To the Church At Ephesus
The name Ephesus means “desirable” or “the desired one”. Ephesus was a bustling town, and with its artificial harbor made it the most accessible city in Asia. In the New Testament times Ephesus had a population of about 250,000, and it was the fourth largest city in the Roman Empire coming in behind only Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch. It was connected to the sea by a huge harbor, and connected to the inner parts of Asia by a network of roads. With its great access, it was a natural magnet that drew political and religious groups from all over the known world. Also, when Christians were brought from Asia to Rome to be killed in the Coliseum by lions they had to go through Ephesus, and this is why Ignatius called the road from Ephesus to Rome the “Highway of the Martyrs”. Paul went to Ephesus many times to preach to the Jews and about things of the Kingdom of God. However, Ephesus was known for his huge amount of wizards, sorcerers, witches, astrologers, diviners, and palm readers. After hearing Paul preach many burned their books “so the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed” (Acts 19:19-20), but many Ephesians still worshipped their main idol which was Diana.
The Temple of Artemis (Diana was her Roman given name) at Ephesus was regarded as one of the seven wonders of the Ancient world. According to lore, she was the twin sister of Apollo, and the daughter of Zeus. She was also known as the goddess of hunting, the moon goddess, and the patroness of young girls. Her image was housed at the temple on Ephesus, and was said to have come directly from Zeus (Acts 19:35). The temple that held her image was actually four times larger than the Parthenon, and during the Roman period they even had coins that had the inscription “Diana of Ephesus” imprinted into them. She was to some the embodiment of female principles from fertility to the one day eternal return of life to the earth. With all this idol worship it is no wonder that Ephesus would be a magnet for so many false teachers and apostles. However, The Temple of Diana was also the center for prostitution and an asylum for criminals. The priestesses of Diana were also prostitutes, and were known as the Prostitutes of Babylon. Paul gave the Christians at Ephesus a dire warning so that they would be ready when false teachers would try and draw them away from the faith. “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you over-seers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:28-30).
1) Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; these things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;
2) I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:
3) And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.
4) Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
5) Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
6) But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.
7) He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; to him that
overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
Chapter 2 Verse 1
The seven golden candlesticks represent the seven churches that John was told to write to. This verse also shows us that it is Jesus himself who holds the seven stars (the messengers to the churches) in his right hand, and it is Jesus who walks among them which shows Christ’s intimacy with these Churches. In addition, Jesus establishes that he is dictating every word that John vote. Once we realize that it is Christ himself delivering the messages to the Churches we can then understand that he doesn’t just want us to read them, but he wants us to understand and heed these warnings as well. This speaks to the power and love of Christ that he would not only give us warnings (and a chance to repent), but also that would give so many amazing promises to those who endure till the end. As lampstands he also reminding us that we are the light of the world, and if out light is snuffed out then what good are we? This is why trusting in the Lord is so important, and understanding the spiritual nature of these letters is equally important. We live in perilous times, and understanding Satan’s traps is more now than ever before.
Chapter 2 Verse 2-3
In these two verses Jesus shows what the Church of Ephesus was doing correctly. He says that he knows their work, labor, patience, and that they have not grown weary in their good works. In other words, they were a very evangelical church. He commends them for not listening to false apostles and finding them to be liars, which means they did not allow false teachers to come into their congregation. So far, Ephesus sounds like a great Church, and in many ways it was but why? First, the Word tells us that works are very important to the Kingdom of God and a sign of a changed person. In Matthew 5:16 it says to let our light shine so that the world can see our good “works” and give glory to the Father. Also, in James 2:26 it says “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead”. We must remember that we are saved by grace and not by works, but an outward sign of an inward change are the works of Christ in our lives. If we are going to name His name, then our actions must line up with the Word of God. However, we must also understand that they will not all change overnight but that is still no excuse to commit sin. Did you ever hear the phrase “We are a work in progress? That is absolutely correct, but we cannot use that as an excuse to sin (Romans 6:15). Secondly, they did not allow false teachers to come and teach in their Church or in their homes. 2 John 1:10 (NIV) says “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them”. What teaching? “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son” (2 John 1:9). So God is telling us than anyone who does not abide in the doctrine of Christ should not be allowed in our home or even welcomed. This may seem harsh, but once you let them in your home then you have allowed the spirits who control them into your home as well. There are many warnings about false prophets and teachers, and here are just a few …
Romans 16:17-18 (ESV) – “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve”
Matthew 7:15-16 (ESV) – “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves… You will recognize them by their fruits”
2 Timothy 4:3-4: (ESV) – “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching”
So if the Church of Ephesus has good works and didn’t tolerate false teachers then what was their issue? Jesus states it clearly in verse four “Thou hast left thy first love.”
