Revelation 2:1-7 “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.
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. 4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 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. 6 Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’
As we look at the letters to the seven churches we need to remember that these letters did not come from John — they came through John! These letters came directly from God as shown to Jesus Christ and then to John the apostle. Yes, it says, “John to the seven churches…” But John is simply the human agent who saw these things and reported them. We should never for one moment forget that this is God’s word and these are God’s churches.
Actually this first letter is addressed to the “angel” of the church in Ephesus. The word here used and normally translated “angel” can mean “messenger”. There are some who believe that these “angels” are the pastors of the churches. I am not certain that would be correct but it is nice to know that there are, for each of the churches, an “angel” and that Jesus has direct communication with that being. I am inclined to believe that there are specific angels that are spiritual creatures directed by God. Jesus spoke about little children, “in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 18:10). We are not guaranteed that that means each child has an angel assigned to them but may simply mean that angels who watch out for children have direct contact with the Father. Here in Revelation it seems that each church has a designated “angel” who has such a secure contact with Jesus that he is in Jesus’ right hand. During his ministry on earth Jesus assured us that no one could take us out of his hand. It’s wonderful to know that the Lord Jesus himself holds our angel in his hand and that he circulates among the lampstands that represent the churches around the world. Jesus begins his communication to the churches with…
The church in Ephesus. It happens that the apostle Paul wrote an earlier letter to the Ephesian church. Turn with me to Ephesians 1:1-2. Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
This letter convinces us that the church in Ephesus existed at least 30 years before the Revelation was written. Paul in writing to the church refers to its people as “the saints” at Ephesus. These are the ones who began the church along with the ministry of Paul and others with him. These would’ve been some of the ones who enjoyed an active love that Jesus dictated to John. One thing that Jesus wanted them to know is that he knew all about them.
At the very beginning in the Garden of Eden whenever there was a break in the fellowship with God Adam and Eve hid themselves — as though God would not have known where they were. I believe sometimes we live our lives in the same way. We are confronted with temptation and find ourselves accidentally committing sin. Rather than recognizing that God always knows where we are and what we’re doing we, like the ostrich in the fable, hide our heads in the sand believing that no one will notice our wrong doing. We need to recognize that…
Jesus knows. Let’s look back at Vv 2-3. Jesus said to the church, “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.” Let’s unpack this passage little bit and see what he has to say to us. First Jesus told the Ephesians that he knew…
Your patient work. Again we go back to Paul’s letter. Turn with me to Ephesians 4:1-3. I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
We, half-jokingly, say that we do not want to learn about patience because it always involves “endurance” and we certainly don’t want to have to bear up under any kind of difficulty. In those early days of the church in Ephesus Paul pointed out how the believers there should live their lives. He urged them to live a life that was worthy of the calling of God on them. He characterized that life as being one of humility, gentleness, patience, and bearing with one another in love. The church that does that will always be able to maintain a unity guided by the Spirit and do so in a bond of peace. A generation after Paul wrote these words Jesus could say that he knew their patient endurance and their work.
Work, toil, and patient endurance does not paint a “happy” picture of these people. No matter what they were going to continue on the road laid before them toiling and enduring rather than enjoying their progress in the Spirit. Not only did he note their patient work he also observed…
Your rejection of evil people. Turn with me to the little letter of 1 John 4:1. Let’s see what John had to say about dealing with evil people in the church. Listen while I read. Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
Those who received John’s little letter are warned not to believe every spirit. We are surrounded today by false prophets and false teachers. Paul also spoke about a time that was coming when people would not endure sound teaching. They would instead gather up teachers who suit their own passions (2 Timothy 4:3). Within a generation of the time Paul wrote to the Ephesians John would report that many false prophets have gone into the world.
They had gone into a world without radio or television or the Internet. Today, the digital world we live in is filled with false teachers. We need to come back to John’s little letter and see that there is a standard to judge these people by. What do they have to say about Jesus? If they teach that Jesus is the Christ and that he came into the world in the flesh we can begin to believe that they come from God.
When Paul wrote to the Corinthians he shared with them the important truths they needed to hang on to. Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures, he was buried, he was raised on the third day fulfilling prophecy, he appeared to many people including the apostle Paul. And we need to keep these truths in front of us on a day to day basis. Not only did Jesus recognize their patient work, their rejection of evil people he commended them saying…
You have not grown weary. And a generation before that Paul had written to the Galatian church about the same subject. Turn with me to Galatians 6:9-10. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
When Jesus had John write to the Ephesian church he was not overjoyed with them but he was commending them for these things. They had not grown weary but they had grown cold.
