The text for the sermon today is Revelation 2:1-7. Our text can be found on page 1028. These are the words of God:
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.
2 “ ‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. 3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. 6 Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’
When was the last time you wrote a letter? Biography Arnold Dallimore tells us that during his ministry, the London Baptist pastor, Charles Spurgeon, averaged 500 pieces of correspondence every week. Wouldn’t it be amazing if Jesus himself wrote you a letter to help you understand where you were excelling, and more importantly where you need strengthening? Revelation 2-3 is a record of 7 letters Jesus personally dictated to 7 churches.
Each of the 7 letters follows a pattern: presentation of Christ, introduction of their situation, encouragement/exhortation, a call to hear with warnings and promises. Each letter ends, “to all the churches.”
These churches are a real mixed bag. The first and the last are in danger of losing their Christian identity. The three in the central letters have maintained identity, but are compromised, and the second and sixth faithful. In other words, the Christian church as a whole is in poor condition.
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
The letter begins by addressing the pastor at the church in Ephesus (angelos, Rev. 1:20) A metropolitan city of the empire, Ephesus boasted 600,000 citizens and was home to the Temple of Diana, one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world. This temple was 162’ w x 342’ long and made of 100 columns that were 50’ tall and 6’ in diameter. They were a wealthy, cosmopolitan, pagan city.
They were also a city of deep Christian influence. Outside of Jerusalem, one could argue Ephesus was the central city of Christianity until Rome was Christianized. They had an abundance of Godly ministers: Paul, Apollos, Timothy, & John himself (and John returned there after his exile).
Christ also mentions evidence of godly fruit. First, Christ commends their diligence. “I know your works, your toil, and your patient endurance.” (v. 2) They were bearing up for the name of Christ. (v. 3)
Christ also commends their discernment. They could not bear with those who are evil. They tested those who called themselves apostles but were not and found them to be false. (v. 2) They were commendable in many ways.
But they had abandoned the love they had at the first (v. 4) Their love for Christ and witness of Christ had been neglected. And they hadn’t even realized it. Jesus had to tell them. The remedy is threefold: remember, repent, and do the works you did at the first. (v. 5)
The passage concludes with a warning: Ephesus is in danger of losing its identity as a Christian church, but if they repent they’ll eat with Christ in paradise. (v. 7)
BE ZEALOUS FOR TRUTH
There’s something we can learn from Ephesus: the church must be zealous for the truth. Jesus commends this church for their diligence in discerning false teaching.
We want to reach people—but we want to reach them with the truth. The prime motivation for our church isn’t growth, but spiritual health. If growth were our ultimate goal without qualification we’d do things quite differently.
Friend, what is your standard of truth? Everyone has a standard they appeal to. Is it your own wisdom? Is it science? At Lake Wylie Baptist we recognize the gifts of human wisdom and scientific discovery. We praise God for those good gifts. We also acknowledge their limitations. They are not omniscient guides.
How firm a foundation ye saints of the Lord is laid for your faith in his excellent Word?
BE MORE ZEALOUS FOR JESUS
While Jesus commends the Ephesian’s zeal for truth, he also points out a serious problem. It’s important to know that Jesus isn’t like a policeman, looking for someone to break the law so he can club them on the head. Rather, Jesus walks through his churches like a gardener; admiring the fruit he sees while noticing disease and weeds. So, when he points out sickness in your life, of the life of a church, he does it because he loves you and his church.
What’s the disease growing in the Ephesian garden? While they loved the truth, their love for Jesus Christ had grown cold. Friends, love of doctrine is not the same thing as loving Christ. Loving your obedience to Jesus isn’t the same thing as loving Jesus.
And here’s the scary part: the Ephesians didn’t even realize it had happened to them. Jesus has to point it out. It’s possible to know the truth, to obey commands, and yet be far from Christ.
And, if they don’t change, they’ll lose their identity as a Christian church!
REMEMBER, REPENT, DO
How do you rekindle your first love of Christ? Remember, Repent, Do.
Remember therefore from where you have fallen (v. 5)
In his autobiography (Grace Abounding), John Bunyan writes, “It is profitable for Christians to be often calling to mind the very beginnings of grace within their souls.” We do well to remember where we were when grace found us. When you love knowing the truth more than Christ, you swell with pride. But if you love Jesus Christ above all, then the truth will actually make you humble.
As you remember, repent. What does that mean? Repentance is a gift. It softens our hard hearts. But how do we do it? Very practically:
Grieve over and hate sin.
Confess specific sins to the Lord and those you have offended.
Cry for mercy.
Here is the cry of a Christian: “I cast myself upon Mercy. Where else can I go? If Mercy must cast me away then Mercy must do it, but upon Mercy I will fall and upon Mercy I will stay. I will camp at Mercy’s feet.”
Lastly, “Do the works you did at the first.” Our culture says it’s wrong to do something you don’t feel. But our culture doesn’t understand what a human is or how a human works and grows. Indeed, you can’t summon up the feelings and emotions of love, but you can repeat and perform the duties of love—and if you do the feelings will follow.