1 “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.’
Thanks for joining us on our journey through the first few chapters of the book of Revelation. I hope you’ll find encouragement in Christ’s words to the churches. The church at Ephesus was first up, and as is usually the case when Christ examines us, He found some positives to commend, and some negatives to correct.
As I continue to try to walk with God, I really enjoy the times when I get it right, and I usually feel pretty bad when I get it wrong. How about you?
Before we get into the specifics of the letter to the Ephesian church, I want you to take a look at the last verse in the letter. After the commendations and corrections, Jesus makes a promise.
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.’
Jesus isn’t telling the Ephesians to rest on their laurels, satisfied with their good deeds; nor is he writing them off as lost because of their flaws. He’s challenging them to continue doing what’s right and correct what is lacking.
They’re not perfect, but they’re not hopeless, either.
Just like us.
Take heart — when Christ corrects us, it’s because He knows we can do better, be better.
Now, about those specifics.
Today, let’s talk about the positives. We’ll talk about the corrections next time.
Christ begins by letting them know He knows their works, their toil. Faithful servants, they worked for the cause of Christ, and He knows. If you find yourself straining to do what’s right, serving in whatever place you find yourself; know this: He sees your work. He knows what you have done in secret and without thanks from others. He knows, and He will reward you for your faithfulness.
Christ also commends them of their patient endurance, for bearing up for His name’s sake. At this time in church history, followers of Jesus were suffering severe persecution for following Him, even to the point of death. In our world, that still happens in some parts of the world. If you do find yourself suffering for Christ, know that He sees you, too.
Christ continues encouraging them for their handling of two groups of people: Judaizers, who wanted to heap more rules on top of the gospel (trying to convince followers of Jesus they needed to earn their salvation,) and the Nicolaitans, who taught a very self-centered message of indulgence (since we’ve been forgiven, they reasoned we should be able to do whatever we like, making a mockery of God’s grace.)
Both groups offered insidious distortions of the truth that still hang around to this day. The Ephesians understood that we do not do good works because we need to earn our way to God. We do them out of gratitude that He already brought us back to Him. They also understood God’s boundaries for us were not put in place to restrict us from the pleasurable but to protect us from the harmful.
Hold fast to the truth!
Christ’s words to the ancient church in Ephesus apply to us, today.
I pray we won’t put up with distortions of the truth, that we will withstand whatever persecutions come our way, and we will serve faithfully in whatever role He calls us to fulfill.