A couple of weeks ago, in my prayer time, I sensed the Holy Spirit whisper I was to study the seven churches of Revelation and glean all I could from those churches. What lessons are there for me to learn? For you, for all of us? So I grabbed my Bible and started reading Revelation, chapter two. Here John records the words of Jesus about a church located in Ephesus.
What do we know about the church In Ephesus? My Bible footnotes say, “The church was located in Ephesus, considered the most important city in western Asia Minor. Today this area is known as modern-day Turkey.
Ephesus had a harbor and was part of a major trade route. Because of this, it became a commercial center. The city of Ephesus boasted a pagan temple dedicated to the Roman goddess Diana (Greek – Artemis).”
I just chuckled out loud! Hey NASA, is that why you named your biggest rocket Artemis 1? Of all the names in the world, it appears NASA chose a name after a roman goddess.
It is thought the Apostle Paul spent a few years in Ephesus.
Before we look at the first letter, let’s do a little flyover of Scripture found in Revelation, Chapters 2 and 3.
The words in red are the words of Jesus Christ. In Revelation, Chapter two, we see Jesus break down each church. He starts each address to the churches this way,
“To the angel of the church in_______________________ write: These are the words of…”
My footnotes say, “Some take the seven letters as a preview of church history in its downward course toward Laodicean lukewarmness. Others interpret them as characteristic of various kinds of Christian congregations that have existed from John’s day until now. In either case, they were historical churches in Asia Minor. Remember that what we know as Turkey today was Asia Minor back when this was written.
A general pattern in the letters to the churches is the character of Christ, commendation, complaint, correction, and conclusion.”
Let’s look at the first church – Ephesus.
Can we point out the character of Christ, his commendation, complaint, correction, and conclusion?
2 “To the angel[a] of the church in Ephesus write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. 2 I know your deeds, your hard work, and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name and have not grown weary.
4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. 6 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
7 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
Do we see the character of Christ? Yes.
We are told he holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands.
What about commendation? Does Jesus say anything specific about this church? What are they doing?
Jesus knows their deeds, hard work, and perseverance. He also knows they cannot tolerate wicked people. They have tested those who claim to be apostles and found them to be false. Those are all good things. What else does he say? They have persevered, endured hardships for his name, and have not grown weary. Wow, these people sound amazing.
Does Jesus have any complaints?
Yikes! They have forsaken their first love. He says they have fallen far. That doesn’t sound good.
What are they supposed to do? What is the right course of correction, according to Jesus?
Repent! Do the things they did at first.
What does Jesus offer as a conclusion to the church at Ephesus?
If they do not repent, he will come and remove their lampstand. What does that mean? In other words, there will be immediate judgment.
Jesus offers them a bit of encouragement by acknowledging they hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which he also hates.
Who were the Nicolaitans? My footnotes say, “They were a heretical sect within the church that had worked out a compromise with the pagan society. Its adherents apparently taught that spiritual liberty gave them sufficient leeway to practice idolatry and immorality.”
Are we seeing this in churches today?
It was said there were three groups who were Nicolaitans or at least part of the same sect – Nicolas from Antioch and his followers, a group from Pergamum who held to the teachings of Balaam, and some at Thyatira who followed Jezebel. In other words, people not following God.
Jesus closes with these final words to the church at Ephesus – “He who has ears, let him hear. To the one who is victorious, he will give that person the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”
In his first letter to the churches, Jesus refers back to the perfect fellowship that existed before sin entered the world.
Coming out victorious tells me there will be a battle against evil. We are to stand firm in our faith.
So, what are we supposed to take away from the letter to the church in Ephesus?
Do not forsake your first love. Do not lose your love for Christ and one another. Remember what Jesus said in Mark 12:30-31? “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
Repent and do what you did at first. When I read this, I am reminded of how excited I was when I accepted Jesus. I wanted everyone to know how he changed my life. I never want to lose that fire inside me for the Lord and his word. Sadly, many have walked away from their faith, let the embers die out, and backslid. God is asking us to repent and do what we used to do at first.
The Lord is gracious in giving us fair warning in Revelation 2. I can hardly think of a day when we have not had an opportunity to hear the Word of God, read it, study it, or listen to it preached, whether on television, radio, internet, podcast, or in person. We are without excuse. With millions of Bibles available, Bible study guides, Bible apps, and other means to hear and read the Word of God, we, more than anyone else in the world, should be able to get back to our first love, Jesus Christ, before it’s too late.
The day of the Lord is drawing near, perhaps closer than ever in our lifetime. Now is not the time to be prideful and ignorant.
The church in Ephesus had some good things and some bad things. But God, in his mercy, recognized their goodness and condemned their badness.
Notice though it was up to them to follow through on his corrections or pay the price in the end. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the church in Ephesus.