I don’t know if one is necessarily allowed to claim a “favorite first century church,” but if so, I’ll take the church at Ephesus. There is no shortage of interesting accounts from Ephesus—Paul plants the church, God gives the growth, itinerant exorcists getting their pants beaten off of them (not kidding), magical art book burnings, and even rioting over a downturn in the pagan economy that resulted from the spread of the gospel, just to name a few. And if that wasn’t enough, there’s the tear-jerking account of Paul’s departure, where “there was much weeping” because they knew “they would not see his face again” (Acts 20:37-38).
But wait, there’s more!
As wonderful as the narrative accounts of the Ephesian church are, Paul’s letter to the church is equally packed! Chapters 1-3 contain rich theology and doctrine about who God is and what he has done for us in Christ. The first half of the letter then serves to inform and motivate some of the more practical matters of the Christian faith found in chapters 4-6.
And stuck right in the middle is Ephesians 3.
To steal a quote from a source that I can’t remember in this moment, “theology should lead to doxology.” Or, put more simply, knowledge of God should lead to the worship of God. This is exactly what is happening in Ephesians 3—as you read through it you can almost feel Paul getting increasingly animated and excited, to the point of erupting in worship of the God “who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (v. 20). Paul’s recounting of God’s truth and recognition of God’s unlimited power then turns to praise: “To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (v. 21).
So what does this look like for you? Are you growing in your knowledge of God? If not, your worship of God (doxology) will be lacking—essentially, you’re trying to worship a God you don’t know. On the other side, maybe you are growing in your knowledge of God—has that increased your desire to respond in worship? If not, your theology (knowledge of God) is incomplete. As John Piper writes, “Strong affections for God rooted in the truth are the bone and marrow of biblical worship.”