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How the Church in Ephesus Missed Sustaining Revival and What We Learn From It
Revival is a word that is tossed around so much these days. Many churches talk about revival; some might say they are “breaking into revival,” but I only know a few who are truly there.
Revival in Ephesus
The church in Ephesus is one of the New Testament churches that were no doubt in revival.
The Apostle Paul made his trip to Ephesus in 52 AD and stayed there for about three years until 55 AD. Ephesus was a port city having a population of nearly 300,000 people. It was home of the goddess Diana (Artemis) the daughter of the Greek God Zeus. Legend has it that her statue fell out of heaven to Ephesus. Thus the city was known as the Seventh Wonder of the World.
Testimonies of Amazing Ministry and Changed Lives
We see in Acts 19 how powerfully Paul ministered in Ephesus. Here are some of the highlights.
• People were being saved (Acts 19:1)
• People were being baptized in the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:6-7)
• Paul preached and taught powerfully (Acts 19:8-11)
• Extraordinary miracles were happening through Paul. Handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured, and evil spirits left them. (Acts 19:12-12)
• Many publicly confessed their evil deeds and publicly burned their occult scrolls worth over 10 million dollars. (Acts 19:18-20)
About five years later, in 60 AD, Paul pens the book of Ephesians while under house arrest in Rome. The church is growing. A staggering amount of people are converting to Christianity. Testimonies keep pouring in.
Yet, 43 years later, a rebuke comes to the church in Ephesus from the Lord (Rev. 2:1-7).
Ephesus is chosen as one of the churches that the Lord rebukes.
The church moved from the pinnacle of reformation to having its influence (lampstand) removed altogether. Revival was not sustained into the second generation.
A Look at Pauls Strategic Prayer
When Paul penned the letter to the Ephesians, he prayed two great prayers, Ephesians 1:17-19 and Ephesians 3:16-17. These prayers virtually say the same thing.
Paul knew that the church could never sustain revival by just doing the second commandment alone.
The focus of the first great prayer in Ephesians sees Paul asking the Father to give the church a spirit of wisdom and revelation so that they may know him better.
The focus of the second great prayer is for the church to be strengthened so Christ may dwell in their hearts. To be rooted and established in the love of Christ.
He concluded the prayer by urging them to know His love so that they may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
No rebuke, just a plea to love Jesus more. No programs, just an appeal to continue to discover the depths of Christ.
Live from the overflow.
That’s it. Keep the affections of the heart squarely on Jesus, and revival will continue to increase both now and into future generations. This is the essence of the prayers prayed.
What’s alarming is the rebuke that comes to the Church in Ephesus in the book of Revelation.
Rev. 2:4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.
The church had forsaken the very thing Paul had commanded; they left their first love. They missed it!
The affections of their hearts drifted towards doing ministry at the expense of intimacy. The lamp of influence was about to go out.
It must be challenging to keep the priority straight amid rapid city-taking ministry where the raw power of God is being radically displayed, and lives are being drastically changed.
As we move into greater waves of revival, we need the grace to stay steady in pursuing God wholeheartedly.
Ultimately, our goal is not revival but the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29). If we make the daily choice to know Him better, we will have learned the lesson the Ephesian church missed.