The Third Missionary Journey
Making and Teaching Disciples
He leaves the city and church behind for the last time. His objective is Ephesus, where he had promised to return. He takes the interior road passing through the “upper country” of Galatia and Phrygia.” Instead of the customary trade route by the Lycus and Meander valleys, he traveled a higher road in the north. This route was more direct as well as more difficult. He arrives in Ephesus in early September of A.D.
Ephesus afforded an opportunity to influence all of Asia (not the continent, but the Roman province “Asia” in what is now western Turkey). From Ephesus, the Gospel would spread quickly. The city possessed a splendid harbor, in which was concentrated the traffic of the sea that was then the highway of the nations.
Paul’s three year stay in Ephesus was undoubtedly the most important part of his missionary efforts— perhaps even the most important part of his whole life’s work. Besides being the geographical center of all the places Paul had previously visited, Ephesus was also a prominent center of pagan religion. Paul entered Satan’s stronghold and the Light of the Gospel beamed into the dominion of darkness in all directions from Ephesus.
We have the monument of Paul’s success in the cities lying around Ephesus. Christ wrote letters to the cities where the Gospel had spread from Ephesus in the Book of Revelation: Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Ephesus became the center of Gentile mission work in this part of the Empire.
When Paul walked into the city, Ephesus was the seat of the worship of the goddess Artemis (Diana), whose temple was enormously rich and harbored great numbers of priests. At certain seasons of the year it was a resort for flocks of pilgrims from the surrounding regions; and the inhabitants of the city flourished by ministering in various ways to this false religion. The silversmiths drove a trade in little silver models of the image of the goddess that the temple contained and which was said to have fallen from heaven. Copies of the mystic characters engraved on this idol were sold as charms. The city swarmed with wizards, fortunetellers, interpreters of dreams, and others of like kind, who preyed on the mariners, merchants, and pilgrims who frequented the port.
So Paul’s work had to assume the form of a polemic against superstition. He performed astonishing miracles in the name of Jesus to authenticate the Gospel.