Text: Rev. 2:1-7
The serious warning in the letter to the Ephesian church - the realization which on reflection should cause the contemporary church to take notice - is that it's possible to suffer for being a Christian, to be a stalwart defender of sound doctrine, an opponent of false teachers, a champion and example of moral living, an opponent of the influences which eat at the surrounding culture, and yet to completely miss the point. It's possible to give an appearance of being sound and solid on the outside, and yet to leave or neglect Christ. In the case of the Ephesian church by the time John was given the Revelation, they had gotten completely off track on the one thing that is most important to the church.
The Author: Jesus is the Author of the letter; John is simply the scribe; He is the one who holds the 7 stars in His hand; He is seen in His glorified state.
The correspondent is Christ. Since the letter contains His words to the church, it demands our attention. The words are from the One who is in charge of the church: Jesus Christ, the glorified Son of God and the head of the body of Christ. He alone has the power and the authority to speak. When He speaks, we need to listen.
Ephesus: The Church was founded by Paul on His second missionary journey, but he was only there for a very short period of time. On his 3 rd journey, he remains in Ephesus for approximately 3 years. His ministry there is very fruitful, so much so, that the Bible says all of Asia heard the word of God.
Location: Ephesus was located on the Cayster River, which flowed directly into the Aegean Sea. Three miles up the river was the Cayster River valley. Located on the slopes of that valley was the great city of Ephesus. There were very sophisticated systems of docks and levels located on the river so that ships could travel up the valley and then later turn around and go back to sea. It was a very important place for commerce.
Names: Ephesus was called "The Marketplace of Asia" by historians. In later times, when martyrs were brought from Asia so they could be thrown to lions in the arena in Rome, they were usually brought through Ephesus. As a result, it acquired the name of "The Highway of Martyrs."
Politically: Ephesus was considered a "Free City" which meant that no Roman garrison was stationed there.
Religiously: The Temple of Diana of the Ephesians
The Roman name for the Greek name Artemis is Diana. Diana was one of the most sacred goddess in the ancient civilized Greco-Roman world. Her temple was located in Ephesus.
It was made out of glittering Persian marble.
It was four hundred and twenty-five feet long (one and a half blocks), and two hundred and sixty feet wide. The one hundred and thirty hand-carved columns stood sixty feet high.
Thirty-seven of them were studded with jewels and gold. The altar within the temple of Artemis was beautiful beyond words. It was created by the famous Greek sculptor Praxiteles.
1) It Was a Museum
Collections of great works of art from all over the world had been brought to Diana's temple.
2) It Was a Sanctuary for Criminals
Anyone who was inside the temple was free from the penalty of the law. He couldn't be prosecuted. Interestingly enough, there were so many criminals that the boundaries of the temple had to be expanded. As the years went by, if a criminal was found in the district of Ephesus, he was safe.
3) It Was a Bank
The inner sanctuary of the temple of Artemis was so sacred that no one dared to violate it. The people deposited their money there since it was so safe.
Worship: You say, "What was the worship of Diana?" Scores of eunuchs, thousands of priestesses and prostitutes, unnumbered heralds, and many singers, flute players, and dancers participated in one giant orgy in the temple. And it was a popular religion. The same thing is happening today only under a different name.
Ephesians were involved in all kinds of indescribable activities of sexual perversion and self- mutilation. Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher of Ephesus, said that the morals of the temple were worse than the morals of animals, because even dogs do not mutilate each other.
This is the city that Paul stays the longest on any of his missionary journeys.
Spirituality: Ephesus was a very strong Church, theologically, having heard some of the greatest teachers the Church ever produced: Paul, its founder; Timothy, its first pastor after Paul, Aquila and Priscilla, and Apollos, and of course John.
This is also the place where the city came together to burn their books on witchcraft and sorcery ( Acts 19:19 ). The price of the books equaled about 50,000 pieces of silver.
The Church mightily in the Word of God ( Acts 19:20 ).
The Church was warned about false doctrine: See Acts 20:17-36
As we look at the letter, we see that first Jesus COMMENDS the church:
VVS 2-3, 6
Thy Labor - Steadfast toil
Thy Patience -
Intolerance of Evil - They put evil out of the Church
Doctrinal Purity - Tried those who say they are apostles
Your Suffering -
All for My name's sake
You hate the Nicolaitans -
Thou hast left thy first love. (Why you did what you're doing now)
The Christian faith is all about relationship.
The 2 greatest commandments are: Matt. 22:37-40
Love God with all they heart
Love your neighbor as you love yourself
It is out of this relationship that obedience comes.. Thus Jesus says, if you love me you will keep my commandments.
If we stay close in our relationship with the Lord, everything else will work itself out.
It is possible to be orthodox, and yet stale in our relationship with Christ.
Paul says in 1 Cor. 13:1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
Christ's WARNING to the Church
Jesus says that HE will remove the Church's candlestick (its light, its witness) if they do not do 3 things:
Remember (MIND) from whence thou hast fallen - v. 5
Repent (HEART) - confess your sin
Redo (WILL) - do what you do from a motive of love for Christ
There must be a change in our mind, our heart and our will.
Remember one of our points in the first message of Revival: God does not make idle threats
"I will come quickly and remove your candlestick" v. 5
Today, Ephesus is no more than a sandy harbor. Jesus removed their candlestick.
Unless a Church repents, a cold Church will ultimately become a dead Church!