A Wonder of the World

By J. L. Leifeste

      The site of the Biblical city of Ephesus is in the present day Republic of Turkey about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the Aegean Sea and about 700 kilometers (430 miles) south of Istanbul. An ancient tradition says that the Amazons first chose it as a place of worship, then Androclus of Athens captured it and remolded it into a place of ancient Greek culture. A different tradition says Androclus founded the original city. It stood on the sides of two hills that overlooked a fertile valley and enjoyed a fine climate.

      A temple was established in the early settlement to honor a false goddess. At different times, the Carians, the Leleges, Ionians, Lydians, and Persians probably controlled the city. Finally, Alexander the Great conquered the area, and the Greek civilization mixed with its Asiatic-Oriental flavor. The ancient goddess became “Artemis.” During the days of the ancient Greeks, trade flourished, due to the fine harbor nearby and the great roads that led to distant lands and diverse cultures. Later, the Romans came, and “Artemis” was renamed “Diana.”

      Ephesus was a major center of influence for the Roman Empire’s “Asian province.” It contained underground drains, major buildings, large private houses, public lavatories, paved streets, pedestrian areas, a fine library, fountains, temples, private pools, and a heated public swimming pool. It also had public baths that were hot (caldarium), warm (tepidarium), and cold (frigidarium). Multitudes visited its theaters and stadium. Ephesus greatly influenced Roman military power, political power, and international commerce. When the apostle Paul visited Ephesus, it was a swarming concentration of mankind (see Acts 18:19-21; 19; 20:17-38).

      Ephesus became very famous for its temple dedicated to Diana. Diana’s temple is considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. By the time of the Roman province, it was already considered one of the world’s great wonders. During the city’s history, the temple was destroyed at least five times and was rebuilt each time until its last destruction by barbaric tribes. Each of the earlier reconstructions made its appearance and influence more stunning. At the height of its popularity, it was also used as a bank, housing the wealth of many people. Tourists came from all over to see the massive structure, which held a huge statue of Diana. Pausanias, a Greek geographer, called it the largest “building” in existence in his day. It was surrounded by a colonnade of 127 pillars about 60 feet high (about 18 meters). It was nearly 220 feet wide (about 67 meters) and about 425 feet long (about 129 meters). The center, like other Greek temples, was open to the sky. Visitors marveled at its golden ornaments and its collection of statues and paintings.

      Even with the grandeur of its magnificent temple, this false religion eventually faded away. The stones of the temple were later used for buildings in Constantinople and probably Italy. Finally, the entire city was abandoned. Any signs of the famous temple disappeared over the centuries, and the city lay in ruin. In 1870, archeological excavations found that ten steps had led up the original foundation to the temple. Evidence of the foundation is considered to be the only definite portion of what had been the temple of Diana, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

      About A. D. 64, the apostle Paul wrote a letter “to the saints who are in Ephesus” (Eph. 1:1). “Ephesians” contains a wealth of information, instructions, and blessings for Christians. We need to remember that this letter was written to people who had become Christians by obeying the gospel of Jesus Christ in baptism (Eph. 2:5-6; 4:5; see Col. 2:12; Rom. 10:17; Heb. 11:6; Lk. 13:3; Acts 17:30; Matt. 10:32; Rom. 10:9-10; Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:38, 41; 22:16; Rom. 6:3-8; Gal. 3:26-27; 1 Pet. 3:21; 4:17).

      Ephesians can be summarized in this way: Greetings (1:1-2); spiritual blessings in Christ (1:3-14); prayer for spiritual understanding of the readers (1:15-23); the readers’ former position of living in sin (2:1-3) and their current position in grace through Christ (2:4-10); unity of people who were Gentiles or Jews, who obeyed the gospel — now united because Christ broke down the “wall” between them by removing the Law of Moses when He died on the cross (2:11-22; see Col. 2:14); the revelation of God’s eternal plan (3:1-13); prayers for the readers concerning the love of Christ (3:14-21); encouragement to work together in unity (4:1-16); reminder about proper Christian behavior in the “new life” in Christ (4:17-5:21); special lessons concerning love, subjection, and respect (5:22-6:9); encouragement in the spiritual war against sin (6:10-20); closing remarks and prayers (6:21-24).

