Sylvia Evans is a personal friend and beloved teacher in the body of Christ. She serves on the faculty at Elim Bible Institute (Lima, NY), hence the reference to the Ephesians class she teaches there. You will enjoy this piece. -Bob Sorge
He couldn’t stay long. He was just passing through on his way from Corinth. He had to get to Jerusalem for the feast and get back to other places where he had already been. It was a short-term mission. But Paul “came to Ephesus.” The significance of that little fact would manifest over the next few years…and decades…and down through time to our very day.
“And he came to Ephesus”! The tip of the spear of the Gospel of Jesus Christ had pierced the pagan wall of the city of Ephesus. At that “point,” no one knew how penetrating it would be.
“And he came to Ephesus.” Shortly thereafter, Luke says, Paul departed from Ephesus. He didn’t stay long. He left, but he left something there. He left a deposit of the word of God and the truth of the Gospel, imparted in the synagogue. He left a hunger in the hearts of those who had heard him and a desire on their part for him to stay. He left a promise, “I will return again to you if God will.” Then Luke says, “And he sailed from Ephesus.”
But he left something else. He left a personal deposit, an investment in the city — he left two people in whose lives he was making a personal investment. He had brought Priscilla and Aquila there, just a humble, exiled couple whom he cared for in their major transition — Jewish tentmakers, chased out of Rome in one of those historical movements to annihilate Jews. They had left Rome and had come to Corinth. Soon afterward, Tentmaker Paul “departed from Athens, and he came to Corinth” and met them there — “found” them, I should say, because Luke chose to say it that way — “found a certain Jew…with his wife,” and “he came to them.” Personal connection. He “found” a treasure of a couple with a love for God. He may have found them on the street or at the market — or at a tanner’s shop — or maybe in the synagogue. It may be their conversation had started over tent-making…or their common heritage as Jews…or the persecution and what was happening in Rome…and then Christians…and then Jesus.
Or maybe it had started with Jesus. Did they already know Jesus? Were they already Christians? We don’t know, and Luke doesn’t tell, but after finding commonality, giving hospitality, and making friendship with Paul, living and working with him, it is sure they knew Jesus! Now a love for Jesus was their common bond, and Paul didn’t want to leave them in Corinth. He wanted them to go with him. So he took them, and “he came to Ephesus,” bringing them with him, only to leave them there.
It was much like his meeting and apprehending Timothy, as Luke had recorded two chapters before — “him would Paul have go forth with him.” Paul came to Derbe and Lystra; Paul found Timothy; Paul wanted him to go with him. And he did. Personal connection. Young Timothy’s life would never be the same. It would take turns he never could have imagined, and he would take journeys he might never have hoped for, with a forward thrust into a future destiny he might never have dreamed of — all because Paul came to Galatia…and came to Derbe and Lystra. Now Paul had come to Asia…and to Ephesus, with young Timothy at his side. Thus Timothy came to Ephesus. One day Paul would leave him there — to pastor the church that was yet to be formed.
But before there was a church, the tentmakers were on the team with Timothy. Personal connection. They all “came to Ephesus” together with Paul. Then he “left them there” — Priscilla and Aquila. Destiny — not only theirs, but others’ — was in that leaving.
Then Apollos “came to Ephesus” to teach in the synagogue — an eloquent and educated teacher, who was “mighty in the Scriptures,” and to some degree he “was instructed in the way of the Lord.” Then he met Priscilla and Aquila. Personal connection. His life and ministry were about to be changed. I’m sure Apollos shared “perfectly” what he had learned, but “knowing only the baptism of John,” he needed to know “the way of the Lord more perfectly.” That would be happening soon — because Priscilla and Aquila had come to Ephesus, because Paul had come to Ephesus, and now because Apollos had come to Ephesus. It was the Gospel juncture in the will of God according to His purpose — for their lives and for Ephesus.
Modern English grammar rules say that the word “perfectly” can’t have degrees — once “perfect,” there’s no “more” or “most” to be added, but the old KJV translation says “more perfectly” in English, the proper Elizabethan-Shakespearean English. “More perfectly” suggests we can never get a complete and perfect knowledge of “the way of the Lord.” We always want and need to know more. We may share perfectly what we know perfectly up to that measure we already have received of instruction, but there is more. We are always learners. And the more of Jesus we have, the more of Jesus we want. (I’ve often said, “The more of God you know, the more of God you have to go.”) Infinite God! Infinite knowledge is His, but mine is finite unless I open myself to learn more! As I’ve often said, I want a “satisfied unsatisfaction” or maybe better said, an “unsatisfied satisfaction.” Satisfied that I’ve found the right thing, but never satisfied that I’ve had enough. I’m not “dissatisfied,” as though what I’ve found is not the right thing nor the thing that I need. I’m just not “satisfied” that I have drunk enough from the infinite supply of Living Water. I can’t drink it all all at once; but I can drink all that it is …once and again…and again…and again. I know that Jesus is enough for all I need, but I never have enough of Him! “More about Jesus would I know,” an old hymn says.
As a young high school teacher, I declared about myself, “I am a teach-learner.” It seems that so was Apollos. He was hungry for more, and he was willing to learn. Now, because Paul had come to Ephesus…and had brought them…and had left them, the simple tentmakers were in place to make their impact. They, too, were in the synogogue in Ephesus. They were learners, making themselves available to hear his eloquent exposition of the Scriptures, but they were also teachers…teachers of “the Way.” When Apollos next came to Corinth, he had something more to give, because “he came to Ephesus” first!
