Friday, February 1, 2013

To the Church at Ephesus


C) Letters to the Seven Churches, 2:1-3:22    


 

   In the first few verses of chapter 12 is recorded the birth of The Church; chapters two and three record the continuation of the Church throughout Christian history if we accept the theory that each church represents a period of time.  That is the stance I am taking in these posts.


   About each of the seven churches, Christ says, I know.   It is good to know that He knows.  However, this thought is also perplexing; if He knows, why is there so much carnality found in the churches?  

   
   In addressing the churches, in each case, the speaker (Christ), refers to a characteristic of His which is suitable for that particular church.   We first noticed these characteristics of Christ in chapter one.  In each case, Christ comes to take care of the problem, if there is a problem in that particular church because He is the one who is qualified to do so.

   Towards the end of each introduction, Christ says, He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  He is so keen for us to listen to Him, to pay attention to His advice because He knows the outcome if His advice is ignored.  The writer of Hebrews says, Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart. Hebrews 3:7.  Pay attention to what Christ has said!


    If, as some say, the church age is divisible into seven periods, Ephesus, the first church that is named, represents the church in the years from AD 31 to 100.  In these posts, the dates represented by each church are noted at the beginning of each section.  The dates given for the various church ages are from The Signs of the Times magazine.^^
  
To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: 
“I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 
“and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. 
“Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 
“Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. 
“But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” 2:1-7


1. The Church in Ephesus (AD 31-100)


   The meaning of the word Ephesus is desirable and it is the first church in a group of seven.  Was it named first because Ephesus was the capital city of its province? 

  Or, maybe, it was addressed first because the church in Ephesus best represents the church in its first stage.  Just in passing, notice, that, in the New Testament, Paul wrote letters to seven different churches.  However, the only church to which Paul wrote a letter that is also included in this group of seven is the church at Ephesus.  

   It is He, who stood in the midst of the seven lampstands, 1:13, that tells this church to repent…or else I will…remove your lampstand from its place.


   He…walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: Is it not a wonderfully comforting thought that Christ himself, in a spiritual sense, is walking among the saints?


   After naming all those wonderful traits of the church, Christ says, I have this against you, that you have left your first love.  Does it sound as if the church had become ritualistic? They did what they always used to do, but now their heart was not in it anymore.  The church service has form and ritual but no real life.  Jehovah wants the heart of His people much more than He wants the ritual in worship services.


   Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place.  It is sad when Christ says about a church, “your church” rather than "my church".  Was that church no longer Christ's?  

   History indicates that they did not repent and turn to their first love; the church was probably removed from its place when the Goths destroyed Ephesus in 262 AD.


   Asimov^ suggests that the Nicolaitans were probably the followers of Nicolas, who was one of the seven deacons, appointed by the apostles, as recorded in Acts 6.  The idea presented by Asimov is that Nicolas took the early Christian's idea of 'communism' so far as to teach wife sharing with other church members.  The term used by Asimov is free Love.  This sounds like a plausible theory and the Lord says he hates these deeds.

   To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.  We remember hearing about the tree of life from the story of the garden of Eden.  The Bible does not record that anyone has ever eaten the fruit of that tree, but Christ says, if you overcome, I will give you fruit to eat; fruit from that tree.

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^^ Signs of the Times Magaizines: What the Revelation says about. March 1998. David C. James
^ Guide to the Bible, Isaac Asimov