By A.T. Walker
While on the island of Patmos, John saw the Lord Jesus Christ, who instructed him to “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.” In 7 Churches, we will be looking into these letters to see what Jesus has to say to these churches…and what he maybe saying to ours.
To the church at Ephesus
The first letter is addressed to the church at Ephesus. This church was planted by Paul in Acts 19.
“The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this”
The One, the Son of Man, Jesus holding seven stars and walking among the seven lampstands. If the lampstands are given to the churches by Jesus, then the stars must be the seven shepherds of those churches. How comforting for the one preaching the gospel to know that they are in the hands of the Lord! How beautiful it is that the Lord moves and interacts with his bride. Matthew Henry says “Christ is in an intimate manner present and conversant with his churches; he knows and observes their state; he takes pleasure in them, as a man does to walk in his garden.”
“I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary.”
Now, if the letter stopped here, I’m packing up my family and moving to Ephesus because I want to go to this church. They are a strong, hard-working people, who rightly divide the word of God and are able to recognize and dismiss false teaching. This sounds like a great place to “do life together”!
“But I have this against you…”
“That you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.”
How heartbreaking. To be doing all the right things for Christ, but miss out on the joy of loving Christ. It wasn’t always this way in Ephesus. Acts 19:18-20 tells us at the birth of the church there that “many who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices. And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing.” When they first heard the gospel, it captivated their hearts and brought radical change. The idol makers in the town actually started a riot because of the economic impact it had on their businesses. Unfortunately, over the course of time, their actions improved, but their love of Christ cooled. Sadly, this is the sin of so many churches…maybe even all churches, at one point or another. But Christ invites them to return home to their first love. Love is how the world knows that we are his (John 13:35). 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 says:
“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.”
Love and repentance are not one time things…we are to live lives marked by them. This is what he requires of his bride.
“Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.”
Despite the fact that their love had dwindled, they still remained steadfast in the Word and did not let crooked doctrines sneak their way in. You can read more about the Nicolaitans here. The Lord takes his word seriously. Paul even says in Galatians 1:8 that if anyone should preach a gospel contrary to the true gospel, then let them be under God’s curse!
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.”
There were two trees in the garden, the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam ate fruit from the latter, and it led to death. For the repentant ones, Christ offers fruit from the former, which gives life.
Has your releationship with Jesus been more about learning information about him, rather than loving him?
Is your love for Jesus apparent to others?
Have been so focused on doing all the right things that you’ve missed out on the joy of living for Christ?
When can be, and should be, a theologically sound group of believers, but Jesus wants his churches to be known first for their love of him and their love of others.
“I will not glory, even in my orthodoxy, for even that can be a snare if I make a god of it… Let us rejoice in Him in all His fulness and in Him alone.” D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones