Ephesus: the Church with a Missing Ingredient, Part 2

Revelation 2:1-4

2:1 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.

Christ assures us he knows all about us and meets our essential needs vs. 1

Christ is the One who holds the seven stars his right hand. The Greek word here is a stronger word than that in 1:16 (“to have”). “To hold” here implies a “protective grasp.” The right hand signifies power and authority.

Christ holding teh seven stars

Christ also walks among the seven golden Lampstands — He takes a protective interest in the churches. He also takes a protective interest in you and me as individuals.

Application of the Vision to Us

The risen Christ is still among His Church here below. Even though the vision takes place in the heavenly temple setting, its application is for the church below on earth.

christianity-graphic-01

Note the Pew Research graph above on the spread of Christianity worldwide in the hundred-year period from 1910 to 2010. If the church is “finished,” why are so many radical groups murdering Christians around the world?! Why are Christians considered dangerous, so we must not be allowed to spread the Gospel? Christianity is the largest non-coerced religion in the world still!

At present, it appears the church is losing ground and growing smaller in the West. Appearances deceive! Christ in all his risen power is with his faithful church. We must stay true to Him by obeying His Word and proclaiming it even to those who don’t want to hear it.

Christ always commends our good works vs 2-3

2 I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false.
3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.

We often think of Isaiah 64:6 where it states, “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.”  These are the description of works prior to conversion and works of one who is not in close fellowship with God!

Once a person is saved his works are no longer “filthy rags” (KJV). A Christian’s works are made acceptable by the blood of Christ. I commend an excellent article by Dr. Michael Kruger on the Christian’s works — “A Word of Encouragement to Those in Ministry: God Does Not View Your Labors as ‘Filthy Rags’.” It is well worth the read! [see Kruger click here for the link to read this article.]

“I know your deeds (erga), your hard work (kopon), and your perseverance (hyomene).” Ephesus was a hard working church! They were not working to earn salvation. They were working out of gratitude to God for salvation freely bestowed on them in Christ. What could possibly go wrong with all this labor and striving?

We often do right things but lack the proper motivation vs. 4

4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.

Note that the proper motivation for activity is missing in Ephesus. It has been called “the church with the missing ingredient.”

Taken from the Friendly Visitor 1881

Taken from the Friendly Visitor 1881

I had a professor at Bible college who preached a memorable sermon on this text. He illustrated it from a great Southern cook who had a recipe for a delicious cake. Everyone admired her cake and asked for the recipe. She freely gave it away. However, no one could reproduce her famous cake.

Someone finally asked her why she gave it away, yet no one could reproduce it like she did.

She replied, “That’s easy! I always leave out one, crucial ingredient.”

The Ephesian Church had left out one crucial ingredient in its works. They were just “going through the motions.” They had left out the crucial motivation — love. Observe the two great commandments — Matthew 22:36-40

36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Note carefully, love for God is always first! The second flows from our love for God.

Ephesians had not just misplaced their proper motivation. The Greek word means to “abandon.” In I Cor. 7, it is used of “divorce.” The Ephesians did not “lose” their first love. They “forsook it intentionally.” God didn’t leave them; they left God.

Some refuse to abandon their faith even in the face of death. Recently, six church members, including their pastor, were executed by radicals in Burkina Faso. (Their pastor is pictured below right.) They were urged to leave for their own safety, but the pastor and zealous Christians loved their village and wanted to see people come to Christ. We pray that “the blood of the martyrs will be the seed of the church” today as it was in the early days of Christianity! (To read more on this persecuted church see Six Executed at this link). It takes real, vibrant love for God and people to give one’s life for Christ! 

EXECUTED CHURCH MEMBERS

Pastor Pierre Ouedraogo chose to stay in Sirgadji out of love for his congregation. (Photo Credit: World Watch Monitor)

What the Ephesian Church had deliberately forsaken was their first love. The Greek word is agapê. It is the self-denying love of the one who loves for the sake of the one loved. It resides in the will, and not in the emotions. Love can be learned, un-learned, and re-learned.

The question is which “love” is referred to here —

(1) their love for God, or
(2) their love for each other.

In Acts 20:35 and Eph. 1:15 Paul exhorted the Ephesians to love each other. They loved God still, but perhaps did not love with the same fervency that they did at the first. This affected their love for each other. So, both objects of love are involved. Their opposition to heresy and heretics had detoured them from love for God and His people. We dare not desert our fervent love for fighting our opposition. We teach the truth and leave to God the rest. Those outside the faith will see its reality by our love for God and His people.

More on the Ephesian letter next time.

Notes

ESV. Accessed from https://www.biblegateway.com/

Kruger, Michael. (2014). “A Word of Encouragement to Those in Ministry: God Does Not View Your Labors as ‘Filthy Rags’” [Blog post] Accessed February 4, 2019 from https://www.michaeljkruger.com/does-god-really-consider-all-our-good-works-to-be-filthy-rags/

© 2019 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

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