Seven Churches – Ephesus: The Loveless Church (A)
Ephesus had been the home of the Apostle John for several years before he was exiled to the Isle of Patmos. John cared for Mary, the mother of Jesus, until her death. According to author Rick Renner of the book entitled A Light in Darkness, there is historical evidence that Mary lived in Ephesus. The most significant evidence of Mary’s residency is that a church was named in her honor (the first church to be named in her honor). Churches were built in honor of local saints at that time, so it’s reasonable to conclude that Mary was a local resident.
Author Rick Renner also states that John lived in a Christian community right on the outskirts of Ephesus at a location known as Mount Ayasuluk. This small Christian community was situated high above the temple of Artemis, just beyond the notice of Roman authorities.
A higher level of toleration was given to people living outside the city limits because their refusal to conform to local standards was not as obvious. The authorities were more concerned about in-town citizens who violated Roman law or the Emperor’s edicts for all to worship him. There was more freedom for believers to gather together and for spreading the Gospel.
Rick Renner goes on to say that the most important reason John lived on the outskirts of the city is because he had oversight of all the churches in Asia Minor. He met with leaders who traveled to see him. If they had met within the city limits of Ephesus, the situation would have been more dangerous and a higher chance of being arrested.
Ephesus was an important seaport on the Mediterranean, handling more trade than any other city in Asia Minor. People of many nationalities were drawn to this center of commerce where wealth flowed in abundance.
It was at Ephesus that Paul asked the brethren, “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” and they answered, “We have not as much heard whether there be any Holy Ghost” (Acts 19:2). Paul laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit, and he stayed in the city two years. All they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks (Acts 19:10).
Paul’s preaching impacted the commerce of Ephesus since one of the major businesses was the making of silver shrines in honor of Diana. Ephesus boasted of a temple larger than the Greek Parthenon in honor of this many-breasted goddess. Worship of Diana was the worship of sexual lasciviousness.
As the city began to feel the impact of the Gospel, Demetrius, a silversmith, called the craftsmen together (Acts 19:25-27). The Gospel was affecting their income because they were getting less business. The town clerk succeeded in quieting the uproar and dismissed the assembly. The opposition to Paul was only the beginning of persecution for the Ephesian church.
Today the city of Ephesus lies in ruins.