Focal Passage: Revelation 2:1-7
The influence of the term, “Christian” seems to be decreasing in our culture. The word “Christian” describes a person who has come to God through Christ for salvation, but that seems to mean less in our world than it once did. Love for Christ is ever present in a true Christian, although, it can fluctuate in intensity. This is the issue for the church, in Ephesus, throughout history, and today.
The church at Ephesus (v. 1a). The gospel was introduced in Ephesus by Paul’s friends Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:18-19).
Soon Apollos joined in the ministry (Acts 18:24-26). They laid the groundwork for Paul’s ministry. Paul stopped briefly near the end of his second missionary journey (Acts 18:19-21). On his third missionary journey he encountered some followers of John the Baptist (Acts 19:1-7). They accepted Christ and were baptized.
Later toward the end of his third missionary journey Paul returned and taught. Timothy, Tychicus, and Onesiphorus ministered there.
According to tradition, John spent the last decades of his life in Ephesus. John now writes, under the direction of Christ, to a second generation of Ephesian Christians.
The city of Ephesus (v. 1b). Ephesus has been called the most influential city in Asia Minor (though Pergamum was the capitol). It was known as, the “Gateway to Asia Minor” and “The Landing Place.” It boasted a theater and athletic games to rival the Olympics. There was a well paved wide (35 ft.) column-lined road that led from the harbor, to the center of town, and continued as a short cut to the rest of the major cities (The Arcadian Way). It housed a huge market and trade center as well as a famous center of worship. A temple to Artemis (Diana) the fertility goddess had been built there. It was a major trade center because of the convergence of three major trade routes.
Ephesus was a city of political power. All governors were to spend their first year serving there and most of them lived in Ephesus.
The Roman governor tried important cases there on a regular basis
What had the Church done well (vv. 2-3, 6)? In the midst of the paganism there was a faithful group of Christians in Ephesus. Jesus commended them for their deeds, toil, and perseverance. They had refused to tolerate evil people, and had tested false teachers. The church had endured in Jesus’ name. They hated deeds of Nicolatians who were known as immoral and wicked.
What are Christ’s concerns (v. 4)? They were standing up to the task, they apparently had a great program, they were well organized, and they were busy. There was plenty of activity, but there was no blessing. The penetrating gaze of Christ sees a problem. Their worship and service had degenerated to mechanical orthodoxy. There had been love in the past, but now that love had grown cold. These second generation Ephesian Christians kept the doctrine of the first generation, but had lost their love. How sad. They had lost their love for Christ, for each other, and for their city. Ephesus was literally falling apart around them for lack of a gospel influence.
What should be done about it (vv. 5, 7)? They should: remember, repent, and refocus. Jesus says, “Do the deeds you did at first.” The appeal here is for the benefit of the church and its surroundings, but it is in essence an appeal to the individual. Love is a personal matter; it is up to the individual to be loving and to express the love of Christ in daily living. Loving churches are made up of loving people! Perhaps it is time to ask the Holy Spirit to restore you to a place of relationship with your first love.
— Harmon is pastor of Rock Springs Baptist Church, Greenbrier