Summary: Christ's message to Ephesus as set forth in Revelation 2:1-7 teaches us that a church may be sound but loveless.
We are currently in a series of messages titled, “Christ’s Message to the Seven Churches,” that is based on the first three chapters of the Book of Revelation.
In Revelation 1 the resurrected and glorified Christ revealed himself to his Apostle John, and told him to write letters to seven churches in Asia. Today, we shall examine the first of those letters, and learn about Christ’s message to his church in Ephesus.
Let’s read Christ’s message to Ephesus in Revelation 2:1-7:
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.
2 “ ‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. 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. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. 6 Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 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.’ ” (Revelation 2:1-7)
In his marvelous commentary on Christ’s message to the seven churches in Revelation, commentator John Stott asks the question, “So what does Christ think of his church?” And then he answers that question as follows, “[Revelation 2 and 3] contains seven letters, each addressed to a particular first-century Christian community in the Roman province of Asia. . . . Although their message is related to the specific situations of those churches, it expresses concerns which apply to all churches. By praise and censure, by warning and exhortation, Christ reveals what he wants his church to be like in all places and at all times.”
That is what makes Christ message to the seven churches so helpful for us today. What the resurrected and glorified Lord Jesus Christ said to the seven churches some two thousand years ago is like going to the doctor for an annual check-up. We are reminded of those areas in our lives that we need to pay attention to if we want to be healthy. Similarly, Christ pointed out areas in each church that needs attention if that church is to be healthy.
The first church that Christ addressed was the church in Ephesus. As we shall see, it was a great church with many admirable qualities, but it also had a problem that needed to be addressed.
Christ’s message to Ephesus as set forth in Revelation 2:1-7 teaches us that a church may be sound but loveless.
Let’s use the following outline:
1. The Address (2:1a)
2. The Description (2:1b)
3. The Commendation (2:2-3, 6)
4. The Complaint (2:4)
5. The Command (2:5a)
6. The Warning (2:5b)
7. The Appeal (2:7a)
8. The Promise (2:7b)
I. The Address (2:1a)
First, let’s look at the address.
Christ said in verse 1a, “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write. . . .” The letter was addressed to the angel, which also means “messenger.” In context of the letters, I take it to mean that each letter was addressed to the pastor of the church.
Ephesus was the first city that Christ addressed. It was closest to Patmos, a port city at the mouth of the Cayster River. It was a prominent city, with a large population of more than a quarter million people. Ephesus was also a flourishing commercial city because it was strategically located on several trade routes. In addition, Ephesus boasted a magnificent temple, larger than a football field, known as the temple of Artemis, or Diana, and was considered to be one of the seven wonders of the world.
Toward the end of his second missionary journey, Paul stopped in Ephesus briefly (Acts 18:19-21). Meanwhile, Apollos went to Ephesus, and was instructed in the way of God by Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:24-26). Because he recognized the strategic location of Ephesus, Paul returned there on his third missionary journey and spent at least two-and-a-half years in the city. His ministry in Ephesus was so powerful that “all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:10).
However, as more and more people were converted, there was a massive drop in sales of the silver shrines of Artemis, and a riot broke out in the city, wonderfully described in Acts 19.