Indeed, we need to stubbornly stay on the path that God has given us until we have clear direction from God to another path. We must never give up the truth that we know. As the Ephesian church was stubbornly staying on the path…
Jesus had this against them. Turn with me to Ephesians 3:14-19. For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Again, we go back a generation to see what Paul had written to the same church. He prayed for them that they would be strengthened with power through the Spirit; that they would function in love and that they would know and understand the fullness of Jesus’ love for them.
This calls to mind the words of Jesus himself, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, just as I have loved you, you are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35) Love is characterized by Paul as being patient and kind; not envious; not arrogant or rude. Love is not self-centered and does not demand its own way. Love tolerates, believes, hopes and endures. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
The church in Ephesus that Jesus dictated the letter to had slid into a loveless existence. At least compared to the love they had at first. They did the work; they continued the task; they did not grow weary but they had abandoned the love they once had. This can happen in any individual’s life and in any church’s existenceThe church in Ephesus. It is my desire that our church be known as a lighthouse of solid, biblical truth that always speaks in love. If we will apply ourselves to the following three words:…
Remember. When a person comes to faith in Christ several things begin to happen to them. These things could be characterized in the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-24. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
We need to remember what it was like when the Spirit brought us to salvation. The Holy Spirit produces love in our heart and this love binds everything together in perfect harmony (Colossians 3:14). When the Holy Spirit is working strongly in the church one evidence will be a beautiful harmony in the church community and overflowing love for one another as well as a love for God! We need to remember the joy and the peace that passes all understanding that once came into our life. When we discover that we’ve drifted away from that the first thing we need to do is…
Repent. Turn with me to 2 Corinthians 7:10. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
We need to come to have grief over the things that are wrong in our lives. And that grief needs to produce repentance. A worldly sort of grief may involve great sorrow for one’s actions and probably also fear punishment. But there will not be any renouncement of sin nor any commitment to forsake it. The Bible tells us that Esau wept over the consequences of his choices but did not truly repent. (Hebrews 12:17)
King David committed a grievous sin. He took another man’s wife and had her husband put to death. The only good thing to see in this experience is that God can forgive even the worst of our sins. David would write about his repentance in two different passages. Turn with me to Psalm 32:2-5. Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. 3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah
5 I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
At first David kept silent until he was confronted by Nathan the prophet. With that confrontation David entered into godly sorrow. As he said, when he kept silent his bones wasted away and he groaned all day long. I can recall times in my life when I was so sorry for something I did but I could not make it go away I could only grieve until I confessed my sin. Praise God! When we confess our sin he continues to forgive our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
We need to remember where we fell from and repent of the wrong in our life knowing that godly sorrow leads to true repentance. We can never hide it from God! Nor, in fact, can we hide it from those who know us well.
True repentance is more than confessing our sin true repentance is renouncing our sin and turning away from it. In the Bible repentance and faith come together like the two sides of a coin. When we turn to Christ for salvation through faith at the same time we turn to him in repentance.
We need to remember where we came from before we fell into loveless labor and repent of our lost love and then we must, like King David…
Return. Turn with me to Psalm 51:10-12. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.
David did not just ask forgiveness of God he asked God to do a special work in his life. David asked for a clean heart and a right spirit. He wasn’t just sorry he had committed sin even to causing a person to die he recognized that, in those acts, he had become dirty and needed cleaning. He also sensed a separation between him and God and he asked that the Holy Spirit not be taken from him — even though that’s what he deserved.
David did not ask that his salvation be restored because he had never lost it. What he had lost was the joy of God’s salvation. He asked that the joy of his walk with God be restored. I often find myself in a place where I no longer feel the presence of God’s joy in my life and I need to remember, repent and return.
If David could do it after his grievous sin anybody can do it. There is only one unpardonable sin and is not mentioned here. In the next few weeks we will look at these letters to see what Jesus had to say to the seven churches of Asia.
We must be careful to consider the words that Jesus gave to the seven churches in the book of Revelation. It is so easy for us to fall into the same trap of continuing to plod along while letting our love fade. We need to remember how much love we had for the Lord Jesus when we were saved and the joy it produced. Then we need to repent of our current coldness and return to that love. Have you committed your life to the Lord Jesus Christ? Is he your Lord? Do your actions show that you love him? Remember… Repent… And Return!
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.