The Weekend Word
To the Church in Ephesus – Part 1
- As we begin here we know that we have church because of Jesus – Jesus is the head of the Church. The local churches are the body.
- This is not just a gathering of likeminded people. A gathering of likeminded people is a reminder of the Tower of Babel.
- What sets local church apart from any other public gathering? In our Lutheran churches, and I am sure many of the liturgical churches, the liturgy begins with the statement – “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
- This will alert the uninformed in case they thought they wandered into a Tony Robbins seminar or an Amway regional meeting (although in many cases, someone walking out of many big box churches may feel that they have just attended one.)
- The local church and the local church body and the local church individuals are special – set apart and different from all other gatherings.
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.
- A personal greeting to each church
- Who are the angels? Actual angels? The pastors? The church itself?
- John is commanded to write to each local church and he is to write the specific words uttered by Christ to that particular church. The words he records are prefaced with the formula, “The words of him who . . .” This is the New Testament equivalent to the familiar Old Testament phrase, “Thus says the Lord.”
- A little factoid – The phrase formula is used 21 times in the Minor Prophets, 65 times in Ezekiel, 30 times in Jeremiah, and 8 times in Amos
- Jesus walks among his churches. Jesus is involved in his churches.
- His right hand. The right hand is his hand of blessing.
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.
- What would it mean today if Jesus said “I know your works.”? Jesus knows the works of the church because he is intimately walking around and working in his church.
- It seems to me that many times people think of Jesus knowing things just because he is Jesus – or better, that he is the old Johnny Carson character the Great Carnack. No, Jesus has an intimate experience with us and our issues – good and bad.
- But these are good deeds that Jesus commends – these are the deeds Paul taught them of and laid out for them in Ephesians 2:10
- Their toil – their hard work – this is the work of the ministry.
- Their patient endurance without giving up – they were standing firm.
- They have an intolerance of evil and false teachers – this was the major part of their toil above – just the constant onslaught of challenges and false teachings directed at them.
- The first generation of Ephesian believers took Paul’s words to heart and practiced great discernment in what they allowed to be taught in their churches.
- However, that was in the 50s and 60s – but look some decades later it looks like they are still standing strong and fighting the same battles.
- One thing to note and Jesus does this a lot – Jesus calls out false teachers and the false teachings in the church. We are not to have the attitude that we need to accept all who are coming in and out of the church.
- A note: these false teachers are Christians or Christian imposters. They are not those coming from other religions trying to steal away Christians to their religion. They are those who come along side and say “what we teach is what Jesus taught or what the church teaches.”
- This is important because the Ephesians are commended for testing others and calling them false. Jesus is commending their no tolerance policy to those who teach falsely. We will see this throughout the letters to the 7 churches.
- As we will now see, a major part of their toil was work in the battle against false doctrine, a constant source of turmoil in Asia Minor (Eph 4:14). In our modern age, the greatest virtue of all is tolerance while at the same time the most evil vice is to show intolerance of other people’s beliefs and actions. We can see just how distant America’s values are from Christ’s values.
- The biblical Jesus is much different than the American Jesus who would never call anyone evil.
3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.
- It appears that the generation perhaps the generations that followed did so, as well. All churches must continue in this vein because false teachers are everywhere.
- Of course, today we must watch out for them not only in our midst but in their ability to enter our homes through the internet, television, and the wide availability of books. Charlatans like Todd Bentley quickly draw a following. More subtle false teaching in the form of Joel Osteen, Brian McLaren, and Rob Bell influences thousands of less discerning believers. Today, false teaching in the form of much loved novel’s such as The Shack and self help The Secret being promoted by the popular culture via television personalities like Oprah Winfrey who are able to sneak past the lowered defenses of well-meaning Christians.
Next week, part 2, we will see what Jesus has against the church in Ephesus.