Masterchef and MKR haven’t really made me a chef or cook, but I know there is nothing more frustrating though when you’re baking that batch of biscuits you had a craving for and one key ingredient is missing! Running to the shops doesn’t appeal, so you adjust the recipe, usually with disastrous results!
When you leave the key ingredient out of anything, you run into trouble. In relationships, when you leave out communication, you’re in trouble. When you’re trying to drive a car, you can’t leave out the petrol.
The driving force and key ingredient of the believer and the church as a whole is love, and when that is missing, everything else falls apart.
Revelation is all about telling us about not only what is to come, but also what has been, and what can be a reality now when we see Christ as Lord and coming King.
The letters to the seven churches are direct letters from Christ – the all powerful One Who walks among the lamp stands and holds the seven stars that represent the seven angels of the churches. ( 1:17-20)
The letter specifically to the church at Ephesus would’ve been poignant to John, who was a leader in the church there before his exile.
It was addressed to the angel. ( v1a)
Does our church have an angel? As one pastor responded, “No, but we have plenty of devils.” Angels throughout Scripture, and especially in Revelation clearly speak of supernatural beings. Beings with authority given to them by Christ. It would be dangerous to symbolise the angel only. It would be foolish to dismiss or over-emphasis also, but what the role of angels in the church and our church should not surprise us – it is a spiritual battle we are in.
It was from the One who commands the angels and walks among the churches. ( v 1b)
It was for the lampstand that was the church at Ephesus, the loveless church. (v 1a)
So what word did Christ have for this church?
1 – The Commendation v 2-3, 6
Christ has several positive things to commend the Ephesians for, He knew their works (2:2a), that they were patient, enduring under hardship, and that they did not tolerate evil or evil teaching ( 2:2b), they also hated the works of the ‘Nicolaitans’ ( 2:6).
The fact that God knows our works would, you’d think, motivate us to do good ones. It’s a good question to ask ourselves – how does knowing God knows about what you do affect what you do? Remembering firstly that this is a loving Heavenly Father who gives us good gifts – what are we motivated towards that will give Him glory? The Father rewards those who honour His Son, and Christ will acknowledge those before God who have acknowledged Him(2:3) and haven’t gotten weary in doing good ( Galatians 6:9).
“When our work is done in the name of Jesus, by means of the power of Jesus, and for the sake of Jesus, we can rest assured that the justice of Jesus requires that he know and acknowledge and reward what He has accomplished through us.” – Sam Storms
Patient endurance was the main quality of the church at Ephesus, they just kept on keeping on, like the Duracell bunny. But it’s important to notice the boundaries to their endurance.
“They endured persecution, not perversion.” – Sam Storms
They couldn’t stand evil. They knew it was no proper and shouldn’t be named among them ( Ephesians 5:3-4). They endured suffering, but they didn’t endure or tolerate the evil that caused it, or those that taught wrongly about Christ.
We don’t know too much about the Nicolaitans, except that they ‘lorded it over the people’ . They exalted themselves over others and gave themselves authority that was not theirs. They were false lords, false christs, false teachers and the Ephesians would have none of them.
So the commendation to the Ephesians was for their perseverance and their orthodoxy. They endured suffering with faith, and would not endure evil or false authority in their lives.
2- The Concern v 4
There is one concern that Christ has for the Ephesians, and it is a major one, especially in context of the epistle to the Ephesians.
He held this accusation against them, that they had left their first love (2:4).
Which love is this? The love of Christ, or the love of others?
He has just commended them for their soundness and endurance, orthodoxy and perseverance, so we would think that if they love the truth of Christ and the hope of Christ that they would, in fact love Christ. But we only need look at our own hearts to see that it is possible to leave love and get distracted by our own desires, to become comfortable with our personal comfort zone.
