Jesus' Words To The Church In Ephesus
Most are well aware of the fact that God grieves over our sin; but we tend to forget that God laments over our loss of fellowship with Him because of our sin.
In Jeremiah 9 we see a moving text in which God not only grieves over the sin of His people; but He expresses the root of their problem. We read this in Jeremiah 9:2-3, “Oh that I had in the desert a travelers’ lodging place, that I might leave my people and go away from them! For they are all adulterers, a company of treacherous men. They bend their tongue like a bow; falsehood and not truth has grown strong in the land; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they do not know me, declares the LORD.”
In Jeremiah 9:23-24 we read these words, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight declares the LORD.’”
God does not desire an externally religious people; He desires a people who have come to know Him and love Him. He wants a people who will respond to His steadfast love, justice and righteousness; and thereby be drawn to Him and be transformed. The Lord desired a people who were not merely circumcised in the flesh by human hands, but those who have been circumcised in the heart by the Spirit and who are being transformed by the Word of God (Jeremiah 9:13-14; 25-26).
Our text this morning is found in Revelation 2:1-7. And in this text God says,
“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.’” Revelation 2:1-7
Let me begin by giving a brief overview of this text. Jesus speaks to these churches as the Head of the church and as the Shepherd of His people. He holds and supports the church along with the ministers.
We find that Jesus walks among His churches and in His omniscience He knows all that goes on in the churches and all that is in the hearts of the people within the church. To the Ephesians, He has many good things to commend them for: they work and toil in ministry, they patiently endure through all things, they discern those who are evil and rightfully discern who among them are false apostles. They are characterized twice by a patient endurance and that they bear up for the name of Christ. Finally, in verse 6 Jesus commends them for hating the Nicolaitans whom He also hates. These early heretics took the grace of God and used it, not as a means to be trained in godliness, but as a means of license to sin.
Yet, despite all of this good the Lord Jesus says that they have abandoned their first love. Jesus then gives this church three things to do to recover their first love: remember, repent and do the works they did at the first. (Notice how practical Jesus is. They are not told to feel what they did at first, but to do what they did at first.)
Finally Jesus gives them two motivations in responding. First, Jesus let’s them know that if they do not do this He will remove their lampstand from among them. The church will become ineffective and powerless. They will not be a light in this dark world. Secondly, Jesus reminds them that those who will hear the words of the Spirit to the church and overcome will eat of the tree of life.
As we begin this morning I would like to introduce you to a preacher from the 1600’s whose name is Thomas Goodwin. His story will in many ways mirror what we will see Jesus addressing in our text concerning the congregation in Ephesus. I would like to admit that most of what I will share with you has come from a biographical lecture given by Dr. Michael Reeves.
When Goodwin was a student in Cambridge he desired to become a celebrity preacher. To us, this sounds pretty self-serving. But Goodwin said that he desired to do this so that the fame of God would be made known everywhere.
At the age of twenty, Goodwin heard a sermon at a funeral that caused him to question his own salvation. And for the next seven years Goodwin would slide into a long dark season of morbid introspection. He became deeply concerned for his spiritual condition. He began to look in himself for any signs of grace that might prove that he had been saved. He looked to himself to find assurance of his eternal security, but as hard as he tried he could find no hope there.
After seven long years of staring at himself, a pastor friend said to him, “Don’t trust in the feelings inside. Don’t put your trust in internal performance. Look out from yourself and rest on Christ!”