To the church in Ephesus
Ephesus was the capital of Asia, and one of the great cities of the ancient world, with a population of about a quarter of a million people. If Rome’s power and seduction was on display anywhere, it was here.
At its centre was the great temple of Artemis (Diane), the goddess of the hunt, the moon god and sister of Apollo, the sun god, and one of the wonders of the ancient world. Temples to Roma and the emperors were located within its precinct.
A famous tree stood in the wonderful temple gardens, acting as a place of asylum for accused criminals who could reach it.
Jesus speaks as the one who holds the seven stars in his hand. Jesus, not Rome is sovereign.
The Ephesians are commended for their orthodoxy, their hard work and perseverance even in difficult times. We don’t really know who the Nicolaitans were. One guess is that they advocated compromise: participate in the Imperial cult, do as the city requests, it doesn’t matter really, your life will be easier. But this is a guess based on zero data. We know nothing of Nicolaus and his teachings.
Many churches today are like the church of Ephesus. Doctrinally sound. Morally orthodox. Love grown cold.
Jesus says, ‘You have forsaken your first love’.
The church has lost its passion for Jesus, a condition that threatens her very existence!
Jesus says, ‘Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the works you did at first’, with a chilling warning: If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.
If you travel to Ephesus today, you will see many wonders. But no church.
At the heart of the christian life should be a burning love for God, a love that is nourished by worship, prayer and scripture and a life of service to others. We are called to experience his deep love for us, and living out of his love, to give our lives away.
John does not make it clear whether he is referring to the believer’s love for God of for one another. However, if you are familiar with the rest of the Johannine corpus, you will know that these two things are closely entwined. Our love for God is meant to be displayed in our love for one another.
To the one who conquers, I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. I see you big old tree of refuge and I raise you a tree of life in the paradise of God!