The Weekend Word
The Church at Ephesus – Part 2
4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.
- After all the nice talk, all the commendation and recognizing what a tough spot they are in, Jesus still says “I have this against you.”
- Ugh, no break.
- This is not what is often described. We need to be careful not to make this a feeling. This is not that they have lost their zeal that the once had for Jesus.
- Bible study used to be exciting but now it no longer captures my attention, it is ordinary and I no longer go. This is not it.
- This has been since the beginning. This is the pattern of Adam & Eve in the garden.
- What is happening here is they have stopped believing in God’s love (note the difference vs. their own love).
- This is not disobedience; this is that they have stopped trusting God. They / We end up following Adam & Eve and we trust the words of the devil (culture, the world, politics) over the word of God, and in a strange way begin to think that God does not love them as much as he should or could have.
- So the Ephesians trusted the devil, and ate the fruit.
- To lose the first love if we can appeal to the catechism, The First Commandment = you shall have no other gods. What does this mean? = We should fear, love and trust in God above all things.
- I don’t know if John had Luther’s Small Catechism in mind, but he is telling them you are not loving God above all things, you are not trusting his word, you are not even believing him and to this extent your works are no longer what they were.
- We love God because he first loved us. God’s love in us is what produces our love for neighbor.
- When we start thinking God does not love us, we start abandoning God’s love and start chasing after other things and we diminish our love for others.
- So, as I said above, it is not that they don’t love God the way they once did – it’s that they have abandoned God himself who is their first love – producing less good works … and this is the issue.
- So what distracts us?
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.
- Note that Jesus is not beyond making a threat – he is working at getting their attention.
- ) Jesus states the problem.
- ) Jesus reminds them where they were before falling.
- ) The command to repent – repentance is not just a mental thing, he is bringing out returning to the works you did previously.
- ) Threat of punishment – not necessarily a casting into hell.
- ) Solution to the problem – repent!
6 Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
- What? Jesus hates something? “Not my Jesus” many would say. That is correct, but the Jesus of the Bible does.
- Not only does Jesus hate these works, but the church is commended for hating them also. Let me just say, it is always good to hate the things Jesus hates. So much for “all we need is love.”
- This teaching of the Nicolaitans is just what we spoke of above. The goal of the teaching is to lead the Ephesians away from their first love.
- Who are the Nicolaitans? Are they some cultic group? Are they a Christian sect?
- Irenaeus mentioned that they were an antinomian cult who used their Christian liberty as license for sensual sin – do what you want, don’t worry, God loves you anyway.
- What we have here are good people who are faithful, they are still Christians, their lampstand is still there, but bad things are creeping in – distractions are arriving in the church and they need to be aware.
- This is not uncommon today.
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.’
- Ephesus’ reward – to eat of the tree of life. Where is this tree? In the paradise of God. Where is that? Where God dwells
- If you go back and review Gen 3:24, this reverses that ban.
- What about the others? The church in Smyrna is offered freedom from death; Pergamum, spiritual significance; Thyatira, rule over the nation; Sardis, the honor of wearing a white robe; Philadelphia, a secure dwelling place; and Laodicea, fellowship.
- Although this is a letter (really more like a postcard) to one church, the teaching is for all of the churches on this route.
- Those who have ears are the sinners who know themselves to be sinners. Those who want to repent, those who want forgiveness, want to do better.
- Who are those who do not have ears? Those who think they have it all figured out, those who are too good to be burdened by their sin.
- What does it mean, in the context here to conquer? Passively put it is the one who endures and keeps the faith to the end.
- In doing so you defeat the devil and all of his army of false teachers who try to get you to give up and surrender. They want you to become a Nicolaitan (a compromised Christian) or even an unbeliever. But you conquer by being faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ.