10 Facts You May Not Know about Ephesus

In our new series,  Home Improvement  we are gleaning truth’s from the New Testament book of Ephesians.  Ephesians is a letter from the Apostle Paul to the church in Ephesus.   Here are ten facts you may not know about this important city.

 

  1. Ephesus was “the most important commercial center in the Roman province of Asia[i].” It was a large and very influential port city. Today think New York or Hong Kong.
  2. Because of its size, location and influence Paul planted the church in Ephesus on his third missionary journey and Luke records that from this base “the whole province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.” (Acts 19:8-10)
  3. Paul stayed and pastored the church in Ephesus longer than any other single church. 3 years!
  4. Timothy was the next pastor placed there by Paul, “As I urged you when I went to Macedonia, remain in Ephesus.” I Timothy 1:3
  5. If you could write one letter to your children or grandchildren passing on your cherished beliefs what would you say? The letter to the church in Ephesus is often called “quintessential Paul” as it concisely summarizes the essence of Paul’s faith and theology.
  6. According the church history, the apostle John was the pastor of the church in Ephesus. He lived there with Mary, the mother of Jesus. Why was Mary with John? Remember that John was entrusted by Jesus to care for his mother after his death on the cross. (John 19:26-27). According to tradition, John built a house for her and she lived there for nine years.[ii]
  7. From Ephesus, the Apostle John wrote the Gospel of John, 1 John, 2 John and 3 John.
  8. John wrote the book Revelation from the Island of Patmos, an Island just off the coast of Ephesus.
  9. In Revelation, John records a message from Jesus to seven churches. Which church is listed first?  Ephesus.  Why? It was either the largest church of the seven or the first church on the Roman mail route.  Either way the church in Ephesus was very influential.
  10. According to church history the apostle John was buried in Ephesus around 100 AD. After 313, when Emperor Constantine ended anti-Christian persecution in the Roman Empire, Ephesian Christians built a chapel over the apostle’s tomb.[iii]

Ephesus was an influential city with an influential church led by influential leaders but guess what?  That influence continues today as we live out the message penned by Paul.   Ephesians all about Christ and his church and how we can be part of that foundation and part of God’s family which has great influence in any generation!

Darrell

www.Upwards.Church

Facebook: Upwards Church

[i] The Essential Bible Companion, pg. 96, Zondervan, 2006.
[ii] Bible Hub, http://biblehub.com/library/emmerich/the_life_of_the_blessed_virgin_mary/xviii_the_death_of_the.htm
[iii] Our Sunday Visitor, https://www.osv.com/MyFaith/Article/TabId/586/ArtMID/13752/ArticleID/977/Archaeologists-discover-the-tomb-of-St-Philip-the-Apostle.aspx
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Home Improvement – Ephesians

Would you say that, “A close knit family is a key to happiness?”  A high majority of Americans agree that statement is true according to the Harris Poll.  Fortunately the book of Ephesians shows us exactly how to build our families and improve our lives!

Ephesians (Home Improvement) 6 weeks

Dates                      Titles (Scripture)                     

May 17 – God the Builder  (Eph. 2: 12-22)
May 24 – Extreme Makeover (Eph. 4:17-24)

May 31 – Defusing Anger (Eph. 4: 25-32)

June 7 – Submission in Marriage (Eph. 5:21-25)
June 14– Building My Marriage (Eph. 5:25-33)

June 21 –Parenting Blueprints (Eph. 6:1-4)

I hope that you can join us!

Darrell

www.Upwards.Church

Facebook: Upwards Church

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Healed by Faith – 2 Kings 5

God often uses the personal failures, sicknesses, and problems to bring us to the end of ourselves and to the knowledge of the Lord and His salvation. (Ps. 119:67, 71). God uses problems in life to force us to face our deeper problem, the problem of sin, and the need of God’s forgiveness and salvation in Jesus Christ. This chapter illustrates this. Naaman went from his problem to God’s solution which was more than simply the healing of his leprosy. As we will see, Naaman came to know the true God. God worked in various ways, through the disease and through people to bring Naaman to the Lord. In these verses we have portraits of how God saves.

