Hollingworth lake - to he who overcomes

To the Loveless Church

What on Earth have we done with the teachings of Jesus

We are now studying the letters to the Seven Churches as proclaimed from Christ to His Apostle John. The previous blog covered Chapter One as an introduction to the letters and Revelation of Christ. Today starts the first of the letters, which begins with the letter to the Loveless church ~

To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: “I know your works, your labour, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have laboured for My name’s sake and have not become weary. 

You have left your first love

Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” ’

Henry saysTo the church of Ephesus, a famous church planted by the apostle Paul (Acts 19:1-41), and afterwards watered and governed by John, who had his residence there.

Note from whom this epistle to Ephesus was sent. This title was given to Christ in His appearance to John in the previous chapter: He that holds the seven stars in his right hand, and walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticksRev. 1:13, 16. This title consists of two parts:—He that holds the stars in his right hand. The ministers of Christ are under His special care and protection. It is also the honour of God that He knows the number of the stars and calls them all by name.

All the good is done by His hand

It is the honour of the Lord Jesus Christ that the ministers of the gospel, who are greater blessings to the church than the stars are to the world, are in His hand. He fills them with light and influence and supports them, or else they would soon be falling stars.  They are instruments in His hand, and all the good they do is done by His hand.

He walks in the midst of the golden candlesticks. This intimates His relation to all His churches, as the other His relation to His ministers. Christ is in an intimate manner present and conversant with them.  He knows and observes their state and takes pleasure in them, as a man does to walk in his garden. Though Christ is in heaven, He walks in the midst of His people on earth, observing what is amiss in them and what it is that they want. This is a great encouragement to those who have the care of the churches, that the Lord Jesus has graven them upon the palms of His hands.

Dignity calls for duty

Now the church of Ephesus is commended for their diligence in duty: I know thy works, and thy labour Rev. 2:2. This may more immediately relate to the ministry of this church, which had been laborious and diligent. Dignity calls for duty. Those that are stars in Christ’s hand had need to be always in motion, dispensing light to all about them. For my name’s sake thou hast laboured, and hast not faintedRev. 2:3. Christ keeps an account of every day’s work, and every hour’s work, His servants do for Him, and their labour shall not be in vain in the Lord. They were further commended for their patience in suffering: Thy labour and thy patienceRev. 2:2. It is not enough that we be diligent, but we must be patient, and endure harshness as good soldiers of Christ.

Ministers must have and exercise great patience, and no Christian can be without it. There must be bearing patience, to endure the injuries of men and the rebukes of Providence.  There must also be waiting patience, that, when they have done the will of God, they may receive the promise: Thou hast borne, and hast patienceRev. 2:3. We will encounter such difficulties in our way and work that require patience to go on and finish well.  

True zeal proceeds with discretion

They were also applauded for their zeal against what was evil: Thou canst not bear those that are evilRev. 2:2. Christian patience must show all meekness to men, yet we must show a just zeal against their sins. Their zeal was the more to be commended because it was according to knowledge.  Thou hast tried those that say they are apostles and are not, and hast found them liars. True zeal proceeds with discretion, none should be cast off till they be tried. Some had risen up in this church that pretended to be not just ordinary ministers, but apostles.  But their pretensions had been examined and found to be vain and false. Those that impartially search after truth may come to the knowledge of it.

However there was a rebuke given to this church: Nevertheless, I have somewhat against theeRev. 2:4. Those that have much good in them, may have something much amiss in them. Our Lord Jesus, as an impartial Master and Judge, takes notice of both.  Though He first mentions what is good, yet He also observes what is amiss, and will faithfully reprove them for it. The sin that Christ charged this church with was their decay in holy love and zeal: Thou hast left thy first love. They had not left and forsaken the entity of it but lost the fervent degree of it that they first had.

Remember from where you have fallen

When men first come to Christ their affections are usually lively and warm. God remembered the love of Israel’s espousals, when she would follow Him wherever He went. These lively affections will abate and cool if we do not diligently preserve them in constant exercise. Christ is grieved and displeased with His people when He sees them grow remiss and cold towards Him.

Remember therefore whence thou hast fallen, and repent. Those that have lost their first love must remember whence they have fallen. They must compare their present with their former state, and consider how much better it was with them then than now.  How much more peace, strength, purity, and pleasure. By leaving their first love it has been lost.  How much more comfortably they could lie down and sleep at night, how much more cheerfully they could awake in the morning.  How much better they could bear afflictions, and how much more becomingly they could enjoy the favours of Providence.  For those who have not the thoughts of death to them are much easier and their desires and hopes of heaven so much stronger.

