Ephesians, Part 1
Our 2-week study of Ephesians begins this week, and that means we’re learning about Greek culture and checking out the city of Ephesus from the book of Acts! Remember when a mob rioted to try to drive Paul out of its city for disturbing its pagan businesses? That city was Ephesus, a thriving, powerful, commercial hub in the Roman Empire. Lots of money flowed in and out of the city, with idol worship accounting for a big part of their revenue.
You can understand why the city’s merchants wanted to get rid of Paul and the gospel message he shared that convinced people to turn from idols. But God’s plans were too great to be stopped. Find out how He worked through Paul to spiritually revive souls in Ephesus as we learn how God can use you to change lives with nothing more than the gospel.
Steve Conover: Welcome to the Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover, and with me is our host and teacher, Chris Katulka. I'd like to encourage you right at the start to visit our website, FOIradio.org. Again, that's FOIradio.org. There you can find more information about the Friends of Israel Today and our ministry. You'll find archived pages to listen to six years of Chris's teaching. Again, that's FOIradio.org.
Chris Katulka: Steve, a few weeks ago, I was up at Schroon Lake New York, I'm an adjunct professor for Word of Life Bible Institute, and I had an opportunity to teach several hundred students, first-year students, about the Book of Ephesians. So I thought I'd bring, for the next two weeks, some of that teaching that I was able to impart to them, I want to impart it to our listeners as well. Today, we're going to actually start off with the background of what's going on in Ephesians by looking at an event that happened in Acts chapter 19.
Steve Conover: Looking forward to it. But first in the news, Mike Evans, a prominent US evangelical Christian leader, threatened that Israel could lose the support of his 77 million followers when Naftali Bennett is confirmed prime minister of Israel after the change government was formed to oust long-time prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Mike Evans believes prime minister Bennett surrendered the Knesset to radical Islam after he partnered with Ra’am leader, Mansour Abbas to form a coalition.
Chris Katulka: Steve, this is actually kind of sad for me because Mike Evans has done a lot of good for the state of Israel over the years, but he's getting a little too involved in Israeli politics. It's not our place as evangelical Christians to decide how Israel wants a government. Our goal, as believers, as evangelical believers who support Israel and the Jewish people is to understand that God said, I will bless those who bless you. That's our command. It's not to get involved in Israeli politics. Really, I believe Naftali Bennett is God's chosen man for the task, so let's encourage him in his new leadership role and pray God's hand of guidance on the new government.
Ephesians. If you have your Bibles, go ahead and open them up. If you have a digital Bible, click it on. And if you're driving in your car right now, then just listen. Now, for the next two weeks, we're going to be doing a summary of Ephesians. And today I decided I'd start in Acts chapter 19, verse 21 through 41. And you might be thinking, Chris, you just said we'd be in Ephesians. And we're going to Acts. What's going on here? Well, I promise it's for a reason. The details of Paul's ministry to the church at Ephesus, how he came to there, the events that took place surrounding the church at Ephesus are all summarized in Luke's history in the early church, which can be, it's accounted for in the Book of Acts. And so Paul's first visit, let's kind of lay out Paul's visits to Ephesus.
This is important. Paul's first visit to Ephesus happened in his second missionary journey that took him to areas of Asia Minor, which is today known as Turkey. So scholars believe his first visit occurred in the autumn of 52 AD. And you can read all about that first encounter in Acts chapter 18. On Paul's third missionary journey, he visited Ephesus again and this time he stayed for nearly three years from the autumn of 53 to the spring of 56 AD. And you can read all about that in Acts chapter 18, again, and chapter 19, which is what we're going to be in a moment. But then Paul went back and met with the elders of the church, but this time he met with them in a port city, south of Ephesus in the spring of 57, in a city called Miletus.
And then finally, Paul corresponds with the church of Ephesus from a prison in Rome, sometime between 60 and 62 AD, and that we see from Acts chapter 28. That's the letter to Ephesians that we're going to be looking at throughout the next two weeks. I personally believe Paul really set his focus, set his gaze, was resolute to plant a church in Ephesus because it's really one of the largest and most influential cities in first century Roman empire. It was a port city itself, which allowed for trade, which was key to economic growth in the Roman empire. And Paul knew that a church that would be planted in Ephesus would grow. It would grow and have an impact on the surrounding areas of Asia Minor. Now, I want to focus in on a particular issue that I believe really helps to define the success and growth of the church in Ephesus and really drives the theme of Paul's letter. I want you to listen to this moment that occurs in Acts chapter 19, starting in verse 21.
