Today on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. The early church made such a significant impact on the city of Ephesus that the entire economic order was disrupted.
It turned the entire city on its head and threatened to put idolatrous business, immoral business, out of business. Imagine if a move of God swept through L.A. and the porn kings turned into making Jesus films. Welcome to Summit Life, the Bible teaching ministry of pastor, author, and theologian, J.D.
Greer. As always, I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. Tell me if this was your experience, okay? When we first give our lives to Christ, most of us are pumped for this new adventure with God. We just want to learn more, we do more, and we want to grow more. But then the excitement fades and reading our Bible and going to church just becomes part of the routine.
We might even feel a little bored with our faith after a while, but that's not how it's supposed to be. Today, Pastor J.D. describes the radical life that God wants for his children. You're joining us today as we kick off a brand new teaching series called Mystery and Clarity. So let's hear from Pastor J.D.
now. Let me begin our study of the book of Ephesians with a little Bible teaching theory, and that is that you can only understand a book of the Bible if you understand why it was written. You see, a lot of people try to study Ephesians as if it was simply a deep explanation of Christian doctrine, and it certainly is deep and there is a lot of doctrine in it. But Ephesians is primarily a survival manual that is written to a struggling new church in a very hostile environment. And so if you study it only as a doctrinal treatise or as a list of instructions about how to live, you're going to miss out a lot of what is going on in the book of Ephesians.
C.J. H. Wright explained in his book, The Mission of God, that every passage in the Bible must be read in the context of the mission that God is on in the world, and that is that God is demonstrating to all peoples in the world that he is the only God that is worthy of worship and he is the only God who can save. And if you take any passage of the Bible out of that missional context, you'll misinterpret it. And that's what people do a lot with Ephesians.
They turn it into just a book of doctrine rather than as a missionary manual. So the way we're going to begin our study of Ephesians is we're going to look first at how the book of Ephesians fits into the story of what God is doing in the world. And so we'll start our study not in Ephesians but in the book of Acts, chapter 18 specifically, verse 24, where you're going to find the story of Christianity first entering the city of Ephesus. These stories we're going to look at today are about the city, they're about the people, and they're about the situations into which Paul wrote the book of Ephesians. Okay, so if you have your Bible, and I certainly hope you do, open it to Acts, chapter 18.
We're going to look at Acts 18, 19, and 20. So first, a little bit about Ephesus. Ephesus was the leading city in the richest region in the Roman Empire. It was a port city, and so it was a hub in the region where boats would dock and their products would be distributed from Ephesus into all parts of Asia Minor. And because of that, it was cosmopolitan and multi-ethnic.
People from all over the world came there to live, which created, of course, a lot of racial and religious tension as these people lived beside each other and on top of each other, and it was just chaos. Ephesus was also economically stratified. Historians tell us that you had the really rich and the really poor living in close proximity, and you're going to see that as we study the book of Ephesians. It was also an extremely spiritual city.
There are over 50 different gods who had temples represented in Ephesus. Now, let me just stop here and draw a corollary to you about where we live. We live in a very multi-ethnic place. We live in a place where people all over the world come, and I don't know if you know this, but one of the largest temples, Mormon temples, south of D.C. is right here in Raleigh-Durham. In addition to that, one of the largest Muslim mosques, they've announced plans to build both a Hindu and Buddhist temple that will be one of the largest on the East Coast.
Now, why is that? Well, because this is, as I've told you before, the educational hub of America. It's the place where people come from all over the world to do research, and so with them, they bring their, you know, their different religions, and so you've got a place that in many ways is just like Ephesus.
They come here as a hub to go out. The biggest temple in Ephesus was dedicated to the goddess Artemis. This temple was four times bigger than the Parthenon in Rome. It was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
The statue of Artemis, which was the centerpiece of the temple, was carved out of a meteorite which had fallen from the sky, and so Artemis was seen as the protector of the city, or the one who gave prosperity to the city. There was a lot of spiritualism. There was a lot of occult activity in Ephesus.
They thought good and evil spirits were involved in just about every aspect of life, so they had all kinds of tricks to keep the spirits and karma on your side, you know, crystals to wear and rituals and things to rub and things to smoke and et cetera, all right, and they, you know, to try to harness the power of the spirit world. Ephesus had also one of the largest libraries in the ancient world, all right, so that's the city of Ephesus. Verse 24, chapter 18, first Christian really into Ephesus was a guy named Apollos. Now Apollos was a pretty interesting guy. Scripture says he was eloquent and mighty in the scriptures.
