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The Church without Love

The next few lessons we are going to cover will be dealing with the 7 churches that John wrote Revelation to along with specific instructions for each church.  Now while we believe these were 7 actual churches we also find that it corresponds to 7 different periods of history commonly called ďthe seven church agesĒ.  However if we look at the church world today we also see that it corresponds to churches that we can find existing even as they did then. John writes these messages as he is given them to write to the various churches.

The age of Ephesus begins from the time of the Crucifixion and runs through approximately 100 AD. This was the apostolic age, people were still alive who had walked and talked with Jesus who had known him and who had been affected by the outpouring of the spirit at Pentecost. However there were problems during this time and as the message to the church at Ephesus shows it is something that is also lacking in todayís world among some churches.

Revelation 2
1 Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;
2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:
3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.
4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

Here we have some very specific messages. He commends them for their labor and work and identifying the evil ones who have tried to deceive them but he also is disappointed because they have left their first love. In other words, they have fallen into a rut; they are no longer excited about sharing Christ and getting souls into the kingdom. To all appearances this was a church that looks good on the outside, they have a lot happening and many good works but itís all a show.  So many times people get caught up in the works of the church and forget WHY they are supposed to be doing it. They do it because itís expected of them, not because they love the people and love the Lord.  In todayís world this might be the church that has programs for feeding the hungry, clothing those which need clothes, helping the widow, a program of men who volunteer their time doing the odds and ends around the homes that the elderly might not be able to do now, programs for the young people, a singles ministry, etc.  They have programs and works for EVERYTHING. This is what he calls them out for. He calls them out for leaving their first love. He reminds them that works wonít save them and while they had once got into it for the right reasons now they no longer love him like he wants but instead are focusing on the works they are doing in the community.  This is a WORKING church but itís a church that has begun to focus on what they are DOING in his name and not focusing on him. He urges them to not delay but to repent of this and return to what they know they should be doing before he takes his spirit away from them.  He warns them that if they donít, his spirit will be removed from their church. HOWEVER, one needs to note here that the church has LEFT the first love so they have taken the steps away from loving and serving Jesus. It doesn't indicate they never had it, it clearly says they have left it.

Now what is this first love that he talks about? Remember when you first got saved how you read the Bible, praised God, spent time in prayer? Remember how when you got together with other believers you were happy to discuss Godís word and share what God has done in your life? That is the first love. Compare it if you will to a couple who has long been married. In the beginning you couldnít get enough of one another. You spent hours on the phone, or thinking about them. You always wanted to be with them. Then after a few years you begin to take each other for granted. You donít look forward to getting home to them as much as you used to. Itís not that you love them any less, itís just the excitement isnít there anymore. Youíre more focused on your jobs, your children, the community, your health, even your church work than you are loving each other and spending time just enjoying each otherís company. You have lost your first love for your spouse. You still love them but itís different. This is what has happened to the church at Ephesus and has happened in many churches today.

After he rebukes the church and warns them to repent, he goes one step further and gives them another compliment for hating the deeds of the Nicolaitans. While the Bible isnít specific about what the Nicolaitans believed, we can be assured based on the message to Pergamos which also refers to the Nicolaitans that they practiced immoral behavior and eating foods offered to idols. According to Irenaeus in the 2nd century (one of the early church historians) he stated ďThe Nicolaitanes are the followers of that Nicolas who was one of the seven first ordained to the diaconate by the apostles. They lead lives of unrestrained indulgence. The character of these men is plainly pointed out in the Apocalypse of John, as teaching that it is a matter of indifference to practice adultery, and to eat things sacrifice to idols.Ē (Against Heresies, book 1, chapter 26. From the Ante Nicean Fathers Volume 1, page 352). Based on this we can safely assume these are people who pretty much do what they want in the name of Christianity. They have no accountability for their actions and everything is ok. Here we see he is saying they are doing well in hating the behavior of these people.  Please notice that Jesus doesnít hate the people but hates the behavior of the people and encourages the church at Ephesus because they are recognizing this and hating it as well.

He ends this message with the assurance that those which overcome the evil and do as they are supposed to do will have eternal life.

 
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