- Conclusion of the Letter (Ephesians 6:21-24)
- What Happened to the Church in Ephesus? (Acts 19:10; 20:17-38; 2 Tim 1:15; Rev 2:1-7)
Chester McCalley tells a story in one of his sermons about a couple who visited his church, and after the service they came up to him and said they wanted to learn more about the church and asked to see the church’s constitution and bylaws.
The pastor, noticing that they were both carrying Bibles, said, “You have them in your hands. Our purpose and everything we do and why we do it is contained within the pages of the Bible.”
If we wanted to find out specifically what we should be doing as a church, and why we should be doing it, the Bible contains most of the information we need. And one of the best books in the Bible for this purpose is Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
Paul began in Ephesians 1–3 to tell us about who we are and what we have in Jesus Christ. We have security from the Father, salvation from the Son, sealing from the Holy Spirit. We have spiritual riches and wealth beyond our wildest dreams.
And upon this foundation of knowing about the infinite treasures that we have in Jesus Christ, Paul told us in Ephesians 4–6 what we are to do with these riches.
We are not to be living in holes and under rocks scared and ashamed of who we are. No, we are heirs to the throne. We are spiritual billionaires. We are children of God. Because of this, we can walk in this world boldly, and proudly and with confidence. That is what we learn in Ephesians 4–6.
I came across a poem that summarizes the book of Ephesians quite nicely. Here it is:
Heir to a mighty King, heir to a throne,
Why art thou wandering sad and alone?
Heir to the love of God, heir to His grace,
Rise to thy privilege, claiming thy place.
Heir of a Conqueror, why dost thou fear?
Foes cannot trouble thee when He is near.
Child of the promises, be not oppressed,
Claim what belongs to thee, find sweetest rest.
Heir by inheritance! Child of thy God!
Right to thy son-ship is found in His Word;
Walk with the noble ones, never alone;
Prince of thy Royal Blood, come to thy throne.
Heirs! We are joint-heirs with Jesus our Lord!
Heirs of the covenant, found in His Word!
Rise to thy privilege, heir to His grace!
Heir to the love of God, rise, claim thy place!
That is the main truth and the main lesson of the book of Ephesians. As a believer in Jesus Christ for eternal life, you are the Bill Gates of Christianity. You are a child of God, a co-heir with Jesus Christ. These are the things God has given you. Now it is just a matter of what you are going to do with these riches.
Today, in Ephesians 6:21-24, as we close out the book of Ephesians, we see what one man did with his riches, and then, after looking at this positive example, we’re going to discover a warning as well by looking at what happened to the church in Ephesus in history.
I. Conclusion of the Letter (Ephesians 6:21-24)
Let’s begin with the positive example, found in the final four verses. Ephesians 6:21-24.
21But that you also may know my affairs and how I am doing, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make all things known to you; 22whom I have sent to you for this very purpose, that you may know our affairs, and that he may comfort your hearts. 23Peace to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.
Normally, Paul closes his letter with an extended greeting, telling the people how he is doing and greets many of the members of the church by name. For example, in his letter to the church in Rome, the greeting takes up the entire 16th chapter. This greeting at the end of Ephesians however, is one of his shortest.
The reason why it is short is found in Ephesians 6:21-22.
21But that you also may know my affairs and how I am doing, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make all things known to you; 22whom I have sent to you for this very purpose, that you may know our affairs, and that he may comfort your hearts.
He is sending the letter with this man named Tychicus. Paul says that Tychicus knows all about Paul’s circumstances and so he can inform the church in Ephesus what Paul had been going through. So that is the reason we don’t have any greetings here, or much information about Paul’s circumstances.
But I want you to notice two things about Tychicus in Ephesians 6:21. The first thing is that he is a beloved brother.
It seems likely that Tychicus had been with Paul for many years as Paul traveled around from place to place on his Missionary journeys. And so Paul rightly calls him a beloved brother. Tychicus had been with Paul through thick and thin.
