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 Sermons on important subjects by Rev. Paul C. Jong

 

Letter to
The Church of Ephesus


< Revelation 2:1-7 >

"To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, 'These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: 'I know your works, your labor, your patience, 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; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place-unless you repent. But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.' He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.'"



Exegesis

Verse 1: "To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, 'These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands:'"

The Church of Ephesus was a church of God planted by faith in the gospel of the water and the Spirit that Paul had preached. The "seven golden lampstands" in this passage refer to the churches of God, the gatherings of those who believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, and the "seven stars" refer to God's servants there. The phrase "He who holds the seven stars in His right hand," on the other hand, means that God Himself holds and makes use of His servants.

We must realize that what God spoke to the seven churches in Asia through His servant John is also addressed to all His churches of the present time, which are now facing the nearing end times. Through His churches and His servants, God speaks to us and tells us how to overcome the trials and tribulations that await us. We must overcome Satan by hearing and believing in the Word of Revelation. God speaks to every one of His churches.


Verse 2: "I know your works, your labor, your patience, 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;"

The Lord commended the Church of Ephesus for its works, labor, patience, for its intolerance of evil, and for its testing and unveiling of false apostles. We can find out from this passage just how great the faith and dedication of the Church of Ephesus had been. But we must realize that regardless of how good the beginning of faith might have been, if that faith goes astray later, then it becomes useless. Our faith must be the true faith whose beginning and end steadfastly remain the same.

But the faith of the servant of the Church of Ephesus was not so, and for this he was harshly rebuked and warned by God that He would remove His lampstand from its place. As the church history reveals, the seven churches in Asia Minor were indeed accursed to have their lampstands removed. We must learn from the lessons of the Ephesian Church and remember that our churches must be approved by God as His own by grounding them in the faith in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, and that we must become the servants of God who keep our churches by this faith.


Verse 3: "and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary."

Our Lord watches over all His churches and knows well how His saints labor for His name's sake. But the saints of the Ephesian Church were leaving their first faith and beginning to fall into an erroneous path by diluting the pure gospel of the water and the Spirit with other beliefs.


Verse 4: "Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love."

The works of the faith of the servant and saints of the Ephesian church were so great that the Lord Himself commended them for their deeds, labor, and patience. They had tested and unveiled false apostles, they had persevered and labored for the sake of the name of the Lord, and they had not become weary. But in the midst of these highly commendable works, they lost what was arguably more important than any of these: they left their first love given by Jesus Christ.

What does this mean? It means that they had failed to keep the gospel of the water and the Spirit that had allowed them to be delivered at once from all their sins by their acceptance of and faith in the Lord. Their abandonment of the gospel of the water and the Spirit, on the other hand, means that they had allowed false teachings and other gospels to creep into their church.

What, then, were these other gospels and teachings? They were the worldly philosophies and humanist ideologies. These things still stand against the truth of salvation that God has given to the mankind. They may be beneficial to the flesh of man, or perhaps even conducive to bringing unity and peace among the people, but they cannot make the people's hearts to unite with that of God. This is how the servant and saints of the Church of Ephesus ended up turning their faith into that of apostates, accursed before God. And this is why they were rebuked by the Lord.

When looking at church history, we can see that the gospel of the water and the Spirit began to degenerate from as early as the Early Church period. Learning from this lesson, we must hold steadfastly onto the gospel of the water and the Spirit, please the Lord with our unwavering faith, and overcome Satan and the world in our struggle against them.

What was, then, the "first love" for the servant and saints of the Church of Ephesus? Their first love was none other than the gospel of the water and the Spirit that God had given them. The gospel of the water and the Spirit is the Word of salvation that has the power to deliver everyone from all the sins of the world.

God revealed to Paul, John, and the servants of the seven churches in Asia what the gospel of the water and the Spirit was and allowed them to understand it. This is how they could believe in this gospel, and how those who heard and believed in the gospel preached by them could be saved from all the sins of the world.

The gospel of the water and the Spirit given by our Lord is found in the Word of the baptism of Christ and His blood on the Cross. Yet the servant of the Church of Ephesus, although he had met the Lord through the gospel of the water and the Spirit and preached it in thankfulness at the beginning, abandoned this gospel later on. Thus, the Lord rebuked him for his fallacy in this passage.


Verse 5: "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place-unless you repent."

That the servant of the Church of Ephesus had fallen from the love of God meant that the congregation had abandoned the gospel of the water and the Spirit. This is why the Lord told them to reflect upon where they might have lost their faith, repent, and do the first work.

