[SW127] 2/7/14 message notes by Rev. Susan J. Wynn ©2014
“Jesus’ Letter to Ephesus”
The church at Ephesus was doing many good things. But there was a huge problem, and Jesus addresses it in a love letter to them. He is speaking to today’s church as well.
While the Apostle John is exiled on the island of Patmos (to the east of Greece), Jesus Christ gives him a revelation — an unveiling — of Himself, and what is to come.
The unveiling of Himself:
When John sees Jesus Christ as He is now — Judge, Lord of lords, and King of kings — here’s what happens:
Revelation 1:17 When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, 18 and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades. 19 “Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things.”
What is to come:
Before He unveils what is to come, the Lord Jesus speaks to seven churches through their messengers (pastors). He is the one that walks among (5281 in the middle of) the seven golden lamp stands like candelabra (the churches).
Why does He speak to them? To encourage them, to exhort them, to correct them, to convict them regarding sin and righteousness and judgment. He calls five of the seven churches to repent. The first church is Ephesus.
The good news for Ephesus:
HE walks in the midst of the church at Ephesus. That is God’s grace to them (and in the present, His grace to us). He is there to say, “This is the way, walk in it” (see Isaiah 30:21). Because He is there, nothing is hidden from His eyes.
He sees everything so He can commend them for what they are doing well, and correct them for what they have neglected.
What they are doing well:
The are working, acting. They labor even to the point of exhaustion, and they remain constant and steadfast in the midst of trials (verse 2).
They are unable to tolerate evil men. They test apostles to see if they are false (verse 2).
In verse 3, He repeats that they remain constant and steadfast. This is to encourage them to continue to be so. They have not grown weary in their labor.
What they have neglected:
They have left (836, departed from, sent away, left, forsaken, laid aside, omitted) their first love. This “left” is used of divorce in 1 Corinthians 7:11-13! What is the opposite of leaving? Loving.
They have left their first (4413 chief, leading man) love (26 agape, the actual love of God). As I spoke last week from John 15:16, we are to go at the Lord’s leading; He thus is our “leading man.” We do it when our hearts are filled with His agape.
Yahveh speaks of how Judah left Him, in Jeremiah 2:1-8. Let’s go there. (Please watch the video to hear this section. Look for the link on the right of my blog page.)
Do you see it?
Like Judah, the church at Ephesus has left the love of her betrothals (3618 bride-to-be). The bride-to-be left the One to whom she was engaged to be married, the leading Man, Jesus Christ. She has forsaken Him! She was devoted (2617 hesed) to Him in the beginning, doing deeds of devotion. The NT equivalent of hesed is agape.
She did deeds that indicated she loved Him, in the beginning. But how could she? She left Him. She was treacherous, Yahveh says many times through Isaiah and Jeremiah (i.e., Isaiah 24:16, Jeremiah 3 — four times in five verses). She acted deceitfully.
Because the church at Ephesus does not have God’s actual love in her, all the deeds she does are like sounding gongs and clanging cymbals (1 Corinthians 13). They are doing right things, but have forsaken their leading Man. They have lost what is essential in Jesus’ eyes, and what He commands of His followers throughout the New Testament.
Is there a cure for the church at Ephesus? If they will repent, the Lord Jesus Christ will baptize them in the Holy Spirit, so their hearts will be filled with His love, to pour it back to Him in an endless exchange, to have it flow from their bellies like torrential, rushing, flood-stage rivers!
Then they will never, ever leave their first love again. They will unite with Him in holy intimacy, loving Him with His actual agape!
It is why Jesus Christ came. God’s people cannot, in themselves, love Him as He loves them. So they cannot, in themselves, obey Him. He must pour His actual love into their hearts until it overflows (Romans 5:5). He has made the Way for us, through Jesus Christ, to be obedient ones who love Him with His love and are full of that love!
Paul prayed for the Ephesians to have God’s actual love in Ephesians 3:14-19, to be filled full of it. He would not have exhorted them if they had all been filled with God’s love. Some — I believe even some of their teachers and leaders — had not.
Why do I believe that? They had left Jesus at the altar, so to speak. They were working and acting without it, on their own lead instead of at the leading of their Chief, their leading Man! They did not ask, “Where is the Lord?” (see Jeremiah 2:6, 8), to ask Him to lead them.
They had fallen!
They had fallen from God’s grace, but there was time for them to repent.
“Remember,” He said! Call to mind what Paul warned, and what I Myself warned in Matthew 24:12 — the love of many would grow cold, because of lawlessness (sin).
He exhorts and commands them to do the works they did at first — to love their leading Man, to go out at His lead, to answer the command to be filled with His love, to stop disobeying. To go from being a fickle bride-to-be to total commitment and holy intimacy with Him!
Their works were good, but because they were not done because their hearts were not filled with the actual love of God and they did not follow the lead of Jesus Christ, they were not His works.
His works are done, beloved, when we minister to Him by loving Him with His love, and obeying Him. His works are done when we do what He calls us to do, not whatever looks like a good work to us. Doctrine is important, and it was good that they tested the apostles to see if they were false, and were unable to endure evil men. But they were not loving Jesus with His love, and that is His only command to us.
Everything else will flow out of loving Him with His love that has filled our hearts. If the work is not from that love because we do not yet have His actual love in our hearts, all that we do is meaningless (again, 1 Corinthians 13).
Repent (turn from what you are doing) and love Me with My love, Jesus says. If you don’t, I will remove you as part of My church — unless you repent.
Removal? Yes! They would no longer be a part of Him; they would no longer have Him walking in the midst of them; they would no longer be in His presence. Loving God with His love and all else flowing from that is THAT ESSENTIAL. It is a matter of life and death for the church.
But they were doing good things! Why should they repent? They lacked God’s love in the doing of them. They did not follow the Lord’s lead, but rather, their own. So they were disobedient. That is sin.
He closes with encouragement — He always does!
He hates the works and actions of the Nicolaitans, a sect that believed immorality was not a sin against God — they were free to sin because they said they believed in Jesus Christ. Thus, they participated in feasts and orgies, and encouraged others do to the same.
The church at Ephesus refused to believe their teaching. That was good.
If they repent from leaving the love of their betrothal, their leading Man, if they have an ear to hear (that is, heed) what the Spirit says to the churches, they will overcome (3528 conquer, prevail, get the victory).
And to those who overcome, the Lord will grant to eat from the Tree of Life in the Paradise of God. They will be with Him. If they do not heed His words, they will not.
The church at Ephesus did indeed disappear. They lost their lampstand.
There are people in today’s churches to whom Jesus would speak the same words. In every church, there is someone who is an Ephesus, someone who is a Smyrna, someone who is a Pergamum, and someone who is a Thyatira, and someone who is a Sardis, and someone who is a Philadelphia, and someone who is a Laodicea.
Are you an Ephesus? Have you forsaken the love of your betrothal? Have you left your leading Man to follow your own path? Good as your deeds may seem to you, they are disobedience. We go at His lead, not ours. You must turn back to Him, and ask the Father to give you the gift of the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13).
Leaders of denominations, have you turned your denomination into an Ephesus?
Have you led others to forsake the love of their betrothal? Have you all left your leading Man to follow your own path? Good as your deeds may seem to you, they are disobedience. We go at His lead, not ours. You must turn back to Him, and ask the Father to give you all the gift of the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13).
Do not delay. Time is short. We must work God’s works in these last days!