Revelation chp 2 vs 1 to 7 - Ephesus - A Boring Orthodoxy - JS Gillespie - 24082021 

Ephesus, the first of the 7 churches of Revelation. 
Ephesus is unique amongst these 7 in that we have 3 other letters written to them in the scripture, only Laodicea is mentioned elsewhere as a footnote in the Colossian letter and Thyatira referenced in Acts. 
There may be a reason as to why we have so much on Ephesus elsewhere in the NT – that we may be given an understanding of the fundamental problem identified in Ephesus. 
The first problem of these 7 churches is the problem at Ephesus; it is this problem which is fundamental to the other 7 and critical for us to understand, fortunately we have the key to unlock the mystery! 
The fundamental problem at Ephesus: 

“you have left your first love” (2:4) 

Probably out of the 7 churches of Revelation I have heard more ministry from Ephesus than any of the others, with Laodicea a close 2nd. It would be and has been very easy to take this verse and to do violence to the verse and use it to berate the believer. 
That is not only an unproductive approach but is also an erroneous one. 
Over the years I have heard this text used to chasten the Christian that they have left their original intensity of affection to Christ, that their current levels of devotion and love for Christ are insufficient and that that intensity, devotion and passion must be augmented to previous levels.  
This is very misleading. 

It is an unachievable goal based on an 
Unjustified assumption leading to an 
Untenable exhortation 

Why do I say that? 

The assumption that passion was better and stronger in the past in anyones Christian life is clearly a presumption; what makes you so sure that it was? 
That that passion / intensity of affection needs to be increased is an unachievable standard. How much is more? How great is greater? How strong is strong enough? How far is far enough? If I don’t know how much more passion I need, how can I ever know that I have enough? 
This is an impossible ideal founded on an unjustifiable assumption. 
This is almost a salvation by works; you need to love more and enough, serve with a greater passion than the one that we presume you once had!  

This is not the quantity nor even the quality of a believers devotion to Christ this is the presence or absence of it as a fact! 

Its not the kind of love but the reality of that relationship that is absent! 

Instead of a relationship with Christ being number 1, that relationship became number 2. 

Like Adam in the garden (2:7) the tree of knowledge of good and evil, deceived by Satan, crept in and became the priority. 

That is why 1 + 2 Timothy are so important; these letters give us the background as to what had been making inroads at Ephesus: 

•    Hedonism (1:19ff; 3:1ff; 4:12) 
•    Antinominism (1:19ff) 
•    Jewish mysticism and the mystery religions (1:4ff; 4:7)  
•    Legalism (1:7ff) and asceticism (4:3ff) 
•    Materialism (6:10) 
•    Demonic deception (4:1ff) 

There appears to be so many threads to the problems facing the Ephesian church, so many that scholars struggle to bring those thread together. 
What was the challenge at Ephesus? 

•    Judaisers teaching the law? 
•    Was it an early form of Gnosticism? 
•    Do we have here in 1 Timothy the whole spectrum of problems which we could encounter as a Christian? 

This is why at the centre of 1 Timothy in 3:16 we have THE GREAT MYSTERY, far surpassing anything you could be offered in any of the mystery religions! 
False teachers had been making inroads; not so much to simply take the edge off of devotion to Christ but to present another gospel and keep believers from enjoying a real relationship with Christ and prevent unbelievers from ever knowing Christ! 

An unexpected link perhaps between Revelation and pastoral epistles 
This is the 4th epistle to the Ephesians: 

•    Ephesians 
•    1 Timothy 
•    2 Timothy 
•    Revelation chapter 2 

Decisions have consequences, a little leven, leveneth the whole lump. 
Disasters have an origin 
Problems don't just appear as if by magic and out of the blue 
It is easier to nip a problem in the bud than deal with a full blown catastrophe. 
The Ephesian epistle is an incredibly Christ centred epistle with an exhortation to be 'filled with all the fullness of Christ' 
The church is the body, the building, and the bride of Christ. 
Probably the most Christ centred of all the NT epistles 
cf. Eph 1:10 – God's purpose. 

