Well, I have been known to do that, although I find it harder now that I read most books on my Kindle or listen to audio editions when we drive. As I began to read the Epistle (letter) to the Ephesians, which Paul wrote in around 60 AD from a prison in Rome, I found myself trying to remember when the church was established there, what else does scripture tell us about this city, this church, and what do I know about modern Ephesus? Yes, my random mind began to wander, to explore, and to compile the pieces into a framework to absorb the letter’s content and to apply that content to my life.
In the first century Ephesus was an important port city, active commercially and religiously as home to the Temple of Artemis (Diana), abounding with witchcraft and black arts Christianity brought among other things deliverance from demons. Ephesus was termed “Lumen Asiae” or Light to Asia; it was the Gateway to Asia. According to many accounts it is the city where the Apostle John eventually took the Virgin Mary after Jesus turned her care over to him on the Cross and where both John and Mary ended their earthly existence. It is the city to which John returned after his exile to Patmos where he received the final Revelation from Jesus Christ.
I wonder if John, glimpsing Ephesus from the deck of a ship as he returned from his Patmos exile, carrying with him the glory and the weight of his visions inscribed on papyrus scrolls, I wonder if he returned hoping the letters to the churches from the risen Lord would bring a revival of the hearts. More than 30 years had elapsed since Paul sent his epistle to Ephesus and the letter John had transcribed on Patmos had a different ring to it than Paul’s letter.
Write this to the angel of the church in Ephesus: “The One who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands says this:
I know what you do, how you work hard and never give up.
I know you do not put up with the false teachings of evil people.
You have tested those who say they are apostles but really are not, and you found they are liars.
You have patience and have suffered troubles for my name and have not given up.
“But I have this against you: You have left the love you had in the beginning. So remember where you were before you fell.
Change your hearts and do what you did at first.
If you do not change, I will come to you and will take away your lampstand from its place.
But there is something you do that is right: You hate what the Nicolaitans do, as much as I.
“Every person who has ears should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. To those who win the victory I will give the right to eat the fruit from the tree of life, which is in the garden of God. (Revelation 2:1-7 NCV)
The Lord acknowledged that the ministry actions of the Church; these were hard workers who stood up against false teaching, false teachers, and who demonstrated patience in suffering, but like myself at times they had gotten so involved with the doing to be doing that their relationship with Jesus had become duty not love so they were slipping into a pattern without the light of Love. Yes, they strongly opposed allowing occultism to infect their Christianity, but their hearts were hardening with the plaque of self righteousness.
Whatever John’s revelation to the Ephesus Church, time shows that while Christianity expanded, silt like plaque filled in the river port, land locking Ephesus so that today it stands with ruins of both a pagan and Christian past. The Lumen Asiae was extinguished. Their lamp removed from the lamp stand.
So I must admit as I pondered this I became distracted and sad for the Ephesus Church and for all the churches I have seen dwindle in to nothingness. Sad that so great a love as Christ’s, so great a love for Christ can descend to ritual and duty. I know how easy it is to drift away from the most essential relationship of my life, from the One who loves me more than even my dear husband does, to get busy and spend less and less time in the Word and in Prayer. No Christian, No Church can live without the life blood of Jesus and his love flowing unrestricted flowing both into the believer and out into the world.
And so having leaped forward, I returned to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians with new sense of urgency and with a new vision of what this study might accomplish in me. I mean let’s face it “I am not a young chick; I am an old hen.” So I ask myself the question “What if God wrote this letter to me?” “What if I read this letter as if God composed it for me?” What if….
I intend to find out.