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April 12, 2021 2:00 am
Returning to the book of the Revelation returned from chapter 1 and chapter 2 I want to read chapter 2 verses one through seven to the angel of the church of Ephesus write these things say 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 labor, 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 labored for my name's sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen repentant.
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 net Galatians, 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 stands the eternal living life giving life-sustaining word of our God will we've come to chapter 2 and into that section where we find the letters to the seven churches of Asia minor and the churches.
The seven churches that are listed here together constitute a picture of the entire church.
The number seven is a number of completeness and it speaks of the church in the world with its imperfections with its defects with its strengths and its weaknesses.
It speaks of its trials in his temptations, and thus we have in the sevenfold message to these churches in Asia minor word of Christ to his church in the world at any time and in all lands, even until the coming again of the Lord. So let's not think that this is just a record of the words of Christ to these churches that existed geographically, but God has preserved this portion of his word, because it contains a complete record of what he has to say to his church at any time and any place in any generation. So it's practical, it's relevant for us tonight. Christ walks among the seven golden lampstands, which chapter 1 verse 20 identifies as the seven churches. The seven golden lampstands are the seven churches we find here to the angel of the church of Ephesus write these things says he who holds the seven stars in his right hand walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands I know your works. I know your works. Christ possesses an intimate knowledge and infallible full knowledge of the condition of his churches. Each of the seven letters begins with the sobering and searching words I know your works. It's interesting of all the things that could be identified and focused on. We have here Christ saying I know your works now just be clear, we know that works do not save anyone. There is no salvific war of merit in works, but works are the evidence of the saving work of Christ in the life and where Christ is alive in ruling and reigning and sovereign in the lives of his.
There will be the fruit of his rule and reign in their lives, there will be good works that follow. So does that reminder in each of these letters, we see a pattern and in that pattern. There is first a statement concerning the one who walks among his churches, that is peculiar to that particular church.
Then there is an enumeration of commendable traits. Wherever that is possible to this rule there are two exceptions. No words of commendation are given to two churches to the church of Sardis and to the church of Laodicea. Nothing good is recorded of them. Nothing commendable is said to them, on the other hand, there are two churches Smyrna and Philadelphia that receive only praise and encouragement and commendation and no rebuke. No complaint is spoken of them more toward them and then in each of the seven letters we have a closing exhortation that contains a promise or a threat of judgment, or both, depending on the condition of that particular church.
Every one of those letters as these words in it. He who has an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches so tonight as we consider the church of Ephesus, and this is a good place I supposed to start since we heard a series of messages from the book of Ephesians by Mark Webb, our spring Bible conference speaker and he said a good bit on that opening night about the church of Ephesus, its beginnings, the city of Ephesus and so much there, and I won't revisit any of that trust that if here you can remember some of those things.
But as we look at these seven verses, there's a lot here to consider and I have five headings tonight in my message, I want us to consider number one and identification number 28 commendation number three a complaint number four, a rebuke and admonition and then finally a word of compensation. So let's begin. As we look here at verse one at an identification and let me draw your attention to what I mean.
It says 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, here's an identification. There are two things that identify who it is that is speaking to the church at Ephesus to identifying statements so that there is no mistake who is addressing the church. What are those to identifying statements says these things says he identifying Inc. statement number one. He holds the seven stars in his right hand and identifying statement number two. He walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands is think about those two identifying statements number one he who holds the seven stars in his right hand. Now again, we've got to go back to the end of chapter 1 to see what is the antecedent to the stars. Notice again. Verse 20 the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in my right hand and the seven golden lampstands.
The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches in the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches. So here the seven stars are the angels or the Greek word can be translated messenger and as you perhaps can remember as I spoke to you about this.
