MINISTRY IN EPHESUS

Acts 18:19-28

 

For the past five chapters of Acts, we have been following the travels and ministry of the Apostle Paul.This section picks up the thread of those travels, but it leaves Paul for a time and moves its focus to the city of Ephesus.

 

This is Paulís first visit to Ephesus.He would spend much more time here during his Third Missionary Journey.

 

The city of Ephesus was located at the mouth of the Cayster River on the southwest coast of Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey).There were three major river valleys leading from the west coast of Asia Minor into the high country.†† Major cities grew up at the entrance to each of these valleys.

 

Rivers as you go from north to south

Hermus River

Smyrna

Cayster River

Ephesus

Maeander River

Miletus

 

Ephesus had been a historic trading city in the past, though recent silt deposits in her harbor were bringing present economic pressures to bear.The harbor would eventually become completely clogged and unusable and the city would ultimately be abandoned.

 

If you go to Ephesus today, you will find extensive ruins that have been excavated, showing what once was a thriving and prosperous metropolis.The central part of the city spans two hills that produced a wind-tunnel effect and drove away the mosquitoes from the nearby swamps.

 

In Paulís day, Ephesus was the seat of the local Roman proconsul for the province of Asia.It was also the center of a pagan cult which was associated with a meteorite thought to have fallen down from the god Zeus (Acts 19).The most significant feature of the city was its temple to the goddess Artemis (Diana of Roman mythology), the fertility huntress-goddess.This temple was said to be four times the size of the Parthenon at Athens.Only its foundations remain as even the building blocks have long since been carried away.

 

The religion of Ephesus reflected both east and west in that it was a mixture of Greek paganism and oriental mysticism.

 

 

A SHORT SOJOURN BY PAUL

 

††††††††††† And they came to Ephesus, and he left them there. Now he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 And when they asked him to stay for a longer time, he did not consent, 21 but taking leave of them and saying, "I will return to you again if God wills," he set sail from Ephesus. (Acts 18:19-21).

 

Paulís ministry at Ephesus was intentionally brief, yet there are several lessons that we can learn from this short visit.

 

1.†††††††† The Ministry of Paul reflects the use of Dialogue:Now he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews (18:19).

 

As was his custom, Paul entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews -- he shared with them the reasons for knowing and believing that Jesus was the Messiah promised from the Old Testament.

 

Paul could have entered the synagogue and merely proclaimed the message of Christ.†† However, Luke is careful to use a different term.He tells us that Paul REASONED with the Jews.This indicates the conversation was a two-way discussion.

 

There is a lesson here about evangelistic ministry.It is that, as we are proclaimers of the truth, we also need to be listeners of people.

 

Truth of the Gospel

Proclaim

We proclaim and we reason

Listen

Unsaved People

 

I believe that Paul was effective, not only because he proclaimed the truth, but also because he listened to people and could answer their objections and apply the gospel to their own particular situations.If we are to do the same, then we need to study the Scriptures and we also need to study people as we bring the two together.

 

2.†††††††† The Ministry of Paul reflects a Purposeful Plan:And when they asked him to stay for a longer time, he did not consent (18:20).

 

Ephesus had all of the earmarks of a future church.Paul came and reasoned with the Jews for a short time and was quickly invited to remain and minister with them.Paul declined this ministry opportunity, not because it was a bad opportunity, but because he already had a plan and a purpose to travel to Caesarea and from there to Antioch.

 

Plans and goals and priorities are good things.They help us to distinguish between the better and the best.There was nothing wrong with staying to minister at Ephesus, but Paulís priorities allowed him to decline the invitation to something that would not at this time be the best and most profitable ministry.

 

We live in a day when a lot of things demand our time.It is sometimes the case that the most urgent thing on our agenda is not the most important thing we have to do.Developing a discipline of priority allows us to say no to the good so that we might focus on the best.

 

3.†††††††† The Ministry of Paul reflects a Pattern of Faith:Taking leave of them and saying, "I will return to you again if God wills," he set sail from Ephesus (18:21).

 

Paul was able to leave the future of the ministry at Ephesus in the hands of the Lord.He realized that he was not indispensable to that ministry, but that God could either choose to minister through him or through someone else.

 

Trusting God in the midst of ministry takes a great burden off the minister.It was not that Paul considered the ministry at Ephesus to be unimportant; it was that he considered it to be so important that only the Lord could oversee it.

 

 

PAULíS CONTINUING MINISTRY

 

††††††††††† And when he had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church, and went down to Antioch. 23 And having spent some time there, he departed and passed successively through the Galatian region and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples. (Acts 18:22-23).

 

Paulís return trip to Antioch came by way of an ocean voyage that landed him in Caesarea, on the shores of Palestine.When we read that he went up and greeted the church, this would seem to be a reference to his visiting the church at Jerusalem.You always go UP to Jerusalem because it is at a higher elevation.From there he returned to Antioch and then made his way westward to Galatia and Phrygia.

 

We often think of Paulís ministry of evangelism or we think of his ministry of preaching and teaching, but here we have a description of another aspect of his ministry.It was a ministry of strengthening.To be sure, such a ministry involved both evangelism and preaching and teaching, but the result was that the disciples throughout these areas were strengthened.

 

The reference to disciples in verse 23 is descriptive of believers.A disciple is a Christian and a Christian, by definition, is a disciple.This is seen in Acts 11:26 where the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.

