In a city full of plenty of money people could go out and earn if they'd like to, in a city full of legal and encouraged prostitution for the sake of worshiping the goddess of the Ephesians Diana: God landed in about 50 AD to totally rock the city.
Monica and I have been studying the book of Ephesians lately and it has been blowing our minds. It is crazy to think that God would consider reaching out to a city that seemed hopeless, a city that you would probably believe would not receive the words of God yet God proved to be a major threat to the Ephesians.
In a time where the town was completely comfortable in worshipping their goddess and earning a living, Paul had visited the city on his way to Jerusalem. He found a synagogue there and like he always does, he tried to reason with the jews in persuading them that Jesus is the Messiah they have been waiting for.
Paul only had a short time to spare in the city of Ephesus (he was dying to get to a feast in Jerusalem), and as he was getting ready to leave the city, the small group of guys he was talking to tried to get him to stay. Paul instead left behind an awesome husband and wife team named Pricilla and Aquilla to disciple the group. Apollos would soon join the group after Pricilla and Aquilla pulled him aside when hearing him preach, updating him on the things that have gone on since the events surrounding the time of John the Baptist (telling him about Jesus, His death and resurrection).
A little while later, Paul returned to Ephesus in 50AD to 52AD finding a total of 12 Christians in a city that had a population of 250,000 people during the time that Jesus was born. Upon Paul's arrival, he spoke to the small church regarding the Holy Spirit, asking them if they had received Him. The church said no, and so Paul prayed for them to receive the Holy Spirit, the rest is history.
This church boomed, it grew fast. Many were coming to know Jesus in this heathen town, many were exposed to and experienced miracles. Many lives were changed by the hearing of God's word, so much to the point where church growth became a threat to the employees of those who worshipped the goddess diana.
Eventually, one employee spoke up against Paul and his teaching, persuading many co-workers and many non believers in the city to give Paul the boot, suggesting that he was the reason why their business has been failing. Eventually, Paul made the decision to leave the city, with many of the non believers probably believing that business will boom for them again since who they thought was their problem was now leaving.
Well, 10 years later, Paul writes the Ephesian church a letter. In the letter, one of the first things he wrote was: 'To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus" Ephesians 1:1b.
Paul writes about the fact that the Ephesian church was FAITHFUL, even after he had left the church. So this guy working for the goddess Diana failed to see what was causing his problem, all along he thought it was Paul but really it was Jesus. And so his problem probably continued to effect his business because although Paul was gone, Jesus remained.
There's a lot we can learn from this, but I'll try to make it brief since I've gone on for too long! The main thing we have to asks ourselves is: Why?. Why did the Ephesian church remain faithful to Jesus even after their Pastor had left the church? Why did they not stop when the man that had led their church left?
Reason being: Paul was a very good leader, because in being a leader, he led people to Jesus. He pointed to Jesus, he taught about Jesus, he taught that Jesus was the one who died for their sins, he taught that Jesus was their shepherd and not Paul.
If you want a believer's faith to last, you've got to point people to Jesus and not point people to yourself. You have to glorify Jesus and not yourself, you have to pray to give them understanding that Jesus is the one who will solve all their problems and not you. Sure you're there to help, but you have to wean them off of yourself eventually and let them walk with Jesus. You should not always be the mediator between Jesus and man, you have to have them understand that they can come BOLDLY to the throne of Grace whenever they please. That makes a good leader, and Paul was a great leader in leading a church so young in the Lord to the Lord.
As a result, this generation of the church in Ephesus was faithful to Jesus, and as a result of that many churches were planted around the Asia Minor.
What God did in Ephesus through Paul and through this church during the first generation of it inspires me and excites me.. I pray that I can take on Paul's example and thank God that I have had many leaders in my life, like Paul, who through being my leaders have led me to Jesus.