by A.E. Knoch

EPHESUS exceeded all other places in the number and variety of its ecclesias in that day, for there were three kinds of them. One seems to have been called out by fellow artisans, and was a mob which had been gathered into the theater. The secretary of the town council considered it illegal, and dismissed it, asking them to present their case to a legal ecclesia, probably the city council (Acts 19:32,39,41). These occurrences, being outside the religious sphere, should help us to see that the word has a much wider range than our term "church," for neither of these ecclesias could possibly be taken as a church today. Yet they are in perfect accord with the actual meaning of the word, a called-out company. The meeting of a workers' union seldom resembles a "church" or a church service, I am told. Neither does the city council, from what the newspapers say. Yet that was the proper name for them in that day.


The A. V. reads that there arose "no small stir" (Acts 19:28). It is good to be stirred up about God's revelation. But this ecclesia was not "stirred." Rather, as the following record shows, they made a disturbance. This was not the first disturbance caused by Paul (Acts 17:8,13), and by no means the last. Perhaps no other man has been such a disturbing factor in the present ecclesia as Paul. He is the apostle of unity, nevertheless, in practice, those who do not follow him fully are the chief cause of disunity and strife. So long as selfish and sordid motives prevail in the leaders of the "church," this disturbing, dividing spirit will shut Paul out of the "church" he established.

The fact that these two "churches" are found in Ephesus must be more than a casual coincidence, for it is to this place that Paul later writes of two spiritual ecclesias, one of which was legal, that is, established by law, and the other "illegal," or rather, apart from law. In neither case was Paul allowed to address them personally, but in both cases it was by means of a scribe. Later Paul could not address the spiritual ecclesia in Ephesus personally, but wrote to them, telling them that the two distinct spiritual groups, out of the Circumcision and the Uncircumcision, one under law, Israel the Bride and the other without law, the body, are now united in a joint body through his evangel (Eph.3:6). This is a peculiar figure, unknown to nature. Many individual believers are members of one body, hence vitally joined together. But here we have, as it were, only two different groups but only as individuals, as above, joined into one.

Now let us note specially the spiritual significance of everything. Let us look beneath the surface, and ponder the connections suggested by each word. First of all, this crisis, others would like us to believe this new beginning, takes place in Ephesus, in the ancient province of Asia. Here is a great crisis, in preparation for the present ecclesia. Paul had already gone to Thessalonica and Corinth with truth for today, but now he had withdrawn from the synagogue in Ephesus (Acts 19:9), and started an ecclesia, called out of the world. This ecclesia was composed of both Jews and Greeks, so would have been a joint body if both had been of equal rank (Eph.3:6). It was to all ecclesias in all provinces that he wrote his epistles, Ephesians and Colossians.

But let us never base any teaching upon such evidence. Nothing but plain, direct asseverations are valid as proof of the truth. These are only illustrations, to help us to "see" truth in the proper perspective, and give it a background in harmony with the plain statement concerning it. I must confess that, to me, it seems the best confirmation that can be found. Indeed, it is only another concord when we find truth in agreement with action and circumstances. This is specially true of the book of Acts. While this is not the inspired title, nevertheless it is chiefly concerned with doings rather than doctrines. And we will find that there is a divine concord between the inspired record of the proceedings and the truth associated with it.

Here we have one of the roots of "church" history. The shortest, yet most comprehensive, chronicle of its whole course was written later by Paul himself. It is this, "All those in the province of Asia were turned from me" (2 Tim.1:15). I have never known of a church history that said as much as that, although there are some, I understand, which are quite spiritual in their treatment of ecclesiastical apostasy. Here is a church history that contains more spiritual value than all the volumes in our libraries: Paul severed the disciples from the synagogue. Through him all those dwellings in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks (Acts 19:19). These later received his fullest and the latest and continued revelations. Yet all turned from him. This is true, with few exceptions to this very day. Israel turned against Moses and the prophets. So we have apostatized from Paul.


