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To the Church in Ephesus

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice
The Truth Network Radio
November 5, 2020 7:00 am

To the Church in Ephesus

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice

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November 5, 2020 7:00 am

Who wouldnt like the right to eat from the tree of life in the paradise of God? Thats what Jesus promises to the believers in Ephesus after theyve overcome the challenges of this life. In fact, that promise is for all believers everywhere. Dr. James Boice looks at the first of the seven letters to the churches in the challenging and exciting book of Revelation

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Looking to the Bible study, radio and Internet ministry of confessing Evangelicals featuring the Bible teaching of Dr. James Boyce for more information please contact us by calling toll-free one 804 88 18 and now the alliance is pleased to present the Bible study hours preparing you to think and act biblically. It's not at all unusual for the officers serve our local church to reach periodically to talk about the church and evaluate how it's doing. We do that from time to time here attends church every January, the officers of the church get together were going to be doing that this January in the spring. Usually staff gets together and does the same thing sometimes wondered what it would be like to have the Lord Jesus Christ himself were present to conduct the examination of lead the discussion. I'm sure it would be helpful but I suspect it would also be somewhat painful because Jesus would see things clearly without the kind of obscurity that we have about the efforts of self-justification, often cloud our patterned hand ability to observe now. Fortunately, we have phases of valuation of the church and churches, and a very gentle form and the seven letters that are found in Revelation chapters 2 and three. Those of the historical school who say Revelation is a prophecy of the events that are going to unfold throughout history over time between the resurrection of Jesus Christ. At the beginning.

On his return and judgment of the ambulation. Seven letters is a preview of church history. The days of the apostles of the time of the Lord's return.

JA Zeiss would be a good example of one who holds this position, but there are others. These interpreters regard aphesis so the church of the first century. Smyrna slip. The persecution under wrong, Pergamum is the age of Constantine, via Tyra as a church of the Middle Ages. Sardis was the church of the Reformation Philadelphia as the age of revivals of the modern missionary movement and layout.

It is the lastly apostate church that will exist in the final days before Christ returns. This is a common view among dispensational lists like John Wahlberg says in one of his books the order of the messages to the churches seems to be divinely selected to give prophetically the main movement history of the difficulty with this view is that it varies continuously depending upon the point in history in which the interpreter lifts you live 500 years ago, you would divide up the seven periods quite differently than someone who lives today and if the Lord returns 500 years from now. Those who would write that. Would see it differently as well. William Hendrickson finds that this view is utterly unsubstantiated, either by the Bible it says sell or the specifics of church history any points out 1 Ludicrous Way of thinking of this because of the way it's broken down according to what I just suggested the church of Sardis which was dead first of the church of the Reformation would be a most unusual way of characterizing what went on there under the reformers. Hendrickson sensors and one atom of evidence of all the sacred writings, which in any way corroborates this arbitrary method of cutting up the history of the church epistles. He says describe conditions which occur not in one particular age of the church but again and again, I suggest that not only is that the reasonable way of looking at it is also what these letters teach things that are said about the churches of Asia minor. In these letters are things both good and bad that can be said about churches in every period of history and will continue to be said about them until the Lord returns is a real church site clearly existed in John's day and we learned a great deal by studying what we know of those cities in the conditions but that's only part of it. Because each letter is also to be read by those in the other cities to present phrase is repeated again and again throughout the letters, which is very instructive at this point of the seven letters hands the line. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches of plural and singular is not saying those of you who live in Ephesus.

Listen to what I had to say the church in Ephesus and those of you who live in Sardis listen to what I had to say the church in Sardis know it's telling us to listen to what he says that all the churches each letter should be read by all the church as a nation profit from it.

