Summary: Ephesus: The Danger of Orthodoxy without Doxology
The Seven, part 7
Ephesus: The Danger of Orthodoxy without Doxology
June 30, 2013
We spent the last six weeks in chapter one and I plan to spend the next seven weeks in chapters two and three. So far we have seen that the Revelation was written by the apostle John to address specific issues in seven churches in Asia Minor at the end of the first centuary. John then describes a vision, a portrait of the Lord of the church to encourage the churches under attack that Christ is coming to vindicate his church and judge his enemies. We will look at what Jesus says to these seven churches and if I do my job we will see that they speak directly to us and our situation. From time to time I hear individuals say that they want to get back to the New Testament church. I often wonder which New Testament church? The church at Galatia that were on the edge of abandoning the gospel of grae for a gospel of works? The chruch at Corinth who could roll in the aisles with the best of the Pentacostals yet who were very self centered and blinded by their spiritual pride? Or what about any of these seven churches in Asia Minor? Ephesus, the first church on the postal route, was so theologically sophisticated, even the women studied theology there, but had lost their devotion to Christ. Smyrna was suffering terrible persecution of the likes we see in many third world countries today. Pergamun were tolerating false teachers in their midst. Thyratira went a step further, embracing a false teacher and her teaching which was described as satanic. Sardis had all the trappings of success, their pastor was even writing books on church growth but Jesus said it as spiritually dead. Philadelphia was a small and insignificant church that everyone ignored and thought it should close it's doors but Christ commends it. Last, Laodicea also had all the trappings of success, programs for the whole family and feeling pretty good about themselves yet Jesus saw them as blinded to their own spiritual poverty. As we look at these seven churches we will see a pattern in each letter emerge – an introduction; an evaluation; an exhortation; and a benediction.
Today we look at Ephesus, the church that was commended for fighting for orthodoxy, intolerant of false teachers blowing through town, but in that war for truth they had become all head and no heart. The had come to love the theological fight but lost their devotion to Jesus.
There are several interpetations of what John means by 'the angel of the church.' The two most common are that the angel is the senior pastor of the church or that the angel is the personification of the church. These words John is commanded to write describe Jesus two ways: he holds the seven churches in his right hand and walks among them. Holding the church in his right hand speaks of safety and protection and security and reminds us of something John said in his gospel, that no one can take us from his hand. Before he was described as in the midst of the churches but now much stronger terminology is used, he walks among the churches reminds us of God walking with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. This speaks of his presence among his people but also to his evaluating what is going on with the churches. This is reinforced by the fact that the lampstand is the menorah which was a symbol for the people of Israel whom God chose and called to be a light to the nations. The menorah as a symbol of the God's covenantal people has been given to the church, who fulfill Israel as God's covenantal people, called to be a light to the nations.
Christ knows because his eyes are like a flame of fire with clear and penetrating vision and because he holds the seven churches in his right hand and walks among them. He says, 'I know your works' explaining these works postively, 'your toil and patient endurance and negatively, 'how you cannot bear with those who are evil.' Toil refers to hard and exhausting labor; patient endurance means to persevere under very hard circumstances. Nor do they tolerate those who are evil but test so called apostles and found them to be false. These false apostles are not merely sincere but confused individuals. They are evil, false apostles because they are teaching what contradicts the gospel and sound doctrine. Note that the church did not tolerate these false prophets, not just the elders; the church tested and discerned and concluded that they were false and evil; last the church hated their works just like Jesus does. Then he summarizes this work as enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake and have not grown weary.