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Truth in Palmyra

By Wally Fry

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The church at Ephesus

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 4

Revelation 2:1-7

“Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks” Revelation 2:1

Yes, yes…we are STILL there! I’m really not in any rush, and all I am doing here is sharing things that come to mind as I read, write, and even talk about these posts.

A couple of comments were made that are worth looking at. If you want to see them in context, head back to Part 3. Click on the names, and you will go to their blogs.

I believe that the correct translation of “candlesticks” would be a Menorah.

I agree – those Jewish Christians would have immediately recognized “seven lampstands” as a reference to the Tabernacle/Temple, which was to them (as Jews) the place where Gods glory dwells among us. The full description is somewhere in Exodus, but i forget where and im too lazy to look it up. But yes, this is definitely a direct reference to what we today (in English) term as “menorah”, and as Wally pointed out, there’s a lot to unpack in that one evocative little phrase.

You know something? This reference to something that readers would instantly get matters a bit. It’s just true that somethings in Scripture are shrouded in mystery and even uncertainty. We don’t get or agree on all things. By the way, that’s not a bad thing at all; if we just got it all, we would read once and move on to something else. I believe God keeps us guessing sometimes so that we will seek him more thoroughly by reading His Word. But, back to the the issue at hand!

On the other hand, sometimes Jesus says: “Hey, listen up!” Sometimes He wants us to just get it. Even though not all got His parables, they were always grounded in a reference readers would get, and that was relevant to their lives. We will see that over and over as we go through the seven churches of Asia; references are made to illustrate points readers would get because the references were real to their lives.

This candlestick reference would have been pretty clear to any Jewish readers of these letters; again we see that every word in the Old Testament points to Jesus who appeared in the flesh in the New Testament. That’s just pretty neat, in my book.

Here is a little something Jesus also said repeatedly as He wrote these letters: “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” He’s trying to make some things clear; are we listening?

 

Seven Letters to Seven Churches-Ephesus Part 3

Revelation 2:1-7

“Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks” Revelation 2:1

Well, here we are, still in the first verse! We have briefly talked about some of the symbology of Jesus walking among the candlesticks, particularly as it applies to the idea of seven representing the completeness of God and how this probably indicates the applicability of these letters to all churches at all times; we also covered that it seems the idea of Him walking among, and being with His churches. Why candlesticks though? He could have walked among something else, right?

What do candlesticks provide? Well, light of course. I have made reference to Scripture, from start to finish, as being a tapestry of redemption through Jesus Christ from start to finish. I didn’t make that up, that what any Bible scholar would tell you, too. Yet, we see common themes appearing time and time again in Scripture; light is one of those things. Light is used over an over as a symbol of God, Jesus Christ, and even His followers as reflections of that light.

There’s TONS of references to this, so here are just a few to illustrate the point a bit.

Before God spoke, there wasn’t any light! “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. Genesis 1:3.

God as light led the Israelites in the desert.And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.” Exodus 13:21,22.

Later, in the Tabernacle, we actually see a reference to 7 lamps! “And thou shalt make the seven lamps thereof: and they shall light the lamps thereof, that they may give light over against it.” Exodus 25:37.

He is the light that lights the world. “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:” John 1:9-12.

We are to walk in the light.“If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:” 1 John 1:6.

We are to BE the light of the world, as His reflections. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.  Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16.

So, is it significant that Jesus walked among candlesticks? Pretty sure it is!

 

Seven Letters to Seven Churches-Ephesus Part 2

Revelation 2:1-7

“Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;” Revelation 2:1

Friends, grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair and sit a spell; we are going to be in the Seven Letters to Seven churches for a bit. I keep finding as I study for this that there is far more detail and so many rabbit trails to chase, that we may never get done. So, we are going to take things really slow. We won’t be too long on any particular section, as I know most people’s blogging attention span short, and nobody really tends to read 2000 words. I know I tend not to unless I am just totally captured; since I don’t suspect I will totally capture anybody, short and hopefully sweet is the order of the day. So, we’ll just poke around verse by verse, see where things go and hopefully learn a thing or two together.

Today let’s talk some more about the authority behind these letters; I know we have covered that some, but repetition is not always bad.

These letters were written by Jesus Himself. That’s just pretty awesome. Of course, I believe that every word and every jot and tittle of Scripture was inspired by God; He delivered them to each and every writer throughout the ages. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17. I’m good with that, just as written, that being a reference to the completed Canon of Scripture. I’m really not that interested in debating those who would limit that to parts of Scripture; go find somebody who wants to and have at it, I suppose.

God inspired many to write different parts of Scripture. The Epistles of the New Testament, in particular, are God’s direct communication by way of some writer, to a particular group of people.

These letters are different, and they are different by reason of the author Himself. Each of these letters begins with something like: “Unto_____________, write.” These are the words of our Lord Himself to His churches.

I know there are those who tend to minimize those parts of Scripture that are not the direct words of Jesus Himself; we love those red letters, as we should. Friends, they may not be in red, but these are also the direct words of the Lord Jesus to us.

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