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Truth in Palmyra

By Wally Fry

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Ephesus

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 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.

Seven Letters to Seven Churches-Ephesus Part 5

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:” Revelation 2:2

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

Yay, we finally made it to our 2d verse!

Jesus starts here with some commendations, some kudos, for this church. He had something good to say to six of the seven churches; only the church at Laodicea received no positive words from our Lord.

I know thy worksJesus knows. I have said this before: I am absolutely not any sort of Greek scholar. However, even cursory use of a good concordance and word study, or inter linear Bible, can really shed light on deeper meaning in Scripture. In this case, “I know,” means more than it might appear. This is not some gradual acquisition of knowledge Jesus is coming to. The tense seems to be more like, “I have known your works.” He knows them perfectly from the beginning to the end. It seems to me this harkens back to Jesus holding the seven stars in His hand and walking among the candlesticks. His literal presence and omniscience gives Him perfect knowledge of His churches. Because of that He can evaluate them perfectly.

After Jesus tells the church that He knows their works, He proceeds to evaluate them. I think we’ll leave off there and pick up next time.

Just a Thought

Revelation 2_4

When we start loving the things we are “doing,” and our doctrine more than we love our Jesus….we have a problem, and Jesus has a problem with us.

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