Time or Eternity? ™

The church at Ephesus

In The church at Ephesus on March 6, 2011 at 8:00 am

The first epistle is that to Ephesus, the central or metropolitan city of the district to which all the seven churches belonged, and with which the almost unanimous voice of antiquity associates the later years of the pastorate of St. John himself. Hence, in part at least, as we have already seen, the general nature of the salutation with which the glorified Lord presents Himself to that church. He does not merely hold its star in His right hand, nor does He merely walk in the midst of it alone. He holdeth the seven stars in His right hand. He walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks. He is present in every part of His Church on earth. To every part of it He says, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the consummation of the age.” The church at Ephesus is faithful as a whole. I know, is the language of her Lord to her, thy works, and thy toil and patience, and that thou canst not bear evil men, and didst try them which call themselves apostles, and they are not, and didst find them false; and thou hast patience and didst bear for My name’s sake, and hast not grown weary. The tribute is a noble one. The church is not only working, but toiling, in her Master’s service; she is firm amidst trial, whether from within or from without; she views with abhorrence all workers of iniquity; she tries, only in order to reject, those pretended messengers of Christ who would have preached another gospel than that the power of which she knew. Amidst all the speciousness of their claims, she had “found “ them false. Then she turned again to her steadfast endurance until it became a settled principle in her life, and it could be said to her, with he strong force of the word in the writings of St. John, that she “had” it. The spirit of all this, too, had been found in the “name” of Jesus, the revelation of the love and grace of God given her in Him. Finally, she had not grown weary. Seven marks of faithfulness appear to be mentioned; and, if so, the fourth—her judgment of false teachers—occupies the central position. Nor does it seem fanciful to say this when we notice that of all the seven points the fourth is the only one returned to, and that in a more specific form, at a later point in the epistle: But this thou hast, that thou hatest the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. In other words, doctrinal faithfulness was the peculiar distinction of the Ephesian church. She knew that the revelation of God in Christ must be kept pure, or toil would lose its spring, patience its encouragement, shrinking from evil men its intensity, and perseverance its support. Therefore she valued the doctrinal truth which had been committed to her, and held fast the “form of sound words” which she had received, for the sake of the life to which it led.  Amidst all this the church at Ephesus was not wholly what she ought to have been. I have this against thee, had to be said to her, that thou didst leave thy first love; and she needed words of exhortation and warning: Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I come to thee, and will move thy candlestick out of its place, except thou repent. The church had declined from the bright and joyous feelings of her first condition. Might her very zeal for the purity of Christian doctrine have had anything to do with this? It is not impossible. Eager defence of truth against error, notwithstanding its importance, is apt to shift the centre of the soul’s inner life. The strifes of theologians and the cry “First purity, then peace,” translated into “Purity without peace,” have been in every age the scandal and the weakness of the Church. Well might even David speak of it as one of the most signal instances of God’s goodness to them that fear Him, “Thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues ; “ and never, alas! have tongues been sharper or more contentious than in the maintenance of the faith. There is something without which even zeal for truth may be but a scorching and devouring flame; and that is the “first love,” the love ever fresh and tender for Him who first loved us, the love which teaches us to win and not to alienate, to raise and not to crush, those who may only be mistaken in their views, and are not determined enemies of God. Possessed of this spirit, we shall overcome; and the first love will meet its first reward. To him that overcometh, says the Lord, recalling the blessedness of Eden, will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God.

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