Sun, Jan 23, 2000

The Loveless Church: Revelation 2:1-7

Ministry of Pastor Joe Guglielmo teachings through the Bible, verse by verse for a better understanding of Gods Word.

THE LOVELESS CHURCH

REVELATION 2:1-7

At the county fair in New England there was a continual crowd around one agricultural exhibit which excited a great deal of admiration, and was the occasion of many remarks. The exhibit was marked. "Raised On An Abandoned Farm."

The articles shown were grown by a man who had formerly followed another occupation, upon the farm in a rough hill town, which its owner had found an undesirable piece of property, and had practically deserted. The exhibit included twenty-two varieties of potatoes, several varieties of wheat, oats, barley, rye, and beans, onions, pumpkins, squashes, melons, beats, carrots, and turnips.

The people kept the proprietor of the abandoned farm busy explaining how he produced such wonderful results. His reply was that he took delight in farming, and did the best he could. "O yes," said one bystander, "he’s farming for the love of it."

- The Youth’s Companion

As we study the letter that Jesus wrote to the church at Ephesus, that is the thought, "What’s your motivation?" So let’s read through this letter and see what the Lord has for us this morning. (Read Revelation 2:1-7).

First of all, as we have seen, the number 7 represents the completeness or fullness of something. And thus, in these 7 letters to the 7 churches in the Roman Province of Asia we see represented all that Christ wants us to see, to know. And specifically what we are going to look at as we study these 7 letters is they are to be taken:

1. HISTORICALLY: They are letters written literally to churches that were in existence during this time period, churches in the Roman Province of Asia.

2. PROPHETICALLY: The way these letters are arranged they give us a picture of church history. For instance, Ephesus is the first century church or apostolic church lasting to around 100 AD and is followed by Smyrna, which represents the persecuted church from the end of the first century to around 312 AD. And so as we look at these letters we will see a picture of the church age.

3. INDIVIDUALLY: These letters apply to all of us, for Jesus will close each of these letters by saying "He who has an ear..." Thus, it is important we not only hear what is being said, but also heed what is being said, apply it to our life.

Also, in these letters we will see 7 key principles or elements. The first is the DESTINATION, or the church that is being addressed. The second is the TITLE or DESCRIPTION OF JESUSto each of these churches that comes out of chapter 1. The third is the COMMENDATION to each of these churches, except for Laodicea. The fourth is a REBUKE to each of these churches, except for Smyrna and Philadelphia. The fifth is a EXHORTATION. The sixth is aWARNING if you don’t obey what the Lord is saying. And the seventh is a PROMISE to those who listen and are obedient to the commands of Jesus.

The key phrase to all of these, a phrase that makes it personal, is "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." And we will develop these things as we go through each of these letters over the next several weeks. And so lets jump into this first letter, found in Revelation chapter 2, beginning in verse 1.

REVELATION 2

VERSE 1

The DESTINATION of this letter was Ephesus. And this city was the commercial center for Asia Minor, having a population of some 500,000 people. It was a sea port city in which many trade ships came in and out of its harbor. Also, it had a highway which lead to Rome and this highway was used not only to transport merchandise, but also to transport Christians to Rome to be martyred for their faith in Christ. Ignatius called Ephesus the highway of martyrs. It was truly the gateway of Asia.

Ephesus was also known for its worship of Artemis (her Greek name) or Diana (her Roman name). The temple of Diana was one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world. Its length was 425 feet long and 220 feet wide with 120 columns that were some 60 feet high. The temple itself housed hundreds of priestesses who were nothing more than temple prostitutes, which makes sense when you understand that Diana was the goddess of sex and fertility! That is what her worship was centered around. Also, any criminals who could make it to this temple would be safe within its walls. The city of Ephesus was truly immoral and into idolatry, and these things dominated their religious and social life.

The Roman amphitheater, located in Ephesus, could hold some 25,000 people and had an acoustical design that eliminates the need for a microphone, which was important since they didn’t have microphones in those days. This is the place that Paul caused such an uproar in Acts chapter 19, where they seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions, Macedonians, and brought them into this amphitheater and for 2 hours they cried out "Great isDiana of the Ephesians!" It must have been a sight to see and hear!

And yet the light of God pierced its darkness. Apollos, an Alexandrian Jew spoke of his faith there. Some 43 years prior to this letter being sent, Paul visited Ephesus and he spent some 3 years there teaching them the things of God. Timothy was the first Bishop or senior pastor at the church in Ephesus. And after his release from the island of Patmos, John spent his remaining years there in Ephesus. So it had a good start, the light of Christ shined brightly in this wicked and immoral society.

