“Searching the Seven Churches”
The Church at Ephesus – (Revelation Chapter 2 Verses 1-7)
It must be kept in mind that the conditions that you see here in the seven churches are the conditions that you see in the church throughout the entire age. To some lesser or greater degree and differing points in the New Testament era. And you will these conditions in the church today throughout the world, again to some lesser or greater degree, both the negative and the positive. There are times when she will be found in a state of revival, other times of apostasy, or persecution and tribulation. So these messages are sent to the whole church in every period of history, even to your church today. To the first three churches, the message is repent, to the other four, the message is to only a remnant left within the churches. Ephesus was the first church amongst the Gentiles. It was also the centre of Paul’s missionary work. It was sending church, it sent missionaries out to other regions, it was a glorious work indeed. It was a seaport, the gateway into Asia Minor. The seven golden candlesticks represent the church in its perfection. The seven churches that are in Asia (v4), that’s the church universal, the church on earth, in all her imperfection. It is in the eyes of God essentially holy, yet she is still earthly, and sinful. She is still open to rebuke, to challenge, to warnings and threatenings. She may even be in danger of extinction. That is the threat here if she does not repent quickly. The candlestick will be removed if she ceases to represent the golden candlestick, that is to be a bearer of Christ’s light to the nations of the world. The letters come first and foremost to the office-bearers, to the messengers, the angel of the church (v1). The pastor(s), or elders of the church. Then to the members of the church at large. But this is the first, Ephesus. It is very large, it is active, it is full, with a lot going on. You would look at such today and you would think this is a very good church, just what my family need. There’s ministry for the kids, the youth, there’s music, and it is absolutely sound in terms of doctrine. What more could you want? Jesus commends the church for its orthodoxy (v1-3).
Ephesus was the home of Diana, not the princess, but the one that fell from Jupiter (Acts 19:26ff). It was a hotbed of idolatry and Diana was a very profitable idol. But the trouble started with a man called Demetrius, whose god was money (Acts 19:24ff). So when Paul came to Ephesus preaching Jesus, bidding men repent of their idolatry. Had some of that idolatry wormed its way into the church? However, Paul foresaw this coming, as he was leaving he warned the elders. “And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. 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. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore, be alert” (Acts 20:25-31). It was a battle zone, the reason Paul wrote to them (Ephesians 6:10ff). Because behind that idolatry in Ephesus was embedded demonic powers. So without the full armour of God the church is vulnerable. So they are reminded that Christ is in the midst of them, watching and working. And a call is issued them and to us to be faithful to him. And that involves not just the head, the intellect, but the heart also. So what was the problem here, was it the pastor, the board of elders? Had the fire gone out? As the church got bigger, perhaps there had been some compromise of some sort. It’s an awful thing to see, a young man perhaps who you knew years ago, just a the beginning of his ministry, on fire. But now you see him and the fire’s gone out of his belly. Perhaps he used to preach sovereign grace and election, but there’s opposition come in and so he begins to cut his cloth to suit. And slowly but surely the fire dies within him. Or maybe it was the congregation. They had been sitting under faithful ministry for so long, but they’ve become so familiar with the truth? You know what I mean, they might not say it aloud, but the attitude is, yes, I’ve heard all this before, I know it all. And there is no longer any personal response to the word of God. There is but one word for Ephesus, repent!
(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2011)