From The Heart

Publish date: 07/06/2004

"To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: 

These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. 4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. 6 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.  Revelation 2:1-7 NIV

In the Book of Revelation, John recorded a message to each of seven churches, from Jesus Christ, Himself. The first message was to the Angel of the Church at Ephesus. Ephesus was built near the sea, with a marvelous climate. It was "the Light of Asia.". Its harbor was crowded with vessels and it had access to the whole interior continent because of the junction of roads which met there. It was wealthy and prosperous. It was even the fashion capital of Asia at that time. In Paul's time it was the residence of the Roman proconsul and its degenerate citizens would do anything to maintain the favor of Rome.

The civilization of the city was a mix of Greek and Oriental. It was the headquarters of the magical arts and various superstitious. The great temple of Diana, the Oriental, not the Greek divinity, was ranked among the Seven Wonders of the World, and Ephesus was her headquarters. The Asians worshipped her first and the Greeks adopted and accepted her. They considered her the great mother of the gods. She represented the nourishing and replenishing powers of nature. Sexual impurity was normal to their worship and their culture.

Next to Rome, Paul put the most effort into Ephesus - he devoted three years to that city - the center of the circle of churches established by him in Ionia and Phrygia.

Jesus says to the Ephesian church, “I know how hard you have worked and persevered with patience. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, including those who claim to be apostles but are not; that you have tested them and realized that they were false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for My Name, and have not grown weary.”

The members of the Ephesian church had been ungodly heathens, but now they were saved and set free. Paul taught them the Word of God and how they ought to live and walk. Over time, they had focused on doing good works, working hard and not tolerating evil in their midst, but they forgot to maintain a close, personal relationship with Jesus, Himself.

Jesus goes on to say, “However, I have somewhat against you. You have forsaken your first love. Remember where you have come from - the height from which you have fallen. Repent and go back to doing what you did at first, when you first fell in love with Me.” He is talking about the first enthusiastic devotion of the Church to her Lord and Savior.

He adds, “If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place!” The KJV says that He will, “remove thy candlestick out of his place.” Indeed, its candlestick has been for centuries removed out of his place. Obviously, they did not listen to the warning. This was a center of Christianity and now there are no Christians left there. It is a mass of shapeless ruins, the harbor is a reedy pool, and the marshes are stagnant and full of malarial mosquitoes. There is almost nothing to indicate that this was a once such a wealthy ancient civilization.

Jesus says one more thing to them, “But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” These Nicolaitan heretics were hated and expelled by the Church of Ephesus, but were, unfortunately, tolerated by the Church of Pergamum (Pergamos).

The Nicolaitans were a sect which sprang from Nicholas a proselyte of Antioch, one of the seven deacons of Jerusalem, who perverted the truth of the Word of God, and became the founder of an Antinomian Gnostic sect. They appear to have been characterized by sensuality, seducing Christians to participate in the idolatrous feasts of pagans, and to sexual immorality. The Nicolaitans taught that, in order to master sensuality, one must know the whole range of it by experience. Therefore they abandoned themselves, without reserve, to the lusts of the body, since they believed that it involved only the body and did not touch the spirit. This is not very different from the way some ungodly people behave today! But the scripture tells us that sexual sin is sin against your own body. Sexual impurity definitely negatively affects your spirit and your soul as well as your body.

What can we learn from the Ephesians? Keep the main thing, the main thing. It is good to live a godly life and to keep yourself pure, however, at the same time, do not forget to put JESUS FIRST. Whatever else you do, spend time with Him yourself, walk closely with Him, and allow Him to speak into your life, every day.