By Greg Rangel
“I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience…” (Revelation 2:2a).
In Revelation 2 and 3 Jesus addresses the seven churches that existed in Asia Minor. Jesus has a different message for each of the churches as we will see throughout the study of Revelation 2 and 3. There were many more churches that had already been established, like the church of Corinth and that of the Thessalonians for example. But through these messages Jesus will be addressing the root of every major problem that will come to exist throughout all church history, and so therefore He is addressing every professing Christian church throughout history.
Before Jesus condemns the Ephesian church, He first commends it for what it was doing.
Ephesus was a very moving church in every way. It was very busy in doing good works and laboring to the point of exhaustion. I believe that the reason that they were thus was because they had been founded by the Apostle Paul, who also trained them in how to do ministry. It was also from Paul that they received their working orders, you can say, because it was Paul that wrote to them in Ephesians 4:11-12, “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:”
And so it seemed like the Ephesian church was very busy in the work of the ministry in every way. They perhaps had a very busy schedule. Their bulletin (hypothetically speaking) was probably filled with weekly activities, in and out of the church. They perhaps did have a ministry to the poor and had many volunteers for it. They also perhaps had prayer meetings every single day, and door to door evangelism no doubt, or even a great missionary program. They also perhaps had a great church outreach program, and a big youth ministry. They probably had many home fellowships as well, or many other type of Christian church events. The Ephesian church was very busy and in every way. James wrote in James 2:17 that faith without works is dead, and the Ephesian church knew that. And so they perhaps did not want to consider themselves dead.
Even thought they were busy in the work of the ministry, there was still something wrong with the church. The Ephesian church had every aspect of a full functioning Christian church. People from the outside looking in were probably very well impressed with all the weekly activities that the church had. But once again, even though they were very busy in the “work of the Lord,” there was still something wrong with the church, and that is why the Lord had to address them.
The Ephesians were also ‘patient.’ That is, they had the ability to endure during hardships and trials because the word that is used here in verse 2 for “patience” is the Greek word “hupomone” which is the same Greek word that is used in Romans 5:4 when speaking about how difficult trials are and how trials are used to give us the ability to endure.
The Ephesians were enduring trials and persecutions because during those days Christians were being persecuted in every way because they did not want to bow the knee to Caesar. But even though they were building up the ability to endure during difficult times, there was still something wrong with it.
Jesus then compliments them further by saying that, “…and how thou canst not bear them which are evil:…” (Revelation 2:2b).
The other interesting thing about the Ephesian church was that, it was a church that was sanctified before men. That is, they hated the same things that you and I as Christians hate today. They perhaps hated abortion and no doubt spoke out against those that stood for it. They perhaps hated the sin of homosexuality, and probably spoke out against them as well. This church appeared to be a holy church in every way before men. There was a big difference between the Ephesian church and the church at Corinth. The Corinthian church was not sanctified before men. On the contrary, at one point they boasted about the wickedness that existed in it (see 1 Corinthians 5).
Even though the Ephesian church had all the markings of a true Christian church, there was still something wrong with them. To be continued.
Borderland Calvary Chapel