Sermon: Ephesus: The Church That Abandoned The Lord Revelation 2:1-7

Ephesus: The Church That Abandoned The Lord

Revelation 2:1-7

Introduction-

The City of Ephesus was located on the western shore of Asia Minor. It was a seaport city. All trade coming by sea came through the great city of Ephesus. The City of Ephesus boasted of its coliseum and its tribute to the pagan god in which they worshipped in the great temple of Diana. Many people made their living as a part of this cult. The temple was considered one of the great wonders of the ancient world.

It was in this setting that Jesus places a baby church.

The church had matured through the great ministries of Apollos, Priscilla, Aquilla early on and they had laid the ground work for Paul. Then Paul came and lived with them teaching them further the doctrines of truth and the true Gospel. There were so many conversions, through Paul’s ministry, that it put severe pressure on the economy of the city…the sale of idols had fallen off.

The Holy Spirit was at work in this horribly evil city. God attested to Paul’s ministry by many miraculous events in the city and in the church. All this can be found in Acts 18-20. Later, Paul sent Timothy to minister there in his absence. Timothy began instructing this young church to stand firm in the face of evil and fight the good fight of faith. While Paul was in prison he sent to this church the Book of Ephesians. It was while in Ephesus that Timothy received First and Second Timothy. Finally, they profited from the ministry of the Apostle John. The church had a great heritage of godly men and accurate doctrine. When Paul had to leave we see a loving body expressing their grief over loosing their pastor.

Acts 20:26-38 (ESV)

   Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, [27] for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. [28] Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. [29] I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; [30] and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them…….   [36] And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. [37] And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, [38] being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.

Paul loved his flock and the last thing he wanted was to leave them. He wrote them and even sent Timothy because he knew if they were left alone, like sheep without a shepherd, in that evil satanic city, they would be helpless and open to severe attacks.

This church heard words like…Ephes. 2:8-9 (ESV)

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, [9] not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephes. 6:10-11 (ESV)

   Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. [11] Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

Paul writes these words because in the City of Ephesus there would be many demonic schemes and they needed to be able to defend themselves.

But somewhere along the line something happened. This mighty church began to loose her passion. Her armor was weakening, her sword had become dull, and she became satisfied with just going through the motions. Paul and the others were dead now. Rather than engaging in battle with Satan and his followers, the church became side tracked with the idea that simply agreeing with right doctrine and doing the right things meant it had a right relationship with the Lord. She had forgotten the words of our Lord…

Acts 20:28 (ESV)

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.  

Jesus knew the time had come to write one final letter. About forty years after Paul’s ministry there, Christ sent another word to His beloved Church in Ephesus and in doing so, sends us a letter as well. What was this church doing right and what did they need to address.

We remember from last few weeks that Jesus stands in the midst of His churches as John had the vision of the Son of Man in the midst of the lampstands. We also saw that He held the angels of the churches in His right hand. Our Lord is Commander and Chief over His church.

TT- Orthodox belief in Christ must be accompanied with orthodox love for Christ

  1. Christ’s Commission (2:1)

“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.

John reminds those in Ephesus who is speaking. It is Christ Himself…‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.

When John uses the title “angelo” of the church in Ephesus, This is the strict translation, which means messenger. So he writes to the messenger or the overseer or elder of the church. Today we might say, to the pastor of the church. This letter was to be hand delivered to the current pastor of the church of Ephesus.

holds the seven stars in his right hand. The last chapter explained that the seven stars are in fact the seven elders of the seven churches. Jesus Christ is sovereign over the elders of His churches. He holds them in His hand.

Jesus Christ, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, is monitoring the health of His churches.

  1. Christ’s Commendation (2:2-3 & 6)

   [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…. [6] Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.  

Look at all the things this church was doing right.

‘I know your works…Jesus the One walking among the churches, the One with the penetrating eyes of fire knows, the truth about every church and about every person.

Jesus says I know that you are…

  1. Faithful in Endurance

‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance… I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary

This little flock was sitting right in the middle of a swarm of demons. Paganism was everywhere and they were still enduring for Christ. They were standing strong against the opposition.

This church was full of very hard workers who were busy doing godly things. ‘I know your works, your toil.

Jesus says I know that you are…

  1. Faithful in Doctrine

you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

This church was standing strong in correct doctrine. Their gospel was the real gospel. Their belief was orthodox. They believed the writings of the Scriptures. They promoted sound doctrine among the members. It meant something to be a member of the Church in Ephesus. They would be a church that had a strong teaching ministry. They knew what they believed and were very solid in theology. If I lived back then and moved to Ephesus, this would be the church I would probably attend this church. On the outside, they looked like a good church. But Christ looks on the inside.

Jesus says to them that they hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

Who were the Nicolaitans?

This is a difficult question. Most scholars link this group with Nicholas one of the first deacons found in Act 6:5. Some argue that Nicholas was a false believer who became a heretic but retained influence in the church. This group taught that you could take a little Christianity and a little of the world and mix them together and have a wonderful combination of morality and success. The people wouldn’t dislike you because you didn’t demand too much and you could still fit in with the world so you wouldn’t miss out on worldly success. You could be a Christian on Sunday and a businessman the other days and find happiness in being a part of both worlds. They also took the idea of Christian liberty to a sinful extreme. They probably believed the Word but added other things to it and didn’t allow the truths from Scripture to change them.

Jesus says, you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

  1. Faithful in Discipline

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.

This church practiced church discipline. Forty years before, Paul had told them…

Ephes. 4:27 (ESV)

   and give no opportunity to the devil. And they were still faithful in obeying that command.

