Right Doctrine, Wrong Motive
Author: Terry Dashner, Sr. Pastor of Faith Fellowship Church in Broken Arrow, OK 74012
Revelation Chapter Two (the church of Ephesus)
I will attempt to underscore the need for love of God and love of neighbor in the church today.
I wish to express five imperatives about the church at Ephesus and how it relates to the church today.
First imperative: The church of Ephesus had a history.
"The church at Ephesus, a very prominent city on the western part of the Roman province of Asia, had enjoyed the ministry of Paul for three years (Acts 20:31). Timothy also had apparently served this church as pastor. Later, before his exile to the Isle of Patmos, the Apostle John had served as one of the pastors of this church." (Prophecy Knowledge Handbook, John Walvoord)
"Ephesus was a large city with an excellent harbor, and it was known at this time as the marketplace of Asia. It was also a banking center because of its great vault in the Temple of Diana, which was considered the safest place in Asian Minor. Ephesus was also an important religious city. The Temple of Diana (or Artemus, as the Greeks called her) was considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The goddess Diana was the patron of all the prostitutes and, with her many-bosomed image, represented fertility and sexuality. Many writers in ancient times described the immorality of the city.
"One pillar in the Ephesian economy was the production of silver images of Diana by the many silversmiths who plied their trade there. Devotees of this goddess brought much gain to the city (Acts 19:23-27). Black magic was also widely practiced in Ephesus." (There's A New World Coming, Hal Lindsey)
At the time of this writing, John was exiled on the Isle of Patmos and the Roman Emperor Domitian was persecuting Christians severely. So, the seven churches—Ephesus being the first addressed—were receiving comfort, rebuke, and praise from Jesus as they faced uncertain times.
Today’s church has an unbroken link to the early church, and that link should not be forgotten. About a hundred years ago, scholars began questioning the legitimacy of the authors of the New Testament cannon. From this revisionist attitude regarding the New Testament strange philosophies began to emerge in the modern church—existentialism, modernism, post-modernism, and etc. These philosophies did nothing to enhance our understanding of God as revealed in the New Testament. My thoughts regarding the “next new thing” are to approach it cautiously. If the New Testament tradition has served us well for almost 2000 years, I don’t think we should break tradition with revision. Our church history binds us together and gives us the shoulders of great men and women upon which we are to stand. Our unique history gives us common ground, and we need its history to align and secure our future.
Second imperative: In the church of Ephesus there were counterfeits.
In 1984 an estimated 10,000 physicians had phony foreign medical degrees that brought one broker of fraudulent diplomas $1.5 million over three years, a congressional panel was told. Claude Pepper, Democrat-Florida, said many American citizens may be receiving medical treatment from doctors who lied on their medical school loan applications, and used the money not to go to school but to pay a broker for fake documents claiming they completed school and training. Pedro DeMesones, who served a three-year prison sentence for mail fraud and conspiracy, told the panel that in three years of "expediting" medical degrees, he provided about 100 clients with false transcripts showing they had fulfilled medical requirements of schools they didn't attend. "Clients paid me from $5225 to $27,000 for my services," DeMesones said. "In all I earned about $1.5 million in those three years. I only got to keep about $500,000 of this total. The rest went for bribes and expenses." Spokesman Review, December 8, 1984.
The church should “test” the teachings of anyone who stands and presents himself or herself as a preacher, teacher, prophet, evangelist, apostle or pastor. The test is this: Does his or her proclamation, manner of living, and “love for the brethren” line up with the word of God? If error is noted consistently, then the leadership or church board needs to take action. It is never easy for leadership to deal with dismissal. Only after much prayer and trying to resolve the problem one-on-one with the one in error should extreme measures of dismissal (withdraw from fellowship) be employed.
Third Imperative: In the church of Ephesus there were admirable qualities.
In his book One Crowded Hour, Tim Bowden describes an incident in Borneo in 1964. Nepalese fighters known as Gurkhas were asked if they would be willing to jump from airplanes into combat against the Indonesians. The Gurkhas didn't clearly understand what was involved, but they bravely said they would do it, asking only that the plane fly slowly over a swampy area and no higher than 100 feet. When they were told that the parachutes would not have time to open at that height, the Gurkhas replied, "Oh, you didn't mention parachutes before!" Our Daily Bread, January 30, 1994.
Now that’s dedication to the task at hand. The Ephesians were a dedicated group of Christians. The Bible says that Jesus encouraged them with these words, “I know your works, and your toil and perseverance, and that you can’t tolerate evil men, and have tested those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and found them false. You have perseverance and have endured for my name’s sake, and have not grown weary.” Revelation 2:1-3
Fourth imperative: In the church of Ephesus there was good, solid doctrine, but there was something missing: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. In addition to that, love your neighbor.
The English word for love is too abstract to define with words alone. The following story about love in action might help us to better understand it.
