Summary: Sermon Two of a series
The Church that Needed a Second Honeymoon!
As we consider this first church to whom Jesus dictated a letter, it would do our study well to see the background of the city of Ephesus. It was a prosperous city with a strong commerce. It was a very political city, considered free by even the Romans and had a democratic government. It was also a pagan city. A temple to the goddess Diana, one of the seven wonders of the world, was located in this city. It was a massive 425 feet long and 220 feet broad. It contained 127 pillars that were 60 feet high. The idolatrous worshipers would worship the moon in Her name. This city was one of wealth and wickedness, yet it had a church that was faithful. .
For three years Paul labored there. In Acts 18-20, we find that Paul led Aquilla and Priscilla to the Lord. Apollos came and preached the baptism of John the Baptist and was corrected and began to preach Jesus. A nucleus was formed and the Gospel began to spread. Then opposition came. Demetrius the silversmith was angry that the preaching of Paul had hurt his business that drew support from the worship of idols. Opposition always comes when you are doing right! But Paul kept preaching.
In Acts 19:18-20, we read, “And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds. Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.” He subsequently ordained Timothy superintending overseer or bishop there: probably his charge was but of a temporary nature. John, towards the close of his life, took it as the center from which he superintended the province.
Revival broke out in the city of Ephesus. Do you remember a revival in your own soul where you threw away the old because the new was so much better? They had a fire about them. They had a fervor to live for the Lord that abounded in their lives. But lost the fervor! They needed to go back and be reminded of where it all began!
The letter to the church at Ephesus begins with a commendation in verses 2-3 and in verse 6. Oh the grace of our Lord that as He begins to correct His church, He begins with a gracious encouragement. You can serve the Lord without loving, but you can never love Him without serving! They were commended for things needed in the church today.
First, they were commended of their deeds that were evident. Jesus said in verse 2, “I know thy works.” Each of the seven epistles in this and the third chapter, commences with, "I know thy works." Each contains a promise from Christ, "To him that overcometh." Each ends with, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." God knows our deeds and wants our future to be right.
God approved of the deeds of this church. The works of which He speaks relates to how we occupy our time. The things that occupy our time either honors God, disregards Him, or dishonors Him. God should be involved in every area of our lives. Our family, jobs, ministries, and even recreation should honor the Lord.
Jesus also knew their labour. This word means intense labor that is united with trouble and toil. I read somewhere that there are three kinds of Christians in the church. First there are “shirkers”, those that have not done anything and do not plan on starting anything now. Then there are the “lurkers” that hang around saying how everything ought to be done, they may get a little involved but they never give or commit to much. There are a lot of “use to be” Christians in the lurkers club. Then there are the “workers.” This is the inner circle that knows what it means to labor. They are the most involved, faithful in all, will give all and never complain. Their desire to be faithful to the Lord is what drives then and keeps the church a happy place that honors the Lord.
Third, Jesus recognized their patience. The word here means endurance. The church of Ephesus was a tough church. They never had a temptation to throw up their hands and quit. They kept moving forward. They were persistent, faithful and refused to faint. But why were they doing what they were doing? Was it pride or duty? They were still exhibiting a level of faithfulness, but without the love of God, it was of no value.
Jesus then noted their discipline against evil in verses 2 and 6. They could not bear, that is they would not tolerate evil in the church. The modern doctrine of tolerance would not be tolerated! Today the most intolerant people are those that yell for tolerance. But the church at Ephesus would not tolerate evil. This was a church that took a stand for the things of Christ. They knew that problems exist when sin is tolerated. Many times people want to say, “the preacher should do something about it.” But here it was the entire church that stood together in unity against sin. They despised loose living. Some teach that the “Nicolaitans” were those that would wrongfully lord over God’s people. In today’s theology the word has been broken down and that meaning implied to apply to pastors that are dictatorial in their leadership. Though a pastor should be a strong leader, he should never be a dictator. He should follow Christ and as he does so, the church should follow him. But that is not the meaning of this word. The church despised these teachings because it was a dogma of wickedness. It is more likely that the Nicolaitans were a group that condoned fornication and had turned Christian liberty into a license to sin. Some commentators compare them to those that condoned the sins of Balaam. Much like many churches today that no longer preach holiness. Holy living is not legalism! The liberty of Christ has never been a license to sin. Adam Clarke wrote: