Summary: Falling in love with Jesus all over again.
(Note: preparation should be made to have 7 lit candles placed in a circle around the pulpit, each representing one of the churches of Asia Minor.)
The city of Ephesus was a very influential city of the ancient world. Although Pergamum was the capital of the province of Asia in Roman times, Ephesus was the largest city in the province, having a population of perhaps 300,000 people.
The city’s importance lay in its political prominence, its economic clout derived from its position on major trade routes, and its religious leadership as a center for the worship of Artemis, (or Diana according to her Roman name). As the twin sister of Apollo and the daughter of Zeus, Artemis was known variously as the moon goddess, the goddess of hunting, and the patroness of young girls.
The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus ranked as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. A flight of ten steps led up to the pavement of the platform. The building itself was 425 ft. long and 220 ft. wide. The roof of its colonnade was supported by 127 pillars, each 6 feet in diameter and 60 feet tall! Like the temples of Greece, its interior was open to the sky.
The history of Christianity at Ephesus began probably about A.D. 50, perhaps as a result of the efforts of Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:18-19). Paul came to Ephesus in about A.D. 52, establishing a resident ministry for all most three years. We read of the struggles and fascinating beginnings of the Ephesian church in Acts 19. Paul’s young helper, Timothy, ended up being the pastor of this church.
What does Jesus think of the church? Let’s look at what He said about the church at Ephesus, and see how it might apply to us here at GEFC…
Note: You will find that as we go through each of these 7 letters, the outline will appear very similar. They follow a common pattern, with little exception. So, take careful notes on what their differences are:
1. Christ’s Characterization (v. 1)
Jesus Christ is described here as:
The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands… (Rev 2:1)
a. Jesus has Authority over the church
You may remember from last week that we looked at the meanings of the symbols of the stars and the lampstands. According to Rev. 1:20, the stars are the “angels” of the churches, and the lampstands represent each of the seven churches being addressed in chapters 2-3.
Since the Greek word for “angel” literally means “messenger,” I personally believe in this context, human messengers are being referred to. Those who are responsible for sharing the message of God’s word to the church are God’s messengers. And each of these messengers are under the authority of Christ’s righteous, honorable right hand.
These messengers were to be the recipients of these personal letters to the churches. They would be the ones held accountable for sharing their messages to the congregations.
b. Jesus Cares for the church
Remember last week when we looked at Rev 1:9-20. Jesus was seen by John standing in the middle of the lampstands.
It was a way of showing:
· the centrality of Christ to His churches,
· how He has keenly aware of what is going on in His churches,
· that He takes special interest and care for His churches.
· He is not aloof and removed, but intimate and close.
This is going to be a significant point in a moment…
2. Christ’s Compliment (vv. 2-3, 6)
a. They had Perseverance
They were faithful to carry on in the midst of a perverse culture that adored the goddess Artemis (Diana). They kept the church functioning “for My name’s sake” (v. 3)
b. They had Doctrinal Purity
The Ephesian Church took its doctrine very seriously. Because of its strong emphasis on doctrinal purity, it was successful in discerning between theological truth and error.
We don’t know for certain who the Nicolaitans were (v. 6). But according to the early church Fathers, they were the followers of Nicolas, one of the seven men chosen in Acts 6 to serve as deacons in the Jerusalem church. He apparently drifted from sound teaching and began advocating moral looseness in Christian lifestyle, including free love.
The Ephesian church was commended for their diligence in weeding out all false apostles and false teachers such as these Nicolaitans.
You may remember what emphasis was placed on doctrinal purity when Paul wrote Timothy, who used to pastor this influential church:
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, who is our hope, to Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith. But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (I Tim 1:1-5)