“Searching the Seven Churches”
The Source of the Decline – (Revelation Chapter 2 Verses 1-7)
There are many ailments in the church in our country today that you could point to, they all need rectifying. The apostasy, departure from the truth, is a departure from the Lord (Galatians 1:6). But all this is just the symptoms, not the cause. The church in our land long ago departed from its love for Jesus Christ (v4). Warnings similar to this one have been sounded but unheeded.
“The people of this country want to be Christians but they have largely been living on the heritage of the past, and unless it is ensured that the foundation of Christian character is securely and permanently laid by the teaching of Christian doctrine within the fellowship of the Christian Church, there is no guarantee that this country will not revert to paganism” (Dr. Michael Furse; then Bishop of St. Albans, 1940).
“Many discerning people now realise that unless a rediscovery of Biblical Christianity takes place in the near future, the new generation will lack even an emotional attachment to Christian faith and practice and that in becoming unchristian it will soon be definitely anti-Christian” (Dr. J.S. Whale; Cambridge, 1937).
Those warnings were issued before and during the second world war. Now, the nation perishes around us. Where love for Jesus Christ is maintained there will be doctrinal purity, discipline, and worldliness will be kept from the door of the church. If you love Jesus Christ you will not want to be entertained when you come to church. You will treasure him and not the world. Your desire will be to hear, and to feel his word, to be conformed to his likeness. Doctrinal purity, spiritual gifts, knowledge, is not enough, “if I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). Love for Jesus Christ must permeate, must glow in the church.
But here you have a church on the slide (v4). Love once marked the preaching, the fellowship, all the activity. There had been numerical growth in the church at Ephesus, but was this part of the problem we ask? Sometimes a great influx of people is the worst thing that could happen to a church. Were there some who were not truly reborn of the Spirit, lacking in a personal faith in Jesus, and such become a controlling element in the church? I only ask it happens. They carried on in the same tradition, but there’s been a shift in the motive, love of Christ. So how do you correct this? It would take serious measures, that will hurt, measures of austerity. You have officers in the church who should not be in office, their removal from office? Unless there is great humility amongst family and church members, you’ve got widespread rebellion on your hands. You have folk in membership who ought no to be. Again, unless there is true humility amongst them, they will walk, instead of getting on their knees and crying out to the Lord. One of the greatest theologians and preachers to grace the United States of America faced a very similar problem. He, himself, was thrown out the church because he wanted to honour Jesus Christ and rectify the situation. Remember here at Ephesus, Jesus Christ is about to extinguish the light of the church, it’s that serious. Now most folk would undoubtedly say let it be, as long as there is peace, let it go. In other words, let the decadence continue, and that’s where the spiritual slide ends. O yes, it carries on in form, the light’s gone. Ephesus is faced with a serious challenge (v5-7). What will they do?
(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2011)