I've wrestled back and forth others disagreement among commentators as to who the angel is being referred to hear the angels. Some say it's a guardian angel that's been assigned to every church, and although that sounds so warm and encouraging and I'm in no place to doubt that per se I've no evidence to say well that I couldn't be just doesn't seem to make sense that there would be a letter addressed to an angel. It's more satisfactory to me to think that the angel is a messenger of the church and what is happening here is there is a letter being addressed to the elder pastor, the one who oversees that particular church. And so that we don't just pass that off and say okay this is directed to the leadership of the church, the pastor, the overseer, the elder, whichever designation you want to use and has nothing to do with the people in the church to make up the church, I remind you that each one of these letters ends with he who has an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches and that's Shirley's sounds to me to include every person who makes up the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. So he who holds the seven stars in his right hand, I believe, is a desert is designation the right hand of God is a designation of the power the authority the rulership the protection the safety the ownership of Almighty God. Paul wrote to the Ephesian elders in acts chapter 20 and he exhorted them to shepherd the church of God which he that is, God purchased with his own blood. So God is made an investment in the church. He holds the church in his right hand because the church belongs to him. He purchased it. He is securing it. He is safeguarding it and are not a more secure place. Not a more safe place not a stronger place to be than in the right hand of the Almighty. So that's the first identifying statement he who holds the seven stars in his right hand, then it says, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands.
The lampstands are reminiscent of the lampstands that were part of the temple furniture in the Jewish worship and they reminded the faithful Jewish remnant that God's purpose for Israel was that they would be a light to the world. The Old Testament priest had a function in the temple and attending to the lampstands by trimming the wicks by refilling the lamps with fresh oil by relighting those lamps that had gone out here in Revelation were read here tonight the lampstands represent the church. The church is to serve as a light to the world and in the midst of the seven golden lampstands is the risen Christ functioning as a priest by attending to the churches by commending by correcting by exhorting by warning any walks in the midst of this churches that is to say, he's not passive. He's active and in his unfailing ministry within the church. He is carrying on a ministry to ensure that it the church carries out its function as light bearers in an ever increasing dark world.
Sam storms in his book to the one who overcomes, says this is he talking about Christ walking among the lampstands. He is present in an among his people. He guards and protects and preserves the church is never absent and then listen listen to this nine fold list of things that he speaks to those services conducted at which he fails to show up. No meal is served for what or which he does not sit down. No sermon is preached, that he does not evaluate no sin is committed by which he is unaware. No individual enters an auditorium, of whom he fails to take notice.
No tears shed that escapes he is.
I know pain is felt that his heart does not share. No decision is made that he does not judge know the song is sung that he does not hear Christ is walking in the midst of his churches is not absent. These present were two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst Jesus said so, that's identification were identifying who this is. That is being spoken of writing to the church of Ephesus, and secondly, we look at commendation commendation and that's their inverse to. He says I know your works, your labor, 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 found them liars. And you have persevered and have patience, and have labored in my two for my namesake and have not become weary that word translated in our Bibles. No, I know your works is the Greek word Joya and refers to a complete and full knowledge. The Lord of the church knows everything there is to know about the church, both good and bad. He notes everything that there is to know this is not something that he learns by experience. It just something that he knows and what he knows translates initially here in the words of commendation. They were number one in terms of commendation. They were loyal in labor. He says I know your works, your labor, your patience, some of your translations may say toil it's speaking of laboring to the point of exhaustion. They were hard-working. The church was a beehive of activity, there was a lot going on a lot of work in service for Christ going on. John MacArthur, in his commentary says in the middle of the pagan darkness that surrounded them, they were aggressively evangelizing the lost, edifying the saints, and caring for those who were in need.
They were commended by Christ for their labor, for their hard work. Secondly, they are commended that they had zero tolerance for evil men. Notice what he says you cannot bear those who are evil. You cannot bear those who are evil. They don't say well let's just love them, let's just ignore their faults, their sin, their evil less just we just need to love everybody know what to say. You cannot bear those who are evil.
They had zero tolerance for evil men. They had a high standard of holy conduct 1/3 statement or word of commendation is in regard to discernment. He says again in verse two.
You have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars.
They been warned by the apostle Paul. Listen to what Paul said to the church there in Ephesus as he wrote in acts chapter 20 he says therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit is made you overseers to shepherd the church of God which he purchased with his own blood, for I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also, from among yourselves, men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples to draw away the disciples after themselves therefore watch and remember that for three years.