One indication that these letters are a composite picture of conditions that will exist in the church throughout the ages is the artful way in which that worked in the book and not just a separate little section. Here is some have suggested that I talked about verse 19 in the previous chapter that talks about what is now and what will take place later. These are not letters and simply talk about what existed then that have no relation to anything else. When you look at them carefully, you find that they are integrated in several ways. First of all, Jesus who introduces himself at the start of each of the seven letters does so by picking up an image from the vision that John saw in chapter 1 of the letters are tied into chapter 1 and the things that are said in the midst of the letters of your puzzled about them find elaboration in the remainder of the book of Revelation is the way Hendrickson puts it, he said you want to know what's meant by the words to him who overcomes I give to eat of the tree of life which is in the paradise of God will turn to Revelation 22 verses two and 14 is where the image comes back again and is explained are you looking for a definition of the second death view of the promisee who overcomes shall not be hurt of the second death of the answer is in Revelation 20 verse 14 and so on throughout all these images. The new name.

The conquerors of MorningStar and everything there found throughout the book of Revelation letters also follow a common pattern and it doesn't require a great deal of skill to pick that up. You notice it. As soon as you read them has seven sections. First of all, there is an address to the church age began, the angel of the church in Ephesus, Pergamum, Sardis, whatever it may be right. The following second thing is a description of the Lord Jesus Christ. In each case referring back to one of the images found in chapter 1, which I just mentioned third item is a statement commending the church in most cases I know your deeds. The fourth thing or some word of criticism.

Nevertheless I have this against you, and there's a reminder that Jesus is coming again. Exhortation follows on that to repent and believe to get on the right work to persevere. There is number six, a warning to heed what is been said he was an ear, let him hear. The Spirit says to the churches. And finally there's a promise. Those who overcome now in every case Leo to see Jesus find something to command, and in the case of Smyrna and Philadelphia. He finds nothing to condemn the circuit. Ephesus. Ephesus was the most prominent of the seven Asian cities was large at about 1/4 million inhabitants was wealthy, beautiful, famous because of its shrine of Diana or Aphrodite shrine was considered to be one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Ephesus had a harbor that one time can accommodate the largest ships tended to get silted up because of the river that flowed into it eventually got silted up so much that they commerce went elsewhere in the daily visit Ephesus is about 4 miles from the sea. The time that this was written was a strong commercial center. The temple was its cultural focus. It was huge it was 425 feet long hundred and 25 feet longer than a football field is 220 feet wide and have 120 columns, each 60 feet high and it was at one of the same time place for worship was a museum is a treasure house of Bank of Asia and also a refuge for criminals to escape the law would stay within the sacred precincts provided work for hundreds of silversmiths made their living by producing little statues of the goddess Aphrodite or Diana and was also placed occult prostitution. One of the famous philosophers of the ancient world was Heraclitus who lives there and was known as the weeping philosopher I said to Emma why are you weeping, he explained his tears by saying no one would live in Ephesus without weeping because of its morality, how it was into this wealthy but immoral city that God had planted the church planted by Paul in his second missionary journey. You can read about it in acts 18. He has spent three years there on his second missionary journey is third missionary journey. You can read about that in acts 19 and then on his return to Jerusalem from that journey he stopped on the coast a bit south of Ephesus have very moving farewell with the Ephesian elders and you can read about that in acts 20 of the background in acts for the founding of the city was mostly chapters he wrote his letter to the Ephesians. During his imprisonment in Rome about 60 to 63 A.D. Timothy had been ordained in the city ended ministered there, and Priscilla on the policy picture consent labored thereto there mentioned throughout the New Testament, especially in acts John probably took up residence at Ephesus for five years after the church of been found. It may be about A.D. 66 or so, so I church would've been in existence about 40 years before Jesus actually spoke to John to dictate this letter that he sent to it.

Let's look at the letter itself after the address to the angel of the church in Ephesus. Jesus introduces himself as one who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands.

