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Truth in Palmyra

By Wally Fry

Seven Letters to Seven Churches-Ephesus Part 10

Revelation 2:1-7

“Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.” Revelation 2:4

Part 10. Wow. I hope readers don’t mind us really taking our time and poking around a bit. Actually, it really doesn’t matter, as that is what I am going to do anyway! Writing blog posts is as much for me as for readers; it is my way of studying. We might say, my blog posts are my study notes. So, part 10 it is.

So, here we are again. Ephesus: hard-working, doctrinally pure, yet they have left their “first love.”

Today, we are going to just poke around very briefly in the language of our verse and talk about the significance of some of it. I have said before, and I will say again; I am not a Greek scholar and have never studied it as a subject. That is great if you have, but not an absolute requirement for good Bible study. On the other hand, the New Testament was written in the Greek language, and being able to perform at least basic word studies is really useful!

In this case, we don’t even need any Greek, per se to glean some significance from the words we see up here. FYI, this also shows the usefulness of using more than one Bible translation in studies. Anyway, onward we go!

I love my King James Bible, I really do. I just enjoy reading it. It’s all I have really known, and what we use at our place for worship. However, as in any Bible, we have to be on the lookout for any possible biases on the part of translators. I am not saying there was any bias here, but we have a word added here in the KJV that adjusts the meaning here in just a small bit. Here we have the phrase, “I have somewhat against thee…..” That almost seems to mitigate the fault Jesus found with this church. The original manuscripts did not include that word, “somewhat.” In the originals, as well as many other translations, the phrase is much more direct. For instance, in the ESV the phrase reads, “But I have this against you.” No punches are pulled there; Jesus is direct in His condemnation of the actions of this church.

Next is the phrase, “…because thou hast left thy first love.” Who did the leaving here? Thou…you…them…us. We know God never leaves us; He tells us this:

“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Hebrews 13:5

“And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.” Genesis 28:15

“Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” Deuteronomy 31:6

“There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” Joshua 1:5

“And David said to Solomon his son, Be strong and of good courage, and do it: fear not, nor be dismayed: for the Lord God, even my God, will be with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, until thou hast finished all the work for the service of the house of the Lord.” 1 Chronicles 28:20

That’s just a few times, right? That’s a promise from God; He won’t ever leave us. Seemingly, the church at Ephesus had left Him; this is significant.

Even the word, “left,” in the KJV has deeper meaning than just a cursory glance might reveal. In search of a better word, some translations use, “abandoned,” which seems to be a more accurate description of just what happened here. Other meanings of this word from the Greek could be to have remitted, or sent forth, that first love. They did this, not God.

Well, maybe next time we will talk some about somethings that actually happen with a people or a church have left their first love. Until then, be blessed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seven Letters to Seven Churches-Ephesus Part 9

Revelation 2:1-7

“Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.” Revelation 2:4

Well, here we are. Ephesus: Doctrinally sound, hard-working, willing to confront false teachers. Yet, Jesus had a rebuke for this church. They had left their first love. What might that mean? After all, they were doing ALL the right things.

First of all, let’s address the seriousness of this warning, when our Lord says He has something against us, it is good sense to listen close. To be failing in such a way is a very serious matter.

It’s really not hard to figure out what the first love is. And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31. Friends, this is the most important thing; Jesus told us that when he spoke those words. 

It frankly doesn’t matter how many good works we do, or how successful we are in them; if they are not first and foremost motivated by our love for the Lord Jesus Christ, and following that our love for other humans, then they are meaningless.

We might say that the bodies and minds of this church were in it but not their hearts. Over the next few days, I will offer some more specifics and thoughts that might help us understand how this might actually play out in a local congregation.

In the meantime here is a quote from a John McArthur sermon on the church eat Ephesus. I thought it put the issue at Ephesus in stark and clear words:

How would you like it, ladies, if your husband came to you some time and said, “I don’t love you anymore, but nothing will change?” Is that enough? “I’ll still earn a living. I’ll still eat with you, sleep with you, drive with you. I’ll still father the children and be your husband. Nothing will change, I just don’t love you.” Devastating. How would you feel if your wife came to you and said, “I don’t love you, but nothing will change”? In a sense we couldn’t imagine saying that to the Lord. “Lord, I don’t love You like I once did. That’s gone. But I just want You to know I’ll still come. I’ll still work. I’ll still sing. I’ll still give. I’ll still even believe the truth. I just don’t love You.” We wouldn’t say that, but the Lord knows if it’s true.

Is that what our hearts are telling the Lord?

 

 

 

sermon

Seven Letters to Seven Churches-Ephesus Part 8

Revelation 2:1-7

“But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate” Revelation 2:6

Jesus offered some commendations for the church at Ephesus, followed by some negative issues He also had; this further commendation is sort of tacked on at the end, after the corrective action.

