Letter to Ephesus 1
As we start looking at the letters dictated by Jesus Christ to John, we may well ask, why did Jesus want to write to these churches? Paul has the answer in Ephesians 5:25-27, using the picture of the church being the Bride of Christ: "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless." The world-wide church and every local expression of it is very precious to Jesus. He loves her with such a passion that He sacrificed Himself for her, provided His Word to cleanse and nourish her, and is intent on making the church fit to be in His presence for eternity.
Christ has invested so much in His church. These seven churches are examples of every local church, designed to be lampstands to display the light of Christ to a dark world (Revelation 1:20). Jesus had such a high ambition for those congregations, that He spoke personally to each city congregation – to encourage them where He saw them faithful to the gospel, and to warn those who had deviated from it. So He addressed, probably, the teaching elders in the churches ('angel' means 'messenger' – the 'stars' He holds in His powerful right hand (Revelation 1:20)). Their job, with the Lord's authority, was to bring each church into line with His purposes, so that they could be authentic gospel lights in their cities.
Ephesus had probably received more attention from apostolic teams than any other church. They had to deal with direct challenges from pagan cult worship (from the temple of Artemis/Diana – Acts 19:23-41), and wrong teaching from false apostles. However, they kept true to the apostles' teaching and endured persecution. The Lord had seen everything that had happened. He commended their faithful teaching, their commitment to work hard at gospel ministry, and their endurance under pressure. They had been rigorous in refusing to invite travelling teachers who refused to fully endorse the apostles' teaching. All those qualities were good … even though there was a big problem (Revelation 2:4).
Whatever the problem at Ephesus, and it was a big problem, Jesus does not minimise His approval of their attention to sound doctrine and hard work in His Name. The rigour with which they tested the teaching of each person who claimed to speak for God, banning those who contradicted the apostles, was exemplary. Today's churches can learn much from them. Some, in a rush for more members, more money and more popularity, have traded truth for unbiblical promises of exciting experience, health or wealth. They are more eager to support believers who have embraced the patterns of an anti-biblical society, than to rebuke them – even being willing to accept what the Bible condemns. Let them be willing to hear the affirmation of Jesus towards a church which was resolute in standing for truth, and repent (Revelation 3:19).
© Dr Paul Adams