The Letter From Jesus to The Local Church at Ephesus
It is not important what someone else says pleases Jesus, it is what Jesus says about it that is important.
In these letters Jesus is giving report cards if you will to 7 individual churches in 7 different spiritual conditions. In these letters we will see from the master Himself what He is pleased with and what He is not pleased with.
We will see what to strive for and what to avoid. Yes, each of these letters were written to a specific church, but Jesus wanted them delivered to all churches. Why? So that we can learn from them. So we can use them to evaluate ourselves. He wanted us to have them so we could know what pleases Him and what does not.
A lot of people have opinions about what pleases Jesus. Those opinions range from Jesus is happy when we party to Jesus is happy if you lock yourself away from almost all humanity. From Jesus is happy if I build riches to I must live in poverty to please Him.
The number of conflicting opinions is almost limitless. But what someone’s opinion says is not what is important. It is not important what someone else says pleases Jesus, it is what Jesus says about it that is important.
The truths given in the intro to the letters have bearing upon the letters.
In the last lesson we looked at the introduction to the letters. We saw that there is a blessing attached to those who read and hear and keep what is written in the book of Revelation.
We also saw that before the letters a powerful picture of Jesus is given. And many important things about Him are given.
Truth 1. These letters come from Jesus. The Jesus who is faithful. The Jesus who rose from the dead. The Jesus who loved us and died for us and washed our sins away in his own blood.
Truth 2. These letters come from Jesus who has made us kings and priests. What? I am not a king. This is referring to how he will make us rulers for the 1,000 year reign.
And after the cross, Jesus has made each and every Christian a priest unto God. Each one of us has direct access to pray to God. Each one of us can serve Him.
Truth 3. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. Jesus is the one who rules. He is the master. All glory is His for ever and ever.
Time is being taken here before the actual letters are given to make sure the readers have a strong picture in their minds of who is giving the letters.
Truth 4. Jesus is coming again. The one who is giving you these letters is coming back.
Truth 5. Jesus the one who is giving you this letter is the Alpha and Omega. He is the beginning and the ending. A way of saying He is everything. He is the eternal one. It is all about Him.
Truth 6. The one who is giving you this letter is the Almighty. He is God. He has all power. He has all wisdom and all knowledge. Nothing is beyond Him. He knows all and has all power at His disposal.
This is the Jesus who is writing to your specific little local church. So you had better pay attention. The Almighty who loves you and died for you and is coming again.
Now in between the greeting and introduction of the letters and the letters themselves is the vision that John sees of Jesus. It is very powerful. He is holding 7 stars in his hand and standing in the midst of 7 candlesticks. The meaning is then given. The stars are the men giving the word of God and the candlesticks are the churches.
Now that a very detailed vivid picture has been given of the giver of the letters, John can now start to pen them.
The first of the 7 letters from Jesus is the letter to Ephesus
Rev 2:1 Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write;
This is not the first letter written to this church. The book of Ephesians was written to them by Paul. Ephesians is a good letter. It is totally different that the letter the Corinthians got. Ephesus did not have those kind of problems. Ephesus was a good church.
Their first letter included spiritual blessings in Christ, grace thru faith, Gospel revealed, unity in the body of Christ, walk in love, children and parents, and the whole armor of God.
Ephesians was written years before John pens Revelation. Paul and all of the other apostles are now dead. John is old and he is the last apostle alive. As we will see things have changed in Ephesus.
Rev 2:1 Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;
It is interesting to me. Not only did God spend time giving a vivid picture of who Jesus is before the letters were given. God will keep inserting parts of that introduction into each letter. He will bring up a truth that specifically has something to do with the issue at that specific local church.
Here He brings back up that He is the one holding the 7 stars and He is the one who is in the midst of the 7 golden candlesticks, which stands for the 7 churches. And notice He says that he is walking. This is important. He is not sitting, He is active. He is walking. Walking denotes constant motion. As soon as you stop you are standing and no longer walking. He is moving about, He is active, He is walking in the midst. He cares what is going on, He is watching, He is involved. He knows what is going on.
You can put up all the pretense you want and even fool yourself, however, Jesus is in the midst and knows everything.
Rev 2:2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:
Jesus first brings up a list of good things that He is happy with. He knows their works. Works plural. In their first letter written decades before it says.
Eph_2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
They listened to that, and they lived that. Christians are supposed to be involved in doing good works. And we are to walk in them. That means keep doing them. Do not take a step or two and then stop.
Heb_10:24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
Tit_3:8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.
Tit_2:14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
The Bible teaches that we are to not only do good works, but we are to maintain doing it and actually even have some zeal for it. The Ephesians understood this and practiced it. And Jesus takes notice. This is important. There is nothing that you do for Jesus that He does not take note of. And He will reward you for and commend you for it.
Rev 2:2 and thy labour, and thy patience,
They also did labor, they were workers for the Lord, this is good. And they did things with patience. Also a very commendable thing.
Rev 2:2 … and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:
Another thing that the Lord was happy with was that they would not bear them which are evil and then a colon. So what is next is connected. The specific evil that they are commended for not bearing is now defined.
There were men who said they are apostles but they were lying. The evil here was false teachers. What the Ephesians did that was good was they refused to believe anything and everything that someone said. They tried what they said. What was said was put on trial. They worked to get to the bottom of the truth. No doubt comparing what they said to God’s Word. Which is to be the final authority in all matters of faith and practice.
