In the beginning of John’s Revelation Jesus addressed seven letters to seven congregations in the Roman province of Asia. The first of these is addressed to the Christians in Ephesus.
The congregation in Ephesus had a wonderful beginning. Paul visited the city at the end of his second teaching trip, spending time debating with the Jews in their synagogue. Such was the interest that he returned on his third teaching trip. He spent two years teaching in this Roman city which was steeped in paganism. Such was the success of Paul and his companions that those who made images of Artemis, the local goddess, started a riot in protest. (All of this can be found in Acts 18-19). Continue reading “Do the deeds you did at the first”
When John wrote his second letter he was concerned with truth as well as with love. And when you think about it, these two go hand in hand: truth and love. In a world where “truth” seems to be defined as whatever a person wants it to be, it is refreshing to read about something definite and concrete called “truth” – and it is based in God’s word.
“The elder, To the lady chosen by God and to her children, whom I love in the truth—and not I only, but also all who know the truth— because of the truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever…” (2 John 1-2 NIV). Continue reading “Walking in truth”
Twice, while defending what he believed, Paul referred to his conscience. Our conscience is that part within us that distinguishes between what is right and what is wrong and serves as a guide to what we do. Having a clear conscience means that we do not go against what we believe is right and do what is wrong. Continue reading “Having a clear conscience”
“While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul went through the inland regions and came to Ephesus. He found some disciples there and said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ They replied, ‘No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’ So Paul said, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ ‘Into John’s baptism,’ they replied. Paul said, ‘John baptized with a baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.’ When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, and when Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they began to speak in tongues and to prophesy. (Now there were about twelve men in all.)” (Acts 19:1-7 NET). Continue reading “Baptism in the name of Jesus”
What do you do when you hear someone teaching God’s word, teaching it well, and being accurate, as far as they knew God’s word – but they left something out. There was something missing. How do we tell the person that there is more? This is the situation when we meet Apollos in the book of Acts.
“Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, arrived in Ephesus. He was an eloquent speaker, well-versed in the scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and with great enthusiasm he spoke and taught accurately the facts about Jesus, although he knew only the baptism of John” (Acts 18:24-25 NET). Continue reading “Helping someone better understand Jesus”
For around ten years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the first Christians were active in telling others about Jesus, but only to Jews. On the Day of Pentecost Peter had stated quite plainly that the good news of Jesus was “for you and your children, and for all who are far away, as many as the Lord our God will call to himself” (Acts 2:39 NET). It was for the Jews (you and your children) and for the Gentiles (all who are far away). (In the Jewish way of thinking, they were near to God and everyone else, who were Gentiles, were far away from God.)
Although Samaritans had also been taught and had accepted the message of Jesus (see Acts 8), they were still partly of a Jewish background. Those who had no Jewish connection had yet to hear about forgiveness through Jesus. Continue reading “All people are acceptable to God”
When Stephen appeared before the Sanhedrin to answer for what he was teaching, he gave the highest Jewish court a history lesson. Stephen’s speech is often referred to as his “defense” but it really wasn’t defending what he had been teaching; he was convicting the Jewish leaders of following in the steps of their forefathers.
He began by talking about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Acts 7:1-8), and then centered in on Joseph (Acts 7:9-16). With Joseph, he introduced his theme: the one God who was with Joseph was the one who was rejected by his brothers. Continue reading “Don’t reject what God has given”
Can you imagine being arrested for simply telling others about Jesus? Although this does happen in some areas of the world, this is not something that most Christians think much about. Yet this was something that the Christians had to face in the months and years following Jesus’ resurrection.
Those first few months had to be exciting – the Day of Pentecost and 3000 became Christians, the miraculous healings, the boldness of the apostles, the fellowship and generosity of the Christians. Yes, there were causes for anxiety when Peter and John were arrested and Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead for lying to God. But on the whole, it had to have been exciting! It finally reached the point that signs and wonder were being done frequently. Continue reading “Worthy to be treated shamefully”
There is such a contrast between the two letters of Peter. The first letter was written to Christians beginning to go through persecution. It was a letter of encouragement, of hope. Despite what they were going through they needed to remember Jesus who endured suffering as well.
The second letter, written a couple of years later, was encouragement of a different type. This time, the encouragement was to remain true to God’s word and not to be led astray by false teachers. Continue reading “Hold true to God’s word”
Sometimes we may think that we have it bad as Christians living in the 21st century. Our society seems to be turning against anything having to do with Christianity. But when we compare our situation to those living in the first century, what we go through is insignificant.
Nero was the ruler in Rome. He persecuted Christians, resulting in the deaths of many Christians – including, we believe, the apostles Paul and Peter. As the persecution began, Christians found themselves alienated from those around them. How do you face this type of aggression day after day?
Peter began his first letter by reminding them of all that they had because they were Christians. Continue reading “Our secure hope”