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Devotionals

Christ’s Letters to the Church (Part 4)

Before we jump into the first of the Seven Churches in Revelation 2 and 3 we need to understand something about the geography of these Churches. If your Bible has maps at the end, please reference the one showing the countries and cities in the New Testament. The one I have shows Ephesus on the coast, followed by Smyrna higher up. Still higher and a little inland is Pergamum with Thyatira just below it. Then below Thyatira comes Sardis and Philadelphia with Laodicea slightly towards the coast. It is almost circular in shape and was what was known as the Postal Route. Although the Roman Empire was extremely wicked, they linked their territory with good harbors and roads to make commerce, trade and travel efficient. This included a good postal system. Each letter was written to a Church and after it was read to the Body of Christ it was sent onto the next. This means that each Church heard the message intended for all the Churches. What I intend doing is giving the text and then making comments … but first allow me to introduce the Church. The first letter in chapter two was to the Church at Ephesus.

Rev 2:1 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. 4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. 6 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. 1) An introduction to the Church at Ephesus. On Paul’s second missionary journey (AD 52), it seems as though the initial steps of planting a Church at Ephesus took place

Ac 18:18 Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchrea because of a vow he had taken. 19 They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. Then, the last time Paul met up with the elders of the Church that had been planted was at Miletus years later.

(1) He had a pressing message for the elders.

Ac 20:17 From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church.

He was on his way to Jerusalem and would not return again as he knew personally and had been told by the Holy Spirit that he would be incarcerated. Please read Acts 20:17-32 for the full text … if you have time. (2) Paul was not just a missionary. He was a pastor and preacher. He was concerned for families … “house to house” and for the masses … “publically”.

Ac 20:20 You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house.

He was passionate about the work God gave him to do, especially preaching and teaching the things that would be helpful. That is, spiritually helpful that would impact their lives, families, careers, congregation, etc. Right here we have a huge lesson for pastors and church leaders. Preaching and teaching that which will be spiritually help to the congregation and impact their daily living must be paramount. After this, pastoral care is vital. These two aspects of ministry ought to ensure a healthy Church. (3) Apart from being a missionary, pastor and preacher, Paul was an evangelist. When you understand his Jewish background in legalism and works, then his conversion … you can understand his passion to see souls saved.

Ac 20:21 I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.

Irrespective who the Christian pastor is (or the leaders of the Church are), evangelism MUST be part of their weekly ministry. The Gospel and the Gospel invitation needs to come through in all preaching and teaching. Bishop Frank Retief was a good Bible teacher and a sterling evangelist. On his pulpit he had one word written down to remind him to preach the gospel all the time. It was the word “eternity”. When eternity is in the mind the gospel will flow through the mouth! (4) Paul was emphatic that the elders protect themselves and their flock.

Ac 20:28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.

Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. The Spirit of God calls and makes the elders (leaders), requiring they shepherd God’s Blood bought Church. When you consider what God did to create the Church (incarnation, virgin birth, ministry, arrest, whipping, crucifixion, death, wrath, burial, resurrection and ascension), you understand the huge cost to God Himself and why He requires leaders watch themselves spiritually before they watch the flock … for God! (5) Paul, inspired by the Spirit understands that false teachers and preachers will infiltrate the Church.

Ac 20:29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.

These savage wolves, wicked false preachers, will even come from inside the church to hurt the flock by teaching error seeking to woo congregants. The church today has a responsibility to carefully monitor who they permit into their pulpit. (6) Finally Paul reminds them to be on their guard against the savage wolves as he did daily for three years.

Ac 20:31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.

Congregation and Church leaders need to be careful and guard the Church jealously because the Church belongs to Jesus. The Church is Blood bought! Compare the letter to this Church at Ephesus with what Paul needed to say to their elders in Acts 20. The Lord of the Church has some harsh words for this Church … they lost their first love even though they were doctrinally so sound. They no longer exist!

Our Father and our God, we have only introduced the Church at Ephesus and already we see they did not remain true to You. They lost their first love. O Lord, mercifully prevent this from happening to us and our church. Amen.

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