Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 29 November 19:
Revelation 2:1-7 — “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’”
Ephesus is the first church Jesus addresses in the book of Revelation with a message which is provided to us because of its relevancy to us today, a message we are to take to heart as well and receive as both a warning and a promise. The church in Ephesus was planted by Paul with the direct support of Priscilla, Aquila and Apollos. For more background on the church of Ephesus, see Acts 18-20 and the Book of Ephesus.
Jesus, “who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands”, commends Ephesus for their works, toil, patient endurance, rejection of false teachers, and hatred of the works of the Nicolaitans (who likely accepted sexual immorality). The church in Ephesus were strong defenders of the doctrine of the Gospel in a metropolitan, multicultural city well known as a center for occultic arts, and the church’s fidelity required great perseverance under social pressure and persecution. Certainly, we can appreciate the challenges associated with being an influence without being influenced by a godless society and facing the condemnation associated with proclaiming Christ and Christ alone in a culture of ‘tolerance’ and moral relativism. The church in Ephesus stood strong, yet Jesus warned them of a potentially fatal flaw – “You have abandoned the love you had at first.”
Apparently, in their staunch defense of the truth, the church in Ephesus had become unloving. Paul had previously warned them to speak “the truth in love” and to “walk in love as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 4:16, 5:2) Apparently, the Ephesian church spoke the truth but without love – “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.” (1 Corinthians 13:2) They spoke the truth but didn’t “walk in love as Christ loved us” and subsequently failed to “do the works [they] did at first.” The warning and challenge for us revealed in Jesus’ message to the church in Ephesus is to remain faithful to the truth and to love. As Dennis Johnson of Ligonier Ministries states –
“Keeping a firm grip on both poles — truth and love — is a constant challenge for redeemed sinners who swing like pendulums from one extreme to another. Too often, churches and their leaders either stand for biblical truth vigorously but lovelessly or else they preserve apparent unity and love at the expense of truth. Of course, when the truth of the gospel truly grasps our hearts, love for others must result; and, by the same token, the love that delights Jesus grows only in the rich soil of fidelity to God’s truth. Jesus’ sobering threat to remove the Ephesians’ lampstand — to snuff out this truth-loving congregation’s witness to truth amid its pagan community — shows how seriously He regards His summons to blend doctrinal fidelity to the Bible with sacrificial love for the saints.”
Jesus concludes His message to the church in Ephesus with a promise – “To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” Let’s hang on to that promise and speak the truth in love.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 29 November 19: Today, proclaim the Gospel, and speak the truth in love.