On May 2, 1962, a dramatic advertisement appeared in the San Francisco Examiner: "I don't want my husband to die in the gas chamber for a crime he did not commit. I will therefore offer my services for 10 years as a cook, maid, or housekeeper to any leading attorney who will defend him and bring about his vindication."
One of San Francisco's greatest attorneys, Vincent Hallinan, read or heard about the ad and contacted Gladys Kidd, who had placed it. Her husband, Robert Lee Kidd, was about to be tried for the slaying of an elderly antique dealer. Kidd's fingerprints had been found on a bloodstained ornate sword in the victim's shop. During the trial, Hallinan proved that the antique dealer had not been killed by the sword, and that Kidd's fingerprints and blood on the sword got there because Kidd had once toyed with it while playfully dueling with a friend when they were both out shopping. The jury, after 11 hours, found Kidd to be not guilty. Attorney Hallinan refused Gladys Kidd's offer of 10 years' servitude.
Love says it will do whatever it takes to vindicate the innocent.
William Gladstone, in announcing the death of Princess Alice to the House of Commons, told this story. The little daughter of the Princess was seriously ill with diphtheria. The doctors told the princess not to kiss her little daughter and endanger her life by breathing the child's breath. Once when the child was struggling to breathe, the mother, forgetting herself entirely, took the little one into her arms to keep her from choking to death. Without thinking of herself the mother tenderly kissed her daughter. She got diphtheria and some days thereafter she went to be forever with the Lord. Real love forgets self. Real love knows no danger. Real love doesn't count the cost. The Bible says, "Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it."
Love knows no boundaries.
But what I really want you to know about love is that it’s not merely emotional but an act of one’s will. In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote, "Do not waste your time bothering whether you 'love' your neighbor, act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less."
I read once the words that coin these truths about love. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Fifth imperative: In the church of Ephesus there would be consequences if it refused to repent and find its way to love. Their lampstand would be removed.
Someone wise once said that some people change their ways when they see the light, others only when they feel the heat.
I must note here that the Ephesian believers were not in danger of losing their light who is Jesus, but the danger stemmed around losing their lampstand. There is a big difference. The lampstand only bears the light. Jesus is walking among the lampstands, which represent the seven churches. If Ephesus is removed, then their intimate fellowship with the Lord is at a loss.
For example, there is a story told about a vibrant community church, which held highly the witness of Jesus Christ and souls were being saved. After some time, the revival went cold because of bitterness and discontentment among some of its members. The hate and discontent spread like wildfire throughout the congregation. The church became cold and indifferent to the cause of Christ and the revival dimmed like the waning flame of a candle in the wind. The church remained cold and never repented. It wasn’t long before the revival flared up again, but not here. A church across town whose hearts were right for a move of God began to witness the light of revival and bore the light of Jesus as a lampstand on fire. Revival comes to light bearers.
End of homily
Exposition of the church of Ephesus
Good sources, in my opinion:
Textual Studies >
On Being a Successful Church: An Exposition of Revelation 2:1-7
Lesson ▪ 2000
Revelation 2:1-7 describes a local church that had a lot in common with many churches today. The text is a message from Christ to the church at Ephesus, a major city in first-century Asia Minor. In many ways the church could be considered quite successful, yet Christ identified a significant flaw in its spiritual condition. Let’s examine the church’s successes and then contrast them with its failure.
John Walvoord summarizes Christ’s assessment of the successes of the Ephesian church:
He mentions their labor or toil, their patience or steadfastness, their abhorrence of those who were evil, and their ready detection of false teachers who claimed to be apostles but who were not. These remarkable characteristics are sorely needed in the church today where too often there is failure to serve the Lord patiently, and the tendency is to compromise both with moral and theological evil. The Ephesian church is therefore commended for abhorring that which is morally bad as well as that which is theologically in error. (55)
“I know your works, your labor [. . .] and you have [. . .] labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary” (vv 2, 3).
“I know [. . .] your patience [. . .]; and you have persevered and have patience, [. . .] and have not become weary” (vv 2, 3).
“I know [. . .] that you cannot bear those who are evil. [. . .] But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate” (vv 2, 6).
“And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars [. . .]” (v 2).
It forsook its former devotion to the Lord.
“Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place--unless you repent” (vv 4-5).
The imperatives are instructive: “Remember. . . . Repent . . . do.” The Ephesians are called on to reflect on their earlier works of fervent love [. . .], to look in comparison at the present situation, to ponder how far they have fallen from their former devotion and enthusiasm, to humbly “repent” [. . .] before God, and to do the former works motivated by love. These imperatives are all part of a single action designed to keep the Ephesians from the judgment of Christ, which would effectively remove them as his representatives in the world. (12: 434).
Let us endeavor to maintain or regain the fervor of our love for Christ, His Word, and His church. The lyrics of the song “First Love,” sung by Avalon, are a fitting prayer: “Tell me when did I lose my first love? / Where did the fire and passion go? / Burn in me Your holy fire / Give me back my lost desire / And restore in me the love I felt for You.”
Avalon. In a Different Light. Sound recording. Sparrow SPD 1687.