Chapter 2 Verse 4
I can hear them now; “Lord I have taught Sunday school for 40 years”… And “Lord I have lead the choir for 50 years”… And “Lord I have been the Pastor here for 80 years”. However, the Lord told us in 7:21-23 that “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” While many will clap and shout AMEN at this point, personally this is one of the scariest verses in the New Testament to me. Imagine thinking your whole life that you were serving God and hitting the bullseye of God’s will only to find out that you had left your first love. To know the Word is one thing, but to know the Author of the Word is another. So how do you know what your first love is? What occupies your thoughts? Many people have grown up in church, and had dads who were Pastors or moms who were Sunday school teachers so they naturally think they are born again too. Unfortunately, no one is ever grandfathered into heaven because of a relative or group association. In addition, Jesus is pointing out here that works in and of themselves are not good enough for anyone to obtain eternal life, and makes it clear when he says “You have left their first love”. Many people of Ephesus were no longer serving God with their heart, but only in their actions. In the same way that faith without works is dead (James 2:26), so too is are works dead without a “love” relationship with Christ. The story of Mary and Martha really brings home this fact. Mary sat at the feet of Jesus while Martha was running around doing her “works”, however Jesus told Martha when she complained that Mary wasn’t helping said “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her”. From this exchange it is crystal clear that Jesus valued Mary’s “wanting to be” with Jesus over Martha’s “wanting to work” for Jesus.
Another aspect of Ephesus was that the temple of Diana was the center of prostitution in the region, and many could have left their “first love” for the love of the prostitutes, other sexual activities, or just sinning in general. If we think about the world today, there are many things that Christians have left their First Love for. In this busy run everywhere, I have to get it done now world we easily can forget to spend time with the person who is supposed to be the most important person to us – Jesus. Many people may not even know they have left their first love for sin or activities such as their job, family, TV, a hobby, online gaming, or even sporting events but regardless of the why Jesus clearly stated that where your “treasure is; therein lies your heart (Luke 12:24). However, for whatever reason a person leaves their first love does not matter, what does matter is that they left it. Have we left our first love? Is there ANYTHING in our lives more important than our relationship with Jesus? If so, then we need to fix it but how? Christ is always displeased when we put anything before him and even though we can make up a thousand excuses for why we did it… It is still SIN at the end of the day…
Chapter 2 Verse 5
“Remember from where they have fallen from, and repent and do the first works or he will remove their candlestick from its place, except they repent”. So what are the first works? The first works include repentance and making Jesus lord of your life!! Something very interesting is that Jesus brought up repentance not once, but twice in this verse. So what is repentance? In the Greek this word repent is “metanoeō”, which means to change one’s mind. This is not what most people think when they hear the word repentance because many of us have been told that is groveling or weeping and gnashing, but that is not repentance. I heard a man of God once say that there is nothing more powerful than a changed mind, and that is a 100% fact. When you change your mind about Jesus, you turn and do a 180 (true repentance), and this is what the Church at Ephesus is being told to do. TURN AROUND and MAKE ME LORD again. When I was in my desert time (as I call it) I remember clearly how I came back to Christ. I was sitting on my picnic table and said “God, I have messed up my life so bad but if you will take me back I am yours and will do whatever you want me to”. As I said, there is NOTHING more powerful than a truly changed mind because from that day forward I was NEVER the same again. There was no “sinner’s prayer” or 7 steps to repentance, and I didn’t have to grovel or do forty “Hail Mary’s”. However, I meant business and God met me right there on that picnic table; and Praise God he changed my entire destiny. If you are tired of what you have done with your life, then all you need to do is change your mind and make Jesus Lord again. So what would have happened if Ephesus hadn’t repented? He clearly states that he would “remove” their candlestick from its place, so does this mean that once you are saved, you may not be always saved? That is food for thought, but I would say this “why take the chance!” We know that God wants to have a loving relationship with us more than anything else. However, no matter how many times we attend church, teach Sunday school, sing worship songs, lift our hands, shout hallelujah, or feed the poor will make up for a life void of fellowship with the Father. In other words, become Mary and quit being Martha. The Christian life is not a onetime prayer experience, but a lifetime of spiritual warfare against Satan, sin, the world, and the flesh. While we will never win every fight, we must never just yield ourselves to our spiritual enemies. We need to remember that the more we overcome our enemies, the more we will overcome them the next time they come at us. If we have left our “first love” then our relationship at that point is broken and only repentance will reestablish the connection with our Heavenly Father! Are we ready to repent?
