The Church at Ephesus
The Church at Ephesus . . . A Church That Cooled Off (1967)
As we begin our study of the seven churches of Revelation, we should point out that all these churches fit into a perfect pattern in the approach of Jesus.
1. The Commission
“To the angel at the Church at _______ write . . .”
2. The Character
“These things saith He that -” followed by an allusion to the introductory portrait of Jesus.
3. The Commendation
“I know thy works -” followed by a list of the good works and traits of the particular church.
4. The Condemnation
“But I have somewhat against thee -” followed by a list of the failures of the particular church.
5. The Correction
Here is where the Lord lays down, in no uncertain terms, urgent demands upon the church in question.
6. The Call
“He that hath an ear . . .”
7. The Challenge
“To him that overcometh -” Here is always given a promise of reward or blessing.
To avoid being monotonous or repetitious, we will not carry each church through this pattern. Nevertheless, each does follow it.
One of the saddest things to see is an individual after living an active, beautiful life for Christ, cooling off and making an about-face. It is even sadder to see a church do this. Today we look at such a church and at the message of Christ to that church.
I. Note the Setting
Ephesus was one of the three great cities on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. It was a great racial melting pot, a great cosmopolitan center, and a great center of commerce. It was a battlefield of religion. It was much like a New York or a Chicago of its day.
Ephesus was also a city of magic and superstition. For example, Archeologists have found inscriptions such as this on its ancient walls: If a bird is flying from right to left and settles out of sight, good luck will come. But if it lifts up its left wing, then, whether it rises or settles out of sight, misfortune will result.
And in this city of progress, riches, races, and superstition, we find the church that Paul founded in 52 A.D. when he began his ministry there. As much as Paul taught about love, and John who followed him later taught love, this church should know something – very much – about love.
II. Note the Message
An Active Church
It worked - “I know thy good works” v. 2 - This church worked for Christ. A good way today to tell who the real Christian is, is to note those who welcome work in the Lord’s Church.
It worked for Jesus – “And for my name’s sake hast thou labored.” Work for Christ today is the most rewarding and fulfilling work there is. The way to real joy and peace is that of working for Christ. “Only one life; ‘twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” Work has very little point and meaning if it is not done for Christ.
It was an enduring work – “and hast not fainted” v.3 – These were no flash-in-the-pan performances. These were no once-a-year or only-on-Sunday Christians.
A Patient Church – “Thy Patience” v. 2-3
This time in history was a time for patience. John 4:1 says “Many false prophets have gone out into the world.” These were fly-by-night people who gave the early church trouble. However, these Ephesians fought them off.
This duel consisted of a three-fold patience:
1. A sensitive patience –
“And how thou canst not bear them that are evil” v. 2
2. A testing patience –
“And how thou hast tried them that say that they are apostles” v. 2
3. A proving patience –
“. . . and hast found them liars.” V. 2
The false prophets failed the tests. The history books record this
encounter as Ignatius, an early church father, wrote to the Ephesians -
“I heard about some strangers coming your way with wicked teaching. But
you did not let them sow it among you. Your stopped your ears.”
So this was a very deserving church.
But it was also –
A Deserting Church
It was an active church, a patience church, but a deserting church.
Jesus said “Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.”
The first love was God’s love, Christian love, the love Paul and John preached there in Ephesus. It was the more perfect way of I Cor. 12 and the love of I Cor. 13. “If I have all knowledge . . . but have not love, I am nothing.”
Once this great church had been warmed with love, but now, in all of its programs, activity, and patience, it had strayed from its first love.
“Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen.” That is, look at
yourself. Look at that high peak of love and high level of living by love. Think back on those days of love.
“Repent.” That is, be remorseful enough to renounce your sins, your present condition. Don’t just go out and tell the preacher that was the sermon you needed. Do something about it!
“And do the first works” Start loving God again. Start loving your fellow human beings again. Start loving your family again. Start loving your fellow worker again. Put love back on the throne in your life.
We could do without all our doctrines, creeds, programs, and activities better than if we had to do without love. In fact, all of these things are worthless unless they are based on, and motivated by, God’s love.
Without love, hope turns to ashes.
The world is crying out for a little bit of love today, and love can do what nothing else can –
“I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore.
Very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more;
But the Master of the sea heard my despairing cry,
From, the waters lifted me,
Now safe am I.
Love lifted me, love lifted me.
When nothing else could help – love lifted me.”
Labels: Revelation 2