We go on with our study of Revelation were going to find a number of these images are very hard to understand. This one isn't so difficult because Jesus himself is explained told us of the earlier chapter that the stars represent the Angels of the seven churches in the lampstands represent the seven churches. So it's obviously a picture of Jesus being always wear the ring the midst of his people. He knows that is able to speak to their condition and that is exactly what he does course of this in the following letters when we look at that description of Jesus earlier. I suggested that the angels of the seven churches probably are real Angels debate about that probably are real Angels because that's the way the word angel is used throughout Revelation word means messenger. It could mean the ministers of the churches probably does mean Angel something like a guardian angel of the churches when Jesus says that is holding them in his hand. What he saying is that he's not only aware of the condition of the churches, but also that is upholding and protecting them through the guardian angel was of its ministers are saying the same thing about them church at Ephesus were cold. As we read on it been troubled by false apostles verse two. Although these teachers, it seemed wise and persuasive Jesus that upheld the churches of Don the very difficult work of testing them and finding them to be false, and rejecting theology. I said in this little outline of how each of these letters unfolds. So there is generally a section that commends the church and that's what we find here Jesus commends them for three things. First of all the believers in Ephesus had worked hard all Christians do work hard summer lazy. None of us are as diligent as we might be more over to look at the other side of things.

It's possible to be so caught up in our work. Even Christian work that we neglect things are of greater value, like Martha, for example, was so caught up in preparing food for Jesus and the others that she neglected what was the better part, namely listening to Jesus teach all sorts of problems concern with work on both sides would work nevertheless is a good thing and it is commended to Christians in the New Testament the word is translated hard work. Here in verse two is a tough loss and is frequent in the New Testament is found in first Corinthians 38 where Paul speaks of God's servants, each being rewarded according to his own labor is found in first Corinthians 1558, where Paul reminds believers that their labor in the Lord is not in vain that occurs here.

Perseverance is hypo Monier and that's a word is found in Romans three where Paul reminds us that suffering produces perseverance. Perseverance, character, character help.

William Barclay calls that triumphant fortitude.

That's the first thing Jesus commences church for his hard work, it's perseverance. It's triumphant fortitude and secondly the believers in Ephesus and tested and rejected false prophets mentioned a moment to God's way of saying that they cared about truth and they were willing to be thought intolerant in their defense of it something that is rare today made were people hardly believe in truth, but they did.

They needed to be like this because Jesus and warned in very broad terms that false prophets will arise troubled the church. Paul specifically had warned the elders at Ephesus. After his departure, wolves would come in the ravage the flock.

I think that I wonder if the Christians at Ephesus remembered that were aware of the morning that Paula given. I think they probably did.

So they knew that Christians have a duty to preserve and defend the truth and reject false teaching of those two go together, merely present what is truly apt also reject what is false, and they had done it both. They knew that the standard by which we are to judge true or false teaching is the word of God, and they applied it and applied well on verse six we have one specific case of false teaching.

The teaching of the Nicollet items. The Ephesians are said to have dictated that errors mentioned only twice in the Bible is here and then later in the church in Pergamum. In verse 15 we have no other reliable information about Exelon is really certain what the error was clear to the people in John's day. Of course I knew exactly what he was talking about, but it's hard for us to understand the word itself has two parts.

Nicollet often made up of Nicos, which means victory. We would know that because of the famous ancient statue winged victory. That's in the Louvre in Paris at the head of the stairs as you go is called Nike which means victory. The second word is Laos, which means people and we have it in our ward laity Summit looked at that word, and said well what it means dominating the laity may settle this is a early riser clerical is in the church ministers dominate everything that of course fits well with people who were seeing it from the stores this point of view. See, it is the rise of a prosperous church under Constantine, but it probably is not what that means.

Most writers just link it to the error available. As mentioned in verse 14 and the two of them occur, side-by-side bailout was that pagan profit who advised they like the king of Moab to entice the Israelites to sin by sharing an idol worship by immorality. In verse 15 is a word also also likewise you also have those who hold to the teachings of the Nicollet that might suggest that's a separate error, not the error available, but there are good reasons for linking the two very good cases, made by William Barclay. He argues that the name bailout means exactly what Nicollet means riser from bailout which means to conquer in hot Springs.