And found out that they were false. They were not apostles. They were men who were telling falsehoods about the Lord’s Work.
Rev 2:3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.
And for Jesus’ name sake they hast borne. Borne what? And hast borne is connected to the colon in verse two. So hast found them liars is connected to and hast borne, and hast patience.
When you stand up for God’s Word, and you stand up to the compromising false teachers and their crowd. Guess what. They attack. They call you names and it can get mean and vicious and they can say and do all kinds of things to you.
The Ephesians borne it. They took it with patience. They did it for Jesus’ name sake and kept laboring. They did not faint. They did not quit.
This is the way you handle it that makes Jesus happy. You stand up against the false teachers and do not let them into your church. But do not get angry and keep picking a fight. You just bear the slander and have patience and keep on with your labor.
Now if the letter stopped there they would have a top grade in this report card. I am glad that Jesus takes time to notice all the good you do. This is not the type of thing where you mess up on something and that is all you hear about. Jesus does not work that way. The good is noticed and commended.
But the bad must also be dealt with. And this one is very serious.
Rev 2:4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
The first love of course is Jesus.
1Jn_4:19 We love him, because he first loved us.
Before we got saved we were at enmity with God and had no love for Him. When we realized our need and turned to Him and accepted His offer of salvation. We were born into His family. The enmity is over. We received a new nature.
And then we love Him because He first loved us. Jesus is the first love.
Joh_14:21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
Joh_14:23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.
Joh_14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
Over and over again Jesus tied Love for Him with keeping His commandments.
And we are to continue in this love for Jesus.
Joh_15:9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
Joh_15:10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
Rev 2:4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
But were they not still a church? Yes. Was not Jesus still walking in the midst? Yes.
Did He just not commend them for works in His name? Yes.
So what is going on here? I think it is two things. 1) Since Jesus connected obeying His commands with Love and since Jesus said they have left that love, then I think it is obvious that there were some things that Jesus said to do that they quit doing.
They just slowly let those things slip. You start down that road and soon other things can be added to the list of things you are no longer doing. They were still doing many things for Jesus and He is happy with some of them, and took time to commend them for it. But they have let some things slip.
2) It is a matter of the heart. A matter of attitude and the motivation behind what they were still doing.
Please understand. It is very possible to go thru the action. To do the work. But you are doing it for the wrong reason. I have seen this happen to Christians many times. They start to do something to obey the Lord and show love for Him. The reason they start doing it is for the Lord. To please Him and show love for Him. But over time people can stop doing it for the Lord. O’ they are still doing it, but out of a sense of duty or because others are watching.
I think both are going on here. They have stopped doing some of the things Jesus said to do. And I think the primary thing is there was a heart issue. Love is the greatest motivator there is. I think they let their love for Jesus cool.
So does Jesus say that’s it. You blew it. Good bye. No more chances for you. Nope. That is not the way Jesus works.
Jesus calls them to remember. And calls them to come back.
Rev 2:5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
Remember what it was like to love me. Remember how great it was when you got saved. Remember when you first loved me. Just return. Remember, get right, repent, and start doing the first works again.
That is a declaration that Jesus will once again accept their works for Him. He still wants them to be in a close relationship with Him.
First God commended them for many good things. Then He tells them that they are fallen and need to repent.
And if you do not, He says he will remove their candlestick. Which we know He said is the church. So you either get this right or you will no longer have a church.
You can still even gather if you want, but I will not be here. I will no longer consider your meeting a church. I will take your church away. And we know that is what happened years later in that part of the world. That part of the world is now a stronghold of Islam.
Jesus is telling them I don’t want to remove your candlestick. Please just repent and do the first works.
What are the first works. Some can debate that. Put what were the last words of Jesus. What did He instruct His believers to do before He ascended.
Go and teach, all creatures, everywhere about Him.
Act 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
Mar 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
Mat 28:18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
Mat 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
Mat 28:20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
In this letter to the Ephesians Jesus is rebuking a church and the primary work of a church is to do what He told them to do as He physically left this world.
When we started this house church I said we can do this, Jesus will be happy with this, but only if we do the work. And do it with some zeal. Care about it. Put some effort into it and work at it. And do it out of a love for the Lord. The motivation has to be to please Him.
We see in this letter that Jesus is not pleased when a church stopped doing the first work. No doubt being told that they had fallen stung a bit. So Jesus then brings up another good thing about them and then gives some encouragement.
Rev 2:6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
We are not sure about who the Nicolaitans were or what their deeds were. But it is obvious that what they were doing was really bad. In this point their heart was in line with Jesus and He commends them for it.
Jesus will end all of the 7 letters by turning from addressing an individual church to addressing all the churches.
Rev 2:7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
Jesus reminds them that there are rewards in glory. He reminds them that they can overcome and it will be worth it. Just return to loving me.
There is much in this short letter for us to consider.
Jesus is happy with us when we work and labor for Him with patience.
Jesus is happy when we stand up against false teachers. When we do not just naively believe everything that someone says.
Jesus is happy with us when we bear things for His names sake.
Jesus is happy when we do not faint.
Jesus is happy when we do not leave our first love. And when we do not stop doing the first works.
What we do needs to be done out of a love for Jesus and a motivation to please Him.
And Jesus encourages us to overcome because there are rewards in heaven.