In the last post we are introduced to Naaman the decorated Syrian general, the faith filled, helpful and hopeful slave girl who suggested he go Elisha in Israel and the king of Syria who sends traveling documents so Naaman can go to Israel.

In verse 7 we see the response of the king of Israel. Though he had power, position and wealth, yet unlike the little slave girl, he had no faith. Instead of seeing that God was at work in this situation, he was paralyzed with fear and paranoid. He thought that the king of Aram was seeking some cause to create an incident and reason to attack. Instead of seeing this as an opportunity to demonstrate the power of the Lord, he thought only of himself. What a contrast to the little slave girl.

Like the king of Israel, how quick we are to read things into situations and expect the worst rather than take life’s situations as opportunities to serve the Lord and to see Him work.

But from Naaman’s standpoint, what did this do for him? It shattered part of his trust in his human resources. That which he thought would buy his cure was worthless. He was literally left holding the bag, the bag of money in his leprous hand. He needed to learn, as all of us do, that we must never trust in the uncertainty of riches, or power, or position, but instead, to trust only in God’s grace and work in His Son. Compare Ephesians 2:8-9Titus 3:5

Money, power and good works cannot save us or make us spiritual. Only God’s grace and his gifts and blessings in Jesus Christ can do that.

The Invitation of Elisha (5:8)

8 And it happened when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, that he sent word to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Now let him come to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.”

Does this not illustrate God’s loving concern for people. Again, God has his messengers. Though some will fail in their responsibility and ministry, the Lord watches over the seeking soul and at just the right moment, he sends one of his own with whatever is necessary to take the seeking person another step toward the Lord and salvation.

Naaman represents the seeking soul, one in need of the Lord. Remember, God was using his leprosy as a means to bring him to a knowledge of the Lord. Elisha on the other hand represents the Lord. And Elisha, as God’s representative, said “let him come to me,” words which the Lord wants to speak to every unsaved person. For Naaman to come “to know that there was a prophet in Israel” was to come to know that the God of Israel was the only true God, and the only real hope in life.

Naaman Goes To Elisha (Vs. 9)

This must have been an imposing picture. Naaman in his chariot with his fine horses, with his gold and silver and fine clothes standing in front of the prophet’s house which was probably very unimposing by Naaman’s standards. Naaman was a proud man. He was proud of his accomplishments, talents, power, position, and wealth. He rode up arrogantly and thought, “surely this lowly prophet of Israel will come out to me, Naaman the great warrior; and he will wave his hand over the area of my leprosy and I will be cured.” We see his pride expressing itself in verses 9-12, but especially in his anger at being told to go and wash seven times in the Jordan.

What does the Scripture teach about pride?

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling” (Prov. 16:18).

Naaman had to be brought low; he had to be knocked off his high horse! God cannot and will not bless us as long as we are full of pride.

The Actions and Commands Of Elisha (Vs. 10)

In a time where hospitality was a big deal, what prophet does seems unthinkable and outright rude.  But what Elisha did was really an act of love. It was a means of showing Naaman his pride so he could receive God’s grace.

Sure Naaman reacted and snorted off and Elisha didn’t run after him; it appears he simply turned it over to the sovereignty of God who then worked through the lives of others to bring Naaman to his senses. As long as Naaman was proud, he would never obey the Lord in humble belief or faith.

Naaman had contempt for God’s solution and plan. To him it was foolish. He was thinking, why should I go wash in the muddy Jordan River in Israel when I have clear streams of water in Damascus?

It reminds me of Paul’s comments about man’s wisdom and solutions versus God’s wisdom and plan of salvation in the cross of Christ in 1 Corinthians 1:20-31. The world’s standards and ideas of salvation seem so much more logical in comparison to God’s which seems foolish and so simplistic. “Go wash in the Jordan seven times . . . and you shall be clean.” A very simple thing to do, surely, but Naaman objected. And so the Bible teaches, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved” (Acts 16:31). But simple faith is not so simple; men object. Ironically, Naaman “was willing to pay any price, willing to do any great deed of prowess, to make any fatiguing pilgrimage, but he was unwilling to obey a simple command ‘wash and be clean.’”

