Search

Truth in Palmyra

By Wally Fry

Category

revelation

Seven Letters to Seven Churches-Ephesus Part 14

Revelation 2:1-7

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

Today, we are closing up our discussion on what losing the first love means. It’s been fun, and I really appreciate all the good comments and thoughts. I’d like to start this one off by including three Scripture for reading.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

 “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” John 14:15

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” Matthew 28:18-20

I could probably just stop, let readers ponder those three verses, and most would probably get in advance the point I am making here.

Ephesus was BUSY; in fact, Jesus commended them for working themselves to the point of exhaustion. There are lot’s of busy, busy churches even today; many churches and individuals in them are just a blaze of talk and activity.

The question is: was Ephesus busy doing the right thing? Friends here is a truth. God loved us so much He gave us His Son to die so that we might be with Him someday. We show our love for the Savior by doing the things He has commanded us to do. Finally, we are clearly commanded to reach out to all the world with the Gospel and make disciples.

Here is the actual point: anything we do as Christians, in the name of Christianity, that does not have as its ultimate goal the spread of the Gospel is just wasted busy work. Anything.

While we are told to be good citizens, and participation in the political process is honorable, our churches are not political organizations. Politics never saved anybody.

We are clearly told to help those who need helping, yet our churches are not primarily charitable organizations. Charity unaccompanied by the Gospel is busywork.

Fellowship with our brethren is sweet; yet, our churches are not social clubs. Baptists such as me, “Meet to eat, and eat to meet.” If being social with the brethren is the final goal and not the edification and encouragement of the brethren to take the Gospel to the world, then that is busywork.

We are clearly commanded to come to know the Lord better through study of His Word; yet if we educate ourselves until our heads blow up and never apply our learning to the lost world around us, then that is busywork.

We show the people around us that we love them by helping them meet their needs. Salvation is every person’s greatest need. If that is not the be-all, end-all mission of every local assembly of believers then we have abandoned our first love.

 

Seven Letters to Seven Churches-Ephesus Part 13

Revelation 2:1-7

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

Hello friend! Again, I apologize for the temporary lag in posting in this series. Time in the day is limited, and sometimes other things have to take priority.

As readers may recall, we have been in verse 4 of the letter to the church at Ephesus, and have been discussing what it might mean that they had lost, or abandoned, their first love. In the first post on that, we discussed the loss of this love as sort of a fading of fervor such as married couples sometimes experience in the later years of their relationship. Next, we discussed how perhaps our love for doctrine, while important, might actually have taken the place of love for one another and for the love of Jesus and our personal relationship with Him.

I want to lead with a comment from ourladyofblahblahblah, on a previous post in this series. Incidentally, I think that wins the prize for blog name of the century. Anyway she had this to say:

“Im not entirely sure i would agree that the first love that they lost was their love for the Lord. Out of curiosity, I checked a Greek interlinear for the word we render as “love” in the english translation – it is *agapen*, which suggests charitable love, service towards one another, and that suggests to me that it refers to the brotherly love they once had for each other (which Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians mentions they are well known for). This fits – they’ve got their doctrine down, they work tirelessly, they do all the things that would seem to indicate that their love for the Lord is alive and well…but perhaps they are not loving each other particularly well. (As a member of a church body known for its concern for purity of doctrine, i can tell you i have seen how concern for doctrine, when put above love for neighbour, can tear a church apart. When doctrine is being used like a hammer to crush those beneath it…well, something has gone terribly wrong.)”

I have no problem with the above statement at all. We certainly can’t say dogmatically what the “first love,” really was; that is precisely why we are poking around in various possibilities. It could be one of them, some of them, or all of them. I agree with what my dear friend said, and want to expand on it a bit.