“They had lost the first flush of enthusiasm and excitement in their Christian life and settled into cold orthodoxy with more surface strength than depth. The second generation of the church had probably failed to maintain the fervour of the first.” – Grant Osborne
“They displayed ‘works, labour and patience’, but these qualities were not motivated by a love for Christ… It is possible to serve, sacrifice, and suffer ‘for My name’s sake’ and yet not really love Jesus Christ! The Ephesian believers were so busy maintaining their separation that they were neglecting adoration. Labour is no substitute for love; neither is purity substitute for passion. The church must have both if it is to please Him.” – Wiersbe
Paul had prayed for the church to know the love of Christ and be spiritually strong ( Ephesians 3:14-21), but it seems his prayers, although heard by God, was not heeded by the believers at Ephesus. They didn’t pray that same prayer for one another.
“Where love for God wanes, love for man diminishes, and where love for man is soured, love for God degenerates into religious formalism…If the price paid by the Ephesians for the preservation of true Christianity was the loss of love, the price was too high, for Christianity without love is a perverted faith.” – GR Beasley-Murray
3 – The Caution v 5
Let the loveless church beware, if you don’t have love, you are nothing. ( 1 Corinthians 13:12)
Christ gives the caution to the church in v5, they need to remember from where they have fallen, repent and do what they did at the start, and if they don’t, their light will be removed.
Christ never leaves us with just a problem. He doesn’t just expose our need and leave us to our own devices, He provides a solution, He gives Himself. Turn back, repent. Change your mind about what you are doing and give Him your full attention once again. Know His love and it’s cost again. Reflect and meditate on the passion you once had for Him, and let the memory of it stir you up to cultivating the affection you had previously, both for Christ and for fellow believers.
If you don’t, you’ll have the fruit of what you have been reaping. If you haven’t been rooted in love. If you haven’t cultivated it. If you haven’t nurtured it, it will stay dormant. It will stay dark, you will stay dark and you will have no light left to shine or give.
Be warned. Leaving love and passion for Christ for your own endeavours and attempts at doing things your own way will end with a loveless, dark and lifeless church, and it will be Christ that takes the lamp stand.
4 – The Calling v 7
The closing call of Christ to the church, and to us, is to hear and heed Him. ( James 1:22). Too often we content ourselves with ‘waddling’ when we can ‘fly’ – Webster the Preacher duck would warn us away from that.
Our call is to listen and act on what we hear. Not to pick and chose what we hear when it comes to the Word of God, or those who are presenting it, but to listen as it is spoken, presented.
Lies we like to tell ourselves like, ‘It’s not for me’, ‘ I don’t need this teaching in my life right now’, ‘ I can figure out God’s Word all on my own’, if you are saying these things, to yourself, or to others, you may not be listening to what Jesus has said.
If you don’t have ears to hear what the Spirit has to say to you, you’re not just spiritually deaf, you may be spiritually dead.
Listen to what Christ says -this is for you as much as it is for me.
Christ’s call is to overcome, to conquer. We’re not conquering others, that would end in lovelessness, and we don’t battle against flesh and blood. We’re conquering evil, and this through the power of the Cross and fullness of the Spirit that we all have access to.
“ They are to ‘conquer’, not by fighting back, but by following Jesus Himself, who won the victory through His own suffering” – Tom Wright
We overcome become because we follow the Overcomer.
We overcome the evil within, the deadness within, and the evil without that seeks to distract us.
What must you conquer or overcome to eat from the tree of life? Addictions? Anger? Lust? Christ has already defeated it. We need to live in that victory – live as who Christ has made us to be, not who we once were. ( Ephesians 5:8).
The conquerors get to eat of the tree of life. What is the tree of life?
It’s a full restoration to communion and fellowship with God. We get to go back to the garden. We get to go back to how God meant it all to be, we get to go back because Christ came down.
There is a tree of life we can partake in, a physical tree that awaits us in God’s paradise, all because there was another tree and there was another garden.
Christ went through a garden of death and died on a tree so we could have access to the tree of life – eternal life, the gift of God. ( Ephesians 2:8).
Live with the tree of life in mind, and overcome by following the Overcomer.