Interestingly enough, the name "Ephesus" means "Desirable One." The people had a great zeal for the Lord and for doing the work of God. They were a light and people were drawn to them and thus to Christ. You see, their love for Christ and for others spread and others desired to have what they had, Christ! Thus, the name, DESIRABLE ONE!

The DESCRIPTION OF JESUS in this letter is that He is holding the seven stars in His hand and He is walking among the seven golden lampstands. The stars represent the pastors of the church, and thus this letter is given to the pastor of the church in Ephesus to be read to his congregation. And the picture here is Jesus holding in His hand these pastors as He walks among these churches who are to be light bearers. And as you will see, this description of Jesus that was taken from chapter 1 of Revelation, will be very important because it will relate to each church specifically.

Now historically speaking, the church of Ephesus did exist, as I have said. Prophetically speaking it represents the first century church or the apostolic church to about 100 AD.

VERSES 2-3

Here is the COMMENDATION that Christ gives to this church, and it is a very good one. I think we would all like to have that written down about us, to be remembered that way. Now the thing we must remember, and this can be a good thing or scarey thing, but it is true, God knows our work and the motivation behind the work we do. The word that Jesus uses for "labor" speaks of working to the point of exhaustion. They gave their all in what they did.

D. L. Moody, after he came home exhausted from sharing Christ, and his family, upon seeing him in this condition, begged him to stay home and recover from this. But he told them, "I grow weary in the work but not of the work." That was this church.

They also had patience, or they persevered. They would not give up. There was a steadfastness in what they did. When the going got tough, they kept going. When the pressure was turned on, they didn’t turn off. They kept forging ahead in the work that was before them.

They also stood against evil! They were intolerant to those who lived immoral lifestyles. You couldn’t play church here. They were serious about their walk and desired to live holy lifestyles. It is as Peter admonishes us, in I Peter 1:13-16, "Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy."

Also, they tested those who said they were apostles, and were not. Some people were what was called "Christ merchants" or they took advantage of people using the name of Christ. The Didache was a document that was used to test these things, to see if these people were apostles or not. Even early on in the church there were people trying to take advantage of others in the name of Christ, just like today.

And this church did not become weary in the work, but remained steadfast. And you would think "Great job!" But that is just looking at the external, while God looks inward, at the heart. And as we are going to see, that is where the problem was at!

VERSE 4

When you look at this church you can easily see that they were busy, active, they did all kinds of work to the point of exhaustion and they didn’t give up. It looks good, but Jesus says to them,"Nevertheless..." You see, all the good they were doing, all the work they were involved in, was meaningless to the Lord. Now that may seem unfair, why did God do that? Because they left their first love, Jesus Christ. They did not have that fervent love for the Lord anymore, they were going through all the motion without any emotion! This is the REBUKE that the Lord has for this church, they had forsaken their first love, Jesus!

Imagine if your wife told you she didn’t love you anymore but nothing would change. She would stay married to you, do the housework, take care of the kids, cook the meals. She would do all the motion that a wife was to do, but there would be no emotion towards you. Now, of course, you wouldn’t go for that, that would be an empty relationship. And that is the point that Jesus is making here and He does not want that kind of relationship with us.

And notice they didn’t fall out of love, they left it. Paul, in writing to the Ephesian church, some 40 years earlier, said "that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and heightto know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." Ephesians 3:16-19.

And this church did know the love of Christ, it was what was driving them. It was all done out of love in the early church, but for some reason they left their first love. Possibly the reason is as simple as this. The first generation believers know God and His power, by the second generation they know God but not His power, and by the third generation, they often times lose both. Whatever the reason, they were now driven by routine, habit, guilt, and-so-on. But that is not what the Lord wants from us. In fact, all the good they were doing was completely negated by this heart attitude!

What does Jesus want from us? In Jeremiah 2:2 we read "Go and cry in the hearing ofJerusalem, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD: "I remember you, the kindness of your youth, the love of your betrothal, when you went after Me in the wilderness, in a land not sown."God wants that newness, that joy, that love that we first had for Him. If you give God your love, the other things will come, they will flow from that love. If you don’t, all the work, all the sweat you are doing, is meaningless to Him!

Why are you doing what you are doing for the Lord? What is motivating your actions? Don’t become rich in works and poor in love, that is not what God wants. May you be able to say what Paul said in II Corinthians 5:14, "For the love of Christ compels us..." God is the only one who can see your heart and reveal to you these things you need to know. Make sure your motives are right, that you are driven by love, the love of Christ!

VERSE 5

The EXHORTATION here is threefold: REMEMBER, REPENT, and REPEAT!REMEMBER how things use to be. Remember when you first got saved, that love you had for the Lord and how you just wanted to tell everyone about Him. How you went to every Bible study you could because you loved to learn about the Lord and you desired to draw close to Him. What happened to those fires that once burned bright in your heart? Now it is easier to stay at home than to go to Bible study. You can find all kinds of excuses not to go to study. God wants you to remember how it once was with Him and then...