The people the same.

Got two versions of the same basic heresy is probably the case, any right when we look at the ancient writer should mention it. They all seem to suggest that this is a kind of perverse giving in to the moral standards of paganism. Early church father Ira Naess said that the Nicollet items live lives of unrestrained indulgence.

The apostolic constitutions calls them. Nicollet items shameless and uncleanness. Clement of Alexandria said they abandoned themselves to pleasure leaving a life of self-indulgence or whatever.

This heresy was something of the Christians at Ephesus had opposed they had examined it and they had rejected it in defense of the true gospel is the third thing that set about them also persevered in their faith through hardships and they have not grown weary. I was also an important reason for Christ praise path that had been set before them and not been easy and it involved many hardships including persecutions that in spite of all that these Christians in Ephesus the early days of the church upon tough in their faith that they have not grown weary of their work. They had remembered price warning is only those who persevere to the end we say any rate they were determined to persevere and when I read these words of commendation I think quite naturally of many branches of the American church today is a seem to describe us.

We work hard we struggle at times at least some due to reject false teaching. We frequently persevere through difficulties to accomplish some agreed-upon objective. All of those things are very good. Sure, if the Lord were looking down and commenting on the church directly as it existed.

I would say yes, I see all those things and those things are good. As I go on and read the letter I find that this church at Ephesus is also criticized for having left its first love verse four. And I suspect that is also true of many of our churches, Steve Greg, in his commentary says their present labor which is not lacking in quantity different from the first works by the absence of the first love which had driven the earlier works like Martha church may become so engrossed in religious work that it neglects the one thing needed. No amount of religious orthodoxy labor or loyalty can make up for a deficit in Christian love.

I was working specific about this first love. What is it, many see it as love of the brethren, meaning you forgotten the love for one another, that you had at the first is far more likely that his love for Jesus Christ.

One other love would have the right to be called our first and highest love is a reminder that it's possible to labor hard Christian work while at the same time forgetting why we are doing it or should be doing it. Remember, as I said before that Ephesus is now existing for about 40 years so those to whom John is writing second-generation but he saying here is that the fervor of the first generation had not been picked up by the children that were doing the work they were carrying on in the tradition, but their love for the master bedroom, cold how I said that I thought this departure from the first love may characterize many of today's churches and somebody hearing that might well say will. How can that be how can an evangelical church in our day, which so so much evangelistic fervor so vigorous in its defense of right doctrines happen church like that possibly be said to have left its first level. I think it's very evident how we have. First of all, we have forgotten God. That's the point David Wells has been making in his books he's written a trilogy in place for truth, whatever happened, evangelical theology God in the wasteland. The reality of truth in the world of fading dreams in the third when losing our virtue why the church must recover its moral vision on the second of those gone in the wasteland. Wells wrote this fundamental problem in the evangelical world today is not an adequate technique, insufficient organization or antiquated music. Most of what it swung to the churches resources bandaging the scratches nothing to staunch the flow of blood spilling from fundamental problem in the evangelical world today is that God rest to and consequentially upon the church's truth is too distant to his grace to ordinary his judgment is to combine his gospel to DC and his Christ to common later.

In that book, he argues that God has become weightless for the masses of today's believers. She says that God rest upon us. So in consequentially is not to be noticeable, but one thing the second thing is that we forgotten Christ someone when they say well how can that be anything seems to characterize evangelical churches in our day is an emphasis upon Jesus. We can talk about it all the time yes but it's only a Jesus many times who panders to our selfish desires and heartfelt needs gospel of our day has a lot to do with self-esteem, mental attitudes, worldly success, but there's almost no preaching about sin help judgment of the wrath of God, even less is doctrines and center in God's grace and God's glory of the cross we don't hear much about redemption and atonement propitiation, justification or even faith.

