Message to Ephesus

“But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. ‘Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place–unless you repent.” (Revelation 2:4-5)

In the Apostle John’s vision at Patmos Jesus addressed the seven Churches in Asia Minor. The first letter was addressed to the Church in Ephesus which was established by the Apostle Paul. Paul had been in Ephesus once before but did not remain there long as he was in a hurry to return to Jerusalem and give report to the work which had been done. While there he found that many had not heard the gospel and promised to return if the Lord willed. Paul did return and found that some of the disciples who were taught the baptism of John the Baptist and not the Holy Spirit so he remained there to establish the Church. “It happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus, and found some disciples. He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said to him, “No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” And they said, “Into John’s baptism.” Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying. There were in all about twelve men. And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the people, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. This took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.” (Acts 19:1-10)

Ephesus was a prosperous city because it was a venter for trade and commerce, it had a major seaport, a theater that would seat 25,000, beautiful houses, and a library. The major attraction to Ephesus was that of the temple of the Greek goddess named Diana. Diana’s temple was one of the Seven Wonders of the World and was the focal point of demon worship. The Apostle Paul found opposition to his preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ and this caused a riot in the city. There was a large group of artisans who made large profits creating shrines to the goddess Diana. And there were those who practiced the art of demon exorcism. Also the Nicolations were there as well a religious cult of the day. (Acts 19:10-41)

Paul’s first visit to Ephesus was during his second missionary journey and he arrived there from the city of Corinth. In Corinth Paul had meet Aquila and Priscilla who had been deported by the Emperor Claudius. “After these things he left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. He came to them, and because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and they were working, for by trade they were tent-makers.” (Acts 18:1-3) Claudius was the ruler from 41 to 54 AD so this gives an idea as to when Paul came to Ephesus the first time. When Paul left Ephesus he left Aquila and Priscilla there to teach the Word of God.

During Paul’s absence Apollo, who came from Alexandra, arrived at Ephesus. He was teaching in the Jewish synagogues the Baptism of John the Baptist and not the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Aquila and Priscilla took Apollo under their wings and taught him the message of salvation through faith. (Acts 18:23-28)

When Paul returned to Ephesus he found some disciples who had only known the gospel of John the Baptist. Paul then saw the need to preach the gospel message of Jesus Christ and remained in Ephesus for two years and established the Church there. The Word of God grew in the region as a result of the unusual miracles that Paul performed there. Others tried to accomplish the same miracles who were seven exorcist but were unable to use their magic to imitate the work of God. The artisans of the city became very aggravated by the teaching of Paul because of the conversions from worshipping Diana to a faith in Jesus Christ. As a result they were losing their of their wealth. (Acts 19:11-41)

When Paul departed Ephesus he sailed to Macedonia and then to Greece. He there went on strengthening the believers in Jesus Christ. Paul asked the elders of the Church of Ephesus to come a see him. (Acts 20: 17- 39) Paul then charged the elders with a long exhortation and Jesus later in John’s vision confirms that they kept his words.

Paul exhorted the elders to keep good watch over themselves and the flock they had been given to lead. They were to be good shepherds of the Church which had been bought by the blood of Jesus Christ. Paul warned them that now he had left and savage wolves would come in amongst the congregation and would not spare the flock. There would also be their own members who would distort the truth men off the way and to become disciples for them. Paul told them to be constantly on guard as these things will happen to them. It was a heartfelt exhortation and a deep concern for Paul. “Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.” (Acts 20:31)

The Scriptures from John’s vision compliments the work that they have done for the Kingdom of Heaven. “I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary.” (Revelation 2:2-3) Then came the rebuke that Jesus was displeased that they had lost their first Love.

Jesus commanded us that. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37) What had happened in their worship that would have forgotten the love they had for their Lord? Could it have been the false teachers and prophets that had come into the Church teaching heresies that Paul had warned them about? Many of them may have been influenced by these false teachers and were drawn away from their first love. They could have their devoted love for God and for fellow man and forsaken the commandment of Jesus. Maybe they had been caught up in their own self-righteousness and no longer shared the love of God with their neighbors. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:42-43)

I am sure there were many in the Church who remained true to the doctrine but others would be affected by the teaching of the false teachers. The weakest member will weaken the whole of the Church body. People who are not grounded in the Word of God, the words of Jesus’ teaching will lose the flame of faith and love for their Christ. They will no longer hunger and thirst for truth and purity. And the light of the gospel will burn ever lower.

We must be mindful that Jesus was not speaking to one group of people, He was not speaking to one flock of His Church, He was speaking to the whole of His Church, the Church of today. We must not only examine ourselves but also the Church that we attend to see if false teachers and their doctrine have found lodging within the walls of the Church. We must not allow ourselves to fear being offensive to others who do not live in the truth of the gospel. We must not let their heresy lodge within our midst as it will spread as a cancer. We must not be a professing Christian who is comfortable to put up with false teaching to our family members and our Church family members. Their eternal lives are in the balance.

The Church today faces these same external and internal forces that the Church of Ephesus did. Take notice that your Church is still alive but the Church of Ephesus is dead. Are we able to discern the truth from their error?

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, March 23, 2016

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