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The Bride In The Marketplace

One of Paul’s greatest evangelistic outreaches was in Ephesus. In just two years, all the Jews and Gentiles living there came to hear the gospel (Acts 19:10). The name of the Lord was greatly magnified.

Ephesus was a church without walls - the marketplace. Though the Roman capital of Asia was Pergamum, Ephesus was the largest city in that province.

Why was Ephesus so prominent and important? A number of contributing factors were:

Trade & Commerce
Situated at the mouth of River Cayster, Ephesus was the most favourable seaport in the province of Asia. It was also the most important trade centre. Its marketplace was filled with all kinds of trades, professionals and businesses from the lowly road sweepers to elite tycoons. But today, the city is ruined and filled with swamplands.

The city had a population of perhaps 300,000 people. It had a diversity of various races and people groups.

Ephesus had a theatre that could seat an estimated 25,000 people. A main highway, about 35 metres wide, ran from the theatre to the harbour. At each end of the highway stood an impressive gate. On each side were rows of columns about 15 metres high. Behind these columns were gymnasiums, bathhouses and impressive buildings.

This was perhaps the most significant reason for the prominence of Ephesus. The Temple of Artemis (Diana) was there. It ranked as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Artemis was the twin sister of Apollo and the daughter of Zeus. She was known as the moon goddess or the goddess of hunting. The temple at Ephesus housed the multi-breasted image of Artemis. The building was supported by 127 columns, each about 60 metres high. The Ephesians took great pride in this grand architectural wonder. During the Roman period, they promoted the worship of Artemis by minting coins with the inscription, "Diana of Ephesus."

The history of Christianity at Ephesus began probably about AD 50. Paul took Priscilla and Aquila on a missionary journey. They sailed to Ephesus (Acts 18:18-28). He left them in the city while he went up to Jerusalem, promising them that he would return to Ephesus on a later date. While in Ephesus, Priscilla and Aquila met Apollos.

Apollos was a Jew, a wonderful Bible teacher and preacher. He had just arrived in Ephesus from Alexandria in Egypt. It was while he was in Egypt that someone told him about John the Baptist and what John had said about Jesus. That was all that he knew. He had never heard the rest of the gospel story! Nevertheless he was preaching boldly and enthusiastically in the synagogue, "The Messiah is coming! Get ready to receive Him!" Priscilla and Aquila heard Apollos preaching powerfully. They met with him afterwards, explaining to him what had happened to Jesus since the time of John.

Apollos had been thinking about going to Greece. The believers encouraged him to do so. They wrote to their fellow-believers in Greece, telling them to welcome him. And upon his arrival in Greece, Apollos was greatly used of God to strengthen the church. He powerfully refuted all the Jewish arguments in public debate, showing by the Scriptures that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.

While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through Turkey and arrived in Ephesus. There he found several disciples (Acts 19:1). "Did you receive the Holy Spirit?" he asked them. "No," they replied, "we don't know what you mean. What is the Holy Spirit?"

"Well then, what kind of baptism did you receive?" he asked. And they replied, "The baptism of John." Then Paul pointed out to them that John's baptism was to demonstrate a desire to turn away from sin to God and that those receiving his baptism must then go on to believe in Jesus, the one John said would come later. As soon as they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Paul laid his hands upon their heads. The Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in other languages and prophesied. The men involved were about twelve in number.

Paul went to the synagogue and preached boldly each Sabbath day for three months, telling what and why he believed, persuading many to believe in Jesus. But some rejected his message and publicly spoke against Christ. So Paul left them. Gathering the believers, he began to teach them daily during the hot midday hours at the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for the next two years. Everyone in the Turkish province of Asia Minor, both Jews and Greeks, heard the message of the Lord.

God gave Paul the anointing to do unusual miracles. Even his handkerchiefs and aprons had the power to heal the sick and cast out demons. A team of itinerant Jews, who were casting out demons, tried to do the same. They were the seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish priest. They said to the evil spirits: "I command you in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, to come out!" When they tried it on a man possessed by a demon, the demon replied, "I know Jesus and I know Paul, but who are you?" And the demon leaped on them and beat them up. They fled out of the house naked and badly injured.

This story about the seven sons of Sceva spread quickly all throughout Ephesus to both Jews and Greeks. A solemn fear descended on the city. And the name of the Lord Jesus was greatly honoured. Many of the believers, who had been practicing black magic, confessed their evil deeds. They brought their witchcraft books and charms, and burned them at a public bonfire. The estimated value of all the books was 50,000 pieces of silver. The whole marketplace in Ephesus was greatly transformed by the power and presence of God.

As the great harvest of souls came into God’s kingdom, the worship of Artemis was brought down. The businesses of many silversmiths and craftsmen, manufacturing the silver shrines of the goddess Artemis, were greatly affected. Their sales volume plummeted. And these ungodly men began to stir a riot against the Christians.

Today the marketplace is still filled with all kinds of evils and demonic activities. Almost every office and factory in Asia has an altar erected to worship a pagan god or goddess. The working people are daily confronted with powers, seen and unseen. These powers are not prevalent inside the walls of the churches. This spiritual warfare is real and intense in the marketplace.

The marketplace is also filled with all kinds of filthy practices and false teachings. After Paul departed from Ephesus, Timothy remained to combat false teachings (2 Tim. 4:3; Acts 20:29). In the letter to the seven churches, Apostle John described the Church at Ephesus as flourishing and fighting a good fight against false teachers. But she had lost her first love (Rev. 2:1-7). Besides fighting against the spiritual powers, the people in the marketplace have to fight a daily battle in their souls. Warring against the love of money - the root of all evils. Serving mammon or serving God?

In his letter to the Church in Ephesus, Paul wrote:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,
that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the Word,
that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle
or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.
Eph 5:25-27

The Church in Ephesus represents the Bride of Christ in the marketplace. Christ will sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by His Word. He is going to present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle. She will be holy and without blemish.

Imagine the marketplace being turned right side up for the Lord. Imagine the marketplace being filled with integrity, righteousness, holiness and the glory of the Lord. It is coming. The Lord Himself is going to do it! He is going to make it happen!

Meanwhile let's do our part in preparing the way for the Lord as He comes to receive His Bride! Teaching the Word in the marketplace, in season and out of season. And in love with Christ our Bridegroom King. He is our first love.

Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary

Written on:
26 January 2004