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Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 1: 1-2).

I wonder if we will even appreciate the significance of these words of greeting, or even the letter Paul wrote to this church in Asia Minor.

A Roman writer once called Ephesus Lumen Asiae, The Light of Asia. Ephesus, with a population of 300,000, was the chief commercial city of the province and the centre of the mother goddess worship of western Asia. In the New Testament era it was the fourth greatest city in the world, after Rome, Alexandria in Egypt and Antioch of Syria . . .

The apostle Paul first visited Ephesus on the return from his missionary journey where he “entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews” (Acts 18:19-21).

On his second journey, Paul came to Ephesus and taught the twelve disciples who knew only the baptism of John (Acts 19:1-7) and “went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God” (Acts 19:8). He later taught in the school of Tryannus for two years, and as a result, “all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:9-10).

Ephesus was full of wizards, sorcerers, witches, astrologers, diviners of the entrails of animals and people who could read one’s fortune by the palm of the hand. And yet, after the preaching of Paul, the magicians publicly burned their books, “so the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed” (Acts 19:19-20). Timothy and Erastus were with Paul, but he sent them to Macedonia, while “he himself stayed in Asia for a time” (Acts 19:22) . . .

The disturbance over Diana of the Ephesians is one of the most prominent stories in the book of Acts (Acts 19:23-41). There were 33 temples in the Greco-Roman world where Diana was worshiped. After Paul’s preaching in Ephesus had harmed the local silversmiths who made statues of Diana, Paul’s companions, Gaius and Aristarchus, were dragged into the theatre. The disciples would not allow Paul to go into the assembly . . .

“The goddess who had largely given Ephesus its wealth and importance — so that it was a kind of Lourdes of the ancient world — was at the core of so much human thinking. She derived from those early manifestations of religious belief, the mother-goddess figures to be found from Asia Minor to the Cyclades, and westward to Sicily. The embodiment of the female principle, she represented not only fertility but resurrection in the shape of new birth, the eternal return of life to the earth and, as found in a number of early carvings, the ‘Tree of Life’. As Isis she bore the divine son, Horus; and as Artemis she was the Mother of Wild Things, the goddess of all animals. The Isis-Artemis conception embraced everything. It could be taken at any level; from the simple peasant’s conception of the divinity who would ensure that his beasts and land were fruitful, to the intellectual idea of an all-creating mother who sustained the whole universe.” (Ernle Bradford, Paul The Traveler, pp. 194-195).

http://www.biblelandhistory.com/turkey/ephesus.html – retrieved December 2015

Paul challenged Diana worship, not by doing “spiritual warfare” or preaching against her in the city but by declaring the truth about Jesus, despite opposition and personal danger. The outcome was startling. The worship of Diana was in tatters. When the many people who were involved in witchcraft, received Jesus as Lord, they burned their occult paraphernalia. The silversmiths, let by Demetrius, rioted because they had lost their business selling Diana images.

The power of the gospel had broken the evil deception of Diana, just as Jesus had told His disciples it would during their visit to Caesarea Philippi (Matt. 16: 13-19).

How marvellous that Paul could write words like “to God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus,” to a group of people who were once pagan idolaters! They had worshipped the image of a goddess whose history goes back to the time of Nimrod, the rebel king who, together with his wicked wife, Semiramis, led a revolt against Yahweh and set up the first organised false religious system of sun-worship, symbolised by the tower of Babel.

How tragic that the church today, in the name of Jesus, has unwittingly reincorporated so much of the pagan mythology of Diana-worship into the worship of Jesus, especially in the so-called “Christian” festivals of Christmas and Easter. We have swallowed the lies of the Roman Catholic Church by following their deceptive “Christianising” of the worship of the sun-god, Baal, through the incorporation of the many symbols of Baal-worship into our celebrations in the name of the one who expressly forbade the practice.

God has entrusted to His people the rich treasure of His Word. He asked us to preserve it intact and teach it as the truth, not to add or subtract anything. He will hold us accountable for what we do with it because His Word is the embodiment of Himself.

Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once of all entrusted to the saints (Jude 1: 3).

Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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“By this time we had lost a lot of time. We had passed the autumn equinox, so it would be stormy weather from now on through the winter, too dangerous for sailing. Paul warned, ‘I see only disaster ahead for cargo and ship — to say nothing of our lives! — if we put out to sea now.’

“But it was not the best harbour for staying the winter. Phoenix, a few miles further on, was more suitable. The centurion set Paul’s warning aside and let the ship captain and the ship-owner talk him into trying for the next harbour.

“When a gentle southerly breeze came up, they weighed anchor, thinking it would be smooth sailing. But they were no sooner out to sea than a gale-force wind, the infamous nor’easter, struck. They lost all control of the ship. It was a cork on the storm.” Acts 27:9-15 (The Message).

It would be natural and easy for us to read this account of Paul’s voyage from a purely human point of view. Winter on the Mediterranean was storm season and to venture out in a sailing ship was madness. The ship captain, ship owner and sailors all knew that. The centurion also knew it, although he was not a seasoned sailor. So why did they try to defy the natural order of things to continue their journey, knowing that disaster was inevitable?

Was it greed that drove them on? To get their cargo to its market meant more money for everyone. That’s logical. To remain in dock for the winter would mean less money — and extra expense for the centurion who had prisoners to feed and accommodate for several months.

Although they knew the conditions of the sea very well, the captain and the ship-owner were fooled into believing that the gentle breeze that was blowing at that moment was the foretaste of a smooth and uneventful voyage. They ignored Paul’s warning. After all, what did he know? He was a preacher, not a mariner! They had yet to learn that he had a hot-line that was prophetic and accurate because God was intimately involved in the destiny of His son, Paul. He had a date in Rome and it was up to the centurion and the ship to get him there safely.

But, as always, there was an enemy with his own agenda, at work in the situation. It was Satan’s plot, no doubt, to send the ship, its contents and it passengers to the bottom of the sea to prevent Paul from ever delivering his message in Rome. Like his Master Jesus, when He was on a mission to deliver a demon-possessed man in the Gentile territory of the Gadarenes, a storm was a good way to get rid of the opposition. It did not matter that a few others not involved in Paul’s mission would perish with him.

It does not necessarily mean that Satan was responsible for creating the storm. Did he have the power to do that? But it does mean that he could easily influence men who did not have the Spirit of God to go against experience and their better judgement for the sake of money. It was not in their heart to heed the warning of a man of God. They chose to press on regardless, playing right into the hands of an unseen enemy.

But not only did the enemy have an agenda. God had one too. He had safely navigated Paul through the stormy seas of Jewish hatred, murderous plots, unjust trials, and vacillating Roman indecision. This was His opportunity to reveal His goodness to godless sailors and even to a heathen island tribe in spite of adverse weather and foolish decisions.

  • Does this not give us hope for ourselves as well? Through and because of these experiences Paul was able to write, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28



“We saw that we weren’t making even a dent in his resolve, and gave up. ’It’s in God’s hands now,’ we said. ‘Master, you handle it.’

“It wasn’t long before we had our luggage together and were on our way to Jerusalem. Some of the disciples from Caesarea went with us and took us to the home of Mnason, who received us warmly as his guests. A native of Cyprus, he had been among the earliest disciples.

“In Jerusalem, our friends, glad to see us, received us with open arms. The first thing next morning, we took Paul to see James. All the church leaders were there. After a time of greeting and small talk, Paul told the story, detail by detail, of what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. They listened with delight and gave God the glory.” Acts 21:14-19 (The Message).

Jesus’ first words to would-be disciples on the brink of His public ministry were, ‘Follow me,’ and His final instruction to them on His return to the Father was, ‘Go, and make disciples.’ In the intervening years, the apostles carried out His mandate faithfully. Now, as they met together in Jerusalem many years after that day, they were sharing the stories of their obedience.

Not only were there pockets of disciples in many cities and towns across the Roman Empire, but they were also all disciples — followers of Jesus. The apostles were careful to attach people to Jesus and not to themselves, and they also ensured that God’s Word was their source book, not human reason or personal interpretation or experience.

