Last week we began our series in the book of Revelation. Revelation is a powerful and complex work of literature that has captivated readers for centuries. As we delve deeper into this letter, we encounter a vision of Jesus Christ as the head of the Church, standing amidst seven churches and speaking to John, the book's author. In Revelation 2:1-7, we see the beginning of a series of letters that Jesus instructs John to write to the seven churches in Asia Minor. Through these letters, we gain insight into the challenges the early Christians faced, and we see the importance of remaining steadfast in our faith, even in difficult times.
The Seven Churches - The cities where the churches were located were postal and administrative centers. It is believed that they were cities with the highest concentration of Christians.
Write - John is commanded to write down what he sees and send it to the churches in these seven cities.
The Seven Letters of Revelation
The seven individual letters are structured very similarly. Each letter opens with a reminder of a characteristic of the description of Jesus in chapter one. The letters start by commending the churches on what they were doing well, except for Laodicea, where there is nothing commendable. The letter continues with a warning or criticism of what has been done poorly in all the churches except Smyrna and Philadelphia, where no fault is mentioned. Finally, each letter concludes with a severe warning and promises that the Spirit speaks to the churches.
Ephesus – The City
Ephesus was one of the largest and most important cities in the Roman province of Asia. It was a main import and export center for Asia. About 250,000 people were living in the area. The religious life was vibrant and marked with imperial worship. It was the epicenter for the temple of Artemis (Diana); one of the Seven Wonders of the World was in Ephesus. Artemis/Diana was originally an Anatolian fertility goddess, but under the influence of Greek culture, she had become the focus of an extensive religious cult. It is also a city of great political importance. It had been granted by Rome the right to self-government. 
Ephesus – The Church
Tradition holds that the Christian faith came to Ephesus with Aquila and Priscilla around A.D. 52. The Apostle Paul planted a church in Ephesus, and he ministered there for two years. Some amazing things happened in Ephesus during his time, including a riot that Paul unintentionally instigated because of his preaching (Acts 19:21 – 41). Timothy (the one Paul wrote both 1 and 2 Timothy) was a resident of Ephesus, and tradition states that he may have either been an elder or the Pastor of the Church of Ephesus when Paul wrote his letters to him. The Apostle John and Mary, the mother of Jesus, resided in Ephesus. Mary may have died in Ephesus, and it is widely held that John lived in Ephesus until he was banished to Patmos.
Ephesus – The Letter
Verse 1: "Seven stars… Walks among the Seven Lampstands…" This passage represents Jesus amid the Church as protector, head, and foundation. Jesus is active in the Church, and His presence is among them.
Verse 2: Jesus begins by acknowledging that he is familiar with the works of the Church of Ephesus. He praises the Church because the congregation has been faithful in enduring hardships, not tolerating people who had evil agendas, and they exposed false teachers and Apostles. The false teachers Jesus speaks about are most likely the Nicolaitans. We believe this because Jesus references them by name in verse 6. Thus, Jesus also applauds the Ephesians for hating the works of the Nicolaitans just as God hates their works. I will talk more about the Nicolaitans in a few moments.
The Church of Ephesus maintained integrity by denouncing and exposing the heretical teachings of the Nicolaitans. God commends this denial.
Verse 3: Jesus also praises the Church of Ephesus because they patiently endure persecution for the sake of Jesus. The Ephesians not only turned away and exposed false teachers but also patiently endured persecution and opposition. They did not grow weary during their trials and persecutions but stayed faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Verses 4 – 5: Although Jesus did have a criticism against the Church of Ephesus. The congregation had abandoned their first love. Jesus is not specific in detailing this first love, but it was probably their lack of practicing the Great Commandment to love one another and God. The two are related. A lack of love for God eventually leads to a lack of love for others. The command of Jesus was precise "Love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love others as you love yourself." The Ephesians forgot this Great Command; thus, they abandoned their first love.
All is not lost, though… Jesus gives them a solution to remedy the problem…Jesus instructs them to do three things… remember, repent, and return. I'll hash these out in a few moments. Finally, Jesus expresses to the Ephesians to heed his warning. If they do not do as He instructs, then there will be a consequence: He will come and remove His lampstand from their midst. This warning means that if things don't change soon, the Church will die, which ultimately it did. Unfortunately, the Church of Ephesus does not exist today.
This warning should remind all that a loveless Church is a Christless church, and a Christless church is a dead church.
Verse 6: Nicolaitans - Nicolaus of Antioch is believed to have founded this heretical group. It is believed that he encouraged Christians to compromise their faith by shamelessly mixing their Christian faith with paganism. Their compromise was probably sexual because, as we will see with the Church of Pergamum that the Nicolaitans are mentioned regarding sexual immorality.
Verse 7: The promise – To the one who conquers, I will grant to eat of the Tree of Life, which is in the paradise of God. Those who endure persecution and remain faithful will be permitted to eat of the Tree of Life, which means eternal life and victory over death.
Church of Ephesus for Us Today
There is no Church of Ephesus today, but this does not mean the letter is invalid. On the contrary, it is still relevant today. The letter does speak to the Church today just as it did to the ancient Church in Ephesus.
We know good works cannot save us. The Gospel explicitly states that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Grace is the truth of the Gospel. Jesus accomplished salvation for us through the cross of Calvary. While it is true that our salvation is not earned through our good works but rather by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, our good works still play a crucial role in the life of a Christian. The Bible teaches us that our good works are evidence of our faith and can even bring glory to God. What we do individually AND collectively as a Church matters greatly to God. God has called the Body of Christ to be the Light of the world. I think we must use this passage as a scorecard of sorts for the Church of Jesus Christ and, more so, for Southside today. We should be asking…
REMEMBER where you have fallen. Allow God to work on you today. If you or we have failed in any of the areas mentioned above, we are encouraged to find out where we failed. The process of remembering can be and often is painful and should lead to the next step.
REPENT – The word repent means "To think/act differently. To change one's mind for better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one's past sins." Repentance doesn't mean being sorry. It means being sorry enough to change. Repentance is a painfully freeing process. Repentance can hurt, cause tears, and break your heart, but it always leads to freedom and forgiveness with God.
RETURN – Do the works you did at first. Returning means allowing the Spirit to do his work in your heart. Allow the Spirit to fan into flame the passion and fire you once had for God. It's synonymous with the words of King David, "Restore to me the joy of my salvation and renew a right spirit within me."
Revelation 2:1-7 offers valuable insights into the nature of the early Christian Church and its challenges in remaining true to its faith in the face of persecution and worldly temptation. Through the letter to the Church in Ephesus, we see the importance of maintaining our first love for Jesus Christ and his teachings. The message is clear: while good works and steadfastness are essential, they must be motivated by a genuine passion for Christ and a desire to follow him above all else. As we navigate the challenges of our times, the message of Revelation 2:1-7 remains relevant and inspiring, encouraging us to stay faithful to Christ and to embrace his teachings with zeal and passion.
 The New International Commentary on the New Testament: Revelation (1977) Mounce, Robert: Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Publishing. P. 86
 Tom Wright, Revelation for Everyone, For Everyone Bible Study Guides (London; Louisville, KY: SPCK; Westminster John Knox, 2011), 14.
Jeff has been in full-time ministry for thirty years. He currently serves as Executive Director at Anchor House Ministry at SeaPort Manatee in Palmetto, FL and he is a part-time Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Southside in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored A Lent Devotional (A Spiritual Journey to Lent) an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). All three are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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