To the Church at Ephesus

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, January 5, 2018 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

[This blog post is part of a series. The next post is here.]

To open up 2018, I want to look at the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3. These are letters from Jesus, penned by John, to these seven churches. I am not going to get into who the seven churches represent, or why these specific seven were included and not others. Some of these letters are letters of rebuke. Some are letters of encouragement. Some have both. I want us each to examine ourselves to see where we fall, because in every church congregation, there is someone in each of these categories and a good chance that each church congregation in general falls into one or more of them. Remember to look to yourself first before you start looking at others. That includes me and it starts right here with the letter to the church at Ephesus, because as I read it to prepare this series, I saw me. Please read the passage before moving on.

Jesus spends two verses praising the church at Ephesus. He recognizes their works, their labor, their patience, and their refusal to bear evil. He loves that they test who they hear from, exposing the liars and false apostles for who they are, and how they have endured with patience and perseverance without becoming weary. I’ll be honest, that sounds exactly like me. I love working for the Lord and being involved in what he is doing. I am called to apologetics as just one part of my full calling, so while it is not fun to have to speak about false teachers, speaking truth is fun. But don’t think this is a boast, because the next part is also true of me.

Jesus had one major problem with the church at Ephesus: they lost their first love. They lost doing what they did for the love of Christ and his Bride and instead had done all this because of call and duty. I am an intellectual type and I don’t respond to emotion the same way most people do. I am very factually based and it’s very black and white to me. It’s true or it’s not and there is no middle ground. I am a straight-shooter, and I like getting to the point quickly. But I find I can ever so easily do this without love. And I’m not even talking about love for the other person; I’m talking about love for my Savior.

It is so easy to stand up and boldly proclaim, “The Bible is true!” It is true, but why do I stand and proclaim it? Just because I have a fact I must share? To be honest, that really is the primary reason I tend to operate by. When I see atheists post on Facebook, my primary instinct is to want to correct them because they are factually wrong. I have done a much better job at controlling my tongue (that is, my fingers on the keyboard) than I have in the past, but in my head, I’m refuting them long after I scroll past it. As I am writing this, I am reading Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion. I’ve read books of false teachings and I get a righteous indignation boiling inside me, however with Dawkins, I am almost reading it as a comedy book because his arguments are so sad and weak. It has caused me to pity the man and wonder how much he could wreck this world system if he came to actually meet Jesus and get saved as Paul did.

But where is my love? It is easy to talk about love for your fellow brother and even for the lost, but I’m going to cut to the chase and hit the same nerve I am feeling as I am writing this. Where is our love for God? Numerous pastors, missionaries, and even evangelists, start hot and on fire but eventually burn out. Why? Because their initial love grew cold. They began to see their work as their job from which they can one day retire from and no longer work in service to the King of Kings out of their love for him. Why do we study the Bible? For factual knowledge only, (I’m guilty here), or to get to know the Author? Why do we pray? To get our needs met, or to just be in the presence of God? I can identify part of why I’ve been struggling with my prayer time, because it’s been more out of duty and trying to discipline myself rather than coming to God just to be with him and let him deal with the issues.

Jesus gave a solution to this loss of love for him and this is found in Revelation 2:5. Remember from where you have fallen. Were you once on fire for God? Was there a time where you could regularly grab a hold of the horns of the altar and speak with your God, but it’s lost now? Remember what brought you to that spot. Do not wish for old times to return, but instead ask God to bring you back and do what he says to get there. Repent. Turn back from what you are doing which has pulled you away from that moment. Do the first works. Do what God has told you to do. If you don’t know what that is, then go back to the last thing you know he said to do and do it until it is done. God has no obligation to give you new orders if you have not done what he has already told you. God will remind you what they are. And those who continue to refuse to listen to this warning is going to be cut off, unless there is repentance.

But Jesus then reminded Ephesus that he was pleased with how they hated the Nicolatian teachings. Exactly what those were is not made clear, but since these people are brought up several times in these seven letters, they are worth noting. They represent a particular kind of false teaching that was often thought to be about food sacrificed to idols and other idol worship. Exactly what that was, I am not sure. However, the Ephesians would not tolerate these false teachers so Jesus applauded them for it.

Unfortunately, many people tend to swing to one extreme or the other. They tend to swing towards staying true to sound doctrine, or towards expressing love without sound doctrine. Jesus here is promoting both. He was supportive of the Ephesians’ efforts and their stance against sound doctrines. It makes absolute sense why Paul gave them the Armor of God because they were the ones leading the battle for truth. However, by the time of Revelation, the Ephesians lost their initial love and zeal for God and Jesus is telling them to get back to it.

Lastly here, Jesus finishes each letter with “He who has ears let him hear.” Those who have the ability to hear his message, hear it and obey it. It is so easy to hear a solid message but then not act upon it. Let us (let me) not be that way. Let us return to that first love we had when we first got saved and let not just his love pour out through us, but also his firm stance on truth.

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