Summary: This is the second message in this series that looks at the letters to the seven churches in the book of Revelation. This message examines the letter to the church at Ephesus and this church had lost that loving feeling.
In the classic musical “Fiddler on the Roof” a Russian peasant named Tevye asks his wife a very simple question; “Do you love me?” Love him? She had never met him until the day of their arranged wedding. Now after twenty five years of marriage he wants to talk of love? It sounds so ridiculous, so foreign to her that she thinks that he is suffering from indigestion and should lie down. Tevye being so determined repeats the question once again. She asks what he is thinking, then explains how hard she has worked as his wife—cooking his meals, washing his clothes and having his children. Still it just doesn’t satisfy Tevye. So once again he repeats the question. This time she falls back on the obvious in response; she is his wife! Even so Tevye persists—does she love him? After some reflection, she answers that she does indeed love him, realizing that her life hasn’t been just meaningless busywork. She has worked so hard because of her love for Tevye. It is very possible as Tevye realized and feared, for activity to replace love. Another man, a first century carpenter asked His bride the same question; “Do you love me?” Do our full plates of activities and other churchy things show our love and devotion for our Lord? Or are we simply busy doing: Bible Studies, evangelism, fellowship and worship because that is what Christians are supposed to do? If so it is quite possible that our love for the Savior has grown cold. This was the problem that existed in the church at Ephesus. Their religious busyness (a status symbol in many churches today) was not springing from a deep felt love and devotion for Christ. Their love for the Savior had been replaced by a service done out of obligation. It seems very fitting to begin here with the church at Ephesus. Ephesus was the most important seaport in the province of Asia. This was the fourth most important city in the Roman Empire. Jesus tells the Apostle John, “Write this down”. Then He dictated a letter of generous praise but also of stinging rebuke. As we study the church at Ephesus, we will see some valuable lessons for the church today. Let’s look deeply at the contents of this letter and, at the same time let the Spirit read the contents of our lives to see if we are doing everything but the one thing—loving Him.
I. Let’s examine the background of the city of Ephesus and the church located there.
A. Geographically Ephesus was a very important gulf city located where the Cayster River met the Aegean Sea.
1. Ephesus was a city where commerce flowed making it an extremely important export center.
2. In addition to sea trade the businesses in Ephesus flourished as a result of three main trade routes converging there.
B. A visitor to the city would not only be impressed by the city’s hustle and bustle but the grandeur as well.
1. Ephesus was one of three most influential cities on the eastern side of the Roman Empire.
2. Ephesus had the advantage of being a free city enjoying a degree of self government.
3. A traveler arriving in Ephesus would make their way down a street thirty-five foot wide lined with columns that ran from the harbor to the center of the city.
4. Although Ephesus was not the capital of the Province it still held great political importance.
5. The Roman governor tried importance cases in Ephesus and people flocked to its stadium, market place and huge theater.
6. The theater built on the hillside overlooking the harbor could seat 25,000 people.
C. Spiritually Ephesus was the center of worship for the Roman gods.
1. The most famous temple in Ephesus was the temple of Artemis which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
2. The temple employed thousands of priests and priestesses and contributed to the economy greatly by manufacturing images of this goddess.
3. Paul established a local congregation here with the help of Aquila, Priscilla and Apollos.
4. Paul ministered here for three years and then left Timothy in his place to teach sound doctrine and guard against false teaching.
5. 3 As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer 4 or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. (1 Timothy 1:3-4—NIV 2011)
6. Tradition holds to the fact that later the apostle John was shipwrecked off the coast of Ephesus and served as a leader in the church there until his exile on the island of Patmos.
7. None of the other six cities mentioned held the prominence and history of Ephesus.