Ephesus is remarkable for the number, the variety, and the character of its ecclesias. We have already pointed out the two different gatherings of unbelievers who are "called out," not by God, but by man, the "church" of the silversmiths in the theater, and the town council (Acts 19:32,39). We are thoroughly convinced that these are not introduced here by accident, but that they fit right into the picture at this juncture. They illustrate the apostasy everywhere and at all times in Christendom, so are especially in point today. In this way God gives us a description of the "churches" which concern us most in our experience, for we are surrounded by them. I have visited Ephesus, and have seen the ruins of the theater, but there was no ecclesia there from which I could learn the lesson we all need in this day of dark declension. But, in this record, God exposes the apostasy of Christendom at its very beginning. It is composed mostly of unbelievers to this day.

Another notable feature of this account of the "churches" of Ephesus is the spiritual accord between the characters and service here, at the beginning, and that condemned in the final epistle on this theme, that to the Philippians. There the activity of this class of people is described and exposed. Here they are either seen in action or their character is indicated by their names, as is done in such books as Pilgrim's Progress. Gaius (EARTH) is Mr. Earthling. Demetrius (PUBLIC) is Mr. Politician. Aristarchus (Best-Chief) is Mr. Aristocratic Sacerdotalist, Alexander (avert-man, protector) is Mr. Fleshly Confidence.

Instead of Paul, Demetrius harangued the crowd. Perhaps His name is derived from dem-os, PUBLIC. If so, Demetrius stands for the many successful Christian orators who appeal to the public. Instead of listening to the voice of God, his fingers are placed on the pulse of the people. He wants to protect their purse and maintain their privileges. Such secular service is much more appreciated in a minister than an exhortation to suffer for Christ's sake. Demetrius portrays the popular unbelieving pastor who is concerned with the income of his parishioners, for this is the source of his own salary.

The Demetrius class is increasing in these days of political upheavals. Many real believers are also involved. Because the Papacy was largely a political power in Europe in the Middle Ages, even the Reformation itself was deeply steeped in politics and governmental reform. The state churches which resulted are public institutions, with other heads than Christ. In the various divisions of Protestantism there are many ministers whose main efforts are concerned with cleaning, up the national or the municipal administrations. We cannot help admiring the courageous and untiring persistence of some of them, and at the same time lament, like Paul, at their mistaken zeal (Phil.4:18).

The mere fact that characters like these are singled out and described in Philippians assures the devout believer that they characterize the course of the ecclesia (3:17-20). Histories of Christendom are, as a rule, far too tainted with these faults to expose them, but, in Acts, at the very outset, they were presented in a moving picture as the substitutes which the ecclesia will prefer to have as preacher in place of Paul. As Philippians, in contrast with Ephesians and Colossians, deals with departure from the highest ideals in service throughout the course of the ecclesia, it is the proper epistle to deal with these earliest intimations in the very beginning, as pictured in Acts. First we have Demetrius, the unbelieving orator seeking to lead the ecclesia away from its celestial citizenship, and then the believing Gaius, also disposed to the terrestrial (Phil.3:19), and Aristarchus, the aristocratic sacerdotalist, and then Alexander, the Jew, with his confidence in the flesh.


Although Paul was not allowed to speak to the ecclesia they gripped Gaius (Earthling) and Aristarchus (Best-chief). Are not these names an indication of what tickles the ears of Christendom? This is especially apparent in this last era where they will not tolerate sound teaching, and heap up for themselves teachers in accord with their own desires (2 Tim.4:3)? Gaius suggests what was present even in Paul's day, for his name seems to be derived from the Greek Ge land, or earth. In the epistle to Philippi, in Macedonia, whence Gaius came, Paul laments because some were disposed to the terrestrial. Gaius, the Earthling, may represent them in this scene. Certainly the ears of Christendom have been open to those parts of the Scriptures which concern Israel and the nations on the earth, rather than Paul's celestial message.


To "mind earthly things," as the A. V. has it, seems to many to be as proper as it is popular. But it is not a question of "minding" our earthly affairs, which we cannot avoid, but of our disposition toward the terrestrial. This is vital in this administration, which is concerned with the heavens, not with the earth. Paul laments that there are such saints and calls them "enemies of the cross of Christ." They look forward to a realm on earth, when ours is in the heavens. They claim to be Israelites, so, like Esau, they despise the higher blessing. They glory in a future down here, in their bodies of humiliation, instead of awaiting the Saviour, and the transfiguration of their mortal frames (Phil.3:17-21).

