1 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write…
There is a Way Back and an Alternative to Loveless Christianity vs. 5
5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.
Note the progression — (1) remember; (2) repent; (3) return; or (4) removal. The figure below pictures Roman General, and Later Emperor, Titus’s Roman soldiers carrying away Israel’s lampstand from the destroyed Temple. Perhaps this image is fresh in the minds of the Jewish-Christians in Ephesus who immigrated from Palestine?! Christ reminds them of the removal of Israel’s lampstand and ability to shine forth the truth of the God to the nations.
Christ wants us to do the right thing from the right motive. We should get back to our fervent love for Christ. Only then can we love others properly.
We have enemies against which we must fight vs. 6
6 Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
Who were the Nicolaitans? This sect is obscure to us. It evidently was a heretical group that sought to mislead the church. The etymology of the word is our only key into its possible meaning.
“The name itself may be derived from two words which mean ‘victory’ (nikos) and ‘people’ (laos), thus the idea of their…overpowering of the people. They were evidently licentious and antinomian and advocated an unhealthy compromise with pagan society and the idolatrous culture of Ephesus.” (see Nicolaitans below)
We need to “listen in on Christ’s conversation” with the Seven Churches vs. 7
7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
There is an admonition to become a “snoop.” Can you believe it? We live in a MYOB society (mind your own business). The implication with MYOB is if keep you nose out of my life, than you’ll have time to tend to your own! Yet John says, we ought today to pay attention to what the Spirit says to the churches. Note each individual is urged to read the other churches’ “mail.”
I went to summer band camp many times from the 6th Grade on. Staying at Camp Parker will always be a good memory to me (the beloved lodge pictured above). Upper Greenville County, SC, was still a blast from the past in many ways. For instance, the camp phone was on a 15 party-line. Fifteen households had land-lines, but only one phone line to the fifteen. How did it operate? To make a call, the caller had to pick up and see if no one was on the line. Only then could the caller make a call. Incoming calls would often be picked up by more than one listener. The intended listener stayed on the line with the caller. Everyone else was supposed to hang their phones up. However, someone invariably still listened in on another person’s call. Who? The neighborhood gossip, of course.
Jesus urges us to read the mail from other churches! This alone lets us know that the messages to the 7 churches are a picture of the church of all ages and pertains to us today as much as it applied to Asia Minor in the past.
Christ promises us special blessings if we faithfully serve him vs. 7b
vs 7b To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’
The promise is to the conquerors or overcomers, but they do not form an elite clique. All true believers are overcomers!
Ephesus, and we, are promised Eden restored and surpassed. We are to eat from the tree of life — symbolic of eternal life — taken from Gen. 1-3.
The tree of life is in the paradise of God. “Paradise” is a Persian loanword meaning “pleasure garden.” These gardens were often placed next to temples. One could walk there and fellowship with the deity. The Septuagint (LXX — Greek translation of the OT Hebrew text) translates Garden of Eden with this word in Gen. 2:8-10. In Christ we find paradise restored and surpassed.
Eternity will be spent in the pleasure garden created for us, and we will walk there with God and fellowship with him. (An oriental pleasure garden is pictured at the head of this post from WikiMedia).
Analysis of the Letter to Ephesus (in the graph above)
I. Christ always reveals Himself in His Character that is best suited to our ultimate need.
To Ephesus, Christ was the One who tends his churches and takes responsibility for their security.
We need to see the Lord Jesus Christ as our provider and defender today. We look to Him not to religion or government for our provisions and protection!
II. The Church’s Complacency is Addressed by the Living Christ.
We all can let our love slip to a less-than-Christian-level as we oppose the forces of darkness around us.
We must love God first and foremost. This includes “Telling the Truth to Troubled People” who may not want to hear it. (This was a title to a book in a counseling seminar I took).
Then, our love for people will be ordered properly. We will not shave the truth to please them nor fail to express love for them as human beings made in the image of God.
III. Then, the Lord addresses any Complicity with the Opposition.
In the case of the churches of Asia Minor, they would be tempted to cooperate with the Roman administration and its alliance with false religion.
The opposition is more subtle at present in the West. We still face the “Forces of the Dragon” arrayed against us, like the Seven Churches did. In our case, the Dragon wears a different face today. False religion allied with over-weening government is our challenge.
We cannot permit “our Caesar” to usurp that which belongs to Christ alone.
IV. Last, in each letter the Living Christ Commends that Church for what they are doing right.
Ephesus was patiently enduring their hardships of opposing heresy and heretics.
They and we need to restore the priority of our love for God fist and foremost.
We also need to put our love for people in its proper place as subservient to our supreme love for God!
It certainly was fitting to spend three weeks on the Church at Ephesus. This church in Asia Minor was the preeminent church!
ESV. Accessed from https://www.biblegateway.com/
Nicolaitans. (2018). “Ten Things You Should Know about the Nicoloitans”; Accessed May 25, 2019 from https://www.samstorms.com/enjoying-god-blog/post/10-things-you-should-know-about-the-nicolaitans
© 2019 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved