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Lesson 1: The Church at Ephesus *

Introduction: My favorite Bible studies focus on a single book of the Bible. Jumping around in the Bible to study a specific topic is necessary at times - such as this week when we look at the background for the letter to the Ephesians. But, studying the Word of God in the order in which He inspired it helps us to know God better. This quarter our lessons are on Paul's letter to the group of believers who lived in Ephesus. Let's plunge right into our study!

  1. The Saints at Ephesus

    1. Read Ephesians 1:1. Who wrote the book of Ephesians? (Paul.)

      1. To whom did he write it? (This book is a letter which Paul wrote to the "saints" in Ephesus.)

      2. We plan to read Paul's words and learn something from them. Is it okay for us to read a letter written to "saints?"

        1. Are we eligible? Qualified?

        2. How does Paul define "saints?" (Those who are faithful in Jesus.)

          1. Is it your desire to be faithful to Jesus? (If so, this book is for you!)

  2. Specific Saints in Ephesus

    1. Read Acts 18:18-21. Who were two of the saints in Ephesus? (Priscilla and Aquila.)

      1. What were they doing there? (They helped to establish the church in Ephesus.)

    2. What do you know about Priscilla and Aquila? (Read Acts 18:1-2. They were refugees from persecution. The Emperor of Rome had ordered all Jews to leave the capital. Paul apparently converted them and they traveled with Paul to Ephesus.)

      1. Notice that when Paul first introduces this couple he mentions the man's name first. Later, in every reference but one, he consistently mentions the wife's name first. Why? (She must have been the more prominent of the two workers. One commentary suggested that she might be from a noble family, another commentary that she was the smarter of the two.)

      2. Read Acts 18:3. How did this couple make their living? (By tent-making. The IVP Bible Background Commentary tells us that "tentmaker" was a term used for someone who was a general leather worker.)

        1. Get this picture: they were refugee leather workers. What qualifications do we need to be important workers for God?

    3. Read Acts 18:24. Who else do we find in Ephesus? (Apollos.)

      1. What do we learn about Apollos? (He was educated and he knew the Old Testament very well.)

    4. Apollos had previously been in Corinth. Read 1 Corinthians 1:10-12. What does this suggest about Apollos? (The fellow was a leader of great influence.)

    5. Read 1 Corinthians 3:5-6. What kind of work did Apollos do in Corinth? (He was obviously a teacher. Paul introduced Jesus to them and Apollos apparently gave greater teaching on why Jesus was the Messiah based on the Old Testament.)

    6. Read Acts 18:25. What were the limitations on Apollos' teaching? (He only knew the baptism of John.)

      1. What is "the baptism of John?" (Read Matthew 3:11. John baptized with water for repentance. Jesus baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire.)

    7. Read Acts 18:26. How important to the future preaching, teaching and leadership of Apollos were these two tent-makers? (This shows how everyone has an important place in the work. Apollos was a real intellectual. Priscilla and Aquila were tent-makers. The tent-makers supplied the missing ingredient to Apollo's ministry. Together they blessed the church in Ephesus.)

      1. How did the teaching methods of the tent-makers and Apollos differ? (Priscilla and Aquila seem to be "one on one" teachers ( Acts 18:26), while Apollos is good with large groups.)

  3. Paul Begins in Ephesus

    1. Read Acts 19:1-3. What does it mean to say these men are "disciples," but they lack the Holy Spirit? (Like Apollos, they believed that Jesus was the Messiah, but they had only gone as far as the teaching of John the Baptist. They did not fully understand the work of Jesus.)

      1. How serious a problem is this - to lack the Holy Spirit in your life? (Read Romans 8:9. The Holy Spirit is essential to right living.)

        1. Read Romans 8:16. What does this suggest is an important role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian? (The Holy Spirit helps to confirm in our life that we are in accord with the will of God.)

    2. Read Acts 19:4-5. Is repentance sufficient? (Simply repenting of your sins is not enough. You need to believe in Jesus' life and death on your behalf, and you need the direction of the Holy Spirit.)

      1. What do we know about the willingness of these men to accept additional truth? (They realized that Paul was teaching them additional truth. They accepted it immediately.)

        1. How about you? How open are you to additional truth?

    3. Read Acts 19:6. How does this Bible account "prove" that they received the gift of the Holy Spirit? (They spoke in tongues and prophesied.)

      1. It is rather clear that at Pentecost ( Acts 2:4-11), the gift of tongues was the ability to speak foreign languages. What does the context suggest here? (There would be no need to speak in foreign languages. These twelve fellows had been working together. They spoke a common language with Paul because they understood his teaching.)

      2. What would you say if, after a baptism in your church, someone spoke in tongues?

      3. If those who are baptized do not speak in tongues, is it proof that they have only "John's baptism" and have not received the essential gift of the Holy Spirit? (The answer must be "no," or Paul's rhetorical question in 1 Corinthians 12:30(with the implicit answer "no,")would not make sense. Not all have to speak in tongues by any matter of means. However, Acts 19:6 is very clear that Paul would be shocked to hear that we would be shocked if someone spoke in tongues after being baptized in our church.)

    4. Let's step back for a moment and consider what we have learned so far. What did it take to plant a new church in Ephesus? (It took several committed people - from all walks of life, it took teachers, open hearts, and the power of the Holy Spirit.)

  4. Paul's Method in Ephesus

    1. Read Acts 19:8-9. Why would Paul go first to the synagogue to teach? (Christianity was the fulfillment of Judaism. Just as the "John's baptism" people were missing the next required steps to salvation and right living, so Paul needed to bring the message of Jesus the Messiah to his fellow Jews.)

      1. Was Paul successful?

      2. What lesson does Acts 19:9 teach us about presenting the Gospel? (At some point you say, "Those I am trying to convert have heard enough, they have to make a decision, I am moving on.)

        1. What, if anything, does this teach us about trying to reach former members who have dropped out?

    2. Read Acts 19:10. Analyze how Paul went about sharing the gospel in Asia? (I find it interesting that Paul did not go door to door trying to convert people. When he went to a new town, he began work with the group he thought would be most receptive. When they had an adequate opportunity to decide, he took the converts with him and he began teaching in a public place where people would feel comfortable coming to discuss new issues. People came to him. They then shared the new truth with their friends.)

    3. Read Acts 19:11-12. What is your reaction to this? Compare Acts 5:15 and 2 Kings 13:21.

    1. Read Acts 19:13-16. Is this story a warning about being presumptuous about the kind of unusual spiritual power that we just read about in Acts 19:11-12?

    2. Read Acts 19:17-18. Why would these events cause people to confess their evil deeds? (Christianity is not a magic trick. The power of the Holy Spirit is serious business that requires a serious response.)

    3. Friend, how about you? Is the power of the Holy Spirit working in your life? We see from the planting of the church in Ephesus that God can use laborers from all walks of life. If you are willing, He will use you and give you power through His Spirit.

  1. Next week: Ephesians - Themes in Relationships.
* Copr. 2005, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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