Earthliness is one of our besetting sins, notwithstanding the fact that most believers hope to go to heaven when they die (Phil.3:19). There is a strong tendency to depend on outward symbols, rather than live on inner realities. Even when the more obvious forms (such as baptism in water rather than in spirit, or sabbath keeping, in place of cessation from all efforts for salvation), no longer draw us down to the earth, we need all the help we can get to keep us from an earth-bound disposition. The great change from the material to the spiritual is the hall-mark of Paul's later message, and it should assist us to see it exhibited in his ways as well as his words. Moreover, since God's operations are no longer confined in place and time, centered in Jerusalem and the yearly festivals, it is more than merely interesting to see it displayed in nature as well.

Nature should teach us many things, especially if we have received God's spirit, and are not deceived by seducing spirits as to its lessons (1 Cor.11:14). Some seem to think the light of nature deceptive, but the error lies, not in God's physical creation, but in human misinterpretation. The most flagrant example of this is the theory of evolution. But there is not a single fact in nature to sustain it. In making the Concordant Version we absolutely ignore all mere theories of science, but we strive assiduously to be in accord with nature. The name of every object must agree in every point with all the inspired contexts. An outstanding example is the vulture (nshr). It is always rendered eagle in the A.V. But the contexts in the Scriptures and the birds of Palestine show clearly that it cannot be the eagle, but the vulture. This, in turn, illuminates all its contexts.

God's written revelation is based upon His material creation, and cannot be understood apart from it. How could we comprehend its opening sentence unless our senses had some perception of the heavens and the earth? These senses cannot enable us to feel or hear or see God, but they give us our first spiritual glimpse of Him when we read that He is their Creator. The more we perceive of His creation the more we are impressed with the attributes of Deity, such as His wisdom and power, which enable us to grasp His revealed place as the Subjector (Elohim, God) and, in relation to time, as the One who was and is and will be (Yahweh, Rev.1:8). All this is a basis for divine truth. It should lead us to compare His handiwork in nature with His inspired revelation. The concord between them may not only confirm our faith, but help us to see more clearly the great difference between the terrestrial ritual of Israel and the transcendent celestial truth which we should enjoy.

The rendering earthly may give a wrong impression, leading to monasticism, seclusion from material and temporal concerns, and exclusive devotion to religion (Col.2:23). That is earthly, or rather terrestrial, for that is what characterizes the priesthood in Israel. The fleshly tribe of Levi was relieved of all efforts to make their own living, and concerned itself altogether with the terrestrial ritual of divine religion. Paul did not become a monk, nor did any of his sons, like Timothy and Titus, who walked in his ways. It is not our terrestrial bodies (1 Cor.15:40) which must be disposed to the celestial by seclusion from life's affairs, for they cannot be transfigured until He calls us above. It is our spirits which, like Paul, have no confidence in the flesh and its religious activities, and are conformed to His death, and are disposed toward God's high calling above in Christ Jesus (Phil.3:1-21).

We should be able to free ourselves from petrified and terrestrial ideas of time much easier than the saints of former days, when many of the marvels of nature were still unknown. To creature perception, truth is relative, not absolute. Recording machines may delay the time when we hear, and moving pictures may defer the sights that we see, indefinitely. Even when we hear or see the original action, there is an interval of time between the actual thing and our perception of it. Watch a steam whistle blow while at some distance from it. The sight will come to your eyes some moments before you hear the sound. And even the sight takes an infinitesimal period in order to reach you.

Time and space are relative ideas measured by apparent motion on the earth. They are our yard-stick and clock, so long as we are here, but they will no longer apply when we are among the celestials. If we are disposed to the terrestrial, we will watch for the advent of Christ to a specific location, the Mount of Olives. And we will seek to know the exact time, and measure it carefully from the time that the covenant is broken and the daily offering in the temple ceases, three and a half years, forty-two months, twelve hundred and sixty days. Can any period be more explicitly measured? Then we may be sure that Christ will come to Israel (Dan.12:11-13; Rev.12:6,14; 13:5,6).

