Summary: Work for the Church does not please Jesus unless we maintain our original motivation
Letter to the Church in Ephesus
I rarely dip into the Book of Revelation to preach because it is so difficult to understand and needs a lot of background to get a full picture of what John is saying.
But today I sensed the Lord telling me that I should change my strategy and take a look at the Seven Churches in Revelation Chapters 2 and 3.
Because in their own context they have something to tell us.
I would like us to look what is known as The Letters written to the Seven Churches in Asia as a series.
I believe that each Church has positives and negatives from which we can learn
The book of Revelation was written by the apostle John whilst he was banished to the island of Patmos in traditionally around AD 95 and 96.
The seven churches of Revelation are
1.) Ephesus Rev 2:1-7
2.) Symrna Rev. 2:8-11
3.) Pergamum Rev. 2:12-17
4.) Thyatira (pronounced Thy'at'ira) Rev. 2:18-29
5.) Sardis Rev. 3:1-6
6.) Philadelphia Rev.3:7-13
7.) Laodicea Rev. 3:14-22
All the churches are in about a 100-mile radius of each other.
They weren’t the only churches in the area but as William Barclay posits
“these churches might be regarded as centres of seven postal districts being all on a kind of ring road which circled the interior of the Province” of Asia (William Barclay The Daily Study Bible Revised Edition Vol 1 page 28)
There were clearly more churches in the area at the time.
From the New Testament itself we know of one in Colossae to which Paul addressed the letter to the Colossians.
And the church in Hierapolis is mentioned in the same letter (Col. 4:13)
Again Barclay persuasively suggests it is because John has a preference for seven as the perfect number.
Seven occurs 54 times in the book of Revelation and the ancient people considered it as the perfect number
(William Barclay The Daily Study Bible Revised Edition Vol 1 page 28)
1. The Church of Ephesus
So this morning I would like to look at the letter to the Church in Ephesus.
What do we know about Ephesus?
Of all the churches mentioned in Scripture, it is Ephesus that we know most about t.
In Acts 19 and 20 we read that Paul ministered there for three years
It is to the Church at Ephesus that Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is addressed
Also Paul’s two letters to Timothy were addressed to Timothy whom Paul had left in charge of things at Ephesus when Paul left.
2. The History of Ephesus
Ephesus was the commercial, political and religious centre of western Asia.
It was located at the mouth of two rivers, the Meander and the Cayster where they enter the Aegean Sea.
All the roads of the Cayster Valley converged on Ephesus and it had the deepest harbour in the Province
A Roman writer called Ephesus - Lumen Asiae – the Light of Asia.
Ephesus was known as the First and Greatest Metropolis of Asia and also the Market of Asia.
It was a free city too which meant within reason it was self-governing and was exempt from having Roman Troops quartered there
Ephesus wasn’t the capital of the Province – Pergamum was.
However Ephesus had such political power that it was laid down by Statute that when a new Roman Proconsul was appointed to the Province of Asia, he had to land at Ephesus to take up his office.
Like other cities in the Province of Asia, it was deeply religious and was home to the famous Temple of Diana (also called Artemis) the goddess of fertility.
Two temples were constructed to Diana over the years as well as three shrines.
The first Temple was started in about 550 BC, was dedicated in 430 BC and burnt down in 356 BC, on the day of Alexander the Great's birth, if tradition is to be believed.
The second Temple took more than thirty years to build and was completed in 323 BC and became known as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
The Second Temple was the Temple that Paul and John would have known.
The Temple was so extravagant that the women of Ephesus sold their jewels to pay for it and kings presented columns, gifts of gold and furnishings of every kind.
And the Temple housed many temple prostitutes too
In addition, there was a real industry around the Temple producing silver shrines and other such things
We read in Acts 19:19 that Paul’s ministry was so powerful that all the believers, who had been reached by Paul's ministry
"who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burnt them publicly” The value of these was 50 000 drachmas. (Acts 19:19).