Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Where Did I Leave My Love?
Ephesus, the Loveless Church
To begin, here's some history. Historic Ephesus was a thriving metropolis of eastern Asia which exported goods by ship and land. The city was located near the mouth of the Cayster River, approximately three miles from the coast. It was a business and cultural crossroads given the title of “Supreme Metropolis of Asia.” Its population was approximately 500,000 people.
Ephesus was also the center of idolatry. The temple of Diana (Artemis) was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. She was worshipped as the goddess of the moon, nature, life and fertility, and is depicted as having many breasts. The worship of Diana was religious immorality of the worst kind.
Paul established the church at Ephesus on his third missionary journey (Acts 19, 20). There were many miracles done there and many people converted to Christ. To indicate their new life, the Christians burned their pagan books. The silversmiths of the temple of Diana were stirred into an uproar because the city wide repentance affected their previously lucrative business. This prompted an eventual persecution of Christians.
In this passage of Scripture, Christ is revealed as the One Who holds the seven stars in His right hand. The right hand indicates that He has authority and control, and blesses the messengers of the local churches (stars). He provides for, protects and enables them for their ministry. However, it also suggests that they should be dependent on Him for all that is needed. In fact, He walks in their midst, thus He is in fellowship with them. This passage seems to say that Christ is in the midst of all churches, historically and today. Even those who have no commendation. I found that interesting and encouraging. He still waits for them to turn and repent.
God commends them for their hatred of the Nicolaitans. So, who were the Nicolaitans? Are they still here today? To find out, we need to break down the meaning of the name.
Niko=to conquer; Laitans = laity. That’s right-- to conquer the laity!!
There arose in the early church a group who tried to separate laymen and a clergy of “holy” men for the purpose of power and control. These clergy claimed to be Christians but lived immoral lives. They also believed that the body and spirit were separate and what you did to the body had no effect on the spirit. This doctrine destroys the biblical concept of the body of Christ with each person using his giftings to minister to others. So, are the Nicolaitans still here today? Well, I’ll leave that to you. My opinion is that power and control are certainly attractive to those who are in a position to practise it. Hopefully they’re wise enough to remain humble knowing that “the greatest of all is servant of all.” The church at Ephesus was a hard working church which discerned whether the leaders were true to God’s will or false teachers. They refused to allow apostasy and immorality amongst their people.
Even so, Jesus tells them, “Thou has left thy first love.” They had allowed God to slip as top priority. We can be so busy doing things for Christ that we have no time to fellowship with Him and love Him. Labour is not a substitute for love! They had not just lost fellowship with Christ, they had left it. God’s remedy is to repent, witness, love others and do the first works (think back and remember the way it used to be). Remember when you were first saved? Remember the wonder, the overwhelming sense of gratitude, the desire to know Him more? That’s what He’s talking about here.
God’s promise to them is that those who overcome will eat of the tree of life that was denied man at the fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3. Christ is also referred to in Scripture as the life. So this could refer to the actual tree of life, or it could be symbolic of dwelling with Him eternally. Either way, it’s good. To become an overcomer we must be faithful in our love for Him, and obey His commandments (John 14:15; Matth. 22:37-40).
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels,
But have not love,
I have become a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.
And though I have the gift of prophecy,
And understand all mysteries and all knowledge,
And though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains,
But have not love,
I am nothing.
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor,
And though I give my body to be burned,
But have not love,
It profits me nothing.
As an aside, historically many believe that this church represents the apostolic age in its moral and doctrinal purity (A.D. 30-100). This is the period of time when the apostles planted churches. These churches consisted of new believers just getting established on right doctrine and struggling against persecution from the Jews.
The Seven Churches of Revelation:
Sweet Smelling Smyrna
Falling Away Into Laodicea
Pergamus: Compromised and Indulged
Sardis: The Living Dead
The Church of Thyatira
Philadelphia, the Faithful Church
Until next time,