Then Luke says again, “And Paul came to Ephesus.” He was back — and this time to stay for a while.
That simple statement, “And Paul came to Ephesus,” has grabbed my heart. I have looked back over the “comings and goings” in my own life to consider whether there was any impact for the Kingdom of God — any effect in the lives of others because I “came” to those places. But at first I was not thinking only of myself. As those words leaped off the page while I was teaching my opening class on “Ephesians and the Church at Ephesus,” they took on a prophetic unction as I saw before me the potential “Paul” and “Apollos” and “Timothy” and “Priscilla” and “Aquila” in this generation of Elimites. I remembered that last year the Lord had instructed me not to look at my students for who and what they are now, but for who and what they will be — pastors and missionaries and apostles and prophets and teachers and…and…and….
So I stopped to challenge my students in the Ephesians class to consider the possible impact each of them can have just by coming to a city, a village, a country, a school, a business, a street corner. How will the very place be changed — its atmosphere, its religion, its politics, its culture, and even its economy? What will be the influence on that place just because this Elim student has come? Whose life will be touched, changed, redirected, set on a path toward a divine destiny? Whom will this future leader choose to take with him? What personal connections will she make? Who will find a new sense of value and purpose just by being asked to “come along” with one of these leaders-in-the-making? Whom will he or she bring to that place and leave there, set in place for future impact?
Looking out on my class, I knew there was a “Priscilla” and/or an “Aquila” there who could one day instruct an “Apollos” in “the way of the Lord.” There was a “Timothy” who would one day be set in and left by an “Apostle Paul” of our day to do what Timothy did in Ephesus. He established a “called out” company of “holy ones” — “saints” — who would become the “church” of that city and that region of the world. He would nurture a growing “body” and help every “member” to know its place and every “joint” to supply its part. He would prepare a spotless “bride” for Christ, and set “living stones” into a “holy temple.” He would bring a “household” together and see unity working in a “family” made up of “chosen ones” who were formerly estranged and “far off,” but who would now be “made nigh” by the blood of Christ and made “one” by “the spirit of adoption.” He would be the steward over God’s “inheritance,” His treasures, the “saints,” in that place. (These are all portraits Paul painted of the Church in his letter to the Ephesians.)
And many centuries later, even in our day, Paul’s personal letters to Timothy would give structure for church leadership, spiritual principles and guidelines for church leaders, and character-coaching for leaders on all levels. They were all written to Timothy, young pastor in Ephesus. Paul found him, Paul chose him, Paul fathered him, Paul taught him, and Paul trained him. Paul brought him, Paul set him, and Paul left him. And then when he was about to offer his life in Rome, Paul sent for him, to come (probably from Ephesus) so he could entrust to him the Gospel ministry. Timothy — the young man Paul had taken from his home place, the one he had often sent from place to place, the “son” who would go in his place, now the one he had chosen to set in this place — in Ephesus.
Paul had had his own season there, of course, teaching “the things of the Kingdom of God” in the school of Tyrannus for two years — during which time “the word of the Lord went throughout all Asia.” That means both the message and the messengers spread out from the Ephesian hub into Asia Minor — and not just the message, but also the manifestations of the Gospel at work. Miracles, deliverances, “demonstrations of the spirit and of power.” Manifestations of the power of God as the antithesis and the antidote to manifestations of the power of Satan. “And the word of the Lord prevailed”!
Individual men and women were being saved, healed, set free, and apprehended by the Gospel and for the Gospel. It was a better “way” to live! They became known as “people of the Way” — “the Way of the Lord.” One by one and then in droves, people forsook witchcraft. They burned their expensive books and fetishes — burned and stopped buying.
Pagans left their idols. Forsook them. Destroyed them. Forsook and stopped buying. Problem! Those idols were tied to the economy of the region by the purse-strings of the silversmiths. Snap! The Gospel was breaking the purse-strings. Kingdom conflict at its peak.
The culture of the Kingdom of God was overtaking the culture of the kingdom of Satan. The culture of the Kingdom of Light was penetrating the culture of the kingdom of darkness. The culture of the worship of God was undoing the culture of the worship of Diana (Artemis). The Prince of Life was being exalted and the principalities of darkness and death were raging with jealousy! The conflict moved into the amphitheater of the community — the whole city in an uproar! And Puny Little Paul was at fault, accused of “turning away much people” from the worship of Diana — not only in that city but in “almost all Asia.” Puny Little Paul, with a powerful Gospel of a powerful God and a Prince of a Savior, had “persuaded” people to turn to Jesus, the Son of God. The “persecutor” had become the “persuader” with a positive Gospel of a powerful Savior.
Demetrius accused him of “despising the temple of Diana,” but Paul was simply telling the Ephesians that they were becoming the Temple of God! Becoming that Temple of God, they would no longer be coming to the temple of the goddess!
All this because of the little statement, “And Paul came to Ephesus.”
And with him, for most of the time, was Paul’s own “son in the Gospel,” Timothy, who “ministered unto him” and who ministered with him and who one day would minister after him. Set in as pastor at Ephesus to establish the church, he would perpetuate the message and the ministry of the Gospel after Paul. As Paul had taught him, Timothy would find faithful men and teach them, and then they would “teach others also.”
“And Timothy came to Ephesus,” history would read — and time would tell the impact of his coming.