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up” 1 Corinthians 13:4

I include that because follows next is an excerpt from a series I wrote on 1 Corinthians 13. It’s actually most of the entire post:

“I am going to stir up a spot of trouble right away today. I am a King James Bible guy. After you all throw things at me, please hear me out. I also like lots of other translations and find them useful. I have numerous translations as well as numerous Study Bibles by different Bible teachers. It’s all good. I, however, do all of my reading from the King James Bible and that is what I use in this Blog. The main reason I do that is simple: those King James translators knew how to use some English! King James English is often difficult, but it is also often very accurately descriptive as well. We have a great case of that descriptiveness in the verses above.

1 Corinthians 13 and 1 John 4 are the two biggest descriptions of love found in the Bible and a verse from each is included in this article.  See anything that arouses your interest? Of course, you do! In  1 John the translators consistently used the word “love” to describe love; it is used some 27 times. In 1 Corinthians, the translators used the word “charity” to describe love; there it is used 9 times.  What we have to understand is that the original word in all cases is some form of “agape

Sometimes when we read 1 Corinthians 13, we tend to dismiss the word used by simply saying, “Oh, that just means love there.” Is it possible that there is more meaning there? Let’s look at that quickly. The King James translators were not stupid, they surely knew they could have just used our word “love” in each case; they didn’t just become confused. Additionally, language translation is sometimes both art and science and word for word translations do not always work. Translators sometimes have to look at the original intent of meaning they see in the original language and put the  same meaning in the new language.

Let’s look briefly at the English language usage of the words, “Love” and “Charity.” I think in most of our minds a difference would come to mind immediately; it does in mine. The use of the word “Charity” seems to imply an action; it seems to apply that something is happening versus something simply being felt. Does that sound familiar?”

So, this church was busy; this church nailed doctrine. Had they forgotten another reason our Lord formed the church as a local, called out assembly? Friends, love is far more than just a mushy feeling; I would maintain that in some ways, feelings don’t even matter. Putting actions behind our profession of love is what really matters. I can’t will myself to love the unloveable, but I can will myself to put my supposed impression in action and take care of the unloveable. That action, propelled by the power of the Holy Spirit to change me, will result in real love, every time.

Are we so wrapped up in “doing,” and doctrine that we forget that we are a body composed of real people, with real issues and real needs? If we have, then we may have abandoned our first love.

 

 

 

 

 

Seven Letters to Seven Churches-Ephesus Part 12

Revelation 2:1-7

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

To recap: here we have Ephesus, a church that is on the doctrinal straight and narrow, willing to confront false teaching and just doing a lot of things right. Yet, Jesus condemns them for having left their first love. As we discussed in the previous post, that could be a simple fading of the joyous love they felt for the Lord when they first came to believe, rather like a married couple when the honeymoon is over.

We are going to meander a bit today, as I have lots’ on my mind and may wander a bit. Maybe they had left their love for Jesus, and their love for each other? As some pointed out in comments, both can apply. Not only that, but the two are inexorably tied together, and can’t really exist apart from one another. We can’t truly love our brother until we properly love God. If we love God, we WILL love our brother…and on it goes.

Today we are going to look at the relationship between doctrinal adherence and love, as it seems to apply to Ephesus.

In the work I am part of, we fancy ourselves to be the final bastion, and keepers of proper Doctrine. We stand on it, we love it, and we teach it. Just ask us, we will tell you. I am totally okay with that. Truth matters and I believe we have done a fine job of gleaning proper doctrine from God’s Word. God expects us to seek and stand on the truth in the Bible.

I like to serve with people who think and believe like I do, even on secondary issues. That’s normal; we like to be with people like us. I have no problem whatsoever with that, as it makes things go smoothly.

Can we go too far? Yeah, we can. I think we can fall into sort a “doctrinal legalism,” where we lost sight of what matters and get bound up in things that don’t. How did God show His great love for us? He saved us. What, then is the best way we can show love to those around us? Preach that message properly. Look, I will die on the hill of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone; if Christians don’t die on that hill, souls will die and be separated from God forever. On the other hand, is sprinkling versus dunking my hill to die on? I mean, sprinklers have it wrong; water immersion is correct. Yet, do I need to die on that hill, or just not go to church with those folks?

