The Letter To Ephesus
A Description of Jesus:
“The words of Him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.”
We already know the stars represent the angels of the church (this was discussed in a previous post) and the lampstands represent the churches. So here we have a picture of Jesus with the church. Jesus is not somewhere distant minding His own business. He is present with the church. Isn’t this good news. Jesus is with His bride, His body, His family. This means when Jesus gives us a description of the church, we know it is accurate. He is with them. Jesus is not getting his information second or third hand. He knows the church.
A Commendation of the the church:
In verse 2, Jesus commends the church for it’s patient endurance and that they test everyone who calls themselves an apostle. They are serious about guarding the teaching of God’s Word. They do not let just anyone wander in and start teaching. It seems they have taken the words of Paul very seriously (Acts 20:28-31).
In verse 4 we read, “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” What love have they abandoned? Have they lost their love for Jesus, for the Word, for each other, for unbelievers?
It does not appear they have lost their love for Jesus or for the Word. After all, in verse 3, we read they are “bearing up for my name sake.” This means the church’s perseverance has been for the sake of Christ. And we know they have not lost their love for the Word because everything about Jesus’ commendation is that they are guarding the Word. So have they lost their love for each other and/or unbelievers?
It appears the church is working together in guarding the Word. And it appears that church has unitedly rejected the teachings of the Nicolations. So I think we are pretty safe to say they are loving one another and working together. This would leave us to conclude that the love they have lost is primarily directed towards outsiders. Which this cannot be to hard for us to understand. They are in a very idolatrous culture. False apostles are bombarding the church. They are constantly on guard against false teaching. They are zealously adhering to the Word as they pursue a life of holiness. Because of their actions, they have unfortunately become very inward focused. I doubt the church ever voted to intentionally not love those in their city but because of their inward focus they drifted away from from being loving. I think this could be said of many churches today in America. At one time, they were very evangelistic. They regularly were sharing the gospel with unbelievers. But as the world has become more hostile to Christianity, many churches have turned inwards.
In verse 5, Jesus says, “repent and do the works you did at first.” When confronted with sin, the first step is always to repent. It easy to neglect this step and just think, “okay, I now know that I was doing something wrong, so now, I’ll just start doing it the right way.” When we fail to repent, we forget the fact that our sinful wrong actions have offended our King. The solution is not just tweak what we have been doing, it is to be made more like Jesus. So first, we are to repent. Secondly, we are to live in accordance with our repentance. Based upon the knowledge of Scripture and the power of the Holy Spirit we now live as Jesus calls us. For the Ephesians that means loving others, especially those outside the church. They can no longer be a holy huddle escaping the world but rather they are to be a light drawing unbelievers to their glorious King. They are to develop relationships with unbelievers and share the gospel with them. They are to obey the Great Commission.
What happenes if they church of Ephesus doe not repent? What happens if the church thinks it’s okay to remain as a holy huddle? What happens if the church ignores the great commission? Jesus says in verse 5, “I will remove your lampstands.” Wait a minute, Jesus will remove the lampstand. Does that mean He will come and remove this church and He will no longer allow them to gather in His name?
So what do we learn? Jesus does not support an unloving church. If a church is not loving then surely the only conclusion is that they do not know God. For in 1 John 4:7 we read, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.”
A distinguishing mark of God’s people is that they love. Surely this warning is something we as the church today need to think about. Are we loving each other? Are we loving our neighbors, our employees, our bosses, our politicians, our president, other nations? As the church, we have been saved by the love of God that we would reveal His love through our lives.
In verse 7, Jesus gives the motivation to repent. He says, if they repent, they will “eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” The tree of life is the very tree that we have been separated from ever since Adam and Eve sinned in the garden. Surely this represents eternal life in the presence of God for all eternity. What a promise. Through their repentance and faith in Jesus they are promised eternity with God.
So here in this first letter we learn that a church can drift towards being unloving. Just as we guard our doctrine so we must guard our lives that we live like Jesus.