Chapter 2 Verse 6
Once again Christ commends the Church at Ephesus. He tells them that they have hated the deeds of a cult known as the Nicolaitanes, which Jesus states he also hates. The exact origin of the Nicolaitans is unclear, but there are two major theories about who they were. The first one says that they were followers of the teachings of Nicolas who could have been a deacon in the early Church (Acts 6:5). According to this theory, he become part of a group who followed the doctrine of Balaam; who instructed by Balac to make Israel sin by putting a stumblingblock before them which included having them eat foods offered to idols, and by having them commit acts of sexual immorality. The Nikolaitans were an apostate group that believed for someone to be free from lust then they must submit to their sensual desires to overcome it, and they used these religious teachings as an excuse to pursue whatever sexual pleasures they desired. Their teaching also changed and perverted grace into legalism. The other theory says that the name came from the Greek word “Nicolah”, which meant “let us eat”, and they encouraged each other to eat food offered to idols. Either way, their actions were an abomination to God, and the Church of Ephesus was extolled for hating their deeds. Even though many may condemn you for not having the “drippy love” they think you should have towards a person’s sin, remember Jesus commended Ephesus for “hating” the deeds of the cult. If you doing what Christ tells you then who cares what other people say, because Christ is the one who will judge us all. We will discuss this cult more when we get into the Church or Pergamos.
Chapter 2 Verse 7
The first thing in verse seven is “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches”. Can you hear what the Spirit is saying to you? This is crucial because if you cannot hear him, how will you return to him? Jesus said my sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me (John 10:27). Now is the time when we as Believers need to learn to hear his voice, for perilous times are just ahead. The second thing is a promise “to him that overcometh”, but what does overcometh mean? It the Greek overcometh here means to be victorious, or to hold the faith unto death against the power of foes, temptations, and persecutions. Going back to what we talking about before, we are not in a physical battle against flesh and blood, but against powers and darkness of this world. To defeat them we need to have the Armor of God, we must know God’s Word, we must have God’s Wisdom about how to use His Word, and we need to move when our Commander-In-Chief Jesus Christ tells us to move. Even though our faith may lead to our death we are still overcomers, and that’s a promise you can take to the bank. This is his promise to us who repent and overcome that we will get to “eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God”. Where is this amazing tree? It is located IN THE MIDDLE OF THE PARADISE OF GOD!!! It is not on the outskirts or some vague place, but it is the center of Heaven. This is where we all want to be, but it is reserved for those who overcome. Have you left your first love? If so then it is time to repent and do the first works. God is not waiting to strike you dead, he is waiting to restore you as though you never left so why not change your mind today…
Return to your 1st Love…
As you got up I watched and hoped you would talk to me. Just a few words, such as thanking me for something good in your life yesterday or last week, would do.
But I noticed you were busy selecting the right clothes for work. I waited again to hear from you.
When you ran around the house collecting papers, I knew there would be a few minutes to stop and say hello, but you never slowed down.
I wanted to tell you that I could help you accomplish more than you ever dreamed possible
if you would just spend some of each day with me. At one point you waited fifteen minutes in a chair with nothing to do. I waited to hear from you.
Then I saw you spring to your feet; I thought you wanted to talk to me, but you ran to the
phone and called a friend. I watched as off to work you went and waited patiently all day
long to hear from you. With all your activities you were too busy to talk with me.
I noticed at lunch you looked around; maybe you just felt embarrassed to talk to me. You glanced three tables over and noticed some of your friends talking to me before they ate, but you wouldn’t.
There was still more time left, and I hoped that we would talk. You went home and had many things to do. After they were done, you turned on the TV; just about anything goes there and you spend many hours watching. I waited as you continued watching TV and ate your meal but again you wouldn’t talk to me.
At bedtime you were totally tired. After you said good night to your family you plopped into bed and fell asleep. I had so much wanted to be part of your day. We could have had so much fun and accomplished so much together.
I love you so much that I wait every day for a thought, prayer or thanks.
Well, maybe tomorrow! I’ll be waiting.