What, then, might have caused the Church of Ephesus to lose the gospel of the water and the Spirit? The weakness of the faith of the Ephesian Church, traced to the carnal thoughts of its servant, is what led the church astride. The gospel of the water and the Spirit is from God, the absolute truth that has revealed all the lies of the false doctrines and teachings of all the religions of this world. This means that when the Church of Ephesus preached and spread the gospel of the water and the Spirit, conflict with the worldly people was inevitable.

This conflict, in turn, made it more difficult for the believers of the Ephesian church to deal with the worldly people, even leading them to be persecuted for their faith. To avoid this, and to make it easier for the people to enter the church of God, the servant of the Ephesian Church departed from the gospel of the water and the Spirit and allowed a more philosophical gospel to be taught.

The "philosophical gospel" here is a false gospel derived from humanistic thoughts that seek to not only restore the relationship between God and man but also to bring peace in the relationship among men. This kind of vertical and horizontal faith is not the kind of faith that God wants from us. The faith that God wants us to have is a faith that, through our obedient relationship with God, restores our peace with Him.

The reason why the servant of the Church of Ephesus lost the gospel of the water and the Spirit is because he tried to accept what could not be accepted into the church of God-that is, the worldly people who do not believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit-and fit his teachings to their whims. The church of God can be planted only on the foundation of the Word of the gospel of the water and the Spirit.

Yet there are many people, in today's time as in the Early Church period, who think that it is enough to believe in Jesus somehow to be saved, and who do not see why they should believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit. But believing in Jesus while ignoring the gospel of the water and the Spirit given by God is a greatly mistaken faith. Those who believe in the Lord only as a mere religious practice, half-heartedly going through motion, will become the enemy of God. This is why the Lord rebuked and admonished the servant of the Ephesian Church to repent of his wrong faith and return to the his earlier, true and earnest faith, the first faith that he had had when he heard the gospel of the water and the Spirit for the first time.

There is an important lesson for us here: if a church of God falls away from its faith in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, God will no longer call it His church. This is why the Lord said that He would remove the lampstand from its place and give it to the believers in the gospel of the water and the Spirit.

A church that has abandoned and no longer preaches the gospel of the water and the Spirit is not a church of God. It is absolutely critical for us to realize that believing, defending, and preaching the gospel of the water and the Spirit are much more important than any other deeds.

The Asia Minor where the seven churches in the above passage were located is now a Muslim region. The Lord has thus removed the lampstand, the church of God, to here, and made us preach the gospel of the water and the Spirit all over the world. But in the true church of God is the truth of the gospel of the water and the Spirit. God's church cannot exist without it. The twelve disciples of Jesus had consistent faith in the gospel of the water and the Spirit during the apostolic age (1 Peter 3:21, Romans chap. 6, 1 John chap. 5).

What is too unfortunate, nevertheless, is that God's churches in Asia Minor had lost the true gospel of the water and the Spirit since the Early Church era, and that this region became Muslim as a result. Moreover, even the Church of Rome was struck by the tragedy of losing the gospel of the water and the Spirit with the Edict of Milan issued by the Roman Emperor Constantine.


Verse 6: "But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate."

The Nicolaitans were those who used the name of Jesus to pursue their worldly and material gains. But the Church of Ephesus hated the Nicolaitans' doctrines and deeds. For the Church of Ephesus, this was one thing that was worthy of being greatly commended by God.


Verse 7: "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God."

The servants and saints of God must hear what the Holy Spirit says to them. What the Holy Spirit tells them is to defend their faith in and spread the gospel of the water and the Spirit to the end. To do so, they must fight against and overcome those who spread untruth. Losing the fight against the untruth means destruction. The believers and the servants of God must conquer and overcome their foes with their arms-that is, with the Word of God and the gospel of the water and the Spirit.

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God said, "To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God." God will give the fruits of the tree of life only to "him who overcomes." But overcome what or whom? We have to overcome with our faith those who do not believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit. The believers must engage in constant spiritual battles with those who belong to the untruth, and they must emerge as victors in these battles by their faith. They must also give all glory to God and live a life of victory with their faith in the gospel of the water and the Spirit. Only those who, with their faith in the truth, overcome their foes in their struggle will be able to live in the New Heaven and Earth given by God.

In the Early Church period, those who sought to believe in and defend the gospel of the water and the Spirit had to face martyrdom. Likewise, when the time comes for the Antichrist to emerge, there will be many more martyrs to come.

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