Characterized by Love
I often tell people, “If you find a perfect church, don’t join. You’ll mess it up.” In reality, no church is perfect because it is made up of imperfect people.
However, our imperfection is not an excuse; each church must strive to be more like Jesus. We are a witness to a watching world, and we will be held accountable for the way we function as a church. In the next few weeks, we will examine Jesus’ messages in Revelation to seven churches. They provide a springboard for us to evaluate how we, as His church, are doing.
Be known for your good works. (1–3)
Ephesus was a key city in New Testament times, known as an affluent, religious center in Asia. Its temple to Artemis was one of the seven wonders of the world. Magical arts and mysticism infiltrated the culture.
In this strategic city, Paul spent more than two years establishing the church (see Acts 19:8, 10). Jesus cared intimately for the condition of His churches. Holding the seven stars tightly in His right hand (power) and walking among the seven golden lampstands emphasize His personal involvement in and care for the affairs of His church.
His observation? Jesus commends the church at Ephesus for their deeds, hard work and perseverance.
Furthermore, Jesus commends this church for standing up for truth while surrounded by false doctrine and false teachers.
In bridging the gap between the first century and the current church, we should ask ourselves if we are taking our faith lightly.
If your local church ceased to exist, would the community around you mourn because your tireless efforts are no longer seen? Are you standing for truth, or are you becoming like the society around you?
Let your love for Christ fuel your good works. (4–6)
All was not rosy for the church at Ephesus.
Jesus rebukes this proud church strongly because the members completely abandoned their first love.
They needed to remember the close walk they once had with God, repent, turn away from lovelessness and return to the works overflowing from that first love relationship. In other words, love for Christ should be the fuel of their good works.
Caution: We too can lose our first love. When this happens, our churches become rigid custodians of tradition and orthodoxy while neglecting the role of propagators of truth in love. Sadly, any church is vulnerable to lovelessness if God’s people let their guard down.
The beautiful words of the Apostle Paul speak loudly to all who have ears to hear: “If I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing” (1 Cor. 13:2).
Remember you will one day dwell with Christ forever. (7)
Jesus ends His reprimand with a powerful statement of hope: Anyone who conquers or overcomes will have victory.
Jesus is encouraging Ephesus to finish well. No one can imagine the splendor God has in store for those who persevere to the end.
After Adam and Eve, the way to the tree of life was cut off. But now, Christ’s triumphant followers are given the right to eat from this tree in paradise (the Garden of God). Brothers and sisters, do not be discouraged or dismayed. Finish this race God has placed before you.
By Rob Jackson, Ph.D.
Jackson has served in a variety of ministry roles, including pastor and state missionary.