WHY CHURCH FALLS (PART II)
By Akin Ojumu
Upon arriving in Ephesus, Paul, customarily, went to proclaim the Gospel first in the Jewish Synagogue. The Jews, however, hardened their hearts and cursed him out. Shunned and rejected, Paul together with his converts relocated to the Lecture Hall of Tyrannus.
It was here, in the first Bible School, that Paul, through his teachings, raised some of the most Biblically literate Christians the Church has ever known. They disputed daily, in a back-and-forth, question-and-answer-type dialogue, five hours a day, for two straight years. From 5th to the 10th hour – which was the hottest part of the day in that city – the believers were immersed in the Scripture. In the heat and humid condition, Apostle Paul saturated the converts with sound doctrine.
“This continued for the space of two years so that all they who dwelled in Asia heard the Word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.” (Acts 19:10).
Tremendous things happen whenever the Word of God is preached. Such an intensive Bible training program had an immediate and massive impact. The Word of the Lord increased and prevailed mightily. Those who sat under Paul’s teaching grew progressively in the faith, becoming biblically sound and fervent believers. Terrifying fear fell upon all the residents of Ephesus, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled.
Those amongst them who had practiced magic arts confessed and divulged their practices. Their magic books, valued at around fifty thousand pieces of silver, were gathered together in a huge heap and set on fire. Traders whose businesses depended on the worship of the goddess Diana (aka Artemis) experienced a major recession. As they lost customers to Christianity, their profits plummeted.
Predictably, the blowback was fast and furious. Instigated by silversmith Demetrius, the traders fomented a riot, and they turned the city into chaos. In the ensuing melee, Gaius and Aristarchus, who were Paul’s companions, were dragged into the amphitheater for trial.
Concerning the fervency of the Ephesian Christians, the Lord had this to say:
“I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars.” (Revelation 2:2)
Undoubtedly, the Ephesian believers weren’t unserious Christians pretending to be born again. They labored (i.e., worked until breaking point) for the Gospel, they were intolerant of evil, and their understanding of Scriptures was vast and their perception so deep that they were able to quickly recognize false apostles. Yet, Ephesus is a predominantly Islamic city today.
“But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” (Revelations 2:4).
The problem with the Church at Ephesus was that they abandoned their first love. That is, their passion for the faith soon turned into a cold orthodoxy. They got ensconced in the cocoon of their theology. Their Christian service became performative, routine, and regimented. What was once a love relationship cooled into mere religion. In addition, they developed disdain for sinners or those they deemed less spiritual than themselves.
Whenever a church abandons its first love, it soon becomes a church that compromises with the world. With compromise comes tolerance for sin. A compromising Church that tolerates sin would ultimately be content with a formulaic, strategic, ritualistic, technical, and organizational type of Christianity. This is the usual progression of the destruction of the Church.
While it’s true that the health, wealth, and deliverance doctrine is destroying the Body of Christ and is a major front in the war for the soul of the Church. The prosperity gospel is, however, not the only problem confronting the Church. There’s an unwarranted and deadly sense of self-righteousness that also poses a major threat to Christianity. Self-imputed holiness is a front in the war for the soul of the Church that must be fought with equal passion and fervency.
To be continued next time.