6-Week Series: Against All Odds


Summary: His basic problem with the church in Ephesus is that even though church members had stood fast against evil and false teaching, they had left their “first love”—their basic love for Christ and for one another.

By: Tom Lowe Date: 3-18-2015

Lesson 5: The Church at Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7)

Revelation 2:1-7 (KJV)

1 Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;

2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience[1], and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:

3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.

4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.

5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.

7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

Introduction to Ephesians Chapter 2

In a sense, the letters to the seven churches are like form letters. Each letter is formulated with seven elements:

They all begin by stating the addressee—“To the angel of the church in . . .”

The speaker, Christ, is mentioned—“These are the words of Him who . . .”

Christ’s knowledge about each church is noted.

Christ’s evaluation of each church’s condition is declare.

Christ’s command to the congregation is noted.

Christ’s call is given: “The one who is willing to hear should listen.”

Finally, Christ’s promise is given: “To the victorious, I will give.”

Two letters have no commendation; two letters have no rebukes.

The letters comprise a literary unit tied to the vision of Christ in chapter 1, for each letter includes a distinct portion from the description of Christ. For example, in one letter Christ is described as the One who is the First and the Last (2:8), and in another He is described as the One who has the sharp two-edged sword (2:12).

“Classical dispensationalism” contends that these letters picture different periods in the history of the church and do not refer to actual churches. Dispensationalists understand these letters to describe seven “ages” of the church. Scholars acknowledge that the seven churches existed in John’s time; the messages to the churches, however, apply to the church through the ages. Each letter calls on believers to listen to what the Spirit says to the “churches” (plural). The commendations and rebukes recorded in each letter were to be applied by each of the churches (see 2:7, 11, 17, 23, 29) as well as by churches today. Although each letter describes an actual situation in an individual church, the letters serve as warnings to all churches through the ages.

The church at Ephesus is the only church in the New Testament to which two apostles addressed letters. When Paul wrote to Ephesus, it was at a time when the church stood at the pinnacle of spirituality. Of all the truths revealed through Paul, none excel the truths revealed in the Epistle to the Ephesians. But when John wrote to Ephesus, it was a time of crisis in the church. The furnace was still there, but the fire had gone out. There was still a measure of warmth, but the coals no longer had a bright, red luster; they had merely a dull and dying glow. Paul wrote to the saints, John to the angel.

Christians reading these opening chapters of Revelation invariably ask, “Which church is ours like?” Surely, a particular church may share positive and negative traits with several of the Asian churches. This is probably why Jesus told John to write one letter to seven churches. They all got to read each other’s mail. What a neighboring church was struggling with today, they might face tomorrow. Taken together, the letters give us a good picture of what Jesus expects from his church—faithful gatherings made up of believers who overcome. Jesus still expects us to overcome and he promises His help along the way. Rather than trying to decide which churches yours resembles, focus on faithful obedience to Christ.

Introduction to the Church at Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7)

The first letter is addressed to the church in Ephesus—the crossroads of civilization—considered to be a city of great political importance. Aquila, Priscilla, and Paul had planted the church in Ephesus (see Acts 19); Timothy had ministered there (1 Timothy 1:3); John the writer of this letter, was closely associated with the church. A letter carrier would leave the island of Patmos (where John was exiled), arriving first at the port of Ephesus, where he would begin his journey by visiting the church there. The seven churches were located on a major Roman road. He would travel north to Smyrna and Pergamum, turn southeast to Thyatira, and continue on to Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea—in the exact order in which the letters were dictated.

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