gospel beyond the walls of the synagogue. I suppose the Lord could have said to Paul about Ephesus what he said about Corinth: “I have many in this city who are my people” (Ac 18:10).

Preached at Joy Christian Church (Benson, NC) on March 26, 2017