Summary: In our text today we have the first of seven letters from Jesus to a church. By studying these letters we can learn to look at a church the same way that God looks at a church.
Ephesus: Laboring Without Love
Purpose: To discover God’s priorities for the church.
Aim: I want the listener to rekindle a fervent love for Christ.
INTRODUCTION: The abilities that world class athletes can demonstrate never ceases to astound me. I remember watching some of the gymnastic events at the Olympics. Sometimes I would watch a gymnast go through his routine and think that it was flawless only to hear the commentator say something like, “Oh, that’s too bad, that will be a big deduction.” I’m thinking, “Deduction for what? That was incredible.” The difference, of course, is that I don’t have a trained eye to discern what the judges are really looking for. It may look great to me, but that doesn’t get them a gold medal.
We must be careful that we don’t make the same mistake when we look at a church. If we aren’t careful, we could look at a church and say, “That is a wonderful church” at the same time that God is looking at the same church and saying, “That church needs to repent.”
In our text today we have the first of seven letters from Jesus to a church. By studying these letters we can learn to look at a church the same way that God looks at a church.
1:1-20 I. John’s Vision of the Past “the things which you have seen”
➽2:1-5:14 II. Christ’s Vision of the Present “the things which are”
➽2:1-3:22 A. The testimony of the church on earth
➽Vs.1-7 1. Ephesus: the loveless church
Ephesus. It was an inland city 3 mi. from the sea, but the broad mouth of the Cayster River allowed access and provided the greatest harbor in Asia Minor. Four great trade roads went through Ephesus; therefore, it became known as the gateway to Asia. It was the center of the worship of Artemis (Greek), or Diana (Roman) [she was idolized with a multi-breasted statue as a goddess of sex and fertility], whose temple was one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. Paul ministered there for 3 years (Acts 20:31), and later met with the Ephesian elders on his way to Jerusalem (Acts 20). Timothy, Tychicus, and the Apostle John all served this church. John was in Ephesus when he was arrested by Domitian and exiled 50 mi. SW to Patmos. [MacArthur, J. J. (1997, c1997). The MacArthur Study Bible (electronic ed.) (Re 2:1). Nashville: Word Pub.] Tradition says that Mary, the mother of Jesus, lived in Ephesus and was buried there.
“It was a pagan city with idolatry and immorality dominating its religious social life…. The uncovered archaeological ruins of ancient Ephesus are amazing to behold. One of the first things to strike the tourist is the size of the city. This was no small village, but a major metropolitan area with perhaps as many as 500,000 inhabitants. The Roman amphitheater seats 25,000 people with an acoustical design that eliminates the need for microphones. One can imagine it crowded with people shouting ‘Great is Artemis (Diana) of the Ephesians’ as Acts 19 records. Much of the city remains underground… waiting for archaeologists to uncover it..” [“The Coming World Leader” by David Hocking p.43]
➽Vs.1 a. Christ’s control “holds…walks”
Christ is the ultimate ruler of the church. He has the pastors in His hand (the seven stars) and He moves among the church (the seven lampstands).
The point is that Jesus is active in the church today. Jesus is here and it is dangerous to ignore Christ. Ephesians 5:23 ….Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. (NAU)
Jesus gives the church the opportunities and the abilities to serve Him, and He can also take them away. Look at verse 5.
➽Vs.2-3,6 b. Christ’s compliments “I know”
➽Vs.2a (1) Their actions were right “deeds”
What we do IS important. Jesus told us very plainly: John 15:14 “You are My friends if you do what I command you. (NAU)
➽Vs.2b (2) Their determination was right “toil”
They not only worked hard, they did it when it was inconvenient. The word TOIL tells us that they were willing to work to point of exhaustion.
➽Vs.2c (3) Their commitment was right “perseverance”
Many people SAY they will serve the Lord, but only the truly committed KEEP serving the Lord.
An elderly lady hired a handyman to do some odd jobs around the house. But, he never finished a job. Every time she looked for him he was taking a break. Exasperated she finally asked him, “You are so slow, don’t you do anything fast?” He thought for a moment and said, “Well, I get tired fast.”
Christians should never be like that. 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; 3 constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, (NAU)