REPENT before God. Stop where you are at, and then do 180 degree turn back to God. It is a radical turn back to the Lord. Have the driving force in your life be the love of Christ, and then...

REPEAT your first works. Fall in love with Jesus all over again. Remember Jacob as he was fleeing from his brother Esau and he came to a place called Bethel or house of God. There he had a dream and saw a ladder from heaven reaching down and angels of God ascending and descending upon it. Here Jacob has an encounter with God, but he then leaves this place. And some 30 years pass by and many difficult times for Jacob, and in Genesis chapter 35 we see God call Jacob back to Bethel. Back to the house of God, the place of fellowship, of love with God. We need to return to the house of God and fall in love with Jesus again. Not a works relationship with Jesus, but a love relationship!

The WARNING is simple. If you don’t remember, repent and repeat, your light will go out! You see, we are to be light bearers of Christ, but if we remove Him from our lives, the light of Christ in us will go out. Our witness of Christ will be gone. People may still gather in these churches, but the lights have been turned off! You see, the purpose of the church, and of us as individuals is to hold the light of Jesus for the world to see!

What happened to the Ephesian church, a church that started out so well? Just what the Lord said would happen if they did not return to their first love. Ephesus today is in ruins, their light has gone out. It’s harbor is gone, the sea is some 6 miles away and is unapproachable by ship. The Gulf of Ephesus and the harbor is nothing more than a marsh dense with reeds. When the Lord says "or else" He means it! Their witness to the world is gone and so is their city. The Desirable One is not seen in them anymore, their lights have gone out. And what is left for us to see is a vivid reminder that God means what He says and says what He means.

VERSE 6

Here is one more commendation for this church, they hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans. The word "Nicolaitans" can be broken down into 2 words. NIKAO, which means "to conquer"and LAOS, which means "the people." And what this is basically saying is that there were those who were setting themselves above the people, that they were closer to God by their position. And Jesus hates that and so did this church. But, by the time we get to the church in Pergamos, we will see that they have embraced this doctrine that Jesus hates, putting a certain group of people above others. Jesus hears our prayers as much as He hears Billy Graham’s, we are equal in His sight.

VERSE 7

Now Jesus makes this personal by saying, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says..." It is a call for individuals to respond, to act upon what they have heard. And understand this, the overcomers are not the spiritual elite, if there was such a thing in God’s eyes, but those that are saved, that know Jesus as Lord and Savior, those that love Him. As John tells us in I John 5:4-5, "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world-- our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?"

And then He gives to us a PROMISE, that those who overcome, we will eat from the tree of life. That tree of life that once was planted in the Garden of Eden, is in the New Testament. Now the place you may think, in Revelation chapter 22, in the New Jerusalem, is not what I was thinking about, although we do see it there. This tree of life is none other than the cross of Calvary. You see, the same Greek word that Jesus uses for "tree" here is the same Greek word that Paul uses in Galatians 3:13, when he said "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’)."

Thus, this life is only found in the cross of Calvary, the place that Jesus paid the penalty for all of our sins, giving us eternal life. As John says in I John 2:25, "And this is the promise that He has promised us-- eternal life." God wants to give us that abundant life, that eternal life, but that life is only found in Him. In fact, that is where eternal life begins, with Jesus and His work on the cross of Calvary!

Let me leave you this morning with this story from Hudson Taylor that speaks of the best, the only motive we should have in the work we do for the Lord:

Hudson Taylor was interviewing some young people who had volunteered for the Lord’s service. He asked several practical questions to find out how well qualified they were for the life they were anticipating. "And why do you wish to go as a foreign missionary?" "I want to reach others across the sea because Christ has commanded us to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature," one replied. Another said, "I want to go because millions are dying without ever having heard of Jesus, the only One who can save them." Others have similar answers.

Hudson Taylor looked at them thoughtfully for a moment and then said, "All of your motives are good, but I fear they will fail you in times of severe testing and tribulation -especially if you are confronted with the possibility of having to face death for your testimony. The only motive that will enable you to remain true is stated in II Corinthians 5:14. Christ’s love constraining you will keep you faithful in every situation."

- Our Daily Bread

May that be the motivating factor in our life, the love of Christ constraining us, compelling us to go forward. Don’t get so busy that you leave your first love, He is the whole reason you are doing what you are doing. Jesus wants a relationship with you, don’t go through all the motion without any emotion for Him. If you do, God will not honor it, and in the end, your light may go out like the light of the Ephesian church. Keep falling in love with Him, over and over, and over and over again. You won’t be disappointed!

Audio download
Powered by: Preachitsuite