Why is this commendation tacked on after the initial commendation and the correction? I have no clue. So, if you have one feel quite free to share it; I would value your thoughts.

So, who were these guys, the Nicolaitanes? Nobody seems to know exactly, but there are several opinions around from different commentators.

It seems clear that they were heretical in some way, we just can’t say the way that was dogmatically.

There is a school of thought that says the Nicolaitanes were some who followed the teachings of Nicolas of Antioch, who may have been the same Nicolas mentioned as one of the original 7 deacons selected in Acts 6:5Some early church history indicates that Nicolas taught the idea the Christian freedom and the insignificance of the human body meant all sort of sexual immorality and other sins were perfectly okay. From the Gotquestions.com website: “It is possible that Nicolas became an apostate, denying the true faith and became part of a group holding “the doctrine of Balaam,” who taught Israel “to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality.” Clement of Alexandria says, “They abandoned themselves to pleasure like goats, leading a life of self-indulgence.” Their teaching perverted grace and replaced liberty with license.”

Other commentators don’t assign the group to any particular man or teacher but address it more as simply a problem of false liberty and sexual sins. One commentator said the word, Nicolah, in Greek, means, “let us eat,” leading some to reference back to encouraging others to eat meat offered to idols.

Whatever the specifics are, it is clear that our Lord hated the deeds of these folks. It seems certain that, no matter the specifics, that some sort of abuse of grace as a license to sin freely was going on here.

It’s interesting that they come up again later, in Jesus’ letter to the church at Pergamos. Unfortunately, that church seemed to be embracing the false teaching of the Nicolaitanes.

Both of the warnings concerning the Nicolaitanes seem especially relevant in some of today’s more progressive “Christian,” movements, where sins of the flesh, particularly those sexual in nature, seem to become more and more acceptable in the name of “grace.” Jesus didn’t like it then, and He doesn’t like it now.

 

 

 

 

Follow Me! God Calls a Young Prophet

1 Samuel 3

God has a call for all of us. In God’s plan, we all have a place and are part of that plan. It’s important to realize that things never surprise God; He either directs or allows to happen every single event which occurs. The call of Samuel the prophet is no different. God called him before he was even born!

If we go back to 1 Samuel 1 we can read the story of Samuel’s mother Hannah, and her encounter with the priest Eli. Hannah was childless and barren, and prayed so intently that Eli thought she must have been drunk. An aside here, but do we actually pray fervently enough that people think something is wrong with us? His mother prayed this:

“And she vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.” 1 Samuel 1:11

God listened, Hannah gave birth to Samuel, and just as she promised she gave and dedicated him to the service of the Lord; this is how young Samuel came to him with Eli at the time of our story. Likely, Samuel was a young teen at the time our events take place. Unfortunately, Eli had family issues, and these are important later. It would have been normal for Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phenehas, to have inherited Eli’s place in the priesthood. They, however, had issues. Read about them here. These young men had forfeited their place in God’s work.

So, our story recommences in 1 Samuel Chapter 3. Eli the priest was back on duty at the Temple, and this time the young Samuel was along. Both had retired for the evening, when God spoke to Samuel. Samuel, not understanding what was going on, ran to Eli to respond to the request he thought came from his mentor and teacher.

Finally, after 4 calls form the Lord, Samuel answered God’s call. Why four?

Well, for one thing, God speaking to the people had become rare in those days. The time of the judges was a rough spot for God’s chosen people, and prophecy was rare. “And the child Samuel ministered unto the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision.” 1 Samuel 3:1.

For another thing, Samuel did not yet know the Lord. This may be part of the above confusion, but we see, “Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, neither was the word of the Lord yet revealed unto him.” 1 Samuel 3:7. Most likely it indicates that, even though Samuel certainly knew of God, at this point he did not KNOW God in a personal way.

Some takeaways from this story:

Samuel was ready and willing. Even though he did not yet know the Lord in a personal way, he was receptive and ready for the message. His instant response when he thought it was Eli calling shows this.

Samuel had to know the Lord personally before anything else made sense. Friends, our brains can know everything there is to know about Jesus, but if our hearts are not made right by our repentance, faith and regeneration then it is nothing but a bunch of facts. Facts won’t save us.

Finally, Samuel was ready to do whatever he was commanded to do. The first thing Samuel was asked to do was tell his mentor Eli all about himself. He had to give his teacher the prophecy regarding what was to happen to Eli’s family because of their misdeeds. That must have been hard, but Samuel was willing.

Jesus is calling us each. Are we owners of a mind and heart open to the Gospel? Are we willing to turn to Him and have a personal relationship with Him? Once we have, are we willing to do whatever He asks, even if it seems difficult?

 

 

Just a Thought

If we look at the Word of God carefully and truthfully, it will tell us exactly what and who we are.


Hebrews 4:12 

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

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