October 22 – Prison Letters – Making a Strong Church

Read Acts 19:1-20:1

In our current devotional series, we are looking at the “prison epistles” of Paul.  These are letters written in the early 60’s a.d. by Paul while he was in prison in Rome.  During that time, he wrote letters to believers in Philippi, Ephesus, and Colosse as well as a personal letter to Philemon. But, as we saw with his letter to Philippi, each of these letters has a back story of previous encounters or knowledge of the situation.  In fact, the New Testament describes a wealth of investments made in this church.  Here is just a short list:

  • Acts 18 – Paul  makes a brief visit, leaves behind Priscilla and Aquila
  • Acts 19 – Paul  stays for more than two years
  • 1 Corinthians 16:8 – Paul is in Ephesus while writing 1 Corinthians
  • 1 Corinthians 16:19 – Priscilla and Aquila likely have a house church in Ephesus
  • Acts 20 – Paul meets with Ephesian elders
  • Ephesians – Paul writes the letter we are looking at
  • 1 Timothy 1:3 – Timothy serves in Ephesus
  • 2 Timothy 4:12 – Paul sends Tychicus to Ephesus
  • Revelation 2:1-7 – Apostle John writes to Ephesian church

Why so many touches?  Because the church is precious to God.  It is the bride of Christ.  Like those in Ephesus, every individual follower of Jesus in the church today has been rescued out of a past that includes idolatry where something was ascribed greater value than God.  Like the Ephesian church, every church needs to learn to work together as a united body of Christ.

It is no wonder, then, that God makes many personal investments in your life as well.  He does so through His word, through His messengers, through the circumstances of life, through the broader people of God.  Are you attentive and responsive to these touches?

One final note . . . in spite of the many first-century investments in the church at Ephesus, it does not exist today.  That is a good reminder to us that each generation is forced to go back to the instruction of the Word of God to ensure that it is living out the biblical essence of the church in the midst of changing times and culture.  Keep going back to the Book in order that your church is all that God intended it to be!

Steve Kern

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