What I mean by this, is how do we interact with people on these secondary issues? Especially, now do we deal with those who don’t believe regarding them? I will use a real-life occurrence to illustrate. I am a cessationist, and not interested in a debate about it here btw. I don’t believe tongues are a gift for today. Some do, and that’s okay. Anyway a few years back I encountered a young lady who was out of the church and, by her own statement, not a believer. She understood my Baptist background and was quick to bring up the topic of tongues. It seemed evident she wanted a debate about the issue. While that might be fun, it was not on the table. Why? Because she was, by her own admission, not saved. I could have had the debate, and at the end, she would still be lost. So, I just sidestepped that and asked why she wouldn’t believe. I was shocked. She wanted to believe, but didn’t think she could because…drum roll…she had never spoken in tongues! So, we had a little talk about that; we talked about by grace alone, by faith alone. I don’t know how it ended up for her, but I do know that she was closer than if I had chosen to debate doctrine with her.

I am a premillennial, pre-tribulation rapture kind of guy. I believe it to be so; you may not. When a person we know is feeling hopeless for the future and what it holds, is that the time to resoundly correct them on their crummy eschatology? Probably not. What really matters?

Titus 2:13  Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;

If we get so broiled up on the fine points of doctrine that we forget the One we love, then we have a problem.

Friends, doctrine does matter. Truth matters, That is why Jesus commended the church at Ephesus for theirs; doctrinal purity pleases God.

On the other hand, our relationship is with Jesus, not His doctrines. Maybe Ephesus had forgotten that?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seven Letters to Seven Churches-Ephesus Part 11

Revelation 2:1-7

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

So, what was really the problem with the church at Ephesus? Everybody seems to agree that they had stopped loving the Lord as they ought to have been loving Him; yet, we are sort of stuck at the question: What might it look like to not love the Lord like we ought to be? As Dr. Phil likes to say, we need to put verbs in our sentences.

I suppose most people remember when we first fell in love with our spouses, and the almost giddy desire we felt to be with them, court them and please them. I think in most cases, our live sort of revolved around them. Sadly, most of us also know how that usually works out over some years; the devotion becomes less and less until sometimes we are just going through the motions with our spouses. We have lost that first love.

Now, how many of us know believers like that? Folks who were almost giddy with glee and anticipation about the new relationship they had found, only to slide into apathy and disinterest in a few years? I am pretty sure we all know folks like that; we may have BEEN folks like that in our own lives.

Now, it may seem odd to raise this; because after all, wasn’t the Lord just commending this church for being so hardworking? Yes, He was. Friends, it’s just a truth that most of the work, in most churches, is done by a few people. A local assembly of believers can have a wonderful reputation for being a hard-working church, and yet that work is getting done by the efforts of a minority.

That’s just not a sustainable model for the local church. I don’t care how enthusiastic the hard workers are, eventually they either tire, get too old, or die. We have churches today full of people who honestly think coming to preaching for an hour a week constitutes sacrificial service to our Lord. Yet, outside of that, they have no interest in anything else. They want to get fed for an hour by the preacher but have no interest in providing spiritual nutrition to the lost and dying world around them. They have lost their love for the Lord Jesus and His people.

Tell your spouse this; I dare you: Tell them you still love them, but the only time you are going to come around is for supper. See how that goes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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?

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Seven Letters to Seven Churches-Ephesus Part 7

Revelation 2:1-7

“I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted” Revelation 2:2-3

The church at Ephesus was, at the time this letter was written, an exemplary example of a doctrinally sound church. They not only understood what was correct and incorrect doctrinally but were willing to examine teachers and speak against those teaching falsehoods.

In some ways, their doctrinal purity might seem surprising. Being in a place which was, as we discussed earlier, the center for the worship of the goddess Artemis(Diana,) would have made the struggle to stay pure both doctrinally and morally difficult. The economic and social pressures in such a place would have made the temptation to compromise in order to have some peace quite pressing; yet, apparently, they did not.

