Before we start looking at the churches of Revelation, I want to explore the big-picture application. You see, these letters were written to individual churches in Asia Minor which is modern-day Turkey. Yet, Jesus signs them each off with a phrase that makes the lesson applicable to all readers: To the one who has ears, let him hear. So, every congregation, both then and now, would be wise to learn the lesson Jesus gave to each individual church. The same applies to individuals within each church. Even though the letters are addressed to a congregation, each person needs to hear and heed the lesson. Furthermore, judgement will pass over for those individuals who obey.
For example, when Jesus warns the Church in Ephesus, “If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.” We know that membership in a congregation does not automatically extend salvation to an individual. Likewise, one cannot lose salvation because others are not. Jesus threatened to take away that congregation’s status as a church, not that of individual believers. Once saved, always saved. Will there be repercussion for those who are saved that refuse to obey? You bet, but it won’t mean Jesus will revoke salvation. That would violate all the other teachings and promises elsewhere in scripture. Salvation is NOT a conditional gift.
So, let’s start with Ephesus. What about these folks? Jesus commends (praises) them for much. He points out their adherence to the gospel and refusal to get sucked in to false teaching or tolerate sin in their midst. They are looking forward to Jesus’ return. These are all good things. Very good things. Yet, he does have one criticism – that their love for Jesus isn’t the same as it used to be.
What could he mean by that? I’ll tell you exactly what it means. Remember what it was like to be a new believer? Remember the excitement and enthusiasm you had? You wanted to tell everyone about what happened to you and what you have discovered. You found yourself intensely praying for lost family and friends that they might hear what you had to say. You probably butted heads, hard, in your attempt to get them to understand you. Remember those days? You were filled with joy, peace, and freedom! How exciting were those times!
But, as time goes on, that fire cools – unless it is deliberately tended. I’ve been in churches that preach straight-up biblical gospel, lead exemplary clean lives, yet there is simply something missing. Upon close examination, you see that they’ve lost their spark. There are no new converts. There are no new testimonies of God’s work in people’s lives. Folks, it’s what I talk about so much. When we have the power of God at our fingertips, we should have story after story after story of conquered sin. Instead, we get entrenched. Yes, we may hate homosexuality and abortion, but what about gluttony and financial bondage? We have lots of fat people and very few people who tithe. Why is that?
I’ll tell you why that is. We don’t think we need to change. We have gotten comfortable in our salvation and don’t unleash the power of God in our lives. Given enough time, everything cools.
Revelation 2:4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.
Each individual believer runs into this problem, and Jesus is letting us know – flat-out – that we are expected to continue with the same zeal of a new believer.
How are you doing in this department? Are you as excited about your faith as you once were? We should be getting more and more excited because Jesus will soon be coming to bring us home. Or, are you cooling off, more and more every year? If so, and if you have ears to hear, repent and do the works you did at first.
Incidentally, the Church of Ephesus today lies in ruins. Its lampstand was removed. As promised.
Father, please stir my coals. Let me be more and more sensitive to the cold. I want a faith that is hot, hot, hot! Amen!
Copyright © 2019 Scott Powers