The result was that the church was one body made up of cells all over the empire. There is no evidence of conflicting denominations or fragmentations based on human leaders pulling people away from Jesus. The potential was there; the writers of the New Testament letters were careful and diligent to put out the fires of division and conflict that were constantly being lit by unscrupulous counterfeit disciples.

But among the true believers and the church leaders there was unity based on their loyalty to and love of one Master. When Paul told his story to the leaders of the church in Jerusalem, they could celebrate and rejoice with him because they shared the joy of what God had done through him. It was not Paul’s work. It was God’s work and Paul happened to be one of the vessels God had used.

But Paul was only one among many who were sowing the seeds of God’s Word wherever they went. He blazed the trail for others to follow. He wrote letters to churches that other faithful evangelists had founded and he was not slow to acknowledge their ministry. This was not a competition but a partnership because the kingdom they represented was not theirs but God’s and their mandate was not to build the church — Jesus said He would do that — but to make disciples, and that’s what they were bent on doing.

There is a feeling of camaraderie and oneness among these people as we read the account of Paul’s reunion with the church in Jerusalem. They were all in it together and Paul’s success was their success.

What went wrong that the church is so fragmented and that there are so many different streams of thought and practice in the church today? Jesus made it very simple:

  1. He said, ‘Follow me; learn of me; obey me.’ His intention was that we be bound to Him as our model and our mentor, not any human being who thinks he can be a substitute for the Master. We are heading off in the wrong direction if we let go of Jesus.
  1. He gave us His written word as our source book. We have access to everything about Him in His Word. When we choose to ignore His Word and substitute human words for His Word, we are on the wrong track.
  1. He gave us His Spirit as His indwelling representative — another just like Himself — whose role is to teach us about Him and make Him real to us so that we can follow Him.

When we ignore the Holy Spirit or try to squeeze Him into who we think He is or what we think He ought to do, we lose the one person who can make unity possible.

Jesus’ impassioned plea to the Father was “That they may be one, Father, just as we are one.” That can never happen until we return to the simple basics of following Jesus, listening to the Holy Spirit and sticking to His Word.



“‘I’ve never, as you so well know, had any taste for wealth or fashion. With these bare hands I took care of my own basic needs and those who worked with me. In everything I’ve done, I have demonstrated to you how necessary it is to work on behalf of the weak and not exploit them. You’ll not likely go wrong here if you keep remembering that our Master said, ‘You’re far happier giving than getting.’

“Then Paul went down on his knees, all of them kneeling with him, and prayed. And then a river of tears! Much clinging to Paul, not wanting to let him go! They knew they would never see him again — he had told them quite plainly. Then, bravely, they walked him down to the ship.” Acts 20:33-38 (The Message).

We are privileged to eavesdrop on a poignant moment in Paul’s life — saying goodbye to very dear friends and colleagues, knowing that they would not meet again on this side of eternity. What does one say, at a time like this? What would one’s parting words be that would ring in their ears long after he was gone?

Although his words may seem of no consequence, he actually encapsulated, in the Master’s own words, the heart of the Father — generosity. “Generous” is an adjective but we can attach it to everything that God is: generous in love; generous in mercy; generous in grace; generous in compassion; generous in kindness; generous in forgiveness; generous in provision; generous in protection; generous in favour; and on and on!

We only need to look around us to see God’s generosity everywhere. Why did He put hundreds of seeds inside a pumpkin when just a few would do to propagate the species?

But He is not only generous in doing. He is also generous in being. He doesn’t judge or beat us when we fall. He tenderly picks us up, dusts us off, wipes away our tears and whispers, ‘It’s okay. I have already forgiven you. Now keep going. I’m with you and you’ll make it home to me.’

“Generosity” is an interesting word in Hebrew. The root word “tsidaq” is translated “righteousness” in English which is an abstract concept and difficult to define. The Hebrew language leans towards action rather than abstract — understanding life from the point of view of the senses. To understand righteousness, i.e., doing the right thing, they added the letter “h” which, in Paleo Hebrew (the original picture Hebrew), was a picture of an open window and came to mean “revelation”. “Tsidaq” became “tsidaqah” — “righteousness revealed”, translated “generosity.”

