Summary: Comparing the first two churches in Revelation 2 -Ephesus and Smyrna - to see that bigger and brighter is not always better, and that holding on to our first love, must be our primary task as a church.
“First Things first” - Revelation 2:1-11
By James Galbraith
September 13, 2009
First Baptist Church, Port Alberni
The Revelation was written by Apostle John, near the time of his death, after he was given a fantastic vision of the future:
- many fixate on myriad of confusing details and lose sight of importance of letter at the time it was written
- written to give specific churches in that time hope that they were not forgotten, that Christ would indeed honour their diligence and return to bring them home
- written to give hope then and now that Christ will return,
- these two chapters in Revelation written to seven churches in Asia minor – a wealthy, influential province of the Roman empire, now nation of Turkey
- these seven cities each had been touched by the ministry of Paul and the other apostles
- this letter written 30-40 years after Paul’s death, so churches have had a couple of generations to settle in
- each was faring differently, as the letter will reveal
The first two churches, which we will look at today, are about as opposite as one can find.
- large, proud, compared to Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, Corinth
- connected to sea by 3 km canal, so busy seaport with international population
- considered a home of many temples, so diverse “religions”
- Christians were more tolerated here than other places
They are full of good work, endures trials, clamps down on those who lie about the gospel or spread false teaching
They are also full of energy, and prosperous (muct be good tithers),
- Ephesus planted by Paul himself, who stayed in Eph. for at least two years personally overseeing progress of church
If they were a modern day church, we would say that they are involved in community, bible teaching, well attended, building paid off, full of respectable folk and started by none other than Billy Graham himself
- Like Ephesus, large, proud, important just not to the same level as Ephesus
- also a seaport
- very powerful Jewish population
- made life very difficult for those who were outside, especially the church
- beaten down, afflicted, poor
- local authorities are trying to get rid of it
- Smyrna may have never seen Paul – no direct reference to Paul visiting, although he did travel through the area
- if a modern day church
- small group of believers in a nation where freedom to worship is NOT a right
- unknown to all but a very few
- “off the radar” and struggling to stay alive
Now, if we could walk by these churches today and choose which one was healthier, more important, one we’d join, who do you think we’d pick?
Small, struggling, despised group of nobodies, or
large, rich, well manicured lawn, bursting with programs and people?
And yet, to these churches,
one the gleaming buckle of the Asiatic bible belt,
and the other the forgotten few in exile,
Jesus himself chooses the church in Smyrna as the healthier of the two.
Because despite all the beautiful blessings of the church in Ephesus, they’ve lost their soul.
4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.
They are, simply put, bankrupt.
They are the pysanki egg of churches – all pretty on the outside, hollow within.
And the church in Smyrna, despite all it’s troubles, is rich!
These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. 9 I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! …Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.
They are the gold nugget in the manure pile – no matter what gets thrown on top of it, it’s still pure gold.
What’s the difference?
The first love of any church is Jesus – it simply has to be.
- churches are gatherings of Christians, followers of Christ
- without Christ, a church ceases to be a church
The church in Ephesus, despite all it’s strengths, had lost sight of their Saviour. They were called to repent, return to their roots, before it was too late!
The phrase - If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”
is a warning that if they continue to try and function as a church without Jesus, they will no longer be considered a church.
- the individual believers will still, as they continue to trust in Christ, be “saved”,