Return and do the first works

They must repent and be inwardly grieved and ashamed for their sinful state.  They must blame themselves, and shame themselves, and humbly confess it in the sight of God. To return and do their first works is imperative. They must as it were begin again, go back step by step, till they come to the place where they took the first false step.  They must endeavour to revive and recover their first zeal, tenderness, and seriousness, and must pray as earnestly, as they did when they first set out in the ways of God.

This good advice is enforced and urged by a severe threatening, if it should be neglected: I will come unto thee quickly and remove thy candlestick out of its place. If the presence of Christ’s grace and Spirit be slighted, we may expect the presence of His displeasure. He will come in a way of judgment, and that suddenly upon unrepentant sinners, He will take away His gospel from them.

Yet He gave an encouraging mention of what was yet good among them: This thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hateRev. 2:6. “Though thou hast declined in thy love to what is good, yet thou retainest thy hatred to what is evil, especially to what is grossly so.”

He that an ear to hear

The Nicolaitans were a loose sect who sheltered themselves under the name of Christianity. They held hateful doctrines, and they were guilty of hateful deeds, hateful to Christ and to all true Christians.  It is mentioned to the praise of the church of Ephesus that they had a just zeal and abhorrence of those wicked doctrines and practices. An indifference of spirit between truth and error, good and evil, may be called charity and meekness, but it is not pleasing to Christ.

At the conclusion of this letter there is a call to attention: He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.  What is written in the scriptures is spoken by the Spirit of God. What is said in truth to one church concerns all the churches, in every place and age. We can never employ our faculty of hearing better than in hearing the Word of God.  We deserve to lose it if we do not employ it to this purpose.

Pursue it to the end

There is a promise of great mercy to those who overcome. The Christian life is a warfare against sin, Satan, the world, and the flesh. It is not enough that we engage in this warfare, but we must pursue it to the end.  We must never yield to our spiritual enemies, but fight the good fight, till we gain the victory. The warfare and victory shall have a glorious triumph and reward.

The victors are promised that they shall eat of the tree of life which is in the midst of the paradise of God. They shall have that perfection of holiness, which Adam would have had if he had gone well through the course of his trial.  So all who persevere in their Christian trial and warfare shall derive from Christ, as the tree of life, perfection and confirmation in holiness and happiness in the paradise of God. Not in an earthly paradise, but the heavenly one, Rev. 22:1, 2.

Adapted from the Matthew Henry Commentary

In summary

  • Know that ministers of the gospel are in Christ’s hand. He fills us with light and influence and supports us.
  • All the good we can do is done by His hand.
  • Christ knows and observes our state and takes pleasure in us.
  • Christ walks in our midst, observing what is amiss and what we need.
  • We are engraved on the palms of His hand.
  • Know that Christ keeps an account of our works and our labour for Him will not be in vain.
  • We must be patient and endure harshness as good soldiers in Christ.
  • No true Christian can be without patience.
  • Whilst we must show meekness, we must also show zeal against another’s sin.  However all must be done with discretion. None should be cast off until tried.
  • If we search after truth, we shall find it.
  • We need to be careful not to lose our fervent love for Christ but be diligent to preserve it and constantly exercise it through worship.
  • If we realise we have left our first love then we must remember where we left it and repent.
  • We must endeavour to revive and recover our first zeal and tenderness toward the Lord and pray earnestly.
  • We must be diligent to follow true doctrine and not be deceived into wicked practices.
  • Know that the Christian life is warfare against sin, Satan, the world and flesh.  We must fight the good fight.
  • Know that as we persevere in our trials and warfare we shall derive from Christ perfection and confirmation in holiness and happiness in God’s paradise.
Lost Love

I know how hard you’ve worked
How patient you have been, My son
I know everything about you
All the things you’ve said and done.
 
I know you have tested those who 
     say they are apostles
Finding them to be liars time 
    and again
You have indeed suffered must 
    for My sake
At the hands of evil men.
 
Through so many trials
You have remained true
But there is one thing
I have against you.
 
I no longer see
That unquenchable thirst
You do not love Me now
As you did at first.
 
Think how far you have fallen
You have truly slipped away
Repent of your sins
Return to Me today.
 
If you do not now turn around
To look Me full in the face
I will come to you and remove
Your lamp-stand from its place!.
 
By the late Andrew Feakin
[passed away 16th March 2019]

Prayer:  Father, I come before You.  I confess that my love for You has waned over the years.  Lord I repent and ask in Your mercy that I be restored back to You, that I be more in love with You than when I first believed.  May I be found diligent in service to You, knowing that all the good I can do is done by Your hand?  May I endure with patience all suffering and trials and fight the good fight like a good soldier and run from all falsehood.  For Your glory.  Amen.

To the loveless church

Free copy of “What on Earth have we done with the teachings of Jesus?” here.

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