Friday 1 February 2013

BibleCentral - Gospel growth (Introduction to Ephesians)

Paul spent three years in the city Ephesus. In his farewell speech to the church leaders in Acts 20, he reminds them of what he did during those three years.

I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public from house to house, testifying to both Jews and Greeks of the repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Acts 20:20-21

What did Paul persistently do those three years? He declared, he taught and he testified - everywhere, every moment and to everyone (both Jews and Gentile) - that all of us need to turn to God and trust in Jesus Christ as Lord. Or in other words, Paul preached the gospel.

The result was the church. In fact, I would contend that Paul planted several churches in Ephesus - the teaching from “house to house” that he describes in verse 20, are house churches - centres of Christian gatherings (cf. Acts 18:7-8). These weren’t pastoral visitations to catch up over tea and biscuits. Paul was teaching the bible to gatherings of believers who met in individual homes. He was planting churches. The way he did this was by persistently preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Just to drive this home, Acts 19 tells us what Paul did every single day for two whole years in the city of Ephesus.

(Paul) took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.
Acts 19:9-10

Every afternoon of every day (some manuscripts include the time of these meetings from 11am to 4pm), you would find Paul in a school hall teaching the bible. For two whole years, that’s what he did. It wasn’t in church, this was a public space. It wasn’t on Sundays but every day. It wasn’t just for Christians but with everyone.

And notice the impact of that persistence, “all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord.” Everyone in the whole region of the country heard about Jesus!

Again, Paul stayed put in one city. For two years he preached in the same spot every afternoon. Yet the result was: the entire country heard the gospel. Why? Not because of some brilliant church planting strategy. Not even because of Paul. But only because of the gospel.

The gospel is God’s means of revealing his Son Jesus. The gospel is God’s means of building his church. The reason why the “all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord” is because God uses the preaching of the gospel to bring about growth in the gospel.

That is what we are going to see in our study from Ephesians: God using the gospel to reveal Jesus and to build the church. It’s been five years since Paul left Ephesus and now he is in prison in Rome. He writes to his old friends to encourage them. I think he writes to them because he misses them and has been praying about them - he’s heard about their faith and love - meaning, Paul has been reading their weekly church newsletter.

But most of all, Paul writes this letter to the church in Ephesus to remind them just how amazing God is in saving them through the gospel of Jesus Christ. After all these years, now from a jail cell thousands and thousands of miles away, Paul is still persistently preaching the gospel to his friends.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ, with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places!
Ephesians 1:3

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