In the book of Revelation Jesus directly address 7 churches, encouraging them in their strengths and rebuking them in their weaknesses. Within these 7 churches we find characteristics that can be found in churches of all ages, and we also find key principals of what our churches should be striving for. The first church that the Lord addresses is the church at Ephesus, the very same one that Paul wrote to.
Some Good Things about the Church at Ephesus
1. They had good works “I know your works…”
This was a church that was serious about serving God, they no doubt had tremendous ministries and worked hard for the Lord. If you walked into their church on Sunday you probably would be amazed at all that was being done and all the people working hard.
2. They worked hard “…your toil…”
This wasn’t a lazy church or a unfaithful church. This was a church that got things done, it worked to the point of exhaustion. There was always something to be done for the kingdom at the church of Ephesus and no doubt people were willing to sign up to serve in multiple ways. Talent, treasure and time were all spent serving at the church in Ephesus.
3. They didn’t give up “…and your patient endurance,…”
Being a Christian in the first century was tough, rejection from Jewish brothers and persecution from Rome made it easy for a lot of people to give up. But not the Ephesian believers, they were faithful. They didn’t give up despite the hardships.
4. They were discerning “…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.”
The church at Ephesus had no problem dealing with false teachers, if you weren’t faithfully proclaiming the gospel then they had no interest in you. This wasn’t a church that would get caught up in emotionalism or feel good messages. They were only interested in the truth.
A church that has lots of great ministries, works hard, doesn’t give up and stands for the truth! Surely this must be the perfect church, a model for all the rest of us to follow right? Lets look at what else Jesus says about the church in verse 4 –
“But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.”
The had left their first love, well what was their first love? Simply enough Jesus was their first love. You see the church at Ephesus teaches us a very important lesson, its very possible and even easy to do the work of the kingdom without loving Jesus. We can even be determined and hard working in our efforts, priding ourselves on how much we do for God but if we aren’t doing it out of a genuine love for Christ then God’s not impressed by our efforts at all. This is often a great battle for those within the church that serve the hardest and do the most because we get so focused on getting the job done that we forget who we are serving for. The reality is that Jesus doesn’t need our works, He doesn’t need our effort, our talents, or anything that we have to offer and if we are just using those things to make ourselves feel or look more spiritual then we have left our first love.
You can’t serve Jesus without Jesus. You must walk with Him daily and we must do what we do not for our glory but for His. Don’t leave your first love for good works, hard labor in ministry or endurance.