It certainly helped that the apostle Paul seemed to have provided much personal leadership and guidance to this church in its formative years; he, along with personal proteges of his, was very involved in the formation of this church. The efforts to point new, enthusiastic believers in the right doctrinal direction started early. In  Acts 18:24-28, when the mighty preacher Apollos showed up, Priscilla and Aquila were quick to teach him the proper Gospel and point him the right direction. Apollos then moved on, spreading the truth with great power and effect. Paul, returning to Ephesus on his Third Missionary Journey, encountered 12 men who were possible disciples of John the Baptist, or even previous students of Apollos who lacked a full understanding of the truth. Paul quickly set them straight and stayed in the area for three years. Ephesus became a hub from which the Gospel truth spread mightily to surrounding areas.

Paul’s interest and influence in the doctrinal purity of Ephesus did not end when he left. Still later in his third missionary journey, Paul summoned church leaders to him from the island of Miletus and warned them that false teachers would come in attempting to spread lies and heresies. Acts 20:16-38. Still, later, Paul would write to his young son in the faith, Timothy as he pastored that church warning him of the dangers he faced concerning false teachers. 1 Timothy 1:3-7 and 2 Timothy 1:13-15.

It seems this church listened to the warnings because as Jesus wrote His letter to them, they had pretty much nailed it in the area of doctrinal purity, discernment, and dealing with false teachers among them. Jesus said well done, and we should too. This is an example to us all…but…..

Next time we will talk briefly about the Nicolaitines, and then head on to that pesky…but…..

 

 

 

 

Seven Letters to Seven Churches-Ephesus Part 6

Revelation 2:1-7

“I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted” Revelation 2:2-3

Well, here we are, still in the second verse; in reality, we are slipping into verse three briefly also. We may poke around here for a few posts. I suspect after Ephesus we may move through the others some quicker, as there may be some thoughts common to them all. I really don’t know yet!

Here we continue with Jesus’ commendations for this church; they are many. We just have some good things going in in the Church at Ephesus. They had been around for probably 40 years at the time of this writing, had worked out some issues, and were doing some great things.

Jesus knew their “labor.” This is more than just casual, half-hearted work for the Lord. The word here denotes not just routine work, but toil and effort to the point of exhaustion. It doesn’t look like there were a lot of pew warmers in the Ephesus Church; this local assembly was apparently taking the message from inside the church to the community of Ephesus in a tireless manner.

Jesus knew their “patience.” Here we see an allusion to hard work and patience in the face of what likely was difficult circumstances. The city of Ephesus was the epicenter for the worship of the goddess of fertility Diana(Artemis.) The worship of fertility gods and sexual immorality just go hand in hand. People would come to the temple of Artemis and engage in sexual immorality under the guise of worship. I am sure some didn’t really give two hoots about Artemis but were only looking to satisfy their own cravings with a ready-built excuse. Then, as now, nobody wants to hear that message, and it must have been received with some hostility. Yet, the church at Ephesus persevered. The church at Ephesus certainly caused the perception of economic uproar, as we can see in Acts 19, when the silversmith Demetrius stirred up a riot in town by claiming that the Christians were going to ruin their livelihood. It’s not a stretch here to think that perhaps the Christians in Ephesus were themselves pushed to the periphery of the economy, perhaps facing financial and economic struggles of their own. Yet, they persevered.

The Christians at Ephesus understood what their mission was, and for whom it was for. Jesus told them this, “And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted”vs 3. Even though their execution was not always perfect, they seem to have understood why they were there, and for whom, and worked tirelessly in difficult circumstances for the Kingdom.

Compared to our own day and time, when many would claim that to come to both Sunday School and preaching on the same day, there is a lot to find commendable in this church. Jesus said as much!

Next up, we will look at the pursuit of doctrinal purity in the Church at Ephesus, then most likely a short discussion of the infamous Nicolaitanes.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: