In the Book of Revelation, in chapters two and three, Jesus addresses the churches. While I realize that the Lord is addressing these historical, literal churches, many scholars believe that these churches represent certain church ages. I would add that each church that Jesus addresses has specific warnings and exhortations from our Lord to individual believers. Let us begin with the first Church, Ephesus.
Ephesus was an ancient port city in modern-day Turkey. It was known for the massive temple of Artemis, a Greek goddess or Diana, as the Romans called her. In 129 BC, King Attalos of Pergamon left Ephesus to the Roman Empire in his will. The city then became the seat of the regional Roman governor.
Ephesus was second only to Rome as a cosmopolitan center of culture and commerce. As a port city; goods arrived from the harbor, and caravans traveled the Royal road. Christianity spread in Ephesus in the first century A.D.
Many converts emerged from this goddess cult. Proselytizing did have its challenges in Ephesus, as recorded in the book of Acts. Those who made money from the goddess cult persecuted Christians because they put a dent in their income.
Eventually, Christianity became the official religion of Ephesus but in 262 A.D., the splendor of Ephesus was destroyed by the Goths.
In Ephesus the Messianic Jews had a hard time accepting the Gentile converts. In Paul’s letters to the Ephesians, he tried rectifying this barrier by explaining that all believers were now one people through Jesus Christ.
In the book of Revelation (given to the apostle John), Jesus commends the church of Ephesus for their diligent works in the kingdom of God. He also commends them for their patience in suffering.
Since the church of Ephesus consisted of a mix of Gentile pagans and Jewish converts, it was challenging to keep the faith pure and unadulterated. Port cities tend to flourish with all kinds of strange superstitions and weird ideologies. Ephesians were diligent in keeping out worldly practices and strange beliefs. They were doctrinal Puritans.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John. 4:1
While the Ephesians tested people’s ministries and doctrines, the Lord pointed out that they had a severe problem. He told them (in John’s vision) that they had left their first love! In other words, the Ephesians had a form of knowledge but not the whole truth. They knew the letter of the word, BUT they did not have an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, who is THE WORD.
The Ephesians had religion. Doctrinal purity, while good, is not the end all to be all. Many apologists suffer from this ailment of religiously over relationship. Some don’t even know they have this problem. These doctrinal Puritans will strain over a gnat and swallow a camel!
I can say this because I was one of them. A complete freak for pure doctrine but couldn’t see the person of Jesus Christ past my nose! If you asked me if I knew the Jesus of the Bible, I would tell you most assuredly! I would get out my doctrinal purity chart and show you how much I knew about the Bible. I am a very educated person, you know! I could wrap a cult leader around my doctrinal yardstick! This same mindset goes for a lot of religious doctrinal Puritans. Just like the Ephesians! A lot of zeal but no fire.
Unless you know your Bible well, I would not recommend getting into the ring with one of them. They use a very sharp sword and can poke you a good one with it! One thing these doctrinal Puritans don’t have though is the fire of God. They are scholars on ice! You won’t see many of them used to heal the sick, cast out devils, or raise the dead. They are too busy explaining it all away! Nor will you see them on their face worshipping the Lord, crying out in intercession for the lost to get saved, or feeding the poor. These doctrinal Puritans are busy studying the word!
Now don’t get me wrong, knowledge of the Bible is good! Pure doctrine is good! Jesus commended the Ephesians for their doctrinal purity. But if you don’t have a passion for Jesus and love him with all your heart, what does doctrinal purity mean in our relationship to God?
I know many uneducated Christians who have no clue about major doctrinal issues but they have the fire of God in their belly! These fools on fire are what changed the world! What education did the fishermen have?
Are you a scholar on ice? A doctrinal Puritan with no Holy Spirit power in your life? Then you need to return to your first love! Seek the Lord while he may be found! Cry out to him to put his fire in your belly! It’s not enough to be doctrinally pure. Jesus himself, in his admonition to the Ephesians, said so himself!
Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
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