Letters to the Churches: Ephesus
Having recovered from the initial shock of seeing the glorified Christ, John obeys and begins to write the letters to the angels (heavenly or earthly messengers—we don’t know) of the seven churches as dictated by Christ. John writes from the island of Patmos to which he was banished for preaching the word, which lay just off the coast of that part of Asia Minor where these churches were located. These churches were real churches in real cities with real believers. Granted, these seven local churches represent the Church Universal, and their problems unfortunately reappear in every age; however, the descriptions and instructions presented in these two chapters were specific to them and their time and place. Indeed, the entire Book of Revelation was written to and for them. They do not represent church “ages” divorced from their context; they represent themselves. And through our Lord’s message to them, we hear his message to us.
The Ephesian Church was on the whole a good church. The Apostle Paul wrote them one of the most beautiful letters in all of Scripture. They are commended for their doctrinal purity and their stand against those who taught others to compromise for the sake of “getting along” (the Nicolaitans). They tested those who called themselves “apostles” and found them false. And they even suffered, “enduring patiently and bearing up for [Christ’s] sake.” No one could fool the Ephesian believers; they had their doctrine down cold.
But therein lay the problem: They were cold. John, on the other hand, was turned from a “son of thunder” to the “beloved disciple.” His letters exude love in every line. Oh, those same letters carry a ton of doctrine as well, especially concerning the Sonship of Christ. And who can outdo the Apostle Paul teaching doctrine? Yet, it was he who said, “If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge…and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2-3). Many today think that doctrinal tests and love of brethren cannot coexist: This is a lie! Doctrine without love is coldness; love without doctrine is sentimentality. A Christian must believe right while loving right and love right while believing right.
The Ephesians were given a stern warning to repent or be removed; they were encouraged to conquer that they may “eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” Now that’s a reward worth loving for!