Summary: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A CHURCH FORGETS ITS FIRST LOVE? THE CHURCH IN EPHESUS IS OUR EXAMPLE.
The Church In Ephesus
Text: Revelation 2:1-7
This morning I want to go back to the series I’ve been preaching on the last 6 weeks—“The Lord’s Church”. I hope you have enjoyed these lessons as much as I’ve enjoyed preparing them. I believe they have brought me back to “my roots”. They have brought me back to where I—and most of you—began our Christianity.
I want to talk about a congregation of the Lord’s people found in Ephesus during the 1st century and see if there’s something we can learn.
I want to start off like this: Let’s visualize a scenario that we’re all familiar with. We begin with a young man and a young woman and events that have happened from the beginning of time. God is Love and God instituted marriage.
The young man has grown up and has noticed the ladies, and he begins to look for a “special one”—one just right for him. He wants to be married—have a family and, together, grow with her.
He notices a special young lady and he’s really attracted to her. He likes the way she looks—how she smells—the way she talks. He thinks the sun rises and sets on her….every day!
Then, there’s the young lady. She’s looking for the “right man”—the man who will love her and take care of her and the children they have for the rest of her life…a man who will grow old with her.
These two love each other and, when they marry, it will be ‘till death they do part. They love each other passionately and can’t stand the thought of ever being apart.
They have breakfast together each morning before the day’s activity begins. She says, “You can read the newspaper—the sports section.”
And he replies, “Who cares about the headlines or the stock report; much less the sports! I just want to sit here and be with you! Even if you can’t cook an egg, you tried and I love it anyway!”
She says, “I love you!”
He replies, “I love you too!”
What could ever mess this up?
Then real everyday life comes along and there’s a need for more education and work—so there is suffering and sacrifice. He needs to spend more time at the office to get promotions and more money in order to “…take care of you and the kids”. And she says, “I think I’m nothing more than a taxi driver, a cook, and a cleaning woman for you and the kids!”
And so, time and life go on and, to the neighbors, it looks just perfect. They think, look at this beautiful young family and the great life they all have together! After all, they both have good jobs, a beautiful house, and a manicured lawn. “Ain’t life great!”
But, that’s on the outside. What’s really going on in the hearts of this man and woman who vowed to love each other ‘till death do us part?
They sit down to breakfast together and look at each other and say, “Whoa! Something’s wrong here….looks good, feels bad!” And so, off they go to marriage counseling.
Now, we might ask, “What in the world does this story of a man and woman have to do with the Church in Ephesus?”
My answer is, “Everything!” To understand the congregation at Ephesus, we need to understand that the passion—that first blush of love this couple had for each other—well, something has happened to it and it was lost. The question is, how do they get it back?
Ephesus was by far the greatest city in the Roman province of Asia; and, it claimed as its proud title “The First and Greatest Metropolis of Asia” and “The Light of Asia”.
Ephesus was the greatest harbor in Asia, and, many roads led in and out of town. These roads were important trade routes all over to all over the Roman Empire. You could get to Colossae, Galatia, Laodicea, and Sardis as well as Babylon, Mesopotamia, and even Europe! Not surprisingly, Ephesus became rich and was also known as “The Market of Asia”.
Ephesus was a free city. It was self-governing within its own limits and was exempted from ever having Roman troops garrisoned on their land.
Ephesus was a notorious center of pagan superstition. Here one could buy amulets and charms, which were supposed to be infallible remedies for sickness—or could bring children to those who were childless and ensure success in any undertaking. People came from all over the world to buy these amulets and charms.
In Ephesus, pagan religions were at their strongest. It was the center of worship for Artemis, or Diana. The temple of Artemis was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
This temple was a staggering 425 feet long X 200 feet wide; and, it had 120 columns, each of which was 60 feet high! And 36 of these columns were gilded and inlaid. The center portion of the temple was roofed over with cypress wood and housed a statue of Artemis that was considered to be one of the most sacred images in the ancient world!