Acts 20:29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; [30] and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. [31] Therefore be alert

These elders were faithful in guarding the flock and in keeping them safe from fierce wolves that would come in and not sparing the flock;

We even get a sense of the effect John’s ministry had on the church.

2 John 1:7-11 (ESV)

   For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. [8] Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. [9] Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. [10] If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, [11] for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.

It seems in these areas the church was obedient.

It seems this church was very passionate about truth. However, there was one big problem, perhaps it loved truth more than it loved Christ.

  1. Christ’s Condemnation (2:4)

[4] But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.

Many speculate as to the cause of this lack of love for Christ. It may have something to do with the second-generation believers. Perhaps it had to do with the fact that many who had first heard of Christ through Paul and the others were dead. Maybe the church did what it always did without knowing why she did it. Maybe they partook of the Lord’s Supper every week because that’s what they always did without understanding that it is our love for Christ that warrants our participation in the Lord’s Supper.

Jesus told them that they were doing the right things without a right love for Him.

It’s like a child who obeys a parent not out of love but out of being obedient. Like a church member who tithes every week because it’s the right thing to do rather than out of love for his Lord. Maybe the church had forgotten why it was to do the right things. If we at Grace Community Church believe right things and do right things without the proper love for Christ we are not what Christ wants from a church. We are not letting our light shine before men so they will glorify Him but so we may get the glory. As important as proper doctrine and proper works are, they in themselves are not the end. Christ is the end. We exist for His glory. To do good deeds with wrong motives is to be guilty of idolatry. A self-centered hypocrite does good deeds with a bad heart. When a church like this loves truth more than it loves the Lord. Truth has even become an idol.

It’s like worshipping your Bible over Christ who is revealed in its pages. He is the end of all things. There are churches that fight over what translation is right and they reverence the Bible more than they reverence Christ.

When our motivation is duty rather than privilege, it does not take long for a people to forget. When the next generation comes along they see the actions of the previous generation but don’t know why they do what they do. Why do we take an offering? Why do we meet on the Lord’s Day? Why do we have elders and deacons? If we don’t pass on the why with the how we are robbing our children and generations that follow. So it’s not just important to believe correctly but we must also love Christ supremely. Sound doctrine is not good enough.

It’s the same thing that happened over and over with Israel.

At the time of Joshua’s death we see that the next generation didn’t know the Lord.

Judges 2:6-10 (ESV)

   When Joshua dismissed the people, the people of Israel went each to his inheritance to take possession of the land. [7] And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work that the Lord had done for Israel. [8] And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of 110 years. [9] And they buried him within the boundaries of his inheritance in Timnath-heres, in the hill country of Ephraim, north of the mountain of Gaash. [10] And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.

What’s the remedy for a church that has lost its love for Christ, whether it is the people becoming dull in their love or a whole new generation?

What is the remedy for you if you’ve lost your first love?

  1. Christ’s Cure (2:5)

[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.

  1. Remember

Remember therefore from where you have fallen. Literally in the original, keep on remembering. The church as a whole had forgotten its foundation. She had forgotten how the Lord had established her in the city. She had forgotten what her purpose was. She had forgotten how sinful she was and how Christ saved her out of death and hell. The church needed to remember. So, if we are to love Christ (return to our first love) then, His remedy for us is to remember. Specifically, remember all He has done for us and how great His forgiveness is…
Listen to this account of a woman in Luke’s Gospel who loved Jesus greatly…

36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”

41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” [1]

If your love for Christ is not what it should be, you must remember…

  1. Repent

They needed to acknowledge their sin and then repent. They needed to turn from their evil deeds and turn to their Lord. In loosing their first love they had committed the worst sin of all. They had broken the greatest commandment thus committing the greatest sin. You might think sin is sin, it’s all the same. I say no!!

This church committed the greatest sin because it was breaking the greatest commandment.

Matthew 22:36-38 (ESV)

   “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” [37] And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. [38] This is the great and first commandment.

Jesus commands repentance. If we are guilty of this, He commands us to repent as well.

There is an account in the Gospel of John where Peter repents and through this repentance, his love for Jesus is highlighted.
15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” [2]

Beloved, if your love for Christ is not what it should be, remember all He has done for you and repent of the sin of loving something or someone else more.

  1. Return

and do the works you did at first. Return to your first works.

The first works of the early church were characterized by a zealous commitment to the Lord.

Acts 2:42-47 (ESV)

   And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. [43] And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. [44] And all who believed were together and had all things in common. [45] And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. [46] And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, [47] praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

This picture is very different from a church that has dead orthodoxy. Listen, you can believe correctly and not love correctly. Proper doctrine must be accompanied with proper love.

  1. Christ’s Encouragement (2:7)

[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.’

This message was meant for Ephesus first then it was meant for every church to hear and obey, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

This message from our Lord is meant to be heard at Grace Community Church. Jesus promises that if we hear and obey He will bless.

Rev. 1:3 (ESV)

   Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.

What is one of the blessings promised?

To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’

John has in mind with the phrase, the one who conquers or overcomes means to those who are in Christ.

1 John 5:4-5 (ESV)

   For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith. [5] Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Thousands of years have passed since the tree of life in the Garden of Eden was destroyed. Jesus promises to those who are His, the tree of life in a heavenly place. Those who overcome will partake from this tree for all eternity. All this will take place because of the sacrifice of Christ our great high priest who walks in the midst of his churches. Dear church let’s eat of the Tree of Life once again.

 

Remember, Repent and Return.

 

 

LORD”S SUPPER>>>>>>>>>

 

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” [37] And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. [38] This is the great and first commandment.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Lk 7:36–50). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Jn 21:15–19). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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