Lacking a sound foundation in biblical theology, increasing numbers of today's evangelicals are falling prey to the consumerism of our time. Therapeutic worldview replaces classical Christian categories. Many of identified gospel with such modern idols as a particular political philosophy or psychology or sociology. The extent of Christ and his cross are no longer central modern evangelicalism has become a movement that is shaped only by popular women sentimentality polls tell us 77% of evangelicals believe that man is basically good by nature, 87% believe that the gospel is mostly about God helping us to help ourselves. This is what we believe is true that in spite of our hard work or parent worldly success.

We have actually forgotten. The gospel is true that we have forgotten Christ, we have forsaken our first love of these things that are said by Jesus for said in order to help the church. Of course, so we rightly pass on Jesus analysis so the remedy prescribes two things this church's spiritual pure. The first is that they are to remember. Remember any true church or any true believer is experience the grace of God in the past because if he or she had bought when the believers wouldn't be a true church of the first step in any genuine revival is spiritual recovery which has to do with remembering God's grace in the past. That's especially true with what we have done is forgotten. Our first love of the prodigal son.

He must've known the love of the father in the past as he grew up in the father's house for the time came and he began to forget about the father and ignore his lobby went off to a far country with a lot of lot of the father in his mind and thereby the grace of God he recovered in the first step is that he began to remember what he lost. The text says what he came to his senses, he said, how many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death.

We forgotten father and Jesus Christ ready to remember the joy of our conversion spiritual heritage come back to second thing is this, they are urged to repent.

The reason for that is that our spiritual declension is not merely a falling away or forgetting is also a sin against God forsaken Sinclair Ferguson was written one of the booklets of the Alliance of confessing evangelicals calls repentance, evangelicalism's forgotten grace, meaning that we tend to think of it as something we did in the past once will became a Christian only repented of our sin of believing that we don't have to do it anymore and he reminds us in that booklet that when Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. The very first of those 95 theses red when our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ said, repented, meant that the entire life of believers is to be characterized by repentance. Why, because we never cease to be sinners.

He was justified. Men and women.

Therefore, we must be always repenting and never more so than when we have forgotten our first love and have fallen world, worldly success, as so many have Jesus last word of the church is a blessing for those who hear his commands and overcome us to eat from the tree of life which is in the paradise of God obvious reference in the garden of Eden and adamant even the loss they sustain when they turned their backs upon God. That tree appears again in Revelation 22 verse two as part of that glorious consummation to which each of the letters points in the book of Revelation advances ends in paradise. Just as the book of Genesis begins the whole biblical narrative by the loss of paradise on the part of our first parents, Adam and Eve lost paradise because of their sin and watch people been trying to do ever since is been to build or reclaim paradise on earth by their own efforts came tried to do it first is city and called anemic land of mod.

Some others tried to do it in Babel when they were going to build a temple or tolerant that they hoped would reach to heaven. The Greeks tried to make Athens a paradise. Romans tried to do it enrollment so people all down through the ages and so do many Christians are trying to build our paradise here, even in our churches.

We have to remember that all of the cities of manner doomed for destruction will pass away, along with the world and its desires and loss that is only those who do the will of God abides forever. The true paradise is a covenant been prepared for us by God promise to those who love God one day be there.

They alone are able to overcome as it says a bit later by the blood of the Lamb by their testimony. So that's what the letter tells us to do tells us to overcome him who overcomes I will give the right to eat from the tree of life which is in the paradise of God's prayer. Father, we thank you for the promise. Thank you for the instruction 90 with the grace that enables your people who know Christ in whom the Holy Spirit lives actually take these things to heart and to pursue that way of thinking and living which will praise you. Thank you for it and we rejoice Jesus our you are listening to Bible study hours with the Bible teaching of Dr. James Boyce listener supported ministry of the alliance of confessing evangelicals.

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