In this series of blog posts, we’ll dive into the seven letters from Jesus to the churches in Revelation chapters 2-3. As we do, we’ll discover what Jesus has to say to these churches that, with one exception, needed to be revitalized.
King Jesus knows His churches, Rev. 2:1
The first letter – to the church in Ephesus – gives us a glimpse into Jesus’ sovereignty over His Church. He begins the description of Himself by saying, “Thus says the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand and who walks among the seven golden lampstands” (Rev. 2:1). Jesus says that He holds the seven stars (most likely referring to the pastors of the churches) in His right hand, and that He walks among the churches themselves (seven golden lampstands).
So, pastor, no matter what you may face in the ministry, be encouraged by these truths. King Jesus holds you in His right hand and He walks among His churches. He knows, intimately, the problems and joys you face on a daily basis.
The good, Rev. 2:2-3
Then Jesus tells the Ephesian church what they’re doing well. First, they have labored and endured for the sake of Jesus’ name. (We see this in the beginning of verse 2 and the end of verse 3.) Jesus commends them for their labor and for enduring hardships for the sake of His name. Secondly, they take holiness and doctrine seriously. At the end of verse 2, Jesus says “You cannot tolerate evil people. You have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and you have found them to be liars.”
Both of these things are important. Enduring hardship for Jesus’ name and pursuing holiness and right doctrine matter for a local church. Being a follower of Jesus – not to mention a spiritual leader – in our world is hard business. Jesus commends those who hold to the truth of Scripture without wavering, even – especially – when the world ridicules and persecutes us for holding to the truth.
The bad, Rev. 2:4
While the Ephesian church had some great things going for them, they had one monumental, glowing deficiency: “You have abandoned the love you had at first.” They were doing some good things, but they had taken their eyes off Jesus. Maybe they became a wonderful social club. Maybe they had all kinds of good ministries that helped people. But they were no longer serving King Jesus.
The remedy and the danger, Rev. 2:5
Thankfully, Jesus doesn’t stop at telling them where they fall short. He gives them options. They can repent, or they can face consequences. How do they repent? “Do the works you did at first.” Wait, is Jesus telling them to earn their salvation? Not at all! Instead, He’s calling them to recover the love they had for Him at first. He’s calling them to return from simply doing good things to following Him. They have time to get their house in order.
If they do not, however, He says, “I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.” What does that mean, exactly? It means He would remove His Spirit from the church. So, whatever they might continue to be, they would not be a New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is the danger for any church that turns its back on God’s Word and their community. If you refuse to hold fast to the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3), Jesus will remove His presence from your church. Whatever you continue to be, your church will not be a New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
So, if we find ourselves and our churches drifting from our first love, what are we to do? Jesus mentions it twice in verses 5-6: “Repent.” Turn around. Seek Him again. Follow His Word. Lead your people to repent.
For churches that find themselves in a frenzy with good works, but not faithful to Jesus, the only answer is to stop and repent.
Many churches find themselves in need of replanting and revitalization, and this is a good place to begin. Repent. Turn your eyes upon Jesus again. Rekindle your first love.
And trust that, as you do, the Lord will revive His church!
Published September 20, 2023