And now Tychicus was to take this letter to the other beloved brethren in Ephesus. In this way, Tychicus is a perfect example for the unity and love that Christians are to have for one another which Paul has talked about in Ephesians 4–5.
We learn, by the way, from Colossians 4:9 that Onesimus went with Tychicus. You can read all about Onesimus in the short book of Philemon. Maybe, Onesimus was on his way back to turn himself in to his former master in Colossae. If this is the case, then we can be sure that Tychicus spent much of his time encouraging Onesimus that he was doing the right thing. That God was in control of the situation. That Onesimus’ master Philemon, since he was a Christian, would not put Onesimus in prison, or kill him, as Roman law allowed.
All of this points to the fact that Tychicus was a beloved brother to all around him. He was Paul’s personal mailman, he was the news anchorman to the church in Ephesus and Collosae. He was the personal confidant and encourager for Onesimus. May all of us have a beloved brother and encourager like Tychicus in our lives.
But not only is he a beloved brother in Ephesians 6:21, he is also a faithful minister in the Lord.
We learned in Ephesians 4:11-16 that all of us are ministers, and so Tychicus is the perfect picture of what Paul was talking about there. Tychicus was sent by Paul, according to Ephesians 6:22, to tell the church what was going on in Paul’s ministry and to comfort their hearts. This shows us that Tychicus had the gifts of service and encouragement, and he was using these to serve Paul, and encourage Onesimus as well as encourage and comfort the Christians in Ephesus and Colossae.
Do you know what your spiritual gifts are? Do you know how to use them for the edification of other Christians? May each of us be a Tychicus, faithfully serving God and one another.
The final two verses end the letter very similarly to the way Paul ends all of his letters, and this one here is very similar to the way he began this letter and echoes with many of the key words and key themes found throughout the letter.
The phrase peace to the brethren in Ephesians 6:23 reminds us of Paul’s reference to peace in Ephesians 1:2, and how almost the whole of Ephesians 2 is taken up with how Christ has made peace for us with God and peace with one another through his sacrifice on the cross. And in Ephesians 4, one of the first instructions to the church was that we should grow in the peace and unity amongst ourselves.
The phrase love with faith, from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ reminds us of Ephesians 1:15 where Paul mentioned both in a very similar way. And again, it reminds us of how everything we have is from God, and through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Grace concludes the letter, just as it had introduced it (Eph 1:2). Salvation is by the grace of God from first to last, and Paul, in this masterpiece letter to the church includes it, like bookends, at the beginning and at the end.
And Paul especially pronounces grace upon those who love Jesus Christ with sincerity, or with an undying loyalty, or with incorruptible love.
This final aspect is a very strange conclusion to this letter. It is the only time Paul uses this kind of terminology to conclude his letter. And besides that, closing this letter with a call to an incorruptible love, a sincere love, and undying love, is a strange thing to tell them when we consider everything Paul has already said, right?
Let’s say all of you have a father that you really love and really enjoy spending time with. And one day, your father, he happens to very rich, decides to give you a million dollars, just because he loves you. No strings attached. No demands. Just, “Hey, I love you so much. Here’s a million dollars.”
Now, what would your natural response be? To love him back, right? He has given you an a amazing gift. Won’t you love him in return? You already loved him because of who he is and all he has done for you, and now, just because he loves you, he gives you incredible riches, wouldn’t that encourage you to love him all the more? And to love him with an undying love? To love him with an incorruptible love?
I would think it would. But Paul seems to sense something here at the end of his letter, and so he includes this very strange admonition to continue loving God with an undying love. To love God with sincerity.
But it is not so strange when we discover what happened to the church in Ephesus. These final words turned out to be a very prophetic exhortation. A very prophetic warning. We see this by looking into history to see what happened to the church in Ephesus.
