“The Unveiling of Jesus”
III. Chp. 2-3 The vision of His Church: (1:19b) “The things, which are”
“Desiring the desired One”
II. Vs. 1-7 Desiring the desired One
These words of Jesus not only fit the time frame in which they were written but also different church ages, as well as different aspects of every individual believers life. I mention this as we might be tempted to quickly pass over this section of scripture thinking that these words have no significance towards us personally, nothing could be further from the truth.
Jesus follows a specific format as John wrote these words to the seven churches. Not every church listed contains every ingredient but there are many similarities. I’ve come up with ten ingredients in Jesus words to the seven churches:
- Accreditation (only Philadelphia)
- Accommodation (only Philadelphia)
In five of the seven churches Jesus approves of something about them.
In five of them He has an accusation, although these very from church to church.
In five of them He has a word of admonition
In five of them He has an announcement or promise
In three of them He makes an appeal
Once does He offer an atonement (Ephesus), appraisal, (Laodicea) accreditation or accommodation (Philadelphia).
Noticed that I have yet to mention one of those ten ingredients (Author); what interests me and encourages me is that in each of those seven churches it appears. Every word from approval to appraisal starts off with the Author identifying Himself. No matter what the condition of His Church or the individual Christian they never cease being His Church; although they are warned if they continue in their course they will be removed or spewed out of His mouth they at the time of His words were still His. Truly Jesus is the “the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2)
II. Vs. 1-7 Desiring the desired One
Vs. 1 In Chapter 1:1 John told us that the unveiling of Jesus came from the Father to the Son to an angel. Here we notice that Jesus tells John to write to the angel of the Churches. Several things cause me to believe that John was writing to pastors and not angels:
- Are we to believe that John was receiving a message from the Father to the son to an angel only to write it down for another angel? This seems to me to be a bit cumbersome. Why not just tell the angel Himself?
- Why tell an angel at all? The words a clearly meant for the Church and not for angels.
- I believe the most probable interpretation of the word “angels or messengers” is pastors. The problem with this interpretation is the fact that John sees that Jesus has the stars in His right hand. Referring to pastors as stars in light of our contemporary definition of that word bothers us. The word literally means that which is strewn over the sky and depicts the visibility and light in which the pastor ought to be in the world that abounds in darkness. But I can’t help but think of the contemporary definition as well as far too often the Church has become more identified with the “star” rather than the One who holds the star. We must guard our hearts from “star gazing” instead opting for “Son worshipping”!
Vs. 1b Author: Next notice that John sees Jesus not only IN the Churches midst but WALKING about.Jesus is active amongst the Church seeking to minister to it because He is preoccupied with it. The name Ephesus literally means the “desired one” and I think that it is important that we see ourselves as desired by Him, His desire is towards us we are His desired ones.
Vs.2-3, 6 Approval: “I know you works”. This phrase appears to each of the messages to the seven Churches and reminds us that Jesus is aware of everything about us: From our service to our motives for our service. In dealing with this Church Jesus commends them for four specific things:
- Vs. 2a “Your labor, your patience”: The word for “labor” is intense labor or toil to the point of exhaustion. It is often used in the N.T. to depict enduring under extreme trial. In Jesus’ words is an approval because this Church was self-sacrificing as well as steadfast. This Church clearly had not “grown weary while doing good” (Gal. 6:9, 2 Thess. 3:13).
- Vs. 2b “And that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars”: Jesus describes them as being “uncompromisingly pure.” In Acts 20: 27-31 Paul warned the Elder of this Church that false teachers would attempt to come in and it appears that they had heeded that warning from Paul as 30 years later Jesus commends them for guarding against this infiltration. They had examined the teachings of those that would seek to instruct them in the Word and those that did not line up with the teaching of the word of God were exposed as false teacher and liars!
- Vs. 3 “And you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary”: This is the second time in two verses that Jesus describes this Church as having “patience”. They weren’t a bunch of complainers nor were they prone to discouragement during their service. Jesus tells us what the key to their success in this area was, “they labored for His name sake”, not their own! We will all grow weary in our service if it is based upon seeing results fashioned around our name and reputation, but if we serve the Lord for His name sake, His reputation we will have unswerving patience as we will know that it is the Lord that “adds to the church daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47).
- Vs. 6 “But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” The word “Nicolaitan” comes from two words “nico” meaning “priest” and “laitans” meaning “laity”. It describes a practice of lording over the people by setting over the people a man or hierarchy between God and the people. The reason for Jesus’ hatred of this practice is to be found in Paul’s words to Timothy in 1 Tim. 2:5 where he says “there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus”. It is unfortunate that the Church had so soon adopted the practice of manipulation of the people by putting a priest in between God and believers. The Church of Ephesus refused to ever be seen as a go between for man. They may have left their first love but their failure lie not in the attempt to become more important than the Lord.
Vs. 4 Accusation: “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” I cannot help but wonder in light of Jesus’ approval how responsive I would be to these words? In spite of all the positive attributes they had as a church they were not growing more in love with Jesus. They had become so busy maintaining their separation that they had neglected their adoration. The truth is we are all too prone to this and it can be seen when we substitute labor for love and purity for passion, we must maintain both if we are going to continue to grow more in love with Him. It has well been said that it is only when, “We love Him fervently that we can serve Him faithfully!”
Notice that it is not that they lost their first love they simply left Him. When you lose something it implies that you don’t know where you left it but when you leave something you know where it is. The word for left is literally “forsook” or to lay something aside. And what they laid aside Jesus says was, “that which was most important”. Their service had become mechanical motion without emotion! In Jer. 2:2 the Lord through the prophet describes Israel’s “first love” towards Him by saying, “I remember you, the kindness of your youth, The love of your betrothal, When you went after Me in the wilderness, In a land not sown.” The devotion we all first experienced with the Lord, fervent, personal, exciting, uninhibited. Yes our love will deepen but it ought never lose the wide eye excitement and wonder of our honeymoon with the Lord. All too often we have treaded our honeymoon with the Lord to only a honey-do! How can we determine if this has happened to us? Well ask yourself, “Have I ever been more in love with Jesus then I am right now?” If the answer is yes then we have fallen back and are not growing in our love.
Vs. 5 Admonition and atonement: Jesus does not just make an accusation without offering a solution as we see the “Three R’s of how to rekindle your love for Him”:
- “Remember”: “Therefore from where you have fallen”. The word here is literally “keep on remembering” in other words we need to cultivate a desire to commune with Him. We do that by spending time doing the things you first did when you initially became a follower of Jesus. You went to every Bible study you could, prayed at every opportunity, there was always praise songs going on in your head.
- “Repent”: The word here means more than just being sorry, it means to change what we think, what we feel as well as what we do. In other words we need to turn from anything or anyone that would hinder our devotion to Him.
- “Repeat”: “And do the first works”. Again the idea here is going back and doing those activities that caused you to grow to begin with.
Notice though Jesus warns that there are consequences for the lack of taking action, “or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place; unless you repent.” The truth here is that the person or Church that leaves its first love will lose its light! If we do not seek to rekindle our love for Him then we will cease experiencing His presence in our lives. He will no longer be moving about us and His testimony will not be present amongst us. Jesus never stays long in a Church no matter how busy they might be for Him if they are no longer in love with Him!
Vs. 7 Announcement: The promise is conditional based upon those that “overcome”. In 1 John 5:4-5 John told us just who the overcomers were, “whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world; our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” The tree is the cross, which must always be placed in the center of the believer’s life. Adam was banned from this tree so as not to remain in a permanent state of death but those whose trust in Jesus has secured their victory over the world are given to eat of the tree of life in paradise.