The city of Ephesus in the ancient world was the largest trading city in Asia Minor (now Turkey) – and by far the richest. It was also a world center for religious activity. While there on his third missionary journey, Paul also made it a center for Christian evangelism. He spent three years there. The Church grew and its members were well versed in the faith. The future of God’s people in Ephesus should have been bright.
But dark clouds loomed on the horizon. The same challenges we face in a high profile metropolitan community faced them. Paul believed that after he left, the congregation’s strategic position and leadership would make it a ripe target for Satan. At the end of his third missionary journey, he warned the Ephesian leadership of this possibility (Acts 20:17-31). But either the warning was unheeded, or it wasn’t enough. Four years later, the church was in trouble; wrecked by conflict, greed, immorality, and dysfunctional families.
There were three reasons for Satan’s success there:
First, the Christians forgot what God had done for them and who He had called them to be. Second, they were no longer living like children of God, grateful for their redemption from sin and place in God’s family. The world could no longer see God in them. Finally, faced with the reality of their plight, they attempted to change without God’s help – and they failed. These three problems help us to see a three part outline of Ephesians.
I) Paul tells them they are special to God, and reminds them of why they are special and how they got that way (chapters 1-3).
II) He tells them what being special to God is supposed to look like in their life (chapters 4:1 – 6:9).
III) He tells them how this can be accomplished through the power, not of themselves, but of God. (Ephesians 6:10-23).
The Ephesians had every reason to get the message. But thirty years later, God told them: “You’ve left your first love (Revelation 2:4). Their failure must not be lost on us.