The Church at Ephesus
Revelation chapter 2
Revelation 2:1 Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write,....
A little background
From Gill's commentary: a city of Ionia, and which Pliny calls (f) the work of the Amazons, and the light of Asia; it was famous for the temple of Diana, but more so for having a church of Christ in it: hither the Apostle Paul came and preached, and continued for the space of two years; where a very famous church was planted by him, and proper officers appointed, to whom he wrote a very excellent epistle: this is now a miserable desolate place, not a city, but a village; and is called by the Turks, Aiasalik: of this place and church; See Gill on Act_18:19, Act_20:17,
Acts 18:19 And he came to Ephesus,.... The metropolis of Asia; according to Pliny (c), it had been called by many names; at the time of the Trojan war, Alopes, then Ortygia and Morges, also Smyrna Trachea, Samornion and Prelea, and which he calls the work of the Amazons: some say (d) it was called Ephesus, because Hercules permitted the Amazons to dwell in it, Ephesus in the Greek language signifying "permission"; Pausanias (e) denies, that the famous temple in it was built by them, but by Ephesus the son of Caystrus, and says that from him the city had its name; though others say it was built by Androclus, the son of Codrus, king of Athens, in the time of David king of Israel; and that having suffered by the sea, it was rebuilt by Lysimachus king of Thrace, who called it after his wife's name Arsinoe; but he being dead, it was called by its ancient name Ephesus: it is now a poor village in the hands of the Turks, and with them goes by the name of Aiasalik; though with others it still has the name of Epheso; the Syriac version reads, "they came"; not only Paul, but Aquila and Priscilla; and certain it is that they came with him thither, since it follows, and left them there; unless this is to be understood of Cenchrea: this clause is not here read in the Syriac version, but is placed at the end of Act_18:21, where it reads much better; as that he should leave them at Ephesus, when he departed from thence, than when he first came thither; unless the sense is, that he left them in some part of the city, whilst he went to the Jewish synagogue; since it follows, but he himself entered into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews; concerning Jesus being the Messiah, and the abrogation of the law; and the doctrine of justification by the righteousness of Christ, and not by the deeds of the law: which were the principal things in debate, between him and the Jews: Beza's ancient copy reads, "and the sabbath following he left them there".
Keep in mind that Revelation itself is a book revealing Jesus. Jesus is who John is seeing, and it is Jesus that is speaking to him; speaking about “what was, what is, and what is to come.” Therefore God is speaking to these churches. It is a message that is specific, for as we can see from the background, already stated, that Ephesus effectively dissappeared off the map.
The words spoken over the churches are at first encouraging, for they point out some good aspect(s) prior to the delivery of the bad news.
Revelation 2:2-3 NIV I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. (3) You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
The bad news is:
Revelation 2:4-5 NIV Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. (5) Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.
They only seem to get dinged on one point. The oddity here is, when you read the background information, the potential for many other accusations are there. Consider the pointed way God steers us through scripture and we do not get it. I am not surprised.
What is the one thing that Ephesus does that draws God's ire? “You have lost your first love.”
God's directive to them: Return to your first love or I will remove your candle stick from its place. John saw Jesus walking among the candlesticks in Heaven. Perhaps this scene is representational of our foundations, but on that I am not sure. After getting admonished to return to their first love what do they do? Nothing or too little.
What can define a first love?
- The desire to learn about the one your attentions are set upon.
- Sincere questioning as you learn about the other.
- Studying the other person, memorizing each line of the face (as an example).
I am sure there are many more aspects, but now apply these ideas to the newness of our relationship with the Father. I will tell you, that as I pondered this I thought of my own experience in “coming to the Father”. I was raised in church. My mother would lay a blanket down behind the seats in the back row, and in many ways I literally grew up there. I came to know God as I came to talk, but in our thinking there must be a point in which you, with understanding, make a decision to follow him. I suspect I did that at about age 12. So many give their testimony how they, after a brutal life, came to know the Lord on a particular day; mine was not so dramatic. I think that it feels more like a family, which gets along somewhat, and there is no painful drama that makes you wish you born to someone else. Within this family there is an expression of love through actions and words. In my quiet times I can hear God telling me that He loves me, just as a father might. I had my attempts at a family and kids stripped away from me, but during the time that I had them I told them that I loved them, and that they were valuable.