I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. So Paul warned him of wolves that would come those who would threaten the church and they were commended by Christ for their identifying false prophets. They had a standard of truth that they measured teaching by doctrine, by these word discovered to be false apostles and liars and they identified them as such there commended in verse three, four, persevering you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for my namesake and have not become weary that not become weary in well doing, they had persevered. They had endured and that speaks off obviously of opposition and difficulty they had to persevere they had to endure.
They had to trust God not to become weary in well doing and then there's 1/5 area of commendation and its all way down into verse seven and I will speak to that here because it's kind of sandwiched between a couple of other things. But verse seven says number seven but verse six he says, but this this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nick Galatians, which I also hate you know hates an auto very warm fuzzy word and were not accustomed to speaking in church about things we hate people are far more inclined to speak of the things they love. But for going to be faithful to Christ and faithful to the word of God and balanced in our understanding of Scripture. There's going to be something that we are going to have to hate because God hates them can be soft. We can't be compromising about these things and it was the Nick Galatians you hate the deeds of the Nick Galatians, which I also hate the Nick Galatians, whether kind of a mystery. We don't know too much about them there mentioned in the church of Pergamum's we won't take time to look at that tonight will look at it when we get there, but the deeds of the Nick Galatians was a heresy and through the church historian Ira Naess's told us that the Nick Galatians grew out from that man. In acts chapter 6, who was chosen to be part of the food distribution to the widows. Nicholas, he was one of the seven and Ira Nance tells us that this man was apostate, turned on the church and sewed heresy and the deeds of the Nick Galatians were deeds of licentiousness, deeds of immorality sexual in nature and moral compromise cultural accommodation. They were more concerned about cultural accommodation rather than obeying the exhortation of Scripture to come out from among them and be separate again. Let me challenge us this evening challenge you challenge myself to what sandstorm says in his devotional commentary.
He says this. If cultural relevancy threatens in any way or degree to undermine your single mindedness, wholehearted devotion to Christ and it if cultural relevancy threatens in any way or degree to undermine your single-minded wholehearted devotion to Christ and it to the extent that being in the world drains you of the necessary strength to resist its temptations or diminishes the purity of your relationship. Christ turn and walk away were living in the day the churches tout their ability to relate to the culture. In fact, we have to study the culture we have to understand the trends in the culture we have to accommodate the culture in order to grow a church that is wrong thinking. Think with me about this. If Christ has exhaustive knowledge about the church. Everything about the church. Good, bad, he knows it all.
Why would we want to go to any other source other than Christ to know what to do in the church to honor him but just seems logical to me, and yet in practice it seems so foreign.
I remember being just so agitated about a class that I had to take in Bible College on Bible college or seminary and it was studying demographics and where auto it was church growth study surveys and asking questions looking at property and where to plant a church in all these things and there was a couple of other fellows in the in the class that were just agitated and troubled and bothered by the whole thing. We just had to endure it as part of part of the.
The curriculum and I am to die with the time I was thinking, why are we so concerned about all these things when we have all the answers we need in the word of God, why why are we not studying the seven churches that are of Asia minor. This is the Chu.
This represents the church in his totality. Here we find all that we need to know that was a foreign idea foreign concept will there's 1/3 heading.
I want us to think about and that is complaint that we find here the complaint registered to the church of Ephesus against the church of Ephesus and is stated very succinctly and very straightforwardly in verse four. After all, the words of commendation, and there were a lot there's a lot of about the church that is commendable and we come to this one thing just one thing.
Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. They had left their first love question. Does that mean first in terms of time that seems to be the way the ESV takes it by rendering this verse.
This way you have abandoned the love you had at first see the reference to time you have abandoned the love you had at first.
In other words, there was conspicuous in the early days of their Christian experience and evidence of love that is now lacking years have gone by. Perhaps an entire generation has gone by since Paul wrote to the church of Ephesus.
