Summary: A look at the church at Ephesus
Intro: Turn with me this morning to the last book in the Bible, the book of Revelation. Here in this book, we find a message that is given to us by God to prepare us for the future. In chapter 1, we these words: the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John. And verse 3 tells us that we will receive a special blessing for reading this today: Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near. As we see though, the blessing is not just for reading these words, but applying them to our lives. So let’s pause and pray that God would help us to apply what we read today. PRAYER - to be doers and not hearers only.
For the setting of the book of Revelation, we have John, one of the original 12 disciples of Christ, exiled onto an island called Patmos, off the coast of Turkey. It is about 95 AD, some 30 years after the other disciples have died off. While he is there, he is given a vision of Christ. Christ comes and gives him a message of what currently is happening in the churches of Turkey as well as a message to the church to what the future holds for them.
In 1:11 we see this: Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. There were more than just 7 churches in Turkey - we know that. So it appears that these may have been distribution centers - they would get a letter and pass it around to all the local churches in that area. In Colossians 4:16, Paul writes, After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea. So even though we find here in chapters 2 & 3 messages for churches in other towns in others ages, they are messages, encouragements, warnings to us as well.
The first message is given to the church at Ephesus, a town about 60 miles away from John. Ephesus was a seaport town, for all practical purposes the capital of Asia Minor, the area that today we call Turkey. Ephesus was a wealthy city. It was a large city, the largest in the area, with a population about 300,000 in John’s day. We remember that the book of Ephesians was given to the church in this town. Let’s see God’s message to these believers. Read Rev. 2:1-7
John starts in verse one with a reminder that God is active in the church. He writes, To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: This is a reference to what was written in chapter 1. In verse 20 we see that the stars are the angels or messengers of the churches, most likely the pastors. The lampstands represented the churches themselves. John reminds us that God walks about among the churches. God IS active in the affairs of men.
There is a religion that was popular a couple hundred years ago called Deism. Thomas Jefferson was a Deist. Deists believed that God started the worlds, like a clockmaker, but once everything got running, he got out of the way and was not active in the affairs of men. I believe that if we did a survey, most of us would admit that we don’t believe that. But the tragedy is that if we did a study of our lives, the WAY we live would betray that many of us are practical deists. We SAY we believe in God; we say we believe in prayer; we say we believe in a future judgment; but our lives show that we only care about pleasure in the here and now.
Let’s understand that God has given us His word, NOT so we will have an oppressive list of rules and regulations, but so we would be reminded that He IS at work in our lives, and so we would be encouraged to live lives that are obedient to His will so that He can offer His blessing on our lives. So John starts by saying that God is active in our church. What does He see?
When we look at the church of Ephesus, the first thing we notice is . . .
I. The Workers: The church at Ephesus was a church that was active. They had . . .