Was the Church of Ephesus a Single Congregation or a Presbytery?

presbyteryephesusThe church of Ephesus (in Asia Minor, Acts 19:22) had in it more congregations than one. Due to 1. The number of prophets and preachers; 2. The gifts of tongues conferred upon those prophets; and, 3. The multitude of believers which so abounded at Ephesus: how is it possible to imagine, upon any solid ground, that there was no more but one single congregation in the church of Ephesus?

1. The number of prophets and preachers at Ephesus were many.

Paul continued there two years and three months (Acts 19:8, 10); and Paul settled there about twelve disciples who prophesied (Acts 19:1, 6, 7). And how should these thirteen ministers be employed, if there were not many congregations? Compare also Acts 20:17, 28, 36, 37, where it is said of the bishops of Ephesus, that “Paul kneeled down and prayed with them all, and they all wept sore.” Here is a good number implied.

2. The gift of tongues also was given unto all these twelve prophets (Acts 19:6-7).

To what end, if they had not several congregations of several languages, to speak in these several tongues unto them?

3. The multitude of believers must needs be great at Ephesus.

1. Why should Paul, who had universal commission to plant churches in all the world, stay above two years together at Ephesus if no more had been converted there than to make up one single congregation? (Acts 19:8, 10).

2. During this space, “all that dwelt in Asia,” usually meeting at Ephesus for worship, “heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:10).

3. At the knowledge of Paul’s miracles, “fear fell upon all the Jews and Greeks dwelling at Ephesus, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified” (Acts 19:17).

4. Many of the believers came and confessed, and showed their deeds (verse 18), whereby is intimated that more did believe than did thus.

5.Many also of them that used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men, and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver” (this they would never have done publicly if the major part, or at least a very great and considerable part of the city, had not embraced the faith, that city being so furiously zealous in their superstition and idolatry), “so mightily grew the word of God, and prevailed” (Acts 19:19-20).

6. Paul testifies that at Ephesus “a great door and effectual” was open unto him, viz. a most advantageous opportunity of bringing in a mighty harvest of souls to Christ, (1 Cor. 16:8-9).



Excerpt from The Divine Right of Presbyterian Church Government (Jus Divinum Regiminis Ecclesiastici) by the London Provincial Assembly of 1646.

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