The point in this is that when you are accustomed to loving environment, you may not see or feel the passions that are involved when you leave the nest and find love on your own. That takes me to my next point, and that is that we tend to associate a first love with a girlfriend or marriage.
Sadly, as so commonly happens within a marriage, we tend to lose our first love. Really? Or do we slowly decide that the things that made that exciting are just not worth the effort any more, as you shout out at your wife, “get me a beer”.
So then, the question is, how do you keep you love alive. This becomes important because God told this church to return to their first love. Obviously God and his Son were the basis of this.
An aspect of a first love is exploration. That means finding out what makes the other tick, and and eventually finding out the habits they already have, the good and the bad.
Yes, I have been married several times. Now that we are past that I can say my second wife was doing just that, when she asked me what kind of bread I liked, and what kind of toothpaste I used. Wow, I never really thought about the toothpaste thing, but I suppose that it is important, for some taste pretty odd. I answered her question with I will eat just about anything, but I prefer wheat bread. She then seemed shocked, so I asked her why. She had had a relationship with a young man who got very angry over having white bread in their “home”. The way I see it, starving people just eat.
Now God has no bad habits, but he does have a misunderstood reputation. If you are going to have a love relationship with the Father then I would think that it would be a requirement for you to find out who he really is. God is love, and when you have been damaged by people that requires some serious personal time, spent learning about, and building a relationship in which you can love him back. I have found that I respond to the realisation that his goodness is toward me, for no one has ever loved me the way he does; no one listens to me the way he does; no one talks to me the way he does, and no one has ever made me feel so wanted, the way he does.
Within a marriage there comes a point at which you must decide to keep love alive. How does that happen? You become accustomed and complacent. Do I really need to say “I love you” to her that much, if at all. She knows I love her, just look at those pots and pans I bought. Are you serious. Unless you are just an ignorant caveman that scratches his head with a club, then communication is essential. I cannot tell you how many times I have walked away from work depressed and emotionally spent, feeling little to no self-worth. And yes, suicidal at times. So to keep love alive requires that you overlook perceived faults, and look for those things that ignited you at the beginning, while thinking outside the box. This makes me think of a commercial in which the family looks at the table with dinner on it, and says, “ same thing again”. Did you constantly do the same things? No, you made life interesting.
I am so dismayed by people that are bold enough to tell God that he cannot act through people in certain manners. For example: tongues, interpretation, and essentially the gamut of the giftings of the Holy Spirit. I went up to a lady because I had heard of her, her questions she raised, and the lack of response from the leadership of that church. I spoke a few words to her that I felt the Holy Spirit had directed me to say, and then asked her if I could pray with her about the situation. The first thing she said to that request was “no ghost”. What are you talking about, and yet I knew the answer. She started to explain that she wanted no refence to the Holy Ghost. An odd thing about that, I already feel that way about the term because I am not finding it in scripture, but the negativity was almost overwhelming. To be honest, I wanted to walk away from her at that moment. I did not, but internally I was skeptical about her receiving anything. Sometimes you just do what you are told and let God do his. It all gets sorted out in the end.
We, as a church, seem to struggle with the concept blaspheming the Holy Spirit. People have serious concerns when they ask, either about themselves or someone else they think has condemned themselves to hell because of what they said or did. Jesus made it pretty clear when he was rebuking some pharisees for attributing the miracles, healings, and words that he had done and spoke, to the devil. In addressing the pharisees he told them that they were blaspheming when they were doing that, and in danger of hell itself. If we associate the acts of the Holy Spirit to something other than God then what makes us think that we are not doing the same thing when we try to restict God, because we have decided that He is inappropriate.
Make note: Even though this church was vibrant and alive, something happened and they “lost that loving feeling” (The Medley Brothers). God warned them to get it back, therefore it was something that they could get back, if they choose to, but they did not, and the fact that little to nothing exists of that metropolis today is a statement to the God whose word is true.
Some will argue that this letter is exclusive to the non-existant church body that met at Ephesus, but what if your wrong. What if every aspect of these churches exists within us today. One of the signs of His return is the falling away of the church; another translation is the rebellion. We as a church have lost our first love, we have fallen away, and we are in rebellion. What if God is telling us to return to our first love, and find that passion, fire, and desire to learn of him. Studying every wrinkle of his face.