He was a great teacher. So he gets to Ephesus and he starts preaching Jesus, verse 25, but he doesn't know the full story of Jesus. So a couple that had been in Paul's other church named Aquila and Priscilla are listening to him teach and they're like, yeah, yeah, sort of, no, because like if you were watching a Muslim convert to Christianity on Larry King and the guy's like, you know, Jesus is the son of God and one day he's coming back on a sleigh and ate tiny reindeer and you're like, no, no, no, no, no, no. So they get him into a home group Bible study and they teach the word of God more accurately to him. Then Paul shows up in Acts 19 and Paul starts teaching and while Paul is teaching somebody raises their hand and is like, now you keep referring to this Holy Spirit. Who exactly is that? And Paul says, you don't know who that is?
And they're like, no, we've never really heard of him, all right. So there's still a few holes in their theology to say the least, okay. So Paul gets to work teaching this church. This continues on, verse 10, for two years so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. Verse 11 says that God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul and one of those extraordinary things was casting out evil demons.
Well, there's this local Ghostbuster squad called the Seven Sons of Sceva and they think that this is great. So they start going up to demons and saying, I command you to come out by the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches. So in one of the greatest scenes and stories in the book of Acts, one of the demons responds to them, verse 15, he's like, uh, Jesus I know and Paul I recognize, but who are you? I love that they've heard of Paul.
I love that. It gives you a little insight into the spiritual realm. A newsletter has gone out about Paul. So the demon is like, okay, yeah, I knew Jesus and I heard about this cat Paul, but you, not so much. So verse 16 says the evil spirit leapt on them and mastered them, literally what it says in Greek, mastered them, so they fled out both naked and wounded. Naked and wounded. If you're in a fight where you get the clothes beat off of you, you're not just wounded physically, you're wounded emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, just about every possible way.
Somebody beats the pants off of you, that's a soul wound, right? You didn't know it was a biblical phrase, did you? Beat the pants off you, right there in the scripture.
So clearly the demon wins that rounds. By the way, this is why Paul puts so much emphasis in Ephesians on spiritual warfare. This stuff is going on all around them and the people are like, man, did you hear about the demon that opened up that can on the sons of Sceva?
We don't want to be like that. So Paul gives them that famous passage in Ephesians 6 that if you've been in church, you probably learned in Sunday school, called the spiritual armor, the weapons of spiritual warfare, because he's trying to equip them to do battle in those realms. Verse 17, the whole deal about Sceva's boys getting the pants beat off of them became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks, and fear came upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. Also many of those who were now believers came confessing and divulging their occult practices and a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all their Harry Potter books and their Twilight books and I'm just kidding. They counted the value of them and found that it came to 50,000 pieces of silver. Now y'all, this is a big deal.
Historians say that this would be somewhere between six and eight million dollars. Hopefully these weren't library books they checked out from that library there in Ephesus. But it was a big deal. It was a big old nasty torch flame of all these occult practices they're trying to get rid of. Verse 20, so the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily. Well evidently a lot of people are coming to Christ because it gets the attention of a guy named Demetrius and you'll see his story beginning in verse 24. Now Demetrius is this big businessman in Ephesus. He owns these little shops where they make these little silver statues of Artemis and he starts getting worried because people are turning to God and they're not buying his little statues anymore. So he gets together all the businessmen from the city and he says verse 25, men you know that from this business we have our wealth. You see in addition to all the little statues they made there was a whole tourism industry. So you had the hotel owners, the taxi drivers, the restaurant owners, the people who made the little t-shirts and the bumper stickers. You know Artemis is my co-pilot.
Picture of Artemis eating the name of Darwin. You know those kind of things. You got that whole industry. And so verse 26, and you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul, not only the demons heard of Paul, the business community has heard of Paul, this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people saying that the gods made with hands are not gods. You catch the logic, you got to love the logic there. He says, he's like Paul says that the gods we make in our shops ain't real. Like everybody's supposed to go, you would have thought somebody would have been like, you know he might have a point.
