INTRODUCTION:  The book of Revelation was written by the Apostle John in 95 AD, on the Island of Patmos, a bare rocky Greek island in the Aegean Sea, located off the western coast of Turkey. 

All the seven churches addressed in Revelation 2-3 were all located in Asia Minor, Modern day Turkey.  The Apostle was banished to the Island because of his Christian faith. There the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him in a vision and dictated to him the seven letters to the seven churches.  These were not John’s letters but Christ’s letters to His churches. 

The Lord Jesus Christ, the head of the church, which he purchased by His precious blood walks in and among His churches (Rev. 2:1).  He knows their works, love, faith, labour, troubles, heart etc.  These letters to the seven churches are just as relevant to each individual Christian, each local assembly, and all church ages, since the Lord Himself says repeatedly: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”  And  “To him who overcomes.”  May all followers of Christ and all local assemblies heed His word, more so, as His coming is at the very door.

The loveless church (Rev.2: 1-7).

Ephesus at the time the letter was written.

The city of Ephesus was situated on the western shore of Asia Mi in onnor. It had a very busy port and was a powerful, wealthy commercial city.  Ephesus was famous for its temple of Diana or Artemis a Greek goddess (Acts 19:28). The temple was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the first to be built entirely of marble and one of the largest temples ever built. 

Being the headquarters of pagan religion in the region, pilgrims came from all over the Mediterranean to worship the goddess. It was also a centre of worship of Roman emperors.  It had a temple dedicated to the emperor Vespasian and his two sons Titus and Domitian. 

Occultism and dark magic thrived there (Acts 19:19-41). For Christians it was a very dark environment.  It’s no wonder the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesians talked much about spiritual warfare and the necessity of putting on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18). Even its economy and commercial activities were intertwined with the worship of the goddess and the temple. The Christians were severely persecuted and marginalized because of their refusal to partake of the pagan festivals and emperor worship; they suffered financially by not participating in the pagan festival of Ephesus trade unions.

The Ephesian Church

The Ephesian church was planted by the apostle Paul on his way home from his 2nd missionary journey.  He returned there on his 3rd journey and stayed 3 years (Acts19; 20:17-38).  John wrote this letter to the church 35 years after Paul’s last contact with them.  The church remained a very strong one doctrinally and morally.

Of the seven churches, this is the most commended by our Lord, it also received the least rebuke- just one- yet the only church threatened with the removal of lampstand, which represents the church.  I tremble when I read the letter to the Ephesian church.  This makes me examine my own heart before God, asking Him to reveal my own heart to me.

Let’s look at the Lord’s commendations.

 “I know your works, your labor, your patience,” vs.2

This church was a very zealous one.  They labored for the work of God wholeheartedly, with pure zeal, not for self-glory, fame, or any ulterior motive “… and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.” (vs.3). They were always about their Lord’s business with all they had.  Never missing the services, always evangelizing, fervent in prayer meetings etc.  They gave their time, energy and finances for God’s work without weariness, relentlessly.

“And that you cannot bear those who are evil.” vs.2

They were equally zealous about holiness.  They were an uprightly, moral congregation.  They did not condone any immorality, impurity among them.

“And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars;” vs.2

Doctrinally they were sound.  They condoned no false teachers and doctrines.  They tested them, heeding the apostle Paul’s warning to the church elders several years ago, on his last contact with them concerning the infiltration of false apostles among them after his departure(Acts 20:29 -31).  Another to their credit was that they also hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans, who were infiltrating the churches which Jesus also hates (vs.6).

“And you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary” (vs.3).

They endured suffering and persecution for their Christian faith.  They were severely persecuted by the pagans and the Roman authorities because they would not be part of the emperor worship, nor go to the pagan festivals or temple which greatly affected their livelihood.  They lived not only in a spiritually dark environment but also a very hostile, unfriendly one.  Yet patiently they endured sufferings for His name’s sake

This was a perfect church, wasn’t it? 

To Him who bought them with His precious blood it wasn’t.  He commended them so much, than any other, but they lacked something that is of utmost importance, something that is the very core of His heart, which even made Him gave His life for their redemption. 

And they‘ve been taught.  They once had it, but they had left it.  Without this virtue all they did even so marvelously well was not satisfactory to Him.  That is who He is, His Father, His Spirit.  All they did should have sprouted from that one virtue, should have been the base, the foundation of their good works, labor and zeal for Him.

Their only Reproof

“Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (Rev. 2:4).

You can help the poor, do many charitable and noble deeds, do the Lord’s work relentlessly – all without love.   

And they were well taught:   

“Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).

“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

They knew God is love. “Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1John4:7-8).

 “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love it profits me nothing” (1 Cor. 13:3).  Of all virtue “love is the greatest” (1cor.13:1 – 8, 13).

“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.  Walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling aroma.” (Ephesians 5:1-2). 

They once walked in love – Love for their Lord and Saviour and for others, but they had left it.  In his letter to them few decades before, Paul had commended them for their love for the Lord and others:

“Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen (Ephesians 6:24).

 “Therefore I also after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers” (Ephesians 1:15-16).

They knew and understood what the Lord meant when He told them :

“Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works” (vs. 5)

 In other words: Remember how you loved Me with undying, passionate love, everything you did for Me then was born out of love, not duty.  Remember how you loved one another with undying, passionate love. Go back to that first love.  LOVE – For Me and others! To The Lord love is the greatest.

Lovelessness? Food for thought:  fault finding, criticisms, partiality/favoritism, lack of tenderness of heart, hardness, coldness, aloofness, unapproachability, distant, undue accusations, backbiting etc.

Will you dearly beloved, examine your heart today and regularly with the Spirit’s help, to know if your heart and love for the Master, for the brethren and people has grown or is growing cold?  God help us all.

Failure to heed warning

“or else I will come quickly and remove your lampstand from its place – unless you repent,” (vs. 5).

Well, did the Church repent?

Ignatius was a student of John the apostle. On his way to martyrdom in Rome he wrote a series of letters to some churches, including the Ephesian church, in which he commended them for their faith and love, This was several years after the book of Revelation was written by John the apostle; this shows the church heeded the warnings of Christ and truly repented of the sin of lack of love.

Fellow Pilgrim, are you walking in love?  Is your heart saturated and overflowing with love- for the Master and others?  Genuine and practical love?

Reward for those who repent and overcome:

“To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God” (vs.7).

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6 Responses

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