II. What Happened to the Church in Ephesus? (Acts 19:10; 20:17-38; 2 Tim 1:15; Rev 2:1-7)
The city of Ephesus was located in what is now the country of Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country. There is no longer a Christian church in Ephesus. Of course, there is no longer a city of Ephesus either. It is an archaeological site now, but that is beside the point.
The point is that although there is no longer a city of Ephesus, the church in Ephesus used to be the strongest church in Asia Minor, and now there are hardly even any Christians to be found in all of Asia Minor, let alone a church of any strength or size.
Turkey is 99.8% Muslim, leaving only .2% as Christian. And even this .2% is in rapid decline.
Turkey, although it used to be a fortification of Christianity, is now the largest unreached nation in the world and one of the strongest propagator’s of Islam. Most of the nation’s 55 million Muslim’s have never even heard the gospel.
So what happened?
Yes, there were a couple of wars and invasions about a thousand years ago, but the decline away from Christianity began much sooner. In fact, rather than the wars and invasions being the reason of the decline of Christianity in Turkey, the invasions rather seem to be the result of the decline. We could say that these Muslim invasions may have just been God’s judgment on an apostate church, on a church that has already fallen away.
Paul was prophetic in his final words of his letter. He called them to love the Lord Jesus Christ with sincerity, with an incorruptible love. But this is the one thing they forgot to do. It is a very sad story.
Let me show you what happened. Our story begins in Acts 19. In Acts 19:1-10, we read of the church of Ephesus beginning. In Acts 19:1, Paul found the church in Ephesus (cf. Acts 18:19-20). Among other things, he teaches the new Ephesian Christians about three different forms of baptism, and oversees two of them, the Christian water baptism and Spirit baptism.
Then, in Acts 19:7, twelve men because the first Christians, and along with Paul, they try to persuade more Jewish people to believe, but Paul reports in Acts 19:8-9 that very few believed in Jesus because they were hard of heart.
In Acts 19:9, the Christians started to meet in the school of Tyrannus. This was most likely a Gentile place of learning and philosophy (cf. Acts 17:16-34; 18:6-8). Paul met with the Christians there every day, teaching them from the Scriptures about Jesus and the gospel. He taught this way in the school of Tyrannus for two years (Acts 19:10), but according to Acts 20:31, he spent three years teaching and training the Christians in Ephesus. They must have met in some other location for some time both before and after they met in the school of Tyrannus (cf. Acts 18:19-20).
And it was likely that Paul didn’t teach for just thirty or forty minutes. In Acts 20, we see that Paul taught night and day, sometimes late into the night (Acts 20:9). If Paul taught the Ephesians for four hours each day, and he did this for three years, this comes to 4380 hours of teaching that Paul provided to the Ephesians Christians. If the average Christian listens to one 40-minute sermon each week, it would take 126 years to receive the same amount of teaching. But the Ephesian Christians received this much training in just three years.
A lot of people today are looking for the fast track to spirituality. Do you want to know what it is? Spend as much time as possible in the Word of God. The more time you spend in the Word, the quicker you mature as a disciple of Jesus Christ. It is no wonder this church in Ephesus was one of the strongest in the New Testament. In just three years, they grew into what would take us 126 years.
Other amazing things occur in Acts 19 and through these events, many people become Christians. The Ephesian church grew rapidly. City-wide revival often occurs as a result of the people of God learning Scripture and applying it to their lives.
At the beginning of Acts 20, Paul leaves Ephesus to visit some of the other churches in the area. Then in Acts 20:17, he returns to a beach near Ephesus, and from there he asks the elders of the church to come see him. Paul is headed toward Jerusalem, where he knows he will be arrested, and eventually killed. So in Acts 20:18-38, Paul gives his farewell instructions to leaders of the strongest church in the area.