Another question that surfaces here is this is this a love for Christ or is this a brotherly love that they had abandoned prior to studying for the sermon. I had always thought that it was a reference to their love for Christ. But think with me about this in Ephesians chapter 1 verses 15 and 16. Paul commands them. That is the Ephesian church for the fervency of their love for one another and then he concludes the Ephesian letter in chapter 6 and verse 24 with a benediction blessing on those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Now the reason that I have been a bit open to the possibility that this is not necessarily speaking only that they have abandoned their love for Christ. But perhaps abandoning their love for their fellow believer their fellow mother in Christ is because of what we see in the previous verse. What is the previous verse I is a word of commendation you have pre-persevered. You have patience you have labored for my name's sake and have not become weary.
It seems unlikely to me that the reference is to an abandonment of love for Christ since he's just commended them for during patiently for his namesake question. What else would inspire them to patiently endure for his namesake. If it was not love for Christ. Here's the logic of the argument.
If they didn't if they did not love Jesus, they would not have endured patiently for his namesake, and if their endurance wasn't motivated by love Jesus would hardly have commended them for so it's cause me to stop and think know what's going on here.
They were patient. They endured, they did not become weary in well doing for his namesake, the highest motivation then one verse later Christ has this against him now.
We may not have to choose between love for Christ or love for one another. I want you to listen to Beasley Murray in his commentary and what he has to say this point, I think he raise wrestling with these things and listen to what he says.
I think it's brilliant what he has to say. He says quote where love for God wanes love for man diminishes and were love for man is soured love for God degenerates into religious formalism and both constitute denial of the revelation of God in Christ.
If the price paid by the Ephesians for the preservation of true Christianity was the loss of love. The price was too high for Christianity without love is a perverted faith. So let me just reinforce this with very familiar words to you. First Corinthians 13 though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing and though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love and then there's this long definition of what love is and then it concludes with and now abide faith, hope, love, these three but the greatest of these is love. Remember what trying to think of our brother again to come to me. I can hear him saying this to great commandments are still the two great commandments. Love got all our heart, mind, soul and strength of the love our neighbor as ourselves. Those of the two great commandments.
So they had abandoned their first love. Here's a force heading that I want us to think about and that is rebuke and admonition rebuke and admonition is verse five there in Revelation chapter 2 pieces I have this against you, that you've left your first love verse four verse five 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 the seriousness of their abandonment cannot be overstated. The seriousness of their abandonment cannot be overstated. Their call to repent, and unless they repent.
If they fail to repent. We have these words or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place and here's some clear instructions. We are to be repenting repent.
There's initially we repented of our sins and trusted Christ, that is a pattern that ought to characterize our Christian lives.
We are to continually be repenting of our sins. And here's a formula here.
What is it number one he says in verse five. Remember, remember, therefore from where you have fallen.
Remember your transgression. Remember, your departure, remember your act of disobedience wherever you left the straight and narrow.
Remember that. Secondly, verse five remember therefore from where you will fallen repent, repent, have a change of mind that affects the direction of your life.
Repent, remember, repent, and then I am using the word rekindle the we might remember, remember, repent, rekindle, do the first works do the first works go back to an end. Again, if this is an abandonment of their love for Christ.
They are to go back to that initial love and enthusiasm. They had that Mark there conversion experience and forever, long and lasted something happened it waned. It turned into cold orthodoxy date had their doctrine right, but their love for Christ diminished and is no small thing here me. It's no small thing. So many things. They were commended for, and this only this one thing he had against them that threatened their existence as a church. He's calling them to repent. Remember, repent, rekindle, or else with use that language. I think in her parenting trying to train our children do this we give clear instructions and then we say or else there's an ultimatum nest what Christ says to the church that had so many things commendable set about them or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place unless you repent and all commentators are in agreement here that this reference to him coming quickly is not a reference to the second coming.
This is a reference to Christ coming in judgment of the church.
Here is a threat of divine judgment so severe that it would bring an end to the church's existence of all the things that has impacted me about this message. In this portion of God's word.
It is the the import, the primacy the weight of love for Christ and love for one another and how absolutely critical it is a necessary for healthy church and the absence of it threatens the very existence of it of the church. Jesus said by this all men will know that you are my disciples, by your love one for another that we have this final heading compensation. Compensation verse seven 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. Again, I think I've already said this, but this is a formula that we see at the end of each of the seven letters. Each of these seven letters we find at the end to him overcomes to him overcomes to him overcomes there is a promise attached to those who overcome and greater is he who is in Austin.