Hundreds of times in the Old Testament, righteousness and generosity are coupled together in the same verse or adjacent verses. Consider just one example: “The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously.” Psalm 37:21(NIV).

The essence of our old human nature is selfishness. Adam lost his God-awareness when he chose his own way, and became pathologically self-aware and self-absorbed. Is it any wonder, then, that the world is obsessed with money, driven by money and greedy for money?

One of the clearest evidences of the transformation that Jesus works in the life of a believer is his attitude to money and possessions. When Zaccheus had an encounter with Jesus, his first reaction was to restore what he had stolen and share his bounty with the poor. Jesus concluded, “‘Today salvation has come to this house…'” Luke 19:9a (NIV).

True happiness is the by-product of a generous heart, generous in attitude as well as in sharing the good things God has entrusted to us. “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”



“After all this had come to a head, Paul decided it was time to move on to Macedonia and Achaia provinces, and from there to Jerusalem. Then he said, ‘I’m off to Rome. I’ve got to see Rome!’ He sent two of his assistants, Timothy and Erastus, on to Macedonia while he stayed a while and wrapped things up in Asia.” Acts 19:21-22 (The Message).

Paul had a dream and a plan! Rome was his ultimate destination, but his first mission was to go back to Jerusalem. He had been bundled out of Jerusalem many years before by his new-found brothers in Christ because his fiery debate with the Jews had made him a hot potato (Acts 9:28-30). He had a longing to go back to the mother city in Israel and visit his church family there.

When one considers that all his travels around Europe and Asia were long, tedious journeys on foot overland and by sailing ship across the Mediterranean, he was looking at many months of travel before he reached his destination. After all his years of travelling from and back to Antioch around many of the provinces of Asia Minor and Greece, it is amazing that he still had the dream to go to Rome via Jerusalem! He was not daunted by the distance or the cost.

Before he left, Paul was to discover just how much damage he had done to the worship of Diana in Ephesus. His ministry there had made a huge hole in the pockets of the silversmiths who were cashing in on the opportunity to make money out of her worshippers.

“But before he got away, a huge ruckus occurred over what was now being referred to as “the Way”. A certain silversmith, Demetrius, conducted a brisk trade in the manufacture of shrines to the goddess Artemis, employing a number of artisans in his business. He rounded up his workers and others similarly employed and said, ‘Men, you well know that we have a good thing going here — and you’ve seen how Paul has barged in and discredited what we’ve been doing by telling people that there’s no such thing as a god made with hands. A lot of people are going along with him, not only here in Ephesus but all through Asia province.” Acts 19:23-26 (The Message).

Someone was lying. Paul had both taught and demonstrated, through the power of God, that gods do not exist. Those who were practising witchcraft in the name of Artemis (Diana) were demon-possessed, but subject to God’s power. They were no match for Paul because he evicted them in the name of Jesus. When others tried to do that, they were overpowered by the demons.

Demetrius was not really as concerned about Diana as he was about his pocket. He had his own private god to protect — money — and money talks. It was easy to get his colleagues all stirred up because the revival in Ephesus was costing them as well.

“Not only is our little business in danger of falling apart, but the temple of our famous goddess, Artemis, will certainly end up a pile of rubble as her glorious reputation fades to nothing. And this is no mere local matter — the whole world worships our Artemis.” Acts 19:27 (The Message).


What a magnificent argument! Demetrius had to prop up his greed with an assumed concern for this goddess he was “protecting.” How much power did she really have if she needed a mere mortal to bolster her up against another mere mortal — Paul? Demetrius’ lies were flimsy but his co-workers easily believed him because they were also looking for an excuse to stir up trouble against Paul to protect their own interests.

Money is more powerful than any idol because money represents the spirit of Mammon. There is nothing a person will not do to protect that god if it rules his life. He will sacrifice everything to ensure that his god remains in charge. This powerful demonic stronghold is held in place by a superstructure of lies and lies have no substance. Like everything false, money also fails in the end.

There is only one Master who will never fail, Jesus. He is the truth. Every lie will be exposed and every fool who has believed them will join the liars in their destiny.