In Christ and In Ephesus
Paul addressed his Ephesian epistle, "To
the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ
Jesus." The people addressed were in Ephesus, and they were
likewise in Christ. What did it mean to be in Ephesus? Ephesus
was one of the great centers of paganism. It was rich and
voluptuous. Both private and public life were utterly corrupt.
Even the religious practices of the Ephesians were unspeakably
vile. This city was a moral bog, a sink of pollution, filled
with all corruption, and reeking with vileness. It was a
second Sodom. Vice stalked abroad everywhere and was honored
therefore well say, "Can any good thing come out of Ephesus?
Can Christianity flourish in such surroundings?" But there
were saints in Ephesus, and faithful ones, too. They were such
in their lives and characters as to win the commendation of
that great apostle to the Gentiles. Out of that obnoxious mud
of iniquity were growing the pure white lilies of Christian
character. That is the glory of Christianity and of Christ.
Those who were now Christians were not superior to the other
Ephesians; they were not by nature different. In fact, Paul
tells them that they had been the children of wrath, even as
others, and they had been such by nature. What a triumph of
divine grace that raised these people up out of such
unspeakable filth and made them faithful saints! And yet that
is the power of our great Christ.
persons look around at the present condition of things in this
world, at sin abounding on every hand, and say, "There is no
use for me to try to be a Christian or to be different from
the others." There are many who look at things in this way.
They think it useless to try to be righteous under present
conditions. Once while walking down the street of a certain
city, I came upon a policeman standing on the street-corner. I
engaged him in conversation, which I quickly turned into
religious channels, and began inquiring about his own
standing. He said to me in a hopeless voice, "Oh, there is no
use talking; there is no chance for a policeman." I tried to
tell him of the power of God and of what salvation would do
for him. But it seemed as an idle tale to him, and he could
only reply, "There is no hope for a policeman."
are many other people today in various situations; who say:
"There is no hope for me. There is no use for me to try."
Those Ephesians might have talked the same way. They had just
as much reason to do so as any one else. Probably some of them
did talk like that and were lost; who can tell? There were a
great many, however, who turned from idols to serve the true
and living God, received Christ into their hearts, and found
the power of salvation in the gospel. They found power in the
blood of Christ to cleanse them from their impurities, and not
only so, but also to raise them so far from the mire of sin
and wickedness abounding around them as to keep them faithful
in Christ Jesus while still dwelling in Ephesus.
not so much a change of environment that people need as a
change of heart and of character. Diamonds are often found
embedded in volcanic mud; mud surrounds them on every side,
and yet they have lain there for centuries and are still
diamonds. What is the secret to it? Why have they not become
contaminated? It is because the mud never entered the diamond;
and that was the reason that the Ephesian saints could be
faithful and still live in Ephesus. They were left amidst the
foul mud of corruption, but the mud was taken out of them, and
the grace of Christ kept it from getting back in again.
cannot get away from the mud and defilement of sin in this
world. Sin will ever be all about us. Its stench will be in
our nostrils from day to day. Our eyes will be offended by it,
and our ears will be shocked. But so long as we keep it all on
the outside, we can be saints and faithful in Christ Jesus. We
are told that one of the chief things for us to do is to keep
ourselves "unspotted from the world." Phil. 2:15 says, "That
ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without
rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among
whom ye shine as lights in the world." Again Paul says,
"Neither be partakers of other men's sins: keep thyself pure"
(1 Tim. 5:22). We are not only to keep free from committing
any sins of our own, but also to avoid partaking of the sins
of others. That is very important.
are as it were, in Ephesus. There is sin abounding all about
us. God wants us so to abhor the sins of others that we shall
not follow them, nor find pleasure in those who do sinful
things. There are two ways in which we can partake of other
people's sins. One way is to approve of their evil works. It
may be that we ourselves would not do those things, but if we
approve of someone else's doing them, it is just about as bad.
allow yourself to approve of another's sins. You cannot keep
clean and do it. Again, we may be partakers of other men's
sins by partaking of the results of them. If a man cheats
another in business, and then I share in his ill-gotten gain,
I am partaking of his sin. It may be that I would not steal my
neighbor's melons; but if another steals them, and I, knowing
his theft, eat of them with him, did I not partake of his
sins? And so it is with all the affairs of life.
keep ourselves separate from sin. We cannot help being in
Ephesus. We must live in this corrupt and sinful world. So the
important thing is that we attend to keeping ourselves in
Christ--unspotted from the world. If the Ephesians could do
this, so can we. But to do it, we must walk uprightly. We must
not stoop down into the mire of sin, but keep ourselves erect,
and keep our spiritual nostrils above the poisonous gases of
a man of God. He dwelt in Sodom, and we are told that his
righteous soul was vexed from day to day because of the wicked
conduct of the Sodomites. But he kept himself clear; he had no
part with them; he hated their sins. When we reach a place
where we do not hate sin, where we can see it and hear and
know of it and find no vexation in our souls, it causes us no
uneasiness, we have no particular repugnance for it, it is
time that we were becoming awakened. We are commanded to abhor
that which is evil, and it is only by so doing and by keeping
ourselves clean from it that we can be safe in Christ Jesus
and dwell in the wicked world.
was a bit of heaven in every Christian heart in Ephesus. That
bit of heaven was just as pure as the celestial realms above.
We too have that heavenly element in our hearts; and in that
transplanted bit of God's holiness will flourish all the
plants of righteousness that bloom in the courts eternal. But
we must guard these plants by keeping the gates of our hearts
closed night and day against evil. Only thus can we keep pure
and acceptable to God. This we can do and be holy and faithful
in the worst "Ephesus" that exists today, if it were our lot
to abide there.