Student Bible - Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Success Story: A community formed by remarkable differences

Ephesians 3

Ephesians 3:17–18 And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.

The Ephesus of Paul’s day is renowned for its religion—but not the apostle’s kind of religion. Worship of the Roman goddess Diana centers in Ephesus, and its residents take great pride in the temple devoted to her. The building ranks among the seven wonders of the ancient world, and inside it hundreds of professional prostitute-priestesses assist the “worshipers.”

In this unlikely city, Paul discovers a tiny Christian community already in existence. They know something about John the Baptist, not much about Jesus, and they have never even heard of the Holy Spirit. For the next two years Paul preaches. A church takes root, and soon word spreads throughout the entire province of Asia.

Miraculous signs and wonders mark Paul’s ministry in Ephesus, so impressing local sorcerers and magicians that they spontaneously hold a public burning of their valuable scrolls. In the face of such zeal, the Ephesian merchants who profit from the sale of idols chase Paul out of town. (See Acts 19 for background.)

A Positive Approach

Like most of the early churches, Ephesus struggles with ethnic and religious differences. Believers with a Jewish background have huge obstacles to overcome in accepting former idol-worshipers into their church. This section of Ephesians addresses the unity issues head-on.

To Paul, the new community composed of both Jews and Gentiles is one of the great mysteries of the ages, a culmination of God’s original plan kept secret for many centuries but now made known. He can hardly contain his soaring language as he marvels at God’s plan being fulfilled at that moment. He urges his readers to think through what it means to represent Christ in the world. When people look at Christians, do they see the qualities of Christ on display?

Life Questions

In Paul’s time, Jews and Gentiles were the two factions most given to quarreling and division. From your perspective, what groups divide Christians today?

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