This week, Rudy Ross and I have taken on the task of covering Jesus’ message to the seven churches addressed in the Book of Revelation. We have created brief videos and blog articles highlighting the key points of these important letters.
Our aim is to spark your interest and encourage you to explore Jesus’ message to the church in greater depth.
Of the seven cities where the early church was located, Ephesus was the most significant, with a population of 250,000.
It is likely that there were fewer than 100 members in the church. The city was primarily characterized by the practice of emperor worship and the presence of a temple dedicated to Artemis, which was one of the seven wonders of the world.
Visualize yourself being present in a house church where the leader reads a personal message from Jesus to his church.
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands” (Revelation 2.1).
The message that you listen to serves as a reminder that Jesus holds your leader in his right hand and is present within the church.
The old saying, “Jesus comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable,” fits the situation in Ephesus.
Jesus Applauds the Church
The first thing you hear is Jesus’ word of commendation.
“I know your works, your toil and your endurance. I know that you cannot tolerate evildoers; you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not and have found them to be false.
“I also know that you are enduring and bearing up for the sake of my name and that you have not grown weary” (Revelation 2.2-3).
Jesus gave the church a test designed to evaluate true or false teachers. He said, “You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:20).
The church not only endured the challenges that arise from having low status in the city but also had the ability to identify the true character of false teachers.
Assessing the state of the church 2000 years ago is comparatively simpler than discerning the current state of the church. We need God’s wisdom to not be deceived by false teachers.
Afflicting the Comfortable
Come with me back to the moment when we were sitting in a house church and hearing these words for the first time. Up until this point, we were feeling quite encouraged, but the atmosphere is about to shift.
The leader reads Jesus’ words, “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.
“Remember, then, 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” (Revelation 2.4-5).
In Matthew 22:37-39, Jesus summarized the Law by instructing the crowd to love God with all their heart, soul, and mind, and to love their neighbor as they love themselves.
While the church may have excelled in correct doctrine, it was deficient in displaying love. The absence of love causes the church to lose its identity as the church of Jesus Christ.
Let’s not overlook what Jesus said: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13.35).
Listen and Be Victorious
Jesus had a brief yet profound message for the church, which ended with both encouragement and a challenge.
“Yet this is to your credit: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
“Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
“To everyone who conquers, I will give permission to eat from the tree of life that is in the paradise of God” (Revelation 2.6-7).
The Nicolaitans made compromises with the pagan culture of the ancient world. Although the church did not hate the Nicolaitans, it strongly opposed their lifestyle.
Empowered by the Holy Spirit, they were able to overcome through the use of faith and love. As a reward, they were promised future well-being in heaven.
Dallas Willard’s phrase, “living a Jesus-kind-of-life,” summarizes the way the church should live.
Jesus adhered to correct doctrine, and it is imperative that we do the same. Through love and obedience to his Father, Jesus emerged victorious over the world, and we should imitate his example by following his guidance.
Rudy Ross and I discuss this today on YouTube. The video can be found on the Bob Spradling channel.