(Over the next few weeks, Pastors Kyle and Paul will be posting a couple of blog studies per week that will tie into our current sermon series “The Beginning Is Near”. The blog studies will address the 7 Churches and Jesus’ message to them in Revelation 2 and 3. We pray that God will use these short studies for the purpose of edification. Feel free to share them)
“Write to the angel of the church in Ephesus:
“The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand and who walks among the seven gold lampstands says: 2 I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate evil. You have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and you have found them to be liars. 3 You also possess endurance and have tolerated many things because of My name and have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. 6 Yet you do have this: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” 7 “Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. I will give the victor the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in God’s paradise”
In Revelation 2 and 3, Jesus has a message (a few, for that matter) for His Church. As I read through each specific text, I find that it’s likely that these 7 churches receive letters because of the lessons they provided for “all the churches” (2:23) in all the ages and not because each of the 7 churches represent 7 stages of churches history, as some interpreters believe because as we look across the various stages of church history, it seems as though each of these churches listed as adequate representation in each specific stage.
Today, we focus on the message of Christ for the Church at Ephesus.
1 “Write to the angel of the church in Ephesus:
“The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand and who walks among the seven gold lampstands says
Who is the Church of Ephesus to which our Lord Jesus is writing?
Ephesus was one of the largest, most powerful, most influential cities in the vast Roman empire. In terms of spirituality, we’re talking pagan epitomized. It was a city devoted to the worship of “Artemis” (Diana), the fertility goddess and to the worship of the Emperor of Rome. So, how’d a church come into being there….take that question a step further…how did such a seemingly stout church (at least at the beginning) rise up in such a paganistic city?
Well, we’ll have to do a little digging to answer that question.
In Acts 18, we find a man gifted in speaking named Apollos is teaching in Ephesus, primary addressing Ephesians Jews. His main message is simple, “Jesus is your Messiah!”. Yet, despite his best go of it, he’s missing something. He’s only been instructed in Johns Baptism therefore, he’s got a major hole in his presentation. Namely, The Holy Spirit.
Two believers, Priscilla and Aquilla, in an act of love, bring Apollos into their home and correct Apollos teaching. Apollos then continued to rigorously contend with the Jews in public, demonstrating through the Scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah.
In Acts 19, Paul finds some disciples who’d only heard of Johns Baptism. He asked if they’d received the Holy Spirit and they replied, “we’ve never heard of the Holy Spirit“. Paul shared the Gospel, baptized them and they begin to preach the Gospel in the gathering place of the Jews (synagogue) for 3 months but they continued to be stiff necked and rebellious toward truth so Paul and his team moved into the Hall of Tyranus and for two years, day in and day out, preached the Gospel. In fact, astoundingly, the Bible says in Acts 19:10 that EVERY person of the city, Jew of Greek, had heard the Gospel.
God began doing supernatural, miraculous things in the City. Folks stricken with disease were healed and even demons were driven out of men.
In a funny twist, some “Jewish exorcist” decided it was time they started cashing in claiming they could do as Paul had been doing. They even evoked the name of Pauls Savior, Jesus Christ while attempting to do so! In Acts 19:13-15 they approach a man who is possessed and declare, “In the name of Jesus who Paul preaches, come out!”. The demon replied, “I know Jesus and I recognize Paul…but who are you” and then immediately whipped them all, hysterically and literally, beating the pants off of them “they ran out of the house naked and wounded (16)”.
Shortly thereafter, fear of God fell on the city, the Gospel was advanced and Jesus was magnified!
As Paul is preparing to leave the city and continue his Gospel work elsewhere, he leaves them with a warning (a prophetic one at that) as he tells them that when he leaves, wolves are coming.
In short, this is how the Church of Ephesus was born. SO STOUT!
Now as we look into Jesus message to the Church at Ephesus, it begins so encouraging…
“I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate evil. You have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and you have found them to be liars. 3 You also possess endurance and have tolerated many things because of My name and have not grown weary” (2-3)
Jesus commends the church! I know your works! You stand for truth. Theologically sound. You are discerning. You have glorified Me in your persistence, even in suffering
Verse 4 “But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first.”
Gauging the church of Ephesus by the first three verses, they seemed so sound! So Biblical! I mean, Jesus is commending them! Paul was a founder, Timothy the “Teaching Elder“, the Apostle John was an elder there (When guys that God used to write the Bible are on staff, you’ve got to be encouraged). Things looked so good and all the ducks seemed to be in a row….but Jesus told them, “BUT there’s this thing.”
“You have abandoned the love you had at first”
What had this church abandoned? Well, if we’re not careful, we’ll make assumptions here because Jesus doesn’t get into specifics. What we can do is remember the foundation of the Ephesian Church. That’s why I took us there to begin this blog study. In it’s birth and early days (detailed in Acts) we see that the Church of Ephesus was passionately proclaiming the Gospel of Christ. Whether in the synagogues or in the Hall of Tyranus, in private homes or on the streets, the message of Jesus was being thundered everywhere and the city was being transformed by the power of Christ.
It could very well be that by the time we get to Jesus message to the church of Ephesus, they’d become “to heavenly minded to be any earthly good”. It’s obvious in verses 1-3 that they were doctrinally sound, theologically astute….they had the Gospel down but were no longer getting the Gospel out. They’d lost their first love.
AND JESUS CALLED THEM ON IT.
Truth is, this is a trap that each and every one of us could easily fall into. There’s a tendency to become smug, even satisfied that we have this Gospel but what good is a Gospel that no one hears? Upon our conversions, did our hearts not ache for those we love who had not yet ben saved? I know mine did. When Jesus saved me my first inclination was to tell as many folks as possible, with as much passion, energy and urgency as I could, “Repent and believe on the Lord Jesus”. Upon my own conversion The Great Commission, in essence, was “my first love” and I’m continually drawn back to that by the Spirit within me today.
The Holy calling that our King has placed upon His Church is clear. We’ve a mission to partake it. The most important mission in the world…to go forth with His Gospel. Take Double Springs Church…what was our first love? What did we do in the beginning? Well, according to the history books, over two centuries ago the Double Springs Mission was established to be a Gospel witness among the unreached Indians of the area. Simply put, our first love was advancing His Gospel. Our mission has not changed. Rescue the perishing! Care for the dying! Jesus is wonderful and Jesus can save!
The time is now. Let’s go!
Grace and Peace,