To the church in Ephesus
‘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 people, 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 the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far 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 favour: you hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
7 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
To the church in Smyrna
8 ‘To the angel of the church in Smyrna write:
These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. 9 I know your afflictions and your poverty – yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.
11 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.
To the church in Pergamum
12 ‘To the angel of the church in Pergamum write:
These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. 13 I know where you live – where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city – where Satan lives.
14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: there are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. 15 Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
17 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.
To the church in Thyatira
18 ‘To the angel of the church in Thyatira write:
These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. 19 I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.
20 Nevertheless, I have this against you: you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. 21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 22 So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.
24 Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets, “I will not impose any other burden on you, 25 except to hold on to what you have until I come.”
26 To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations – 27 that one “will rule them with an iron sceptre and will dash them to pieces like pottery” – just as I have received authority from my Father. 28 I will also give that one the morning star. 29 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
In the church at Ephesus, there’s much to commend:
– Jesus commends them for their deeds: ‘your hard work’ (verse 2) … they’re busy in God’s service – maybe nursing the sick, teaching the young, visiting the aged, fixing the broken … diligent and conscientious in their religious duties!
– Jesus commends them for their endurance: ‘your perseverance’ (verse 2 & 3) … they’d faced opposition and hardship, but they’d not given up … they did not deny Jesus or crumble under pressure.
– and Jesus commends them for their orthodoxy: ‘you cannot tolerate the wicked’ (verse 2) … some arrived masquerading as apostles but were really false teachers … the Ephesians listened, tested and, then, threw them out. There’s no place for false teachers, false teaching or cults in a church committed to the apostles’ teaching
At a superficial level, it’s a good church – all the external trimmings are in place! We may even feel at home there – but only for a little a while!
Because, Jesus has this against them: ‘You have forsaken the love you had at first’ (verse 4) They’re going through the motions – doing what they’ve always done, but they have forgotten the reason they started doing it! They have hard work and effort but it’s empty of passion and zeal. They’ve grown cold in their love for Jesus. And Jesus is not interested in His church just going through the motions.
NO … He wants us to be motivated in all we do by our growing and passionate love for Him … He wants our heart! We live for Him because we love Him; we work for Him because we love Him; we stick with Him because we love Him. He is the groom; we are the bride (Ephesians 5) and the bride’s love should always be for her groom!
The heart of the Christian faith is our heart … and who has it! It’s not our good deeds, our perseverance, or even our orthodoxy – as important as these are. It’s does Jesus have your heart – is He your first love?
Is Jesus still your first love and do you still love Him with the love you had at first? Is your love for Him growing and out of an abundance of that love, are you producing fruit?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for Jesus and that we can be included in His bride, the Church. Help us to love Him ‘with an undying love’ (Ephesians 6:24). Guard our hearts against complacency and drift; and protect us from simply going through the motions of empty or nominal religion. Help our love for Him to grow more every day.
Please help our love for Jesus to transform both our hearts and our lives. Particularly help us to submit to Jesus’ lordship in all areas of life, willingly placing ourselves under His leadership and love.
As our love for Him grows, help us to produce the fruit of loving service, steadfast endurance and a commitment to truth in the face of the world.
All this we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.