Theme: Although a strong church worthy of deep commendation, the Ephesus church had left their early fervency for Christ. This letter stands as a plea for them to return.
1 “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.
1 To the angel of the church / holds the seven stars: The stars are the angels.
- Commercially great: three great highways converged there, coastal access, trade center of area.
- Politically great: the de facto capital of that province, the Romans governor resided there, known as a “free” city in that it was self-governed (own senate).
- “Religiously” great: center of worship to fertility god Artemis (Greeks) or Diana (Romans). The temple to Artemis was one of the wonders of the ancient world. Thousands of priests/priestesses were involved in her service, many through cult prostitution.
Church: We know much about this church, and they likely planted the other churches in that region.
- History — Paul passed through, going back to Macedonia, leaving Priscila and Aquila / They found Apollos and instructed him / Paul returned, this time more permanently / He instructed the few disciples he found about the Holy Spirit and gospel, baptizing them / He taught in the synagogue for a few months / He discovered the School of Tyrannus style of ministry / imitators rose up (seven sons of Sceva) / magic books burned / uproar and riot due to Diana / expulsion to Macedonia / passed by and spoke to the elders there / (maybe John came on the scene) / eventually Timothy pastored there
- Conclusion: incredible heritage.
- This letter is 35 years later.
Praise (1:2-3, 6)
3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 6 Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
2 Works: Praise #1 — Working church — not a social club, but active and aggressive.
2 Toil: Praise #2 — Hard working church — their work became painful at times.
2 Patient endurance: Praise #3 — Persistent church — they endured in their hard work.
2 Cannot bear: Praise #4 — Pure church.
2 Tested those who call themselves apostles: Praise #5 — Careful church.
3 Enduring patiently / bearing up for my name’s sake: Praise #6 — Embraced hardship as a church.
3 Have not grown weary: Praise #7 — Strong church — Expect a marathon…
6 You hate the works of the Nicolaitans: Praise #8 — Sound church.
4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.
4 You have abandoned the love you had at first: For all their work, they had not love, at least not “first love” love.
What does this mean?
- Marital love.
- 2 Corinthians 11:2–3 (ESV)—2 …I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. 3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.
- This is not honeymoon love, but marital love. The Ephesians should have deepened in that glorious love of Christ.
God remembered Israel’s previous devotion — Jeremiah 2:2 (ESV)—2 …Thus says the Lord, “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown.
Lack of enthusiasm and (dare I say) emotion are not advantageous or mature.
5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.
5 Do the works you did at first: First love (protos agape) was lost. It would be regained through first works (protos ergon).
The work will turn into love. Matthew 6:21 (ESV)—21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
What are the first works of the Ephesians?
- They had loved the word, studying daily with Paul.
- Their latter works had been caused by the first works.
- Acts 19:10 (ESV)—10 This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.
Trust. Submission. Learning. Worship. Sharing.
5 If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.
5 Remove your lampstand: This defect was serious enough that it would dim their light as a church.
Think about it; when first love is absent we lose our light.
- Orthodox, but uncaring.
- Defenders of the faith, but condescending.
- Zeal for purity, but no compassion for the lost.
- The church becomes unnecessarily unattractive.
7 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.’
7 Let him hear: Every letter.
7 To the one who conquers: What these promises hold are the normal expectation of all Christians, because we do need an eternal view to endure our temporal world.
7 Tree of life: In garden of Eden (Genesis 3:24). In heaven (Revelation 22:1-5). Revelation 22:3 (ESV)—3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.
Jesus holds the angels. Jesus walks amongst the churches. The Ephesian church needed to know His nearness.