About that time, there arose a disturbance concerning the way, for a man named Demetrius, a silversmith who made silver shrines to Artemis brought no little business to the craftsmen. These, he gathered together with the workmen in similar trades, and he said, "Men, you know that from this business, we have our wealth and you see and hear that not only in Ephesus, but in almost all of Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away great many people saying that gods made with hands are not gods. And there's a danger, not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess, Artemis, may be counted as nothing. And that she may be even disposed from her magnificence. She whom all Asia and the world worship."
Now not only was Ephesus, think about this, not only was Ephesus an economic powerhouse in the Roman empire, but it was also the host city of the goddess, Artemis. People from all around the world would travel and make a pilgrimage to visit the temple of Artemis in Ephesus. Artemis in the Greek religion is the goddess of wild animals. She's known for being the goddess of the hunt and vegetation and of childbirth. She was identified by the Romans as the goddess, Diana. The personhood of Artemis kind of transitioned names in the Roman religion to Diana. Artemis was the daughter of Zeus and Lido and the twin sister of Apollo. So she was really, really popular among the rural population. And Artemis was really the favorite goddess and really crucial to the economy of Ephesus. And this is why Demetrius, the silversmith, is frustrated. Artemis worship was his livelihood. It's where he made all of his money along with several others. He gave business to a lot of people.
Listen to this, it continues in Acts chapter 19, verse 28, "When they heard this, they were enraged and they cried out, 'Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!'" So the city was filled with the confusion and they rushed together into the theater dragging with them Gaius, Aristarchus, the Macedonians who were Paul's companions in travel. But when Paul wished to go in among the crowd, the disciples wouldn't let him in. And even some of the Asiarchs, who were friends of his, sent to him and were urging him not to venture into the theater. Now, some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion. And most of them did not know why they had come together. Some of the crowd prompted Alexander, whom the Jews had put forward, and Alexander motioned with his hands, wanted to make a defense to the crowd.
But when they recognize that he was a Jew, for about two hours, they all cried out with one voice, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!" Friends, this is an all-out riot in Ephesus and Paul is in the middle of it. The situation got so bad that city officials needed to step in to quell the riot. It starts again in Acts chapter 19 verse 35. It says, and then the town clerk had to quiet the crowd. And he said, "Men of Ephesus, who is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is a temple keeper of the great Artemis and of the sacred stone that fell from the sky. Seeing that these things can not be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rash for you have brought these men here who are neither sacrilegious, nor blasphemers of our goddess.
If, therefore, Demetrius and the craftsmen with him have a complaint against anyone, the courts are open and there are pro councils. Let them bring their charge against one another. But if you're seeking anything further, it shall be settled in a regular assembly for, we are in danger of being charged with rioting today, since there is no cause that we can give to justify this commotion." And when he had said these things, he dismissed the assembly.
Listen, this account sounds like a travesty for Paul and for the church in Ephesus, these believers in the first century. But listen, let's think for a moment. This to me, this moment speaks of something amazing happening in Ephesus, thanks to how the Lord was using Paul. The apostle Paul told the Gentiles in Ephesians that they have been brought near. Ephesians chapter two, verse 11. Therefore, remember ... This is what he says. "Therefore remember at one time you Gentiles in the flesh called the uncircumcision by what is called 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 the promise. Having no hope and without God in the world, but now in Christ Jesus, you Gentiles, who were once 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."
Gentiles have been brought near. Now listen, I want to unpack that more. So when we come back, we're going to be looking more at how the gospel changed everything in Ephesus and we see that in the riot. But before we get there, I want to encourage you. Listen, coming up, July 18th through the 20th, we have our upcoming conference, the Jerusalem in Prophecy Conference, so there's a lot of events that are happening around the world. But I always find it amazing that the world news, everything that's happening around the world seems to always focus in on what's happening in Israel and what's happening in Jerusalem. Well, we want to make you an expert on the events that are happening, not only in the past with Israel and the present, but also the future. We want to invite you to our Jerusalem in Prophecy online conference. It's a live conference that will be taking place July 18th through the 20th.
Steve, can you let our listeners know exactly how they can register for this event, the Jerusalem in Prophecy Conference?
