The Letter to Ephesus
On August 4th, 2019 I preached at Soutside Baptist Church in Florida. Here is the transcript of my sermon below.
Revelation is an extremely difficult book to understand. I will admit if it weren’t true it would make for great science fiction reading. It is a difficult book to understand because it is heavy in symbolism and there are also many ways people have interpreted it. Regardless it is a wonderful book and a general reading may confuse the average reader, but the gist of the story is clear “God wins”! Today I would like to look at a small portion of the Revelation of John as He encounters Jesus in His full glory.
The word Greek word for Revelation is translated as Apocalypse. When you hear this word, you may think of the end of the world. It is thought as the conclusion of all things. However, the word itself simply means “unveiling of something hidden.” Revelation is a letter to seven churches that unveils God’s plan for history and His Church.
Revelation is written by the Apostle John from the island of Patmos. This was a rocky island located in the Aegean Sea. It was an exile island where people were sent who banished for religious or political reasons. The Apostle John was sent there for preaching the Gospel.
In the vision described in chapter one John is commanded to write down all that he sees and is told and then send the scroll to the churches in these seven cities.
The Seven Churches - The cities/churches mentioned were both postal and administrative centers. It is believed that the highest concentration of Christians was in these cities.
The Seven Letters of Revelation
In the next few weeks we are going to look at several of the letters sent to the churches of Revelation and we will look at how they can apply to us individually and to the church today. We will look at them first from a historical point of view (What was Jesus saying to this church at this time in history) and from a modern point of view (What does this letter say to the Church today).
The structure of the all seven letters are very similar as they follow a consistent pattern, beginning with the address, which is always “To the angel of the church of [the city].…” This is always followed by the identification of Jesus Christ as the sender of the letter, usually (though not in every case) describing him in some of the terms drawn from the vision of chapter one.
Jesus’ first message to each church is acknowledging their works: “I know your works.” The churches’ works are sometimes commendable, sometimes requiring chastising and sometimes both
Three of the churches have commendation and criticism. Two churches have only praise and two have only criticism.
Ephesus – The City
Today we will look at the letter to the Church of Ephesus.
The city of 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. There were believed to have been about 250,000 people living in this area. The temple of Artemis (Diana) is one of the Seven Wonders of the World was in Ephesus. She was originally a fertility goddess, and 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
It is believed the Christian faith came to Ephesus with Aquila and Priscilla around AD 52. The church was planted in Ephesus by the Apostle Paul and he ministered there for two years. Some amazing things happened in Ephesus during his time one of which was a riot that Paul unintentionally instigated as a result 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 Epistles to him. According to some traditions the Apostle John and Mary the mother of Jesus resided in Ephesus. Mary may have died in Ephesus and it is believed John lived in Ephesus up to the point where he was banished to Patmos.
Ephesus – The Letter
Verse 2: Jesus acknowledges that he is familiar with the works of the church of Ephesus. He commends the church because they had been faithful in enduring hardships, they did not tolerated people who have an evil agenda and they exposed false teachers and Apostles. The false teachers Jesus speaks of are probably the Nicolaitans as He references them by name in verse 6.
The Church of Ephesus maintained integrity by denouncing and exposing the heretical teachings of the Nicolaitans. This is commended by Jesus.
Verse 3: Jesus also commends the church of Ephesus as they patiently endure for the sake of Jesus. The Ephesians not only turned away and exposed false teachers but they also patiently endured persecution and opposition. They did not grow weary and walk away from the faith during their trials and persecutions, instead they stayed true to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Verses 4 – 5: However, Jesus did have something against the Church of Ephesus… They had abandoned their first love. Jesus is not specific in detailing what this first love was, but it was probably their lack of loving one another and/or their lack of loving God. Ultimately the two are directly related. Lacking love for God eventually leads to lacking love for others. The command of Jesus has always been very specific “Love God and love one another” and apparently the Ephesians had forgotten this, and they had abandoned their first love.
All is not lost though… Jesus gives them a remedy to fix this abandoning love problem…the Ephesians are to remember, repent and return. Jesus tells the Ephesians to heed his warning but if they do not do as he instructs then He will come and remove his lamp stand (His Spirit) from their midst. This means that if things don’t change soon the church will die; which unfortunately it did. The Church of Ephesus no longer exists today. This should remind us that a loveless Church is a Christless church and a Christless church is a dead church.
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. To those who endure persecution and remain faithful they will be given permission to eat of the tree of life which means eternal life and ultimate victory over death.
Church of Ephesus Today
As I mentioned before there is no Church of Ephesus today, but this does not mean the letter has no relevance for us today. This letter does speak to us today just as it did to the Ephesians nearly 2000 years ago.
Good works cannot save us. The Gospel explicitly states that those who are believe are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. This is the truth of the Gospel. Jesus provided salvation to us through his death and resurrection. We have eternal life all because of the Gospel. However, this does not mean our good works do not matter. What we do individually AND collectively as a Church matters greatly to God. Our works are an evidence of Jesus Christ in us. Our works do not save us, but they do reveal the Jesus we serve. God has called the Body of Christ to be the Light of the world. I think it is important for us to use this passage as a score card of sorts for the church of Jesus Christ and more so for Southside Baptist today. These are questions we should be asking…
If you are feeling hopeless, conflicted or convicted at this moment that is good because God is at work in your heart. As I was preparing for this message, I felt all three. However, I am encouraged because verse 4 doesn’t end with the problem. Jesus gives us a solution…
The key here is you cannot return if you skip steps 1 and 2. Remembering and repentance is necessary for you to return to the place where God desires for you to be. We all have ears and we must hear what the Spirit is saying. May God have mercy on us, and may we be faithful in responding.
 Gregg, S. (1997). Revelation, four views: A parallel commentary (Re 1:20). Nashville, TN: T. Nelson Publishers.
 The New International Commentary on the New Testament: Revelation (1977) Mounce, Robert: Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Publishing. P. 86
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Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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