However, God was at work in the hearts of both Naaman and his servants, and the commander was still to be healed and converted (2 Kings 5:13-14). As soon as Naaman’s servants felt it was safe to approach the commander, they began encouraging him to calm down and to get control of his emotions. Then they began to suggest that he would have paid any price and undertaken any difficult task demanded by the prophet. Why, then, would he not do the simple thing suggested?

Finally being convinced by his servants, the prideful and self-centered commander reluctantly obeyed the instructions of Elisha, the man of God (2 Kings 5:14). He went down to the Jordan River and dipped himself seven times, exactly as Elisha had instructed. Immediately after the seventh dip, he was healed. Surprisingly, his flesh became as healthy and as youthful looking as that of a child.

Excited and filled with a heart of thanksgiving, Naaman quickly returned to Elisha and made a strong confession of faith in the Lord (2 Kings 5:15-18). He now knew there is only one true and living God, that there is no God other than the Lord God worshipped in Israel. He and He alone is the true and living Lord.

What are some of the key lessons we can glean from this story?

  • God is constantly at work to lead people to Himself, no matter how dark their condition.
  • God uses any committed believer, no matter how ordinary or insignificant he may be. How? Because of the mighty God who indwells us. This makes us significant as His instruments.
  • The grace of God cannot be bought with silver and gold or power or position. We must come to God in faith and believe His revelation in the Scripture.
  • Power and position, silver and gold, can be a hindrance and an impediment to coming to Christ, as well as to effective service.
  • Two of the greatest hindrances to experiencing God’s blessing for believers and unbelievers alike are:  our pride–Naaman almost lost out because of his pride, and our opinions–Naaman almost lost out because his thinking was contrary to Scripture.

Sometimes people react to God’s offer of forgiveness in the same way. Just to believe in Jesus Christ somehow doesn’t seem significant enough to bring eternal life. What Naaman had to do to have his leprosy washed away is similar to what we must do to have our sin washed away—humbly accept God’s mercy. Don’t let our reaction to the way of faith keep us from the cure we need the most.

 

Darrell

www.Upwards.Church

Facebook: Upwards Church

 

 

Sources:

The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible – 2 Kings, (Chattanooga: Leadership Ministries Worldwide, 1996), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “B. The Syrian Army Commander Naaman Miraculously Healed: God’s Power to Convert and Heal a Person, 5:1-27”.

Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – History, (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor, 2003), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 520-524.

Life Application Study Bible, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1988), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 575-576.

 

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Facing Sickness – 2 Kings 5

We all need a healing touch.  There is something in each of our lives that needs healing. What problem are you trying to conceal? What hurt are you trying to cover up? What prevents you from getting close to other people? Where do you need to be touched? What is your leprosy?

Naaman was the “Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff” of his day. The military leader of one of the region’s most powerful nations, he was a definite candidate for Who’s Who in the World. He was the cream of the crop, lived among the upper crust, and caroused among the elite. The Bible says, “Naaman, commander of the army for the king of Aram, was a great man in his master’s sight and highly regarded because through him, the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man was a brave warrior . . .” (2 Kings 5:1). Did you hear those descriptive words? Don’t we all want people to use them of us? Commander. Great. Highly regarded. Victorious. Valiant. Here was a man that had power, position, and prestige. He was successful. He was a winner. He was wealthy. He was a hero. He was respected. He was admired. He was envied.

“But” – a three-letter conjunction. That small word changes everything.

Notice how first one concludes. “. . . but he had a skin disease” (2 Kings 5:1). He could think about all of his accomplishments; he could enjoy his power and position and prestige; he could admire his home and his wealth; but they all seemed to vanish as he stared into the mirror each day. Each time he looked at himself there was something looking back that defined his life. He was a leper, and nothing could change that fact.

We will all face that word at some point in our lives, “we have run tests BUT we are sorry to say that …”  Are we ready to face the bad news of sickness, disease and death?  It’s coming we must be ready.

Consider Christopher Reeve. Movie star. Wealthy. Handsome. Winner of awards and honors. Respected, loved, and admired by adoring fans. But. Once he was known as Superman with the power to melt steel, leap tall buildings, and fly into the heavens, but now an aluminum wheelchair, earthbound, defines his life. He is a paraplegic, and presently nothing can change that fact.

