Turkey, Greece, Rome Study Tour with The Well Community Church

November 1-13, 2022

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Day 04 - Ephesus

Sitting in a Roman theatre you recognize how voices carry well.  Even one voice carries quite a distance away as it echoes off the white marble seating;  resonating in a fashion no modern theatre can replicate. When Paul heard thousands gathered there yelling, “Long live Artemis of the Ephesians!” over and over for two hours, it certainly would have hurt the ears of those brought to the stage of the theatre, but it must also have crushed Paul’s soul. After spending two years in this city of opulence, influence and international trade he must have thought he had finally been making progress. The wealthy had been counseled about faithful stewardship, those practicing witchcraft had repented of their ways and the worship of Artemis had significantly impacted the silversmiths who sold idols of her which the pagans worshiped. But all that progress seemed to evaporate when a whipped up mob wanted Paul and all the Christians punished for showing them the truth of the Way.


When we toured Ephesus it brought into context the Acts 19 passage described above. We were able to marvel at the significant talents of the citizens. They were successful international merchants as a result of their Aegean Sea port. Those who visited Ephesus to sell their products could not help but be impressed by the progress the Ephesians had made in the arts, education and governance. Even we were impressed two thousand years later. They had some of the most detailed sculptures, one of the largest libraries in the region and a hall where leaders in the town were able to discuss the important topics of the day. Even more impressive were some of the homes on the hillside which perfected radiant floor heating and indoor plumbing 1800 years before the rest of us figured it out. But when the port dried up all of this beauty and learning faded quickly. The only occupants now of this once thriving Roman city are several Turkish cats being chased by a few dogs. One can’t help but nod in agreement with the words of Solomon who wrote, “Vanity, vanity all is vanity.” 


The only true living remnant of the Ephesians is the letter written by Paul - after he was run out of town. Words that bring new life. The reminder to all of us that it is “by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Our works - the building of our businesses, our big homes and contributions to universities are all vanity. What lasts is the love we show to God and to each other. 


When Paul left Ephesus he was likely discouraged by the chant of the people he thought had turned a corner towards Christianity. However, he continued to have faith and hope and love and time has shown the love he expressed through the letter he wrote them from prison did not disappoint. As for the Church in Ephesus, we know any church building did not last. But a church is not about the building it is the people. In the book of Revelation, Jesus tells John to warn the Church of Ephesus not to abandon the love they had for Him at their beginning. To not let their love grow stale and their faith to become a ‘check the box’ faith.  To keep their enthusiasm for Him. In some way we are probably all related to the Church in Ephesus. If for no other reason, we are connected to them through Paul’s letter. Be thankful for them and follow Paul’s counsel not to let your love for God grow stale. 


Bob Whalen

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