But we are not vitally concerned with the time when nor the place where He will come toward the earth. Indeed, He does not descend to the earth at all, but only to the air, for we will ascend to meet Him there. Let us suppose that we knew the place, for instance, directly above Ephesus. Looking at it from the terrestrial standpoint, what a trip some of us would have to make to get there! The writer once traveled across two continents and two seas to reach it, so he has good cause to fear that he will be late and last, if he used the usual modes of locomotion. Indeed, he would be tempted to change his place of residence to a nearer spot.

But, since I made the journey, there are speedier means of travel. A jet plane has just made a new record, flying almost as fast as the sun. Then it would take me only about half a day to fly to Ephesus. But where would I get the plane? Such machines are very costly. Even the fuel would be expensive. And how do I know if it will fly high enough? If all the saints used planes, and they all met at one point, what a dangerous mess that will make! And, even if we got there, we would be no use in our celestial locomotion. For such a sphere it takes much more power than that required by any airplane yet invented.

Power! That is what is needed, not such weak contraptions as thousand horse power airplanes which can carry fuel for only a short tune. And power is just what we will have when we hear His shout or are roused from among the dead (Eph.1:19,20). The strongest of mortals has an infirm body. He can scarcely jump his own height from terra firma. And he can't stay up without some other source of power. But our bodies will be changed from a terrestrial, earth-bound, soulish body, chained to the ground by the force of gravity, commonly called weight, to a celestial body, free from the force of gravitation, so that it would float in a vacuum, and need no power to keep it above the earth, yet with unlimited energy to move at the speed of thought to the grand rendezvous with our Lord in the air.

Some saints, who are disposed to the terrestrial, wish to go to the holy land, in order to be there when Christ arrives on the mount of Olives. Indeed, some have gone in the past, and some are intending to go soon. Many Jews have been buried on the slopes of Olivet and thereabouts, hoping to be raised at His advent. But they will have to wait until two and a half months later, for the "former" resurrection does not take place when He arrives, but seventy-five days afterward. If, however, they are members of Christ's body, believers now, in this administration of grace, they, will be caught away long before. But their journey to Jerusalem will be in vain, for that is not the place where Christ will meet us.

The difference in time and space at the resurrection of the terrestrial saints and the vivification of those of this secret celestial calling gives us a good illustration of their diverse character. As to the time, the former have a fixed date while the latter have none. No other event in earth's chronology is so clearly and unmistakably predicted as the glorious advent of earth's King. If I were to see the signs, the covenant broken, and the cessation of the sacrifice (Dan.9:25-27), I would not have the slightest hesitation in setting the date for Messiah's appearing. If a season, two seasons and a half is not definitely enough, then I would say forty-two months. Still more accurately I would guarantee the Lord's glorious presence in twelve hundred and sixty days. The hour, of course would vary according to the location of the saints on the earth (Dan.12:11; Rev.12:6; 13:5; Matt.24:15; Luke 21:28).

In contrast with this, there is no definite event from which we may reckon the time of His descent to the air. The only time periods mentioned are: an instant, the twinkle of an eye, the last trump (1 Cor.15:52). Here are no seasons, and months and days. An instant is UN-CUTable, an Atom (Greek a-tom-os) of duration, the time it takes an eyelid to move up or down (not both), the final blast of a trumpet signal. Just like the seasons and months and days, the instant and the twinkle and the trump are simultaneous. We must not add them together and stretch them to three instants! We are not conscious of any shorter period than this.

Even a greater contrast is seen in connection with the dead. Those who are roused in the "former" resurrection remain in the tombs for over two months after the kingdom comes. Before they rise, the kingdom is set up and divine service is resumed (Dan.12:11). It will take all this time to prepare the scene for their presence. The earth will be a shambles, and the nations a chaos, when Christ comes (Rev.19:11-15). First the false Messiah must be dealt with (2 Thess.2:8), and the nations judged. On the earth this will take time, so the sleeping saints are not roused until their place has been prepared for them long after the living have entered the kingdom. But just the reverse comes in our case. The living will not outstrip those reposing, but the dead will rise first. Then both together will be caught away in clouds to meet the Lord in the air (Thess.4:13-17).


