Summary: The Church at Ephesus knew the truth, but Jesus would shut them down for lack of love
Revelations 2:1-7 September 14, 2003
Ephesus: Truth and Love
“Those who have ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
There are seven messages to the churches of Asia Minor – One message fore each of the Seven churches, and each one ends with the command, “Those who have ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
This is what I want us to do as we look at the messages to the seven Churches over the next few months, I want us to keep our ears open to what the Spirit is saying to Runnymede Baptist Church, and I want us to listen to what the Spirit is saying to the Church in Toronto.
If you get a sense that the Spirit is saying something to the church, please let me know: talk to me, write me a letter or an email, give me a phone call, dance it, draw it, sing it.
I don’t want this just to be an exercise in more Biblical information going into our heads, I want us to have an exercise in listening to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
Ephesus – “the light of Asia”
Ephesus was the greatest and most strategic city in Asia. You might say that "All roads lead to Rome," but they go through Ephesus to get there!
It was the economic centre for the region as well as the religious centre. This is where the great temple for Diana or Artemis was – one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It also had many other cults including emperor worship, and was a center for magic (so much so that books of spells would become referred to as “Ephesian writings.”)
The city of Ephesus was ethnically diverse and tolerant of other faiths as long as they didn’t get in the way of commerce and the Ephesian way of life. When Paul first came to Ephesus and began preaching the Gospel and casting out demons he was well received and many people believed in Jesus until a fellow named Demetrius noticed that his sales in silver images of Artemis were slumping and he incited a riot, accusing Paul and his people of blaspheming Artemis. Paul took the opportunity to move on to another city to preach.
Jesus – “These are the words of Him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands.”
Its not surprising that Jesus describes himself in terms of light as he speaks to the “Light of Asia.” “You might be the “light of Asia,” but I hold the lights in my hand, and I walk among the lampstands keeping guard over them!”
Last week I talked about this image of the seven stars in his hand. It speaks of the control that Jesus has over the cosmos including the churches, and the walking among the lampstands speaks of the care that Jesus has over the churches. A group of Christians might feel awfully lonely as they walked the streets of this pagan city, It is good to know that the creator and sustainer of the universe is guarding over you.
The Good News
2I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. … 6But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
In a city that was rife with strange teachings and strange worship, the Ephesian church has held its ground. They knew the truth and they had stuck to it. They had endured attacks from the outside like the riot in Acts 19, as well as self proclaimed religious leaders who would see a new faith in the city as ripe pickings to fill their pockets. They also survived attacks from the inside as people claiming to be apostles would come and try to draw them away from the true faith.
Their steadfastness in the faith was well known, According to the letter written to the Ephesians not long after Revelation by Ignatius, an early Christian father, he had heard that they were a church so well taught in the Gospel that no unorthodox sect can gain a hearing among her members. They took the warnings that Paul gave to the leaders after his second visit when he said: “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard!” (Acts 20:28-31)