 

The term ďdiscipleĒ actually refers to a learner, but it is more than a student who sits in a classroom and takes notes while a professor speaks.A disciple is one who follows the example of the one who is doing the discipling.

 

If this is true, then how does one strengthen a disciple?It is only be spending time together that this strengthening process takes place.This means there are no shortcuts to discipleship.It is a process that takes time.

 

 

APOLLOS IN EPHESUS AND ACHAIA

 

††††††††††† 24 Now a certain Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. 25 This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; 26 and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.

††††††††††† 27 And when he wanted to go across to Achaia, the brethren encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him; and when he had arrived, he helped greatly those who had believed through grace; 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ. (Acts 18:24-28).

 

At this point in the narrative, our scene shifts from Paul back to Ephesus from which Paul had recently departed.We will come back to see more of Paulís ministry in the next chapter, but first the author wants us to see that there were more that were involved in the work of ministry besides Paul.

 

1.†††††††† The Man of Might and Eloquence:Now a certain Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures (18:24).

 

Alexandria was the home of one of the great libraries of the ancient world and a seat of learning.There was also a fair-sized Jewish population in Alexandria.Tradition had it that this was the place where the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Old Testament originated.

 

Apollos was from Alexandria.He had been born there, but now he found himself in Ephesus.Because he was a Jew, he would naturally come to the synagogue.Because of his skill with words and his skill with the Scriptures, he would naturally be invited to speak in the synagogue.

 

I cannot help but to compare Apollos with Moses, the Old Testament prophet who led the Israelites out of Egypt.

 

Moses

Apollos

Born in Egypt

Born in Egypt

He was said to be a man of power in words and deeds (Acts 7:22).

He was a man of eloquence and mighty in the Scriptures

Only after he left Egypt did he have an encounter with God

After he left Egypt and came to Ephesus, he was trained more accurately in the things of God

 

This is part of a larger pattern that will be more fully developed in the next chapter.It is a pattern that echos Moses and the giving of the law.

 

Moses

Jesus

Apollos

Born in Egypt

Came out of Egypt

Born in Egypt

He was a man of power in words and deeds (Acts 7:22).

The man of power in word and deed.

He was a man of eloquence and mighty in the Scriptures.

After leaving Egypt, the law was given on Mount Sinai.

After His ascension, the Spirit was given at Pentecost.

After he leaves Ephesus, the Spirit is given to the disciples of John the Baptist.

 

2.†††††††† The Theological Limitation:This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John (18:25).

Apollos had become a believer, but he was a believer with a very limited theology.He had heard of the preaching and the baptism of John the Baptist and it seems that he had also heard something about Jesus, but he did not have all of the pieces to the theological puzzle.He had believed as much of the gospel as he had been given, and he was being faithful to that which he had received.

 

Perhaps there is a lesson here for you.It is that you are called to be faithful with that which you have been given.If you have only been given a little, then be faithful with that little.If you have been given a lot, then you have a lot more for which faithfulness is required.

 

Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 4:2 that it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.Most of us know a lot more than we live.It is required of us that we live that which we know.

 

3.†††††††† The Movement to Maturity:But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately (18:26).

 

Priscilla and Aquila were the companions of Paul.They had met in Corinth where they labored with him in the secular occupation of tent making.When Paul had left Corinth to travel eastward to Ephesus, they had accompanied him as far as Ephesus (Acts 18:18).

 

It is of interest to note that both Priscilla and Aquila are said to have been involved in this ministry of discipleship.We do not read that Aquila did the discipling while Priscilla did the house work.We are not told which part was played by Priscilla and which part was played by Aquila.Instead, we are led to understand that they worked in ministry as a team.

 

Indeed, every time the Scriptures mention Priscilla, they also mention Aquila and every time they mention Aquila, they also mention Priscilla.Neither of these two is ever mentioned in the Bible apart from the other.That bond underscores the fact that they were a team.

 

This is a wonderful picture of how husbands and wives can be co-laborers together in ministry.Because the Scriptures are silent in how this is to be accomplished, I feel it to be a matter of liberty and that there can be many variations in the process.Is Priscilla mentioned first in this passage because she did more of the teaching?While some have thought this to be the case, the passage itself is silent on the matter.The most that we can say is that they were both said to be involved in the process.To this we can add that, because they were a ministry team, they were not in competition with one another.

My wife and I share a similar ministry together.It is true that I am often seen as the teacher and the preacher, though she is a gifted Bible teacher in her own right.But as my partner in life, so she also shares in my ministry by adding her gifts to my own so that we accomplish much more together than we ever could individually.

 

Can I tell you the rest of the story about Priscilla and Aquila?They are mentioned at the close of Paulís epistle to the Romans.You will remember that they initially came from Italy before meeting Paul.

 

††††††††††† Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, 4 who for my life risked their own necks, to whom not only do I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles; 5 also greet the church that is in their house. (Romans 16:3-5).

 

Paul looked upon this couple as his fellow workers.He valued their ministry and their loyalty, for they had put their own lives at risk when they took their stand on the Gospel.Not only that, we also read that they hosted the church in their house.

 

4.†††††††† The Ministry in Achaia:And when he wanted to go across to Achaia, the brethren encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him (18:27).

 

The private ministry of Priscilla and Aquila in discipling Apollos gave rise to a powerful public ministry as Apollos traveled to Achaia where he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ (18:28).This is encouraging.You might not be one who has a famous public ministry, but you can still have a great impact in personal discipling and mentoring.This ministry of Priscilla and Aquila continued to be felt in the very public ministry of Apollos.

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