To the church in Ephesus
1“To the angel[a] of the church in Ephesus write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: 2I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. 4Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 5Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. 6But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
All of Jesus’ messages to all the seven churches will generally follow this format of seven parts (McArthur):
– the correspondent
– the church
– the city
– the commendation
– the concern
– the command and
– the counsel
For the seven churches I would like to answer at least the following questions:
– what does this passage tell us about Jesus?
– what is going right with the church?
– what is going wrong with the church?
– what are the consequences?
WHAT DOES THIS PASSAGE TELL US ABOUT JESUS?
v. 1 – he holds the seven stars in his right hand
he has special and total authority over the angel/messengers of his church (possibly the messengers have a greater responsibility)
*this is a reminder that God does hold teachers/messengers more responsible…since if they are false they mislead not only themselves but others. sobering thought i must remember as a teacher, even as i write this blog (James 3:1). yet if something truly is of God, a messenger who does not speak will also be just as responsible (Ezekiel 33:7-9).
v. 1 – he walks among the seven golden lampstands
he walks amongst the churches, he is present and moves amongst the churches, as we see later he checks on them, he interacts with the churches.
*this is so plain, but so easy to forget in everyday life. do i, we, go about our business without even acknowledging interacting with Christ? It’s like having a meeting with the boss but we ignore the boss. Or like having a party for someone but eveyone ignores that person at the party. God help us be your people.
WHAT IS GOING RIGHT WITH THIS CHURCH?
-They persevere – work hard,
-They have deeds
– They don’t put up with wicked behavior and false people
they hold on to the right doctrines and behaviors.
WHAT IS GOING WRONG WITH THIS CHURCH? WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
They had lost the love they had at first – not only for God but the love they had for people, as the context talks about how they related to others. It was okay that they hated the practices of the Nicolatians but did they forsake loving the Nicolatians themselves as well as others in general? It is not just the feelings of love, but its an absence of certain actions too because he tells them to “do the things they did at first.” What are the things that one who loves does, differently than one who does not love? He challenges them to remember how they used to be (the height from which they have fallen). He challenges them to do as lovers would.
When I think of the love one has at first for a person (or activity/thing) they love:
– they are consumed with thoughts about the other
– they can’t stop talking about the other
– they want to spend time with the other, and can’t wait to see the other
– they want to do whatever they can to please the other
– they can’t seem to get enough of the other
– it brings great joy and pleasure to spend time with the other
now maybe it makes more sense when the greatest commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:27) and to “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
*so do we have this kind of love for God, for others?
Hmm if I replace the word “other” in the list above with “myself” its kind of sad but true. I’m so consumed with myself, do I care for others that way? I know we can’t be consumed with everyone or else we’d go crazy but at the very least we could have this kind of loving heart for others by praying that God would help us know him better and enlarge our hearts to love this way. Doesn’t God love us this way?
WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF THINGS DON’T CHANGE?
God will remove the lampstand from its place. What does this mean? The church won’t shine where it could. This church of these people will no longer be a people where God is made known. God would no longer walk amongst them. it would cease to be a church (Keenan, MacArthur); at best it would become a social club at worst it would cease to exist. its pretty mind blowing to think that even if a church had the right doctrine and all the right behavior, without love it would cease to be. What is a church without love? It isn’t.
let’s take this further. the church is not a building…it is the body of Christ. it is people. it is Christians. so what is a Christian without love? They aren’t.
*this is terrifying. i shudder to think i, we, may be going around thinking we are Christians when we aren’t. now I know that we are not saved by our good works, but that because we’re so messed up, Christ saved us. But he saved us to do good works (Eph 2:8-10). without the fruit (evidence) of love in our lives, what does that say about our root (our source)? God may I, we, be rooted in you so that we may bear fruit.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN FOR THOSE WHO DO CHANGE?
v. 7 – he will give the right to eat from the tree of life, in the paradise of God. interesting to see that if we bear fruit spiritually, we can eat God’s fruit. It comes full circle, in the beginning humankind had access to the tree of life and were able to live forever in paradise (Genesis 3:22-24), then we were barred access to this when we had sinned, but if we hold onto him (the root…that is through Christ) we can be back where he intended us to be.
*if we love God and love others, then we will be able to experience an even richer love in the future that we couldn’t know now…a love that is ever vibrant and to which there is no end. I’d love to experience that. Truly we could have a love we had at first, in the truest sense.