The Seven Churches - Ephesus - Part 1

January 13, 2009

I’m continuing my series on the seven churches of Revelation 2-3, focusing on the letter to the church of Ephesus in Revelation 2:1-7. I’ve decided to split up these posts a bit, just because there’s so much I want to say about each church. So there may be a couple of entries for each church as I progress along. Be sure to read this post and this post as an introduction to the series if you have not already.

Ephesus was the capital and largest city of the Roman province of Asia Minor with a population of approximately 250,000 people and a public theatre seating 24,000. It was a center of commerce and finance, but also was known for immorality and idol worship. The major shrine in the city was the great temple of Diana, which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world being 425 feet long, 220 feet wide, 60 feet high and held up by 127 marble pillars. The worship of Diana (or Artemis in Greek) promoted sexual immorality throughout the city. The silversmith trade was prosperous because of the demand for gold, silver and bronze idols of Diana to be used as one’s household deity (Acts 19:25).

The church in Ephesus, shining like a lamp in the midst of darkness, was a revival center for Asia Minor (Acts 19:26) being the third most prominent church in the Book of Acts after Jerusalem and Antioch. Paul first came to Ephesus on his way to Jerusalem from Corinth at the end his second missionary trip in AD 52 (Acts 18:19-21). He initially preached in the synagogue for several months and then left. His friends Priscilla and Aquila stayed to train Apollos and the disciples of John the Baptist (Acts 18:24-28).

Paul returned to establish a church on his third missionary journey (Acts 19-20) which he used as his ministry base for three years (Acts 20:31). During his visit, the people responded so fervently to the gospel that the market for purchasing the silversmiths’ little Diana trinkets virtually disappeared. The revival resulted in many coming to Jesus with such extreme devotion that the silversmiths troubled Paul and caused many involved in idolatry to burn their magic books worth 50,000 drachmas (Acts 19:13-20). A drachma was an average day's wage ($100/day would have been $5,000,000 worth of magic books).

In Revelation 2:1-7, Jesus addresses a letter to the church in Ephesus. He comes to them in the tenderness of a shepherd yet as One full of zeal for a full, complete heart response to Him. The church was not walking in 100-fold obedience to Jesus, and they had left their first love. I’d imagine if Ephesus was anything like our churches today, their ministries and small groups were going well, they had a great worship team, and they had a great distaste for the evil in their city. But the indictment Jesus brings against them is that they did not keep the first commandment in first place in their hearts and over their ministry.

Jesus reveals His glory to the church

As part of the glory He revealed to John in Revelation 1:12-20, Jesus specifically re-emphasizes His commitment to hold them in His care and be in their midst as their source of blessing and protection. He knows this is the aspect of His glory they need to understand the most in order to overcome their struggles.

>““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:”
(Revelation 2:1 NKJV)

When Jesus is our only reward, our only source, our only true provider, protector, and shepherd, we can walk confidently and securely even in the midst of external pressures and trials. King David was a man filled with this revelation. He knew God was the perfect leader of his life, and he could stand confidently in this revelation. In the Psalm even unbelievers are familiar with, he wrote:

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want (He is in need of nothing because God is his provider). He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters (His leadership is not harsh but rooted in gentleness and meekness). He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake (He is committed to exalting Himself through His people). Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death (difficult trials and major pressures), I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff (His correction and direction), they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life (David can walk in confidence because God Himself is leading him well); and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
(Psalm 23 – my commentary in parentheses added)

This is a foundational revelation that the church at the end of the age needs. Without it, we end up in doubt about the Lord’s leadership and in fear of the events transpiring on the earth.

In the next post on Ephesus, I’ll focus on how Jesus commended the church for their faithfulness, how he corrected them in their compromise, and how this letter applies to the church today.

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