The Footsteps of Paul Blog

A Walk Through the 7 Churches – Ephesus

Posted By: Chris Posted In: Blog, The Seven Churches Date Posted: May 15th, 2012 Comments: 4

Photo (Chris D.) Poppies among the ruins at Ephesus

Issue #16 – Your First Love is Essential for Survival

“These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands.” (Revelation 2:1)

Not only are these letters to the 7 churches directed to the angels of the churches; they are actually from Jesus. So we can say right off that these letters are not principally pastoral letters from their bishop/overseer, John the Apostle, but, rather, powerful prophetic statements from Jesus.

The Church in Ephesus is commended by Jesus:

“I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.” (Revelation 2:2-3)

Wherever a church plant is “early” in the Christian history of a particular nation, the work of evangelism and discipleship is arduous and the opposition, especially spiritual and doctrinal opposition, is fierce.

The Church in Ephesus was planted by Paul and his team of evangelists in the mid first century, in the face of opposition from both the pagan Artemis worshipping gentiles as well as the resident Jews. This was a new religion, an imposter religion to the local inhabitants. The largest ever temple to Artemis was right in Ephesus. It was huge – three times the size of the Parthenon in Athens. People from all over Asia Minor and Greece would come to worship her image. What’s more, this worship of the “Earth mother”, this fertility goddess, had been going on for centuries in that area – the Greek civilization worshipped her as Diana, the Anatolians as Cybele. I have seen a small earth mother fertility idol dated 5750BC in the Ankara Archaeological Museum. The people of Asia Minor had in fact been worshipping Artemis, whose name had changed with each civilization, for at least six millennia! And here was the new church preaching, “No” to Artemis. The spiritual opposition would have been palpable, which makes us realize why in the Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he says,

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Eph. 6:10-11)

Photo (Chris D.) Ana Tanrika – "Earth Mother" – 5750BC Ankara Archaeological Museum

Jesus commended this church for her stand against heresy and heretics (“False prophets”). The Ephesian church knew the truth and was standing firm, no matter what.

There is a final commendation in Revelation 2:6

“But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.”

Who were the Nicolations? No one is sure. They could have been followers of someone called Nicholas who taught heresy. On the other hand, if we look at the meaning of this Greek word, we have NICO, meaning to conquer and LAOS, meaning the people or the laity.

When we study the letter to the Church in Pergamum we will look more fully at “the DOCTRINE of the Nicolations” and the implications of this development in church governance which saw the creation of a professional priesthood/episcopate and therefore a division between leaders and laity. However, the commendation to the Ephesian Church was that they did not tolerate the PRACTICE of the Nicolations.

Sadly there are those in the Christian Church today who do not hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, but who follow “the practices” of dominating the laity by lording it over the Church of Jesus Christ, which should be subject only to one Divine Master!

This brings us to the rebukes of the Lord to the Church at Ephesus:

“Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.” 2:4-5

Love is such a gracious character trait.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

It is SO HARD to find truth walking hand in hand with love. Truth by nature contests and condemns falsehood. Truth has difficulty with compromise. The Ephesian church had battled against error incredibly successfully but in the process had become hard-nosed, and simply un-loving. The Lord exhorts them to look back and compare how loving they were in the past with the situation now, at the time of receiving the letter, and see how far they had “fallen” and repent.

Those of us who find ourselves battling for truth either in our own church and denomination or overseas among Muslims, Hindus or Buddhists, must be very careful we do not take on a Crusader or an Inquisition mentality.

The challenge I put to you this week is to identify your feelings towards the enemies of biblical faith, repent for any un-loving attitudes you discover there and meditate on 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (above), praying for the Lord to help you restore your “first love”: that simple overflow, the euphoria you experienced when you first fully understood that your sins were forgiven and that you were unconditionally loved by Father and the subsequent unconditional love you in turn felt for everyone around you.

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” 2:7a

Ah, so here we see that Jesus expected more than just one church – Ephesus – to read and heed this letter (“churches” is plural). In fact all of the seven may well have read each other’s letters. Also, because of its inclusion in the canon of scripture, this is a message for every church throughout the ages.

These are very real warnings of dangers that will be common to all. Obedience to these exhortations is key to the health and survival of congregations throughout the world, in every age…

“Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:7)

Disobedience to the Lord’s exhortations is a sure recipe for disaster and oblivion. Could this be the reason the Church in Ephesus no longer exists? Did they continue battling on for what they perceived as truth at the expense of love?

Photo (Chris D.) Susanne beside a baptismal font in the ruins of 5thC St. Mary's Church, Ephesus

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A Walk Through the 7 Churches – Smyrna » »


let the discussion begin!


  • Colleen Wilkinson - 16 May, 2012 at 2:18 am - Reply

    Thank you Chris, I understand how hard it is sometimes to have compassion on those who are lost when they are driving you nuts. Especially when you see others hurt by them in the process. Prayer and patience are helping but it’s along road sometimes. Great to see results at the end though! Might be getting a bit ahead of myself but I think your message also relates to Rev 6:6. In my Bible it says, “..and do not damage the oil and the wine.” I take from this that despite the injustice of the haves and have nots (which is getting more pronounced these days) we are not to retaliate? :c } Colleen

  • Jonathanru - 17 May, 2012 at 6:12 am - Reply

    Wow, this is great, what a good effort in this article. We as a church in new brighton are praying every day for our city and our government. Of course I lift you up and your team in turkey

  • Olive Macleod - 21 May, 2012 at 11:28 am - Reply

    Thanks Chris for these mind expanding messages. I need to make hard copies so that I can find a quiet spot to reread and understand them. I am forever grateful that my sins have been ( and I hope still will be) forgiven – what a sense of freedom !
    Olive

  • Alison - 29 May, 2012 at 8:41 am - Reply

    Chris,

    I love this paragraph especially the statement about the euphoria of having our sins forgiven. Such a cool picture!

    “The challenge I put to you this week is to identify your feelings towards the enemies of biblical faith, repent for any un-loving attitudes you discover there and meditate on 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (above), praying for the Lord to help you restore your “first love”: that simple overflow, the euphoria you experienced when you first fully understood that your sins were forgiven and that you were unconditionally loved by Father and the subsequent unconditional love you in turn felt for everyone around you”

    Good stuff.
    Ali

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