The fact is Naaman was a leper. Leprosy was the Coronavirus of Naaman’s day. Lepers were isolated and humiliated. They were outcasts – the original untouchables. They were forced to wear torn clothing and shout, “Unclean, unclean!” anytime they encountered an uninfected person. Leprosy was the most feared disease of the day. It was extremely contagious and, in many cases, incurable. In its worst forms, leprosy led to death. Granted, Naaman’s leprosy was probably in its infant stage or a mild form. He had concealed it, but now his clothing would not cover it up. While people treated him respectfully, now it’s very likely that nobody would touch him. The lack of touch would hurt Naaman deeply.

Like Naaman we, too, long for meaningful touch. Why is it that when I am away from my wife and child, I long for their embrace? Why is that we squeeze the widow’s hand at her husband’s funeral? Why is that we sympathetically pat the shoulder of the defeated athlete? Why do we bear hug a long-lost friend? Why is that we hold our babies? Touch brings comfort. Touch conveys acceptance. Touch promotes health. Touch imparts wholeness.

Can you imagine stumbling through life without being touched? Without someone holding your hand when you are lost? Without someone rubbing your back when it is sore? Without someone slapping you on the shoulder for a job well done? Without being embraced after being gone on a two-week business trip?

Naaman did not have to imagine. It was reality.

So what do we do? Where do we find help? Where do we go for healing? In a word, we go down: down in prayer, down in humility, down as we listen and seek advice from others.

Notice the contrasts in Naaman’s journey. Naaman, the commander-in-chief, finds direction through a captive servant – his wife’s slave. Naaman, the conqueror, finds help in a conquered nation – Israel. Naaman, the highly regarded man, learns of his treatment from a lowly prophet – Elisha. Naaman, the wealthy and valiant soldier, is cured in a dirty river – the Jordan.

What can we learn from this downward descent?

We too need humble people in our lives who can look past our: our job titles, our bank accounts, our cars, and our houses – and see our loneliness and our need and our hurt. We need people who will touch us at our point of need. We need people who will call our problems like they see them. We need people who see our blind spots. We need people in our lives who love us enough to not let us make stupid mistakes.  (v. 2-3).

As I have looked deeper into this story, this slave girl, (besides God) is the hero of the story!  She seemingly had nothing.  She was taken from her family, her country, her comfort zone and put into slavery.  She had little in earthly status but had great heavenly status!  She was not angry, vengeful, bitter but faithful, helpful and hopeful!  She could see God moving in this situation!

We don’t know the little girl’s name or much about her, but her brief word to her mistress brought healing and faith in God to a powerful Aramean captain. God had placed her for a purpose, and she was faithful. Where has God put you? No matter how humble or small your position, God can use you to spread his Word. Look for opportunities to tell others what God can do. There’s no telling who will hear your message!

This slave girl was not intimidated by Naaman’s power, position, or prestige. She saw his pain; called it by name, knew of a pain reliever and told Naaman where he could find help.

“If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy.”

Her words were so convincing that the woman told her husband and he in turn informed the king. Never underestimate the power of a simple witness, for God can take words from the lips of a child and carry them to the ears of a king.

We also need places in our lives that will provide us with healing. (vv. 4-5)

The nation of Israel is present throughout the Scriptures as a metaphor for the church. The church is a healing place; a place that gives a caring touch in an uncaring world. A place that provides sanctuary – protection and comfort from those that would seek to assault, a place that extends a supportive and healing hand to those in trouble.

Israel was a safe place for Naaman. But, when Naaman first entered Israel he was in the right place, but speaking to the wrong person. He first went to the king of Israel, but the king could not help him. In fact, the king misunderstood his coming all together and thought Naaman was trying to pick a fight.   We will look more at this story in the next post.

Darrell

www.Upwards.Church

Facebook: Upwards Church

 

 

Sources:

, Life Application Study Bible, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1988), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 574.

 

https://www.lifeway.com/en/articles/sermon-desperate-healing-namaan

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