Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Letter to The Congregation of Ephesus

Some Background Information About Ephesus
Ephesus was the largest city in the times of the New Testament.  It was known as the Queen of Asia:  it was a wealthy city located on a beautiful harbor, which was the center of life in Ephesus.  The city was centrally located, with roads going all over Asia.  Ephesus was home to a beautiful theater that seated 25,000.

One of the ancient wonders of the world was the Temple of Diana (aka Artemis - daughter of Zeus and sister of Apollo).  Worship at this temple was full of orgies.  Artisans made a lot of money selling idols of Artemis, and Paul got in trouble for taking business away from them in Acts 19.  Goddess worship was a cornerstone of Ephesus. 

Ephesus was also a center for the study of magic.  The scrolls that were burned in Acts 19 were scrolls of sorcery!  Scripture records that they were valued at 50,000 drachma.  The value of a day's wages was about a drachma.  So you can see that the value of the scrolls was equivalent to millions of dollars.

The Good:
Revelation 2:2-3 says, 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. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. 

The Ephesians in Revelation were praised for their hard work, perserverence, and discernment of false teachers. They had a strong church, probably with great messages and lots of programs from all their hard work.  Regarding the false teachers, look at Paul's warning to the Ephesians in Acts 20:29-31:  I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.  Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.  So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.  The Ephesians took this to heart and were diligent in discerning the false teachers, thus earning the praise for it in Revelation.

Then in verse 6: But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.  The Nicolaitans were clergy that ruled over/controlled the people, and the Ephesians were commended for not allowing it.

The Bad:
Revelation 2:4 tells us, Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.  They were so busy working hard and building a strong church that they had forgotten their intimacy with the Lord.  This was a very strong warning!

I believe that this letter is first because it is the most important thing.  Love!  It is the first fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians.  It is the first command in the Shema, and the basis for the greatest commandment:  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength.  One of the main themes of Paul's letter to the Ephesians was about love and marriage.  The very name Ephesus means darling, as in spousal love. 

The Warning and the Outcome
The Ephesians are told, If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.  So what happened to Ephesus?  The Romans eventually cut down all the trees which caused erosion and destroyed the harbor.  Ephesus eventually became a deserted swamp. 

The Promise
But to him who overcomes (this is to the individual) will be given the right to eat from the Tree of Life.  The Tree of Life represents a love relationship with the Messiah.  Don't lose your First Love!  Don't get so caught up in churchianity that you lose focus on the Most Important Thing. An acronym for BUSY is Being Under Satan's Yoke!  Spend intimate time with your Savior, first and foremost.

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