THE BOOK OF REVELATION
THE CHURCH'S TRIUMPH THROUGH CHRIST
Sermon #5 - Christ's Letter to the Church at Ephesus - Revelation 2:1-7
INTRODUCTION - As we move into the second chapter of Revelation, let us not forget the images and lessons we have learned from chapter one. Remember the blessing we will have in reading this book. Do not forget the one who writes, the Apostle John, nor the people he writes to, the persecuted church. Yet most importantly, may we not forget the image we have been given of the ascended Christ. He is the One who speaks to us through this book. In chapter two we come to the beginning of Christ's seven letters to the churches. These are the literal churches spoken of in Revelation 1:11, yet the messages we shall be hearing apply to the church throughout every age. Every church should take these messages to heart and "listen to what the Spirit says to the churches" (Revelation 2:7). What things would Jesus say today to Honolulu Bible Church? How would He commend and reprove us? There is a fairly regular form to each letter: the letter opens with a greeting to the church, then we are given a description of Christ. Next, we are told about the good and bad things happening in the church, where applicable. A warning is then given to the church, followed by an exhortation and a final promise. Each letter basically follows this same form. Let us begin with Christ's letter to the church at Ephesus.
1) THE GREETING TO THE CHURCH OF EPHESUS - Revelation 2:1 - It is appropriate that Ephesus is the first church greeted, for this city was the main center of the region. It was an extremely wealthy city, yet it also was filled with paganism and idol worship. Aquila and Priscilla ministered in this city, followed by the Apostle Paul who remained there for two years during a missionary journey. Timothy would also minister in this city. Yet Ephesus also will have fond memories for the Apostle John. Tradition tells us that John would spend time teaching here at the end of his life, and eventually he would die at Ephesus. The church there had been blessed with solid leadership.
2) THE DESCRIPTION OF CHRIST - Revelation 2:1 - Here is the Christ we read about in chapter one. The "stars" or ministers of Ephesus are being held in His right hand, supported and disciplined by their Lord. Here we also see Christ "walking" in the midst of the churches (Leviticus 26:12). He is not an inactive monarch, rather He walks through His church, inspecting, studying, looking into each of our hearts, fellowshipping with us, and ready to bestow grace, judgment, and discipline.
3) THE PRAISE GIVEN TO THE CHURCH AT EPHESUS - Revelation 2:2,3,6 - Jesus "knows our works" because He walks among us. He knows us individually and collectively as His people. As Head of the church, He knows the manner of life being lived among God's people, whether it is good or bad (Psalm 139:1-4). The Ephesians are congratulated for their patience and endurance as they endeavored to live the Christian life. They were a Christ-centered church and very strong in the perseverance in Christianity. This patience became evident in the way they could uncover false apostles in their midst. This was not an uncommon occurrence in the early church and it has been a plague in the church through the ages. False and evil men will come in to try and overthrow the church. The Ephesians responded to this by scrutinizing the teacher through the Word of God. They discovered that the supposed "apostles" were actually liars, thus, they were excommunicated from the church. Sadly, today we have such a shallow Christianity that few study the Scriptures, nor can Christians detect false doctrines. Therefore, every type of false teacher is given an ear in the church. Yet the Word of God warns against such men (Matthew 7:15 ; 24:24; Acts 20:28-30). Therefore, teachers must be put to the test! Church members must be students of the Word of God! The Ephesians are also commended in Revelation 2:6 for not tolerating a cult during that time - the Nicolaitans. We know little about this group, yet it is supposed that they were both idolatrous and immoral, endeavoring to blend Christianity with paganism. Ephesus would have nothing to do with them, and so, we must not tolerate false doctrine or immorality.
4) THE REBUKE GIVEN TO THE CHURCH AT EPHESUS - Revelation 2:4 - As Christ loves His church, so He desires it to be pure and spotless. Thus, any imperfection is going to be noted and reproved by our Lord. Are we able to bear such reproofs from Christ? Are we teachable and ready to change for our God? Though Ephesus was a strongly orthodox church, it lacked love. A church may be sound doctrinally, and may be able to detect error, yet if it does not have love, it is nothing (I Corinthians 13:2). Orthodoxy without love is deadly. This is not an excuse to put aside study and simply "love" one another. Instead, we must have strong doctrine and fervent love. Does our orthodoxy lead us to a greater love for God and one another? This is what it should do! Cold formalism is the danger of churches who know God intellectually, but not in the heart. A closed and elite group of Christians develop, thus, love for the brethren will also grow cold. Let us listen to the warning which Christ gives concerning this -
5) CHRIST'S WARNING AND THREAT TO THE CHURCH AT EPHESUS - Revelation 2:5 Christ tells the Ephesians to remember from where they had fallen. Remember the early days of Christianity with its zeal and love. They are called to repent from their cold formalism and to return to the "first works" of Christianity. They must take steps at being loving - towards God and man. Only this will renew that love in the church. If they do not obey, Christ will come and wipe out the church. He will not tolerate a church which is dead. Christ will judge and the church will cease to be one of His own. Let us take this warning to heart, for Christ says the same thing to us today.
6) CHRIST'S EXHORTATION TO THE CHURCH AT EPHESUS - Revelation 2:7 - Let us not think that our church is free from these things! Instead, Christ commands us to listen to what He has said about Ephesus and take it to heart. If we do not, we will lose the church. Or, if you are a member who will not move ahead with the church in spiritual growth, Christ will come and take you away. Listen and take heed to His words!
7) CHRIST'S PROMISE GIVEN TO THE CHURCH AT EPHESUS - Revelation 2:7 - The ones who overcome will eat of the tree of life. Who are the overcomers? Those who are born of God and who have believed in Christ (I John 5:4,5). If this describes us, then there is a tree waiting in the Paradise of God from which we may eat. It is the tree of life which was once barred to us in the Garden of Eden, but has now been returned to us through the work of our Savior and Lord.
Like the Church of the Ephesians, let us labor faithfully and patiently for our Lord. Let us continually uphold the truth of God's Word, examining all teachings and refusing to allow heresy in our midst. Yet with all of this, let the love of Christ fill our hearts and our church!