      One important teaching of Ephesians is that Christ’s church is a spiritual temple. “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Eph. 2:19-22).

      The church is God’s temple. However, it would be a mistake to place a sign saying “Temple” on the front of a building where the church meets. The church — the group of saved people — is the temple of God. Any building where the church meets is merely a meeting place, not a temple. Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone and foundation of the temple (Isa. 28:16; Ps. 118:22; Matt. 21:42; Acts 4:11; Eph. 2:20; 1 Cor. 3:11). Each person who obeys the gospel is another “living stone” which the Lord adds to the spiritual temple (see 1 Pet. 2:4-5; Acts 2:38, 41, 47).

      God’s word instructs His people to assemble for worship (Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:1-2; Heb. 10:25). When we gather with other Christians to worship, Christ is also in our midst (Matt. 18:20). We have a special communion with Him on the first day of the week when we assemble to partake of the Lord’s Supper (Matt. 26:26-29; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:23-29).

      The Christians in Ephesus could see the magnificent temple of Diana every day if they wished. Yet, they knew that men made it by using lifeless, expensive, cold materials that could be totally destroyed. In contrast, they could see greater wonders of God’s spiritual temple. Anywhere they met, such as walking on a street or gathering to worship God, they saw each other as members of the same spiritual family. In Christ, they no longer existed as rich and poor, insensitive master and intimidated slave, socially important and unimportant. Each could see the others as living, precious souls filled with the warmth of brotherhood and the hope of eternal life in Christ (Zech. 9:16; Rom. 12:9-21; 15:13; 1 Cor. 3:9; 16:14; Eph. 1:15-18; 4:13-16; Col. 1:5, 27; 3:11, 22-4:1; Gal. 3:26-29; 2 Tim. 2:19-21; Tit. 1:2; 2:1-14; 1 Pet. 1:3). When they assembled to worship God, their smiles, greetings, joys, prayers, care for each other, songs of praise, and Christian teachings eclipsed the most brilliant parts of Diana’s temple.

      Each individual Christian is also a “temple” of God (1 Cor. 6:19-20). The Holy Spirit lives within each Christian (Acts 2:38; 5:32; Rom. 5:5; 8:11; Gal. 4:6). A temple is a special, holy place of worship, prayer, and communion with God. Men using physical materials of the earth, regardless of their beauty or expense, do not form God’s spiritual temple. Each Christian, as well as the church, is God’s special, holy workmanship through His Son, Jesus (Eph. 2:4-13). We have been sanctified (1 Cor. 1:2), “set apart” — called out of the world and sin to serve and glorify God (1 Cor. 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:21; Heb. 10:10, 14). We do not always need to go to a special place or building to worship God. We can worship with large groups of Christians, small groups, and even alone (Acts 16:25; 27:35; Phil. 4:6; 1 Thess. 5:15-18; 1 Jn. 5:14).

      Our unique relationship to God gives us amazing security (Heb. 13:5) and the peace that passes understanding (Phil. 4:7). In a special way, He resides and works in each Christian (Eph. 3:16, 20-21; Rom. 8:9-11, 26-27). By living in the godly ways shown in the letter to the Ephesians and other New Testament letters, many people in the world will see God’s love through us and turn to Him (Matt. 5:13-16; Jn. 13:34-35; 17:20-21; Eph. 2:10; 4:12-16; 1 Pet. 2:11-12).

      Christianity, with its spiritual temple, impressed the world with such wonder that it became more overwhelming than any government or any man-made religion. God created it to outlast and transcend any other thing on earth (see Dan. 2:34-35, 44-45; Lk. 1:33).

      The temple of Diana was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, visited and admired by thousands. Today it is only a written memory. Its site at Ephesus is merely a stretch of rock-strewn earth. But God’s spiritual temple continues to be a great wonder. It stands firm and unshakable (Matt. 16:18). It is alive and growing throughout the world as the Lord adds more people to it (Acts 2:47). It continues to spread good deeds (Matt. 22:39; Rom. 12:9; 1 Cor. 13:13; Gal. 5:6, 14; 1 Thess. 3:12; Col. 3:14; 1 Jn. 3:18; 4:16). It continues to shine with the splendor and majesty of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matt. 5:14-16; Eph. 5:8; Phil. 2:15).

      The church of Christ is the most magnificent temple of all time — a truly great wonder of the world!