I'm just gonna throw that out there. But here's the deal, the worship of Artemis was central to the economy of Ephesus. In fact the temple of Artemis housed the central banking system of Ephesus. So Demetrius goes on verse 27, and there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute, but also the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing and she may be even deposed from her meteorite magnificence. Here's what I love, the early church made such a significant impact on the city of Ephesus that the entire economic order was disrupted.
It turned the entire city on its head and threatened to put idolatrous business, immoral business out of business. Imagine a move of God in Hollywood where every producer decides they're only going to make movies that glorify God. Or in Las Vegas if casino owners got touched by God and decided they were not going to offer gambling anymore. Or they say that 90% of the porn industry is shot in Los Angeles and it brings in more money than the NFL, NBA, and Major League Baseball combined.
Imagine if a move of God swept through LA and the porn kings turned into making Jesus films. Demetrius whips everybody at the local golf club up into a frenzy and they stage a big tea party in the amphitheater. Now this amphitheater is another feature of Ephesus. This thing held 25,000 people and it says that when they got in this amphitheater for two hours they cried out, great is Diana of the Ephesians. Now Diana is another name for Artemis, it's like her nickname I guess or what her friends called her.
I think it's a Roman name, something like that. All right. But think about this, imagine a crowd larger than the one at the Dean Dome and imagine they are at about the tone that if you watched the UNC game yesterday that the crowd was at about the last 30 seconds of that game. That kind of fever pitch as they're down and they look like they might be able to score just that kind of out of your mind sort of yelling and screaming.
All right. For two hours these people are in that state of mind yelling at the top of their lungs, great is Diana of the Ephesians. You know, Artemis, Artemis, calling that out in the middle of the auditorium. Hugging people they don't know, kissing people they don't know, somebody stage dies off that upper balcony up there.
For two hours! And finally somebody's like, who are we saying this to? They're like, I don't really know. I don't know, how'd we get here?
I don't know. It was just a big deal and I came and joined in. And so it quiets down and Paul and his friends live to see another day. And somehow they make it out of chapter 19 alive and the rest of the book of Acts goes on. But y'all this was Ephesus and this was the book that Ephesians was written into and so here I want and so here I want to make our first two points for us. Here is number one.
Actually I meant first three. Number one, the mission of the people of God is to expose the powerlessness of the false gods in their societies. The mission of the people of God is to expose the powerlessness of the false gods in their societies. Paul goes in and preaches in a way that they begin to see that the gods they're trusting in are not real. In fact they're downright foolish. He's like, you worship a rock that fell from the sky.
That's what we have to do. We have to expose the gods that our society trusts in and show that they're not real gods and they're not worthy of worship. Now you say, well that was easy for Paul. They worshiped a rock.
Or if you lived in a foreign context you think it'd be a lot easier. I read a church planner in India who talked about seeing a woman bow down prostrate in the middle of the street before a pile of cow dung. I mean seriously she made a little shrine out of it put flowers in it and there she was in the middle of the road prostrate before this pile of cow dung and you say well that'd be easy to confront her god. You just tell her that Dudu is not worthy of worship. But we don't worship gods around here in the United States like that.
Yes we do. When you think about it the gods we worship here are every bit as insane. You got a frat guy who wakes up each weekend in his own vomit because he worships alcohol. That seems to me to be rather silly. You say well yeah but he's not worshiping alcohol.
Sure he is. He gives his whole college career to engaging in it because he thinks that's where happiness is. So he throws away his career, his morals, his health, his future, and his faith to party and have sex. That's worship. Or you watch the guy in Vegas who loses his house and his retirement account because of his gambling addiction.
That seems downright silly to me. Or I see a businessman who alienates his family and ruins his health just so he can get ahead. Or I see a woman who throws away her family and her children so she can engage in an affair because she worships the god of romance.
She feels like she's got to have a new and exciting romance so badly that she's willing to sacrifice anything for it. That seems as silly to me as bowing down to a pile of doo-doo. Here's what we the people of God do or should do.
We expose these gods as false gods and we proclaim Jesus as the only way to salvation. Notice in verse 23 it says that the first Christians were called the way. Paul taught them that name.
I love that name. The way. The way.
See the definite article? The way. The way is in the only way. It's a reference back to what Jesus himself had said in John 14 6 when he said, I am the way, the truth, and the life. Nobody comes to God except through me.
I'm not a way to God but the way, the only way. We tell them that the God that they are worshiping is not worthy of worship, cannot save, and not something to give their lives to. And when Paul did that y'all it got violent.