Perhaps we have illustration of this idea in the 2nd marriages / relationships of the patriachs and others in the OT – with affections drifting and distracted and resulting in all of the contention and problems subsequently: Abraham, Sarah and Hagar, Jacob and his wifes and concubines, Elkannah and his 2 wives; Solomon and his wives! 

By 1 & 2 Timothy, the church at Ephesus is drifting quite a bit 
Paul needs to emphasise the centrality of Christ to the Ephesians in 1 Timothy 3:16, as well as addressing key doctrines: 

•    Resurrection (2 Tim 2) 
•    Salvation by justification by faith through the gospel (1 Tim 1:5ff) 
•    Moral compromise 

Now by Revelation chapter 2, they have left their first love (2:4). 

To each of the 7 churches: 

    “I know…” (2:2)  

He knows all about me, nothing escapes his knowledge and understanding. 
Cf. 1 Thess 1:3: 

‘works’ but no faith? 
‘labour’ but no love? 
‘patience’ but no hope? 

Halfway to paradise 
The problem at Ephesus is the problem since the beginning of the Bible; their added problem is their attempt at a solution to that problem; their attempt to get back to where they were; their attempt to overcome the problem they perceive they have. 
The wrong diagnosis results in the incorrect treatment. 
Sensitive enough to appreciate that something isn’t right but not spiritual enough to know what is wrong. 
They decide to run faster on the same treadmill! 
Agitation in response to inadequacy! 

More meetings 
More preaching  
Longer meetings  
More activities  

More is only the solution if less is the problem! 

•    Works without faith 
•    Labour without love 
•    Patience without hope 

•    Lots of activity 
•    Lots of intensity 
•    Lack of reality 

They have let their first love (2:4). 
How did that happen? 

1.    Failure to grasp the blindingly obvious 

The all sufficiency of Christ 
As the foundation and cornerstone of the building, the head of the body and the bridegroom of the church. 
Christianity is all about Christ 

2.    Willingness to neglect the essentials 

The centrality of Christ 

3.    Distraction to something else (2 Timothy) 

False teachers 
False teaching 
The world 
Distracted by the utterly irrelevant 

and then inevitably: 

'thou hast left thy first love' (2:4) 

The 'angel' (2:1) 

John Baptist is described as an 'aggelos' in Mark 1:2; Luke 7:27, messengers of John Baptist (Luke 7:24) 
Messengers of the Lord (Luke 9:52) 
Consider the ministering spirits of Heb 1:14 
The angel – likely to be the messenger or correspondent of the church. 
It would seem unlikely that the apostle would be writing to an angel, a physical letter to a spiritual being is a little improbable! 

2:1 'right hand' 

cf. 'sit thou at my right hand' 
Place of dignity? 
The place the church ought to have? 
The dignity bestowed on the church by Christ. 
Do I live up to it? 

2:1 'walketh in the midst of the 7 golden lampstands' 

'there am I in the midst of them' 
Christ in the midst of His people 
'golden' : marked by a sense of the Divine 
'lampstands' : shine light; Christ like 

2:2 Ephesus certainly marked by activity and labours (v2) despite drifting from Christ, we can be busy and active and yet having left our first love! 

'first love' 

First in what sense? 
First in order? 
Is Christ the: 

•    First person 
•    First object 
•    First religion 

They have ever given their affections to? 
Probably not! 
First rather in: 

•    Priority 
•    Importance 
•    Pre-eminence 

Rather than first in: 

•    Primacy 

What is this? 
Perhaps evidenced by how little it takes to distract me from Him! 

They have drifted away from: 

•    Devotion to a person 
•    Care for a person 
•    Enjoyment of that personal relationship 

to mere activity! 

In their affections. 

Ephesus had: 

•    works 
•    labour 
•    patience 

But something seems to be missing? 