In Acts 20:18-21, Paul reminds them of the work he did among them. In Acts 20:22-25, Paul explains to them what will happen to him in Jerusalem. Then in Acts 20:26-35, Paul gives his farewell instructions. He remind them of how, for three years, he taught them the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:26-27, 32). He then encourages the Ephesians elders to teach to others the things they learned from him (Acts 20:28). This is basic discipleship at work.
But the reason Paul wanted the elders to pass his teachings on to others is because Paul knew that false teachers were coming, and he wanted them to be prepared (Acts 20:29-30). Paul wanted the Ephesians church to know how to recognize false teaching and how to refute it. Then Paul gives his closing remarks (Acts 20:31-35) and has a tearful goodbye (Act 20:36-38).
Paul then goes to Jerusalem, where he is arrested and put into prison. But Paul’s work with the Ephesians is not done. While in prison, Paul spent some of his time writing letters of encouragement and instruction to various churches. We don’t know how many letters Paul wrote, but the Bible contains thirteen of these letters. Of these thirteen letters, three of them are written to the church in Ephesus, or people in the church at Ephesus. These three are Ephesians, and 1–2 Timothy.
Many of the themes and ideas that are found in Ephesians are also found in Paul’s two letters to Timothy, who was the pastor in Ephesus. Every chapter of these two letters deal with one main thing. Paul wants Timothy to watch out for false teachers. Paul warns Timothy that false teachers are coming and they will try to lead the Ephesian Christians astray. Paul tells Timothy that the best way to keep himself and his hearers protected for the seductive ideas of false teachers is to be firmly rooted and founded in Word of God.
Almost any passage out of 1 and 2 Timothy will show this. Second Timothy 1:15 is one example, for it shows that these false teachers have already made inroads into the church, and are already causing confusion and damage to the church. Paul specifically calls out two men who, according to Paul, have caused everyone in Asia to turn away from him. This is a bit of an exaggeration, because Timothy lived in Asia, but he had not turned away. And since Timothy was still the pastor of the church in Ephesus, we can assume some of the Christians there must not have turned away from Paul either.
But some apparently had, and although the church was still quite new, already the false teachers had come and were leading people astray. And Paul is in great pain and turmoil about this. Men and women whom Paul had poured his life into were now rejecting the truth and were following false teachers.
This church had not followed Paul’s instructions which he had written to them in Ephesians. They had not understood how serious spiritual warfare was. They relied on their vast knowledge of the Bible, and their prominence as a Christian church. And they began to look to themselves rather than to Jesus Christ. As a result, many fell away.
Church history tells us that after Paul got out of prison, he made his way to Spain, and then returned to Ephesus to minister there before being arrested again and finally killed. We also know from church history that the apostle John was a leader of the church of Ephesus as well. It is probably while John was in Ephesus that he wrote 1, 2 and 3 John and the Gospel of John.
I have often wondered what circumstances were arising in Ephesus that spurred him to write the Gospel of John, the one Gospel which so clearly states what a person must do to receive eternal life. Was the church forgetting what the simple message of eternal life was and so John, who was getting old, decided to put it all on paper to make sure people had a written record that eternal life is given to those who believe in Jesus Christ for it?
But it was probably while the Apostle John was in Ephesus that he was exiled to the Island of Patmos where he received the vision from Jesus Christ which we call the Book of Revelation.
But the point for our purposes is that Ephesus had some of the best teaching, and the best blessings, and the best leaders that a church could ever have. Paul not only founded and taught the church for three years, but then they had Timothy as their teaching elder, and even the Apostle John. But even though they had the best teaching from the best teachers, it appears that they never heeded the warning advice of Paul to hold on to what they were taught and stay away from false teachers.
We know this because of the final time the church in Ephesus is mentioned in the Bible. In Revelation 2:1-7, the Apostle John writes a warning to the church in Ephesus. He begins by praising them for the things they were doing well (Rev 2:1-3), but then tells them in Revelation 2:4 that they have left their first love.
