The Orthodox Church, but a Church Without Love

The Orthodox Church, but a Church Without Love

Revelation 2:1-7 (ESV) ~ To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. ‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’

 

The Recipient:

  • The letter is addressed to the minister of the church as well as to the church. This is striking, for it means that the Lord holds the minister responsible for the church and its welfare. Christ expects the minister to study and heed the message himself and to lead the believers to heed the message.

 

The Speaker:

  • Jesus Christ is the One who holds the ministers of the churches in His hands. This means that the minister…
    • is chosen and picked out of the world by the hand of Christ.
    • is nourished and nurtured by the hand of Christ.
    • is placed where he is by the hand of Christ.
    • is cared for, secured, and protected by the hand of Christ.
    • is given a very special closeness to Christ by being held in His hand.
    • is expected to be an instrument in the hand of Christ.
    • is responsible to the hand of Christ.
    • is to be held accountable by the hand of Christ.
  • Jesus Christ is the One who walks in the midst of the churches or the golden candlesticks. This means…
    • that Christ is present in the very midst of the church.
    • that Christ sees and knows all about the church.
    • that Christ is present to teach and grow the church.
    • that Christ is present to provide and protect the church.
    • that Christ is present to guide and direct the church.
    • that Christ is present as the Light of the world to give light to the church.

 

The Commendation:

  • The church is commended for five significant things:
    • The church worked and labored for Christ. The Greek means to labor to the point of weariness, sweat, and exhaustion; to work and labor to the limit of one’s ability. The church was a working church, a laboring church, a church committed to serve Christ and to serve Him to the fullest.
    • The church patiently endured. The word means to persevere and to be stedfast in serving Christ and in standing against all the temptations and trials of life. The church was stedfast in studying and proclaiming the gospel and in ministering to the needs of the needy.
    • The church could not bear those who were evil. This refers to sin and evil, men who were corrupt and polluted and who lived for the world instead of living for God. The church could not tolerate the sin and shame, dirt and pollution, filth and destruction of evil.
    • The church tested all the preachers and teachers of the church and rejected the false. If a teacher confessed that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, had come in the flesh, he was accepted and allowed to teach. If he denied that Jesus Christ had come in the flesh, he was not allowed to teach. The church could not tolerate false teachers and stood against all false teaching. They were loyal to Christ. They did just what Scripture exhorts: they tested the spirits of the teachers.
    • The church bore up under all for the sake of Christ’s name. This is a descriptive verse, a description that touches the heart of tender believers: the church…
      • bore up
      • patiently endured
      • labored
      • did not faint
    • Why? For Christ’s name sake. They did it all and bore so much for Christ’s sake.
      • They worked and toiled to the point of exhaustion.
      • They patiently endured.
      • They did not bear or put up with evil.
      • They tested and rejected false teachers.

 

The Complaint:

  • There is the complaint. The church had lost its first love. This probably means two things:
    • The church and its believers had lost their feelings for Christ. The Greek says, “your love the first [love].” Believers had left their first love. Christ was no longer first in their lives. They were putting themselves and their own affairs first, and they were putting the church first—the programs, services, ministries, and fellowship of the church. They had become more attached to the church than they were to Christ.
      • They had lost their feelings of warmth and tenderness for Christ.
      • They had lost their sensitivity to Christ, their fervor, spark, and unction.
      • They were not fellowshipping and communing nor praying and sharing with Christ—not like they did when they were first converted.
      • They were not walking in a consciousness and awareness of Christ’s presence, joying and rejoicing in Him throughout the day.
    • The church had lost its love for people. The church saw a rupture take place in its fellowship and in its love for one another. When the church was first founded, a deep love existed among the members (Acts 20:17-38). The church had a loving heart and a helping hand—a readiness to labor together even through persecution. But something happened. What? There is no explanation. So all the negative things that rupture a fellowship or erase love are applicable: criticism, grumbling, jealousy, a selfish mind.