“work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father” (1Th 1:3) 

what about the: 

•    faith 
•    love 
•    hope 

This is not what we do but what we are! 
This is not Christian service but Christian character. 
This is a consequence of being 'with' Christ rather than doing things 'for' Christ. 
They certainly have a sense of morality, a sensitivity to evil 

•    Activity 
•    Sensitivity 
•    Discernment 

And yet: 

•    Activity in service (2:2) 
•    Perseverance in trial (2:2) 
•    Sensitivity to evil (2:2) 
•    Discernment of teachers (2:2) 
•    Adherence to the truth (2:2) 

Is not the same as holding to and is not necessarily preventative of leaving our 'first love' (2:4) 
This perhaps causes me to ask the questions; was all of this: 

•    Activity in service (2:2) 
•    Perseverance in trial (2:2) 
•    Sensitivity to evil (2:2) 
•    Discernment of teachers (2:2) 
•    Adherence to the truth (2:2) 

Merely religious fervour? 
Merely orthodoxy? 
Merely self serving pride? 

Perhaps like the proud orthodoxy that can be seen in any religious system, defending its traditions, position and orthodoxy? 

Religious fervour but lacking personal devotion 
Religion without relationship? 
Cult without a personal Christ? 
Preaching sermons but never encountering Jesus? 

What is the content to this our first love? 

•    His Person 
•    His Presence 
•    His Peace 
•    His Personal ministry 
•    His Prayerful communion 

This is a relationship with a person 
First the person, not the religion, not the activity but the person 
That relationship with Christ is pre-eminent 

1.    His Person 
•    in the scriptures 
•    in prophecy 
•    in picture 
•    in patterns 
•    in the gospel 

2.    His Presence 

•    'Jesus Himself drew near' 
•    'Lo I am with you' 
•    'There am I in the midst of them' 
•    'I shall not leave you comfortless, I will come to you' 
•    'The joy of the Lord is thy strength' 

3.    His Peace 

•    That surpasses understanding 
•    The peace of the upper room 
•    'my peace give I unto you' 

4.    Prayer 

•    Communion with Him is two way 

5.    Personal Communion 

•    'God is in you if a truth' 
•    'let him speak as the oracles of God' 

'Thou hast left thy first love' 

Here is the first church 
Here is the first condemnation 
The first condemnation of the first church 
This becomes the primary, the root condemnation for each of the failing churches, leading to all of the condemnations thereafter. 

Departure here from their first love, results in: 

•    Distraction to false gods at Pergamos 
•    Deception at Pergamos and Thyatira 
•    Doctrinal confusion at Pergamos 
•    Defilement at Thyatira 
•    Self deception of Laodicea – quite content with what they are and yet they are a million miles away 

Leaving our first love is a prelude to disaster 
It is easy to see how that could happen when the heart of Christian experience has been removed. 

Doctrinal exposition is critical, there must be a faithfulness to the Word of God but who expounds the Word of God? 

Sound exposition of the Word of God must be with the same Spirit of God who gave it! 
Any sound exposition of scripture, any presentation of the Gospel, must be founded on a sound devotion to Christ, otherwise I am just an empty vessel, a tinkling symbol. 

Verse 5: Better days in the past “remember” 
They had put Christ first in the past 
He had at one point been their first love 

'the first works' : 

A difference between 'duty' and 'devotion' 
This is not the same as has been done 'for my name's sake' (2:3) 
This is the distinction we often see in a family setting, in family relationships, what goes wrong at times: 

•    To do things for someone 
•    To do things with someone 

There is a distinction between the two 
Works not so much 'for' Him, as many well intentioned works can be, but rather 'works' or encounters that 'focus' on Him. 

It is like the distinction Peter makes in 1 Peter 2: 

•    A Holy priesthood 
•    A Royal priesthood 

The distinction? 

•    Serving God in the temple 
•    Serving for God amongst men 

It is like the distinction between Mary and Martha: 

•    Luk 10:40-43 “But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” 

It is perhaps the distinction too, between 1 and 2nd Timothy: 

•    1 Timothy – Christ at the heart of the assembly and at the centre of Timothy's experience 
•    2 Timothy – Timothy transformed by that experience

From a bible teaching series on the book of Revelation and the 7 churches