And listen to this. When we challenge the gods, listen, that people worship here. When we threaten to undo their whole way of living, you can expect the same kind of reaction that Paul got. When you tell somebody their God is not real, things get ugly.
Right? Try being a newscaster who tells a golf star that he can't find real redemption in his religion and can only find it in Jesus. Let me give you a few examples. A lot of people in this area worship knowledge and science. I hear scientists making pronouncements about the world and science is great. But what I hear is the extreme confidence that scientists have in themselves and their intelligence and their morality and their ability to figure it all out. Listen, science is a gift from God and we need to use it to the fullest extent. But the Bible would say that science is not something to trust your whole soul to because scientists are fallible human beings and can be wrong. I read an article in the the other day in the National Review and the guy said trust science but don't trust scientists.
And I thought how? Science is done by scientists. And scientists are fallible humans who not only can be wrong but sometimes distort evidence to fit their agenda. Science is good and useful but it's nothing to make an absolute authority in your life and base your whole life on. Furthermore, science has been unable to really provide answers to our soul's deepest questions. Cutting edge technology, perfect health, those things are great but they can't answer our deepest questions like who we are and where we're going and what the point of all of it all is and why we can't find happiness. Now when I say stuff like that, people are in this area often say back to me, well he's just anti-intellectual. No, I'm just saying that Jesus is a more sure basis of knowledge about God and eternity and that he is able to save us in ways that science cannot.
Here's one. Many people in our world make an idol out of government. I'm reading a book right now on the communist revolution of China in the 1950s and what is striking to me is how people look to the government to make everything perfect. Chairman Mao is our savior and if you spoke against him you were blaspheming and could be killed. Many conservatives I hear talk like if we just had capitalism and free business and individual rights then everything would be dandy. Listen, I love freedom but freedom is not my savior.
I was totally free in the garden of Eden and that's when I really screwed things up. Freedom is not my savior. Individual freedoms are not my savior.
Jesus is the savior. Many people trust money. When I tell people they shouldn't trust money and that they should trust God instead and that one of the ways that God tells us to show that we trust him is to tithe and to give some of our money away, people roll their eyes and they're like he's talking about money again. As if my main concern was the offering of this church. You say I don't like it when he talks about money. No, you don't like it because I'm attacking your idol.
That's what you don't like. I am concerned about your soul not your wallet. Some of you live for money. It's your security and your joy and that's why you're so stingy with it.
You get my drift? Preach against idols and Jesus is the only savior and people get violent. They always have and they always will but that is our sacred mission. Number two, God demonstrates his power over false gods by doing extraordinary things through us. See in verse 11 how it describes Paul's ministry as doing extraordinary things. Specifically, it's talking about Paul's powers to heal and cast out demons.
People were wiping their hankies on them and it was making their headaches go away. It's not an exaggeration. Just look at verse 11. But there are three things throughout the book of Acts that are presented about the first Christians that were extraordinary. The first one is that one right there, extraordinary miracles.
There were to be evidences of the supernatural in our lives that were just not explainable in any other way. When Paul summarizes his message to the Ephesians in chapter 20, he says to them, I proclaim to you the kingdom of God. You're listening to Pastor J.D. Greer on Summit Life and the first message in our new series called Mystery and Clarity. To hear today's program again or to download the free message transcript, visit us online at J.D. Greer dot com. While you're there, you can also browse through previous studies or visit Pastor J.D.
's blog for articles on relevant topics. We love making these resources available free of charge so that everyone can dive deeper into the message of the gospel. But it's only possible because friends like you give generously to support that mission. When you donate to Summit Life, you're really giving to your fellow listeners, making this ministry available to them wherever they might be. And as our way of saying thanks for your gift today, we'll send you a copy of Scent, the Book of Acts, volume two. And just so you know, today is your last chance to reserve your copy of both volumes one and two of this study through the Book of Acts. You'll be encouraged to join God's mission and leverage the opportunities and gifts that you've been given to reach your community with the gospel. Ask for Scent, the Book of Acts study guide, when you donate at the suggested level of twenty five dollars or more.
Just give us a call at eight six six three three five fifty two twenty or request the act study guide when you give online at J.D. Greer dot com. While you're on the website, you can also sign up for our email list to get ministry updates, information about new resources and Pastor J.D.
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