What was their first love? Well, according to the closing remarks of Paul in Ephesians 6:24, their love was for Jesus Christ. But now, apparently, they had left behind their love for Jesus Christ. They were now listening to false teachers. They were being seduced by the lies and deceptions of the devil.
But John knew that it was not too late for the Ephesian church. God is always gracious and patient. God always longs for His prodigal son to return. He always calls His wayward sheep to come home.
So in Revelation 2:5, Jesus, through the pen of John, gives the remedy to the Ephesian church. He tells them how they can return to their glory as first among the churches. He tells them how once again their light can shine brightly into the world. They must repent, and go back and do the things they did at the very first. If they don’t do this, then their light will be removed, and the church in Ephesus will be no more.
So what first works were they supposed to do? They are to go back and do the things that Paul did with them for those three years that he lived and taught in Ephesus. They must meet on a daily basis to read and study Scripture so that they can live it out and apply it in their lives.
But sadly, history tells us that the Ephesian church did not heed the warnings of Paul or the warnings of John. Their light was indeed snuffed out. It appears that they did not repent and return to their first works. They did not return to Jesus, their first love. As a result, they never regained their former glory. Today, the best and greatest church in the New Testament is no more. It has passed away. The region is now almost entirely Muslim.
I wonder what would have happened if the church in Ephesus has repented, and had returned to God? The greatest church in Christian history no longer exists. It is all very sad.
But it is also a lesson.
It is a lesson, because the very same thing can happen to us. In fact, I would say it is happening to us. I would say that the American church today is at the exact point in our history that the Ephesian church was at in Revelation 2.
The American church used to be one of the strongest in the world. Our nation was founded on biblical principles, by Godly leaders. There was a time in the late 18th century that the United States led the way in a western civilization spiritual revival. There was a time in the 19th and early 20th century when the strongest Christians and the most knowledgeable Christian in the world were from the United States. There was even a time in the mid to late 20th century when the United States led the world in missionary endeavors, reaching the unreached people groups of the world.
But I am afraid that, like Ephesus, we have left our first love. God is at work now in Asia and Africa. They are sending out more missionaries per day than we do in a year. They all have more zeal and love for Christ than most of us have ever witnessed in another Christian.
And now, our nation probably puts out more false teachers than good and healthy teachers. Our nation, our seminaries, our Bible colleges, our churches, our pulpits, and our pews are full of people who don’t know the Bible and don’t know Jesus Christ.
So we are at a crossroads. It is not too late to turn the tide. It is not too late to return to our first love. It is not too late to return to being one nation, under God. But if we do not repent, if we do not turn back to God, the day will come, sooner than most of us think, that the United States will no longer be a Christian nation. It will become a pagan nation. Or like Turkey, it will become an Islamic nation.
We must heed the warning from Ephesus. They were the greatest Christian church in Asia Minor. Now, they are barely remembered. America used to be one of the greatest Christian nations. God had blessed us for that. But we are only one generation away from extinction.
If American Christianity continues on the path we are on – leaving our first love – Jesus Christ, having abandoned the things that matter – such as the Bible and prayer – then we too will be forgotten. We will become a “has been” nation. We will become like France. We will become like Germany. The Reformation took place there, and now they are Atheistic. Humanistic. Hedonistic. Pagan. We will become Islamic like Turkey. That is what will happen to us if we do not repent and return to our first love.
How do we hold back the tide? We hold it back one person at a time – starting with yourself. Be like Tychicus. A beloved brother, a faithful minister in the Lord. Faithful Christians, biblical Christians, are on the endangered species list. Make sure that you do not get exterminated. Let each one of us make sure that we do what we can to keep the United States from becoming like Turkey. It had a great church, but it is no longer there. We have a great church. Where will it be a year, five years, or a decade from now? It all depends on you.
Notes on Ephesians 6:21-24
 Springs in the Valley, Nov. 19.
 Patrick Johnstone, Operation World, Turkey, 541-542.
 ISBE, “Tyrannus.”