Artemis was the Ephesian goddess of fertility. The temple to Artemis at Ephesus was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. At 425 feet long and 225 feet wide, it was larger than a football field. It’s roof was supported by 127 columns that stretched 60 feet high. The temple was twice the size of the Parthenon in Athens.
Alexander had a keen interest in the temple and he came to the city of Ephesus when it was being built. He saw the construction that was going on and offered to underwrite the entire cost of construction if they would put his name on one of the 127 columns.
The Ephesians were in a quandary. They were zealous for their goddess Artemis and didn’t want to share her with anyone. Yet how could they turn down the most powerful man in the world? Their solution was both diplomatic and effective. They told Alexander that their goddess would be jealous if the name of a god was placed on a column in her temple. Alexander agreed with their reasoning and rescinded his request.
The most powerful man in the world was unable to get his name on a single column in the temple of Artemis but Paul would tell the Christians at Ephesus that they were the temple not of a god, but of the God (Ephesians 2:19-22)!
That’s not just great—it’s grace.
The group of disciples at Ephesus was more than just another civic group; though they were called to care and act on behalf of their neighbor. They were something more than a social organization; though their devotion to one another was the badge of their discipleship (John 13:34-35). And they were more than a self-help group with the latest greatest therapeutic offering for man’s problems; even though healing and reconciliation were at the heart of who they were.
They were church.
Something remarkable happened when Jesus arose from the dead—God created a new community. Jesus was the one and only charter member. The new community was a new creation that was rooted in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It started that way and was sustained that way.
So this group of Jewish and Gentile disciples, formerly estranged from each other, now through Jesus Christ had a relationship with God and with each other. The word for that relationship was church. What God had joined together let no man separate!
And Paul never tired of telling them they were the body of the risen and exalted Christ. He told them in chapter one, he wanted them to know God’s incomparably great power which was at work in raising Christ from the dead (1:19ff). In chapter two he told them that God was continuing through the church the work He began in raising Jesus from the dead (2:6).
And it was all the result of God’s grace (2:1-10)!
The church wasn’t man-made, it was God given. We need to see more of this when we look at the church. No one wishes to deny the human element, but if we’re going to have a healthy perspective of church—it must not be all we see or even primarily what we see. It must take a backseat to what our Father has done and is doing! This is the place to start when looking at church!
I’m one of those who thinks we hear far too much about our schemes and dreams for causing this to happen and plans for implementing that and far too little about what Him and what He is able to do. We’ve reduced His church to little brand-name entities; each trying to create their own market share rather than stand as a united body to bear witness of our risen Lord and Savior.
We must teach ourselves to see Him when we look and think about church and it begins with His grace. If we don’t understand that, we won’t understand church.
Paul wanted the group of believers at Ephesus to understand they were something more than just another religious group—by the grace of God; they were the church of God!
Let’s make sure we don’t settle for anything less!