 

The Counsel:

  • There is the counsel. The Lord counsels the church to return to him. When a church or a believer goes astray, the Lord issues the very same call that He issues here: return. Three steps are involved in returning.
    • First, remember from where you have fallen. Think back over your former love for the Lord. Remember His presence:
      • the feelings of warmth and tenderness
      • the fervor, spark, and unction
      • the fellowship and communion with Him
      • the prayer and sharing
      • the consciousness and awareness of His presence
      • the joy and rejoicing of His presence that filled your heart
      • Again, remember the Lord’s presence, the love that existed between you and Him.
    • Second, repent: turn away from whatever has pulled you away from Christ and turn back to Christ. Something has drawn you away from Christ. You are attached to something more than you are to Christ. Something is consuming your thoughts and energies and keeping your mind from focusing upon Christ and fellowshipping and communing with Him. You are not flickering your mind to Him in prayer as you walk throughout the day. You are not sharing and communing with Him like you did. Something has replaced Him in your thoughts and attention. And you are more attached to that thing than you are to Christ. Repent—turn away from that attachment and turn back to Christ.
    • Third, do the first works that you did.
      • Begin now to flicker your mind to Christ and to take just a moment to pray. Do this all day long every so often. Acknowledge Him in all your ways, and He will direct your paths (Proverbs 3:6).
      • Take set times to get alone with Christ and study His Word and pray (2 Timothy 2:15; 2 Timothy 3:16; Ephesians 6:18).
      • Begin to walk just as Christ would walk if He were walking by your side—step by step and hour by hour. Do this from the moment you awaken in the morning to the moment you go to sleep at night.

 

The Warning:

  • There is the warning. Christ warns the church that loses its love for Him. The warning is twofold.
    • There is the warning that Christ will remove the church (the candlestick) from its place. What does this mean? It means that Christ will remove the church…
      • from being a true church.
      • from being a true representative of Christ upon earth.
      • from being a church of God’s true kingdom.
      • from being in touch and in union with God.
      • from being a true light and witness to the world.
      • from being a church of the gospel of God.
      • from His presence, from the light of His presence.
    • This is a terrible judgment. Just how terrible can be seen by looking at the opposite of the above. If a church has been removed by Christ then it means that the church…
      • is not a true church; it is a false church.
      • is not a part of God’s kingdom; it is a part of the world’s kingdom.
      • is not in touch and union with Christ; it is only in touch and union with the world.
      • is not a true light and witness to the world; it is a false light and witness to the world.
      • is not in the presence of Christ and His light; it is in the darkness of this world.
      • is not a church of the gospel; it is a church with a false gospel.

 

The Promise:

  • There is the promise to the overcomers. The word overcomer has the idea of conflict and struggle. The overcomer is a person who overcomes and conquers and gains the victory. He is the victor and conqueror. What is it that he is to overcome? Everything that pulls his heart and love away from Christ and attaches it to the world. Whatever possessions, whatever pleasures, whatever it is that has dampened the believer’s first love for Christ—it is that thing that the believer must overcome.
  • Note that the promise is made to individual believers; therefore, all believers are to hear the messages to the churches. A church as a whole may go astray, but it is the believer who must personally overcome. How? Let him who has an ear hear what the Spirit says, and let him heed and do what the Spirit says. If he does then he will be an overcomer.
  • Here are the glorious promises to the overcomer.
    • The overcomer shall be allowed to eat of the tree of life. This is the tree of God, the tree that gives life, both the fulness of life and eternal life.
  • The overcomer shall become a citizen of the paradise of God. Paradise is heaven, the very dwelling place of God, the place…
    • of eternal bliss and ecstasy
    • of eternal perfection and life
    • of eternal fulfillment and completeness
    • of eternal love and joy
    • of eternal peace and control
    • of eternal work and pleasure
    • of eternal duty and honor
  • On and on the list could go. All that life is and was ever meant to be—that is what will be in the paradise of heaven. This is the glorious promise to the overcomer.
 
Pastor Andy Lambert

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