THE DEVELOPING CHURCH AT EPHESUS

And (Paul) entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the people, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. 10 This took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. (Acts19:8-10)

Paul arrives at Ephesus and stays there for a considerable amount of time – at least two years. As a result the narrative reports that “all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord” (v10). “Asia”  in this context is referring to the west coast province of Asia Minor as some Bible versions make clear. A few years later, around the early 60s AD, Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesian Church, at which point it would appear from the tone of his letter to be in good shape. Such was to be expected in view of Paul’s influence but also that of the Apostle John, who after Paul’s death had oversight of the church there, probably until the very end of the first century.

The Ephesian church is sited again in Revelation. Christ speaking through John chastised the assembly for “losing their first love”. Nevertheless, He also commended them for their patience, hatred of evil and in particular the fact that they had resisted those who falsely claimed to be apostles (2:2). The church had certainly not at this stage (c. AD96) descended into disunity, still less apostacy. 

All this impinges upon the vital matter considered in an earlier post concerning the unity of doctrine within the second century church as affirmed by Irenaeus. For he was a pupil of Polycarp who in turn was a pupil of the Apostle John, Yet as I have pointed out on several occasions, Irenaeus’ teaching and that of the second century writers we have access to will scarcely be recognizable to many modern day Christians. Like Luther before them they will have regarded the second century Church fathers to be in “great darkness”, especially concerning faith, justification and natural law [1]. That cannot possibly be the case given the apostolic connections I have just outlined. Yet in due time a measure of darkness would pervade the whole of Christendom resulting in division and widespread apostacy. The question being examined is at what stage or stages in the Church’s development did this occur and who were the main protagonists.     

[1] Martin Luther “Table Talk” # DXXX Marshall Montgomery Collection

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