Sunday, July 2, 2017

He was under arrest. Those in squalled dungeons had it worse, but chains are never a good thing. He was confined to his own rented quarters with a Roman soldier on guard day and night. Caesar was busy and no little hurry to hear the appeals of a wandering Jewish preacher. Unable to travel and visit his beloved brethren, writing was the next best thing. His intense concern for their well-being moved him to pick up quill and ink.

While imprisoned in Rome, St. Paul wrote at least four letters —“prison epistles”—one to Philippi, one to a slave owner named Philemon, and two to Asia Minor (modern day Turkey): Colossians and Ephesians. These are twin epistles, the first emphasizing Christ the Head, the second Christ the Body.

What did Paul do in captivity besides write, pray, and teach? No doubt he reminisced on his three eventful years in Ephesus—the most important Roman city in Asia Minor. Today it is quite different from the time when Paul walked its cobbled streets with grooves worn in the roads by metal chariot wheels. Today it is in ruins, but in his day it was a metropolitan port city bustling with businesses, bathhouses, and brothels. It was also home of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World!

Paul could not miss this magnificent temple to his left as he walked up the Acadian Road after disembarking from the ship. Today there is only one marble column left standing on the marshy land to mark the spot of this pagan shrine, and today on top of the single column sets a nest of squawking baby storks. For centuries a Greek goddess had been enshrined here and people came from the whole Empire to worship her, bring gifts, and implore her favors. This wonder of the ancient world was the Temple of Artemis, or Diana as the Romans called her (Acts 19).

Like in Athens, Paul must have told the Ephesians that idols were not living or real—there was only one true God. Apart from these pagan throngs was a community of Jews and a number of disciples. Paul preached and argued daily and founded a church in Ephesus.

Hostility was a fact of life, but one of the toughest battles, not only in Ephesus, but in all the Gentile areas, was how to incorporate Jews and Gentiles into one church. While in confinement Paul wrestled with the problem and Ephesians is a resulting masterpiece of logic, revelation, and eloquence. The redemption purchased by the death of Christ frees us from sin and death (Eph 2:1-4). The goal is one covenant family containing all peoples and tongues, slave and free, Jew and Gentile.

Is this Church divided? The Gentiles had been excluded from God and without hope in the world (Eph 2:12).

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