Steve Conover: I'm happy to, Chris. You can become an expert in understanding biblical prophecy and truths about the holy city, Jerusalem, in this exciting and uplifting event coming up. Register today, and you'll receive a free PDF of the booklet, 10 Reasons Why Christians Support Israel, and you'll have an opportunity to receive 50% off Randall Price's book, Jerusalem in Prophecy. You can register or learn more at FOIconferences.org, that's FOIconferences.org.
Chris Katulka: Okay, so we're looking at the backgrounds of the letter of Ephesians. And I just showed you that a riot took place on Paul's second visit to this port city. The riot that took place can seem like a major travesty or setback for the church at that time, but what it really shows is the amazing impact the gospel was having on the city. Think about this, a major source of economic growth in the city of Ephesus was the temple of Artemis. Pagans paid money to travel to visit the shrine. They would buy idols, carved with the image of Artemis, and there was an entire industry and economy built around this form of pagan worship. And then all of a sudden, the gospel of Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, starts spreading among both the Jews of Ephesus and the Gentiles. Now listen, Jewish people would have never stepped foot in a pagan temple. It goes against the core foundations of Judaism.
Have you ever heard of the Sh’ma? Sh'ma Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Eḥad. That's Hebrew for, “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is One.” Deuteronomy chapter six, verse four. Also, in the 10 commandments is the divine instruction not to worship idols or false gods. So for those Jewish people who came to faith in Jesus, you don't have to worry about them. They're not going to the temple of Artemis. There were other issues, but definitely not pagan worship. Jewish people were not adding to the Artemis economy, if you understand what I'm saying. On the other hand, many Gentiles, non-Jewish people, were coming to faith in Jesus. And if you heard the passage I read to you in Ephesians chapter two, verse 11 through 14, it says that Gentiles have been brought near. They are no longer aliens or foreigners, but are now close to God through the blood of Jesus Christ.
And here's what I think is so fascinating. Gentiles, who came to faith in Jesus and followed him, started to drop their pagan ways and adopted a culture and lifestyle that looked more Jewish than pagan. They stopped worshiping false gods and practicing the cultic culture of paganism and followed the one, true God through his Son, Jesus Christ. Through Christ, they basically adopted the Sh’ma. They did. Hear O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is One. Why? Because they've been brought near. And look how much the gospel that was spreading throughout Ephesus changed the culture away from paganism. The impact was so deep, it actually started a riot.
Remember what Demetrius said. Remember this? He said, "Men, you know that from this business, we have our wealth." And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus, but in almost all of Asia, this Paul, notice he's labeling Paul. Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people saying that gods made with hands are not gods. And there is danger, not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing. Listen to what he's saying. As Gentiles were turning to Christ, they were abandoning their pagan ways and it was being felt in the pocket books of those who benefit from Artemis worship. Just remember, where you spend your money is where your heart is. That's very biblical. Listen, when I'm reading this, I am just astonished by how Paul and the message of Christ was spreading throughout Asia Minor, how it was changing the culture for the good. The moment you read, “riot,” you start to think this is a travesty. What's going on? The church is suffering.
No, actually it's a testimony to how the gospel is changing people's hearts. I believe politics and voting are important. I believe change can be made at the ballot box. And I cherish every freedom I have to make my voice known in who I vote to represent me. But let me also say this, Paul changed a corrupt godless culture without ever stepping foot in the world of politics. Lives were being changed, not by what parties were voted for, but because people came to faith in the Lord Jesus. I like to take this cue from this passage. And next week we'll dive into Ephesians. But I like to remember that from this moment in Ephesus, true change happens when lives are transformed by Jesus Christ. It upends economies. It changes the way people think about the world because Jesus changes your worldview. And today in Ephesus, the temple of Artemis lays in ruins, but the King of Kings is alive and ruling from the right hand of the Father. Lives are changed because they turned to him.
Steve Conover: Chris, as you said, the Gentiles were brought near. You and I are both Gentiles that were brought near because of the power of the gospel. I was recently reading that if, I believe it was 100 to 180 AD to 150 AD, that the majority of Roman cities had churches in them. So to think of how quickly the apostles and also other Christians were spreading that witness is pretty incredible.
