Unveiling the Glory of Christ in theWorld through the Church
1. A church that appears too small, too weak, and too fragile to survive.
Paul writes a letter of encouragement to the churches throughout Asia Minor.The church is made up of small groups of Christians spread throughout Asia Minor worshipping in homes.Paul, one of the key leaders, is imprisoned and will soon die.The founder, Jesus Christ, was executed.The whole church appears to be a temporary movement within Judiaism.
2. A culture that appears too large, too confident and too powerful to be threatened.
Cult of Diana and Mystery Religions – The temple to Dinah (Artemis in Greek) inEphesus was considered one of the wonders of the world. It contained an image of Dianathat had fallen from the heavens. Diana was depicted as a multibreasted goddess. A bodyof eunuch priests ran the temple. There were no bloody sacrifices. She was considered themother of all living things. Large donations flooded her temple and priests every year.Each year the city of Ephesus threw a large festival in her honor. The Ephesian Diana wasworshipped more than any other deity and statues of her filled the homes of the people.Acts reveals the magical arts were practiced in relation to her.Mystery religions were popular all through Asia Minor. These cults promised power totheir adherents; power of knowing the future as well as insight into secrets. These cultswere formed around a series of initiations. To enter the cult one had to be initiated and toadvance up through the various levels required a variety of initiations. Mystery religionsviewed life as trapped by cosmic forces. Ritual was a means of escaping the bonds of thismaterial prison.Imperial Cult – Minucias Felix (2
century Christian) writes about the Romans, “their power and authority has occupied the circuit of the whole world: thus it has propagatedits empire beyond the paths of the sun, and the bounds of the oceans itself. Rome is thegreat city that rules over the kings of the earth (Rev 17:18). “The imperial cult was a“natural response on the part of provincials to the tremendous power of the emperor,which was perceived as truly god-like, and to the benefits that the rule of the emperor brought to the provinces. The imperial cult especially focused attention on the emperor asthe patron of the world. Since his gifts matched those of the deities, it was deemed onlyfitting that the expressions of gratitude and loyalty should take on the forms used tocommunicate with the patron deities themselves.” David DeSilvaEphesians Notes, Doug Floyd, 1