Ephesus was a secular, godless city and obsessed with money and commerce. People turned to anything that they thought would further their selfish, worldly ends. They had false religion and followed the cult of the goddess Diana. People elevated her image and worshipped her because they thought she would further their business ends and materialistic lifestyle.
Paul came to this city and pointed the nominal disciples to the living Lord Jesus. These disciples had a measure of faith, but the power of God was not in their lives. Paul tells them of the Holy Spirit.
Paul tells them about the forgiveness of sins and the sacrifice of Jesus. Jesus the Lord can forgive sins and give faith and hope. These twelve men believe and were baptised. Paul lays hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. This is a sign to people living outside of Israel, that faith in Christ is for Jews and Gentiles. Paul became the Apostle of the Gentiles and this is the door opening to the mind and hearts of the Ephesians and also all Gentiles.
Paul preaches in the synagogue and has great liberty to do so. This is before Paul shakes his clothes against the institution of the Jewish religion.
Straight away, there is opposition. There were people who didn’t accept the message and were offended. Paul takes the believers and brings the good news about Jesus and being right with God, to Asia over the next two years. When the people of Ephesus heard this they were filled with fear, because they had rejected the living Lord Jesus. They then changed and held the Lord Jesus in high regard.
Secret believers now found courage to openly confess their faith in Christ. At this point, many people in Ephesus reject their false religion and publicly burn their belongs, tainted with evil. They chose holiness and the life of faith. The effect of this was the further spread of the good news and people putting living faith in the living Christ.
Around this time another event happens to challenge the work of God. Demetrius the silver smith becomes irate about the effect the work of God is having on his work- he is loosing money. Demetrius stirs up dissention towards belief in Christ. He points out that the business of the idolaters is being reviled and being put down. The other businessmen become incensed and cause a riot. This riot takes over the whole city. They take the companions of Paul (Aristarchus and Gaius) and forces them into the arena. Paul is kept out for his own safety. The mob push Alexander to the front to give a contention for the Jewish religion, but they shout him down.
The shouting went on for two hours. The chief clerk of the city, used the opportunity to serve his own ends. He propagates the lies that the image of their god Diana, fell from heaven in a miracle (he is trying to show the false religion has miracles too… we have mirrors of this idea today..)
The defence for what is right sometimes comes from strange places. The city clerk tells the crowd that they are in danger of discrediting the religion of Diana and also contravening social justice by rioting. He says the Christians have not actually done anything against Diana, and if Demetrius has a case he must take it to court….
The situation defuses and Saul encourages the believers and sets off for Macedonia, in the confidence that God is true and will keep His people safe in His care. Paul travels to various places on his journey, and decides to avoid calling at Ephesus because he was in a hurry to get to Jerusalem. When Paul stops at Miletus, he sends for the Ephesian elders to come to him, as he knows it will be the last time they will see Paul, on this side of heaven.
Paul reminds the Ephesians of the quality and quantity of his work for the Lord and bears witness that he himself is innocent of the carelessness of not warning the saints and the unbelievers of their standing before a holy God. He entreats them to be good shepherds of the sheep of the kingdom of God, because ravening wolves will come into the fold and seek to destroy faith and love.
Paul also impresses upon them that he has not taken money from anyone, but has worked with his hands to provide his daily bread. Paul is not afraid of hard work, physical or spiritual and his life bears adequate testimony of this. Paul earns his living as a tentmaker, and uses his money to support himself and further the work of God. He kneels with his brothers, prays, weeps and embraces them. This is a momentous time and one the Ephesian leaders will never forget.
This most loving and teaching and uplifting letter was written by Paul as he was captive in a prison cell in Rome. It was written about 60AD around the same time as the letter to the Colossian church. This letter is written to Gentile believers and would have been such an encouragement to them, as their Brother and Apostle Paul, was in chains.