Chris Katulka: Yeah. And it was changing the way people were thinking about their worldview. Gentiles were so accustomed to going to temples and worshiping Caesar and worshiping gods and goddesses of the plethora of gods and goddesses. And now, as we see from this riot that takes place in Acts chapter 19, there was actually concern even down on the business level that, wow, people's lives are being changed to the point where the culture that we make money on, the corrupt culture, the godless culture that we make money on, is no longer working because people are turning to the one true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob through his Son, Jesus Christ. It's changing even the Gentiles, which is phenomenal.
Steve Conover: Now, Apples of Gold, a dramatic reading from the life and ministry of Holocaust survivor, Zvi Kalisher.
Mike Kellogg: Miracles do not happen every day. Therefore, when they do, we must thank the Lord who alone has the power to perform them. This past week, my wife and I went to Tel-Aviv on an errand. Afterward, my wife said, "It's almost time to catch the bus back to Jerusalem. I want to get home early." "Why do we have to rush?", I ask. "Let us take our time." But I gave in and we hurried along . When we arrived at the station, we learned that we had just missed the bus to Jerusalem. 15 minutes later, the next bus arrived. About a half hour after leaving Tel-Aviv, we heard that the bus we were hurrying to catch had been attacked by a terrorist. 15 people died and many were seriously injured. As we passed the site of the crash, we saw ambulances and helicopters. Everyone on our bus was outraged.
The man in front of us said, "The minute I get home, I'm going to spread pure oil on the mezuzah on my doorpost. We all must do this to thank God for preserving our lives." I said, "I'm not sure that's the right thing to do. I am praying that the Lord will heal the injured and comfort the families of the dead instead." The longer we drove, the more foolish this man's statements became. I told him, "You feel you are right with God, but you are spiritually blind. As it is written, ‘if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a ditch.’ Matthew 15:14. Oh, that someone would remove the dust from your eyes." He became extremely angry and said, "That is enough. I do not believe you are Jewish."
I assured him I was a Jew, but he responded. "You are not. You talk like the Gentiles." Some of the others agreed and became suspicious. I told them about my love for Israel, my service in Israel's wars. I then challenged the man to prove he was a better Jew than I. I said, "We, as the chosen people of God, should be a light to all nations. But how can we tell other nations, ‘if you spread pure oil on your doorpost, you'll be cleansed from your sins “and find acceptance with God.’ That's ridiculous. And the nations would think we were fools. Please think for yourselves," I urged them, "do not follow the empty faith of false teachers. God told our forefathers, 'You shall not go after the gods of the peoples who are all around you."
"Everything I have said is in your own Hebrew Scriptures. If you open your eyes and read God's Word, rather than books of tradition, you will see what the Lord has done for us, and how he wants us to worship him as it is written for you and our holy people to the Lord, your God. He has chosen you for himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on earth." We discussed the Lord for the remainder of the ride. My wife and I praise the Lord for miraculously preserving our lives that day. We prayed fervently for those who were injured and for the families of those who were killed. We also prayed for the man on the bus who was so confused about how to properly thank and worship God. We prayed that he and the others will allow the Lord to save these spiritual lives as he did their physical lives.
Steve Conover: Thank you for joining us today. Next week, we continue in our study of the book of Ephesians.
Chris Katulka: That's right. So we looked at Acts 19 today, but next week, we're going to dive into Ephesians chapter one, which I think is going to help define the theme of the book. That's really what I want to get across, the theme, which is the unity of the body of Christ.
Steve Conover: We sure hope you join us then. Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka. Today's program was produced by Tom Gallione. Our theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong. Mike Kellogg read Apples of Gold and I'm Steve Conover, executive producer. Our mailing address is FOI Radio, PO Box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey 08099. Once again, that's FOI Radio, PO Box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey 08099.
One last quick reminder to visit us at foiradio.org. That's foiradio.org. The Friends of Israel Today is a production of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are a worldwide evangelical ministry, proclaiming biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah while bringing physical and spiritual comfort to the Jewish people.
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Apples of Gold: Zvi and His Wife are Miraculously Spared
Zvi and his wife missed their bus to Jerusalem. They caught the next bus and found out shortly after that the bus they missed was attacked by terrorists. As they passed the bus and the carnage, a passenger on their bus exclaimed that they all must go home and put oil on their mezuzahs and thank God for preserving their lives. Zvi called out his pride and said that he chose rather to pray for the victims and their families. He then explained how they, the Jewish people, should be a light to all other nations not by empty superstitions but by real faith in God.
The Friends of Israel Today theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.
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