Summary: The church at Ephesus had much going to it and only one thing going against it - that thing was THE THING...It was now backslidden.
The Backslidden Church
* Today we begin ‘Part 2’ of the Revelation. Chapter 1 constitutes Part 1 of this book because it highlights the things which “have been.” Chapter 2 begins with the things which are. While we “THINK” it will be a good thing to get to the present-day things, caution might be the word to hold up. As we take a look at chapters 2 & 3, focusing on the churches mentioned, we may discover that looking in God’s mirror is not what we think it is.
* Every morning I get up & look in a mirror only to discover one more sign of my flaws. The mirror gives me the picture of myself which other see. The mirror which we will hover in front of (in chapters 2 & 3) give us the image of how God sees us. We begin with the church at Ephesus. (Read Text)
* In his book entitled, Biblical Preaching, Haddon Robinson tells this story; In the 1700s missionaries from the London Missionary Society faced a multitude of obstacles and temptations in the South Pacific. Many of their problems on the island of Tonga came from other Europeans, who considered the missionaries a threat to their freewheeling lifestyle. One of the tactics used to undermine the work of the missionaries was to taunt them and mock them for their sexual purity. George Veeson, one of the ten missionaries on Tonga, could not withstand the pressure. He gave in and joined the Europeans in their promiscuous life among the natives. He took land, servants, and a harem of wives. But he did more than that. He disgraced himself, the London Missionary Society, and God. [Holwick: Veeson later publicly repented of his actions]
* It would seem that the most forgotten part of sin is the disgrace, shame, & reproach, which our sin brings to God. And there is no greater sin than the sin of ‘backsliding.’ In years past, there was much talk about backsliding &, as so many other things, today there is little talk about it. Yet, backsliding is a Bible word found in the Old Testament. The Hebrews word literally means to fall back, fall away, revert back, or even lapse back into. I can see a picture of climbing a hill, hitting a soft spot, & falling back down the hill. This is the picture we see in the church at Ephesus.
* The church at Ephesus was an impressive church. The city was thriving & boasted of many of the things which the USA boasts of. By the world’s standards, this church was doing well & the Lord knew it. It is at this point that we would be well-served to note that “His ways, His standards, and His plans, are not the same as ours!” He their reputation & KNEW better!
1. His Commendation – Jesus had several good things to say about this church, but the most sobering is found in those first two words, “I Know.”
a. Look at all the things He knows. He knows about their works, their labor, how they had endured, and they put a halt to evil within the body. They did not tolerate evil within the body. He further states that this church ‘tested those who claim to be disciples’ and exposed their true character of dishonesty & deceitfulness. They profess to be believers, but live in the ways of the world. Paul wrote, “Holding to a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.” Think about it; the church at Ephesus was holding people’s feet to the fire of righteous living. This is a message for those who think that the sin in the lives of professed believer’s is none of the church’s business. Jesus is commending this church for not allowing evil to prevail in the body. This is an echo from the teachings of Paul. The call of Christ to us is to be holy, pure, blameless, and spotless; and this body was doing it. In verse 6 Jesus commends them for one more thing; they hate (strong word) the deeds of the Nicolaitans! History suggests that these were the ‘power-mongers’ in the church. Acts 6 names one of the seven as “Nicholas” and HIS FOLLOWERS (Nicolaitans) seemed to embrace evil doctrines. Some suggest it was moral issues, other say it was idolatry issues, while others will suggest it was the “lording over” (power) issue. Whatever the issue, it was both well known & HATED by God and the church at Ephesus had taken a strong stand against it. These are the things which Jesus commended them for. Were I to alliterate this, I would say Jesus knew their service, sacrifice, steadfastness, & their suffering.
b. It is one thing to suffer as a part of this world because suffering is a part of this fallen world. However, it is another thing entirely to give your life to the gospel and, as best as you can, live your life for the gospel and then experience suffering as a result of it. In verse 3 we are told that they had both endured and tolerated many things because of their love for Christ. They knew what it was to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Why is it that believer in the USA possess so little commitment to Christ? Could it be that we do not know what it is to walk in His shoes, suffer for His truth, & have to endure for His cause? Jesus said, “You will be hated because of my name. If they hate you, be reminded, they hated me first.” The Ephesus church had withstood the attacks from the outside & the attacks from the inside and was now being commended by the Lord.