TEXT: Revelation 2:1-7
Imagine Jesus writing a letter to Cross of Grace. What areas would he be pleased with, where we are being faithful to the gospel, to the mission we are called to? And what areas would Jesus bring correction, where we are missing it, or where we have not been faithful? Jesus does just that for 7 churches in John’s time, starting with the church at Ephesus…
I. THE CITY
Ephesus was a bustling port city, full of wealth and cultural diversity. It was like the New York City of its time. Lots of people, lots of money, and lots of idolatry and immorality, even boasting one of the largest idol temples in the ancient world. This made life difficult for Christians there. Along a culture that promoted open idolatry, they also had tension with the Roman government who promoted emperor worship. Add to that internal church struggles with false teachers. So in verse 1 Jesus reminds them he is in the midst of His Church, holding them in His hand. Even though they are surrounded by enemies and facing cultural decay on every side, the Lord is with them. Jesus is still the head of the Church, and He cares for them.
II. THE COMMENDATIONS Rev. 2:3-6
Jesus points out three specific areas the Ephesian Christians are being faithful:
–Their labor in the gospel. That word “toil” means efforts that lead to exhaustion. They are doing the work of ministry, they are serving one another, they are evangelizing the lost, even to the point of exhaustion.
–Their patient endurance. They would not give in to the pressures of the culture or false religions. They stayed true to the gospel, faithful to sound doctrine and living holy lives.
–Not tolerating false teachers. Because they valued the true gospel, they were able to discern when a false gospel was presented, or even when leaders among their own congregation were promoting a false gospel, which made them false leaders (possibly the “Nicolatians” in v. 6).
III. THE CORRECTIONS Rev. 2:4-7
After Jesus commends them, he now levels a strong rebuke. You have abandoned (or forsaken) your “first love”, or “the love you had at the beginning.” This could be their love for Christ, or for one another, or both. We know those are always linked. The loss of one leads to the loss of the other.
No discernment, no doctrinal faithfulness, no tenacity to remain gospel-centered in our preaching, can take the place of Christian love with one another. Jesus tells them to repent, to turn from their sin, and to “do” again the works you did at first. Not just feeling different, but acting different – to return to the excitement and passion you once had for Jesus when He first saved you, and letting that show in your life. Returning to the loving deeds you once joyfully did for one another, like being interested in each others’ good, supporting each other in their trials, celebrating together, living out life together, working through offenses with love and forgiveness.
If they don’t repent, they will cease to be a church. If they do repent, Jesus uses the picture of the Garden of Eden (v. 7) and promises they will enjoy restored fellowship with God and one another in this life, and the perfection of that fellowship in the life to come.
Think about it:
Jesus is reminding His church that there is coming a day when we will all be perfectly reconciled, where there will be no more contending for the faith against false doctrine, because the truth will put an end to every lie. There is coming a day when all false religions and all deception and all sin and are destroyed, and only the pure truth of God’s word remains. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my Word will never pass away.”
And in that day, we will experience what God intended for His creation all along – perfect harmony with Himself and perfect harmony with one another under the perfect reign of Christ’s kingdom.
Until then, let us stay faithful to His word. And in that, let us be faithful to love God and love one another, so the world will not only hear the gospel from our lips, but they will witness the love of Christ with our lives.