Christians Can Be Awful to Those Who Don’t “Fit In”
The Church at Ephesus
By: Rev. Joe Kramer
(1) “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. (2) “ ‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. (3) I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. (4) But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. (5) Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. (6) Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. (7) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’
-Revelation 2:1-7 (ESV)
I thought that we might start looking at the churches in the book of Revelation to see how they would relate to us in our day. I am thinking of doing one church per article and doing a small series of them.
When we come to verse one it says “to the angel of the church in Ephesus…”. The original word used here is Angelos, which is used throughout the rest of the book in relation to supernatural angelic beings, not human pastors or human messengers. If we are to be true to the context of the book it must be interpreted to mean angels. it says He walks amongst the golden lampstands. These are representative of the churches in the cities to which John is writing.
Now Ephesus was a large metropolitan city. It was a wealthy city of trade and was a place that had many religious movements and great temples to multiple false gods. We must keep this in mind as we read what John is writing.
God commends them in verse two for their works and patience, their endurance in hard times and their weighing of evil people, false religions, and false prophets in their midst. He continues His commending in verse three by saying they are patiently holding up Christ’s name and have not grown weary in their diligence to test doctrine and their love of the Truth.
However, we now come to verse four where there is a grievance against this church. They have lost their first love. Some have interpreted this to mean they lost their love for Christ. While I can’t be dogmatic about this, I would respectfully disagree. To me it seems they still loved Christ, because of the way they defended the truth, but they may have lost their love for the body of Christ. We are the body of Christ, so I submit to you that they may have lost their love for one another. They may be like some of the churches today who have gossip in them, who have cliques in them; they may have started to divide amongst themselves.
How many churches are dogmatic about their doctrine? Who cling to the truth, who love God and His Word? These churches tend to be quite good on their teaching, but the churches are marked with DRAMA. There is so much contention, gossip and vying for power that people get hurt and the body of Christ suffers. In this kind of situation the “little people,” the people of the church get hurt.
In verse five it talks about what the people of Ephesus need do in order to get right before God. He says they need to repent, to stop being the way they are and to do what is right. The judgment on them is that if they do not, they will be removed; meaning the church will not survive.
In verse six he talks about a group named the Nicolaitans. Most scholars believe that this goes back to one of the original deacons. This deacon was named Nicholas. According to tradition, Nicholas left sound doctrine and started teaching that Christians can do whatever they want because of the Grace that has been bestowed on believers. He encouraged people to sin in many ways, but primarily sexually, stating that God’s grace will cover it. When it comes to this kind of teaching the Apostles rebuked it, especially Paul when he wrote the following in Romans chapter six verses one through four (ESV).
(6) What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? (2) By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? (3) Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (4) We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Ephesus was one of the churches that hated this teaching. Unfortunately many Christians were led astray by this teaching. Which is why, so i think, it is condemned by name in this book.
Verse seven is one of those verses that can be interpreted in many different ways. That being said, I do not believe that it has anything to do with one’s salvation. Remember that this is talking about the entire church in the city of Ephesus. It is talking about this church surviving and thriving for God. This verse says that they must overcome their shortcomings in order to please God and thereby doing they will prosper before a Holy God. God would bless them, but if they did not overcome, then God would dissolve the church in that city.
Now how does this apply to you and I personally? Let me ask you a question, when it comes to gossip, cliques and causing people who “are not the right kind of people” to leave the church what part in that do you play? Many churches have their doctrine right, but they have no love, even if they say they do, and the end up doing more harm than good. Many churches (Christians) like this just have a mean spirit in them toward people “who don’t fit in.” This is not right and God does not like it. What will you do? Will you repent? Will you continue in this despicable behavior? The choice is yours.