Along with Alexandria in Egypt, and Antioch in Syria, Ephesus was one of the three major cosmopolitan ports in the eastern geography of the Roman empire. What made Ephesus so ideal for Paul’s major push for Christ in Asia was the fact that from the famous and well used port, there were ships facilitating correspondence and visitors to and from the other churches around the Aegean, aiding Paul’s care of all the churches (2 Corinthians 11:28). There were roads that ran eastward through the long wide valleys to other major cities in the province. It is a geography vaguely similar to the valleys in the south of Wales in the UK, yet on a much larger scale. Paul made use of this geography by sending his assistants and protégés up the valleys to evangelise Asia while he carried on the work in Ephesus.
(Who knows, Paul may have visited Colossae and Philemon, while Luke, for some reason, did not feel free to tell us (Philemon 22)).Thus we have the example of Epaphras going to Colossae, Laodicea and Hierapolis (Colossians 1:6-8. 4:13 and 16.). Academics and archaeologists believe that after Paul’s three year church planting mission, there were churches all over Asia, evidence being found as well as scriptures that substantiates churches in Miletus, Troas, Assos, Cyzicus, Magnesia, Tralles, Metropolis, and Hierapolis as well as Colossae and the so called, “Seven Churches of Asia.”
I have no doubt whatsoever that the, “Seven Churches of Asia,” as referred to in the book of Revelation, were founded during these incredibly productive years while Paul was based in Ephesus sending his travelling team of protégés out to emulate what they had seen their mentor do in Ephesus.
Smyrna was only 35 miles north of Ephesus, Pergamos 80 miles in the same direction. These were the distances that Epaphras and others would have had to have travelled in order to plant satellite church bases encircling Ephesus and permeating Asia. Thyatira was 90 miles away, Sardis 55, Philadelphia just short of 100 and Laodicea only 40 miles away. These seven churches were all within a couple of day’s journey from Ephesus, and therefore easily accessible by Paul’s roaming team of evangelists. Paul himself had never seen the people of the churches in Colossae, Hieropolis or Laodicea (and undoubtedly many of the other newly birthed congregations in Asia), yet he obviously considered them as part of his “flock” (Col 1:24). T
he imminence of the ports facilitating the sea lanes being used to dispatch both letters and personnel to churches all around the Aegean, rendered Ephesus as a central Headquarters for “Apostle Paul Ministries Incorporated,” at least for the period he was ministering there. Ephesus was taken for Christ.
The whole of Asia heard the word of God. Asia’s culture was changed. As we have been slowly walking with Paul for this historical period of 2-3 years, we have seen how he ploughed the furrow for Christ in the midst of a heathen, gentile Roman province, with all kinds of pressures and buffettings. He describes one period of his experience in Ephesus as “fighting with wild beasts” (1 Corinthians 15:32), confronting physically as well as spiritually, violent people in the city of Diana. Added to this he expresses how there was the “pressure” weighing heavily upon him, of his anxiety for the churches (2 Corinthians 11:28). He had obvious concerns with the legalistic faction that was considerable in both size and influence that was still based at the church in Jerusalem. There was the impact of these legalists wherever Paul had been -Galatia, Cappadocia , Macedonia and Achaia, and the problems they caused needed constant attention all the while on this, his third journey. And in the midst of all these contemporaneous problems, Christians in Corinth seemed to have gone to the extreme in anarchy. The freedom that Christ had brought them was now being exhibited in sheer licence.
It is in the first chapter of First Corinthians where we are introduced to Chloe (1 Corinthians 1:11). We know nothing about her, apart from gleaning from various scriptures a vague outline of her situation in life. The fact that Paul recognized a group of people as belonging to “the house of Chloe,” suggests she was a high profile Christian woman of some acceptance within the Corinthian church. I would even suggest she was a leader. From what the historians tell us, at this period of time the name of a husband, or father would have been commonly used in order to identify her, not the female’s name, unless she was widowed, or had some startlingly strong character that made her a force to be reckoned with. Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus were from Corinth and either related to, or close to Chloe. They turned up on Paul’s doorstep in Ephesus with, “a few church problems,” while he was hard at work. It seems, from what we deduce from Paul’s writings, that these three, quite literally, came with a list of issues for Paul to resolve. It is also highly probable that these three returned to Corinth to deliver Paul’s letter to the Christians there, that would probably be the letter we refer to as First Corinthians. What brought them to their father in the Lord was every pastor’s worst nightmare. Part Seven Next Week