He was in the world. We are already over comers. We need to be encouraged by this promise, he who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Folks, it's thanked worthy to indeed have an ear that is sensitive to the spirit of God, that when we hear the word of God we hear God himself speaking to us and we take the word of God.
Seriously, we don't dismiss it would also that's a preacher talking. He's on his little grantees on his hobbyhorse is whatever this is the price the preacher out whenever a preacher is preaching and he is preaching what the word of God says we need to hear it as it is the word of God. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, here's a promise I will give to eat from the tree of life which is in the midst of the paradise of God. The tree of life is first referenced in Genesis chapter 2 in verse nine. Remember the tree that stood in the garden of eating.
We have these words in chapter 3 and verse 21 also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin and clothes them. Then the Lord God said, behold, the man is become like one of us, to know good and evil and now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat and live forever. Therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken, so he drove out the man and he placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.
The tree of life symbolizes eternal life back to Revelation 2 in the promise to him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life that which was forbidden because of man's sin and disobedience is invited, is promised to those who overcome and again what was what was that, lest he put out his hand and to take also of the tree of life and eat and live forever. The tree of life is symbolic of eternal life. The paradise of God. What is the paradise of God. It's heaven, so this promise to those who overcome.
I will give to eat from the tree of life, the enjoyment of eternal life which is in the midst of the paradise of God creates a longing in your heart is in it for that place. Heaven is a prepared place for prepared people folks what I want us to take away from this message is the vital importance of love. Love for God love for Christ love for our fellow brother. There is nothing to substitute for right doctrine won't negate the absence of love. In fact, right doctrine, minus love brings review brings threat of judgment. We are a church that is precise in our doctrine. We are church that is precise in our theology and and we make no apologies for that. But right doctrine must be married to love.
Love for God love for Christ love for one another so let's what would Christ say if Christ were to speak about our church, beacon Baptist Church, what would he say I don't know I don't have the mind of Christ. But I think it be some of the things that the church of Ephesus is commended for. I think we are exemplary in at least from my vantage point, I guess my judgment doesn't matter what Christ says about us is what really matters, but in fairness must not miss this point.
Sometimes we've elevated doctrinal preciseness and theological accuracy above love no what what we see here we see love elevated above doctrine and theology. Now it doesn't have to be one or the other, either. Or we can have both. In fact, both on the present right doctrine when we rightly understand the word of God and the God has revealed himself in Scripture. How can you not love this God talking about what this Christ for who he is and what he's done and how can you not love the brother knocking out love the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. We dare not we dare not make the church any smaller than Christ is made, and we dare not make it any larger than he's made it, but whoever the church is identified as a believer is a brother or sister in Christ, we are under mandate to love them love them the love Christ with all our heart, mind, soul and strength to love God with all her heart, mind, love, heart, mind, soul and strength in the love our neighbor as ourselves to God, give us grace to grow and that persevere in that be unwavering in that to not become weary in doing that. Shall we pray father how we thank you for your word. We confess our God that we are prone to wander prone to leave the God we love.
Lord, we would ask for grace to hedges sin to protect us from the kind of rebuke that came to the church at Ephesus for whatever this is, whether an abandonment of their love for Christ in God or an abandonment of their love for the church of the Lord Jesus Christ and those who make up the church which ever it is, safeguard us from that protect us from that grow us in that that our love may grow greater and greater. Thank you for your word. Thank you for its correction. Thank you for its instruction. Thank you Fritz rebuke.
We thank you that the Holy Spirit of God will take the word of God and use the word of God to conform us into the likeness of the dear precious son of God because that to be so are God.
We pray in Jesus name, amen brought this him with me, come thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mod I'm fixed upon it, mount of thy redeeming love. Here I raise mine. Ebenezer is thereby thy help on come and I hope by thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home. Jesus sought me when a stranger wandering from the fold of God he to rescue me from danger, interposed his precious blood 02 grace how great a debtor daily.
I'm constrained to be let thy goodness like a fetter buying my wandering heart to the prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. Here's my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above on the offer per benediction number the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. A man