“Searching the Seven Churches”
The Ephesian’s Orthodoxy – (Revelation Chapter 2 Verses 1-7)
The church at Ephesus was certainly orthodox, she is commended for this. But, to sit under the ministry of the word of God and not respond, is contempt. You know the saying, “familiarity breeds contempt?” Sometimes this is found in churches. The church is commended for its doctrine, its discipline and its duty. Perhaps there was a dullness that had settled over the church. This is not a broken down church, there is conformity in doctrine. They are intolerant of error of any kind (v2). They knew what an apostle was they had one in their church for three years teaching them. They could probably detect heresy ten miles away. And yet she is under a death sentence, if she does not repent, she will be gone, the light will be extinguished (v5). However, that is not spiritual life. That can be negative, it can even be a disease (i.e., heresy hunting). We’re not saying that soundness in doctrine is wrong, it’s a great necessity. But the motivation behind it is of the essence. They were commended for their discipline also. Perhaps their attention to doctrine had led to an attitude of fault-finding? Destructive rather than instructive and constructive. It does happen. It doesn’t lead to healing and restoration. Have they become so absorbed with the work and left Christ behind, outside the door? Some people love statements of faith, doctrinal standards to the nth degree. But they can be easier to deal with than person, Jesus. O yes, they are a necessity, but you can have them without Jesus Christ. Their attention to duty is commended also (v3). They had endured the cross, persecution, they had stood firm in the face of it. Yet all this is possible, you can keep up appearances of spiritual activity and conviction, yet be backslidden in heart and departed from the Lord. And the backslider will deny it, strenuously and vigorously deny it, and yet it be so.
And here now is the proof of the matter, they have departed from their love of the Lord. They are condemned for their lack of love (v4). You look at this church, doctrine, discipline and given to duty, what on earth can you find to condemn this church for? Surely you say this is exactly what we are looking for today? It is only the flame of consecrated love for Christ that will keep any church from disaster and decay. This is a reminder to us that neither churches nor denominations are eternal. There are churches in this country today that once thronged with people, had ministers that were and still are revered, many were saved in such churches. But now, today, the buildings are abandoned, or they are salesrooms, work-places. The same applies to denominations, once they flourished, but they are no more. You cannot live on tradition alone nor yet on past glories. There is a serious flaw in the church at Ephesus, it can’t be seen with the naked eye, from the human perspective it looks good. But that’s not what Jesus Christ sees with his all-penetrating gaze (Revelation 1:14b). The inner life is where the problem lies. It’s not a need for emotion or a sensational fix, it’s a need for repentance. If you were part of this church and some visiting minister said to you, this is a church in decline, you’re cut adrift from the root of your spiritual life, you are dying on your feet. You would laugh him out the place. This is a church that has taken the first step to apostasy. The doctrine, the disciple, the duty, all of these can slip and worldliness begins to seize the church, but these are just the symptoms, not the cause, the root. The source of the decline, it’s here (v4). We’ll look some more at this in our next note.
(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2011)