Aristarchus (Best Chief) was also gripped by the ecclesia, or, as we would say today, "received a call." In English we have the name aristocrat, which comes very near to the same sense, for the last syllable is connected with HOLDing, might control, which are the attributes of a chief. Does this not indicate clearly another prominent feature of Christendom? The clergy constitutes a religious aristocracy. From the pope or metropolitan down through the archbishops and pastors of many-headed protestant organizations, the clericals form a religious caste, a nobility of the flesh, corresponding to that of Israel as a whole among the nations, and to the priests and Levites, within itself. Those who have no title, no social standing, are not wanted. The ecclesia wants Gaius and Aristarchus to preach, not Paul, who was not even a Levite, let alone a priest, and had no reputation as an elocutionist.

Christ alone is the Head of the ecclesia which is His body. Above the local elders who are supervisors He appoints no superintendents, bishops, cardinals or popes, for He is perfectly capable of ruling His whole body. Unlike the kingdom on earth, with the twelve apostles and lesser delegates, the true ecclesia today is a spiritual organism, in which every member should hold fast to the Head. Neither is it like the sacerdotal order in Israel based on physical descent. Christ, however, was given the highest place in the universe. Did He assume this when He came to earth? Quite the opposite. He emptied Himself of all His honors, and descended to become the lowest and most ignoble of all God's creatures, on the cross. This is our cue (Phil.2:7,8). Not many noble are called (1 Cor.1:26). I have known some.


Alexander's name is further clarified by the statement that he was a Jew, as the name is not Hebrew, but Greek. The last part of it is clearly MAN (andr). The first signifies avert, that is, of danger or evil, so it comes near to signifying protection. Here we have quite a different thought from that implied in the other names. It suggests one of the greatest enemies of Paul's teaching, that is Judaism, which includes law keeping, ritual, salvation by works, briefly confidence in the flesh. It is found almost everywhere, combined with the other departures from God's order.

There are even those who claim to be fleshly Israelites, who proclaim the opposite of Paul's message. Paul really had something to boast about for he was not only a "Jew," but belonged to the one tribe besides Judah which clung to the house of David and the ritual in Jerusalem, besides being a Pharisee, that is, "orthodox," blameless as to the law, and more zealous than the rest. He gladly forfeited all this to gain Christ (Phil.3:4). He refused the refuse of Judaism. Alexander, the Jew, and those whom he represents today, have thoroughly confused and darkened Paul's teaching. There is only one new humanity today (Eph.2:15). There is no distinction (Rom.10:12). In Christ there is no Jew nor yet Greek (Gal.3:28). In one spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks (1 Cor.12:13). Let us beware lest we make two!


Perhaps the most pathetic and pertinent point in this whole passage is the fact that Paul was not allowed to speak at all. When he does console and salute the disciples (Acts 19:28-20:1), no record was made of the words. Finally, when he prolongs his message later at Troas (20:9), although there was a considerable number of torches to dispel the darkness, a young man fell asleep and fell out of a window to his death! Is not this true of the course of Christendom? Will they ever allow Paul to get in a word? If they do, what a lot of damage it does! Even when Paul supplies the text, Peter, or perhaps Plato, does the preaching!


Are not these things a moving picture? They teach us by means of action or inaction, rather than by words. It seems almost heartless for Paul to keep from contacting those to whom he ministered. Among the circumcision, blessing came through the physical presence of the blesser as a rule. Our Lord went about from place to place in distributing the bodily blessings that He dispensed. The highest spiritual blessings did not emanate from Paul until his body was in chains (Eph.6:20). But we have a suggestive symptom of this in the case of the centurions slave. His Master, not belonging to Israel, thought himself unworthy of our Lord's presence in his home. So he suggested that our Lord heal his slave from a distance. When Jesus heard this He said, "Not even in Israel found I so much faith." (Luke 7:2-10).

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