In my mindís eye, there has never been a church as vibrant and effective as the church at Ephesus. The people responsible for the leadership of this exciting church was Paul the apostle in hi teaching, Apolloís in his dynamic preaching, Priscilla and Aquila in their quiet ministry of encouragement, and young Timothy who provided leadership in the development of itís ministry. Here we see the various gifts employed to equip this church in its purpose.
This young church faced extreme persecution in its development but persevered until it was finally established. This church had a deep love for one another and especially those who were its leaders. When Paul visited them as mentioned in Acts chapter 20, there was a great expression of grief over the possibility that they were seeing him for the last time. Ephesus became a great evangelistic church and some expositors think that the church at Smyrna was planted by Ephesus.(This was probably so since it was only about twenty miles away.)
II. THEIR PROGRESS.
As we read through the book of Ephesians and the letters to Timothy from Paul we discover a church with discernment and a full understanding of their purpose. They have come to understand the teachings in a practical way and Paul spoke to them on a more mature level than he did to some of the other churches.. After thirty eight years something happened. In the book of Revelation God tells them that they have lost their first love. In other words, something important was missing: Something important to God.
III. THEIR NEGLECT
An important lesson for all of us is that no matter how we have begun our spiritual journey or how great is our success, we cannot rest on these without suffering the consequences of neglect. We make the mistake of seeing salvation as the final journey when in reality it is the first stage toward meaning and purpose.
There are some things that Ephesus did not lose. They did not lose the importance of sound doctrine. This kept them from many errors and gave them the ability to discern things that would harm the church. They were intolerant of evil and false teachers so they were a safe church to be part of. Sometimes being a ďSafe churchĒ is not healthy because it can mean that the unsaved that attend did not ever have to worry about being confronted by the Gospel. It appears that this was happening at Ephesus as we shall see.
IV. THE CAUSE
It is not easy to place a finger on any one problem. There was a drift away from their original zeal and love. It was gradual for certain. Over a period of thirty eight years many things could have happened. It happens in our modern churches today. New people and converts enter the church and if they are never properly nourished, they will backslide and cause others to do so as well. This affects the overall ministry of the church. This was not the cause of the drift at Ephesus however. The church in her zeal to protect and guard what they had neglected something more important: To keep preaching the Gospel to a lost world. The zeal that once characterized this great church was absent and unless the Lord had spoken to them they would not know that they had a problem. Churches like Ephesus become orthodox, causing them to become self- satisfied and resting in false securities. Sometimes they become legalistic and exclusive concerning those who may be part of their fellowship, thinking that they are doing Godís will. They become locked up in past ministries and cannot accept any new ideas. They view any who do not agree with their doctrinal positions as false. Their orthodoxy becomes the standard to determine truth. The real cause of their fall was a matter of focus. They lost the focus that they first had.
V. THE CURE
What causes a church to lose itís first love? Itís not the same as a Christian backsliding as some may interpret it to be. The church as it is addressed is a whole body composed of individual members, but there is a sense that those who form the leadership have something to do with the drift. Godly, faithful men should compose the leadership but sometimes that standard is lowered to accommodate men with education and experience. Faithfulness and Godliness is then replaced gradually with men who have drive and ambition. The standards of scripture are ignored re Ėinterpreted, or downplayed as out of fashion. New ideas are set forth using worldly standards to improve or make the church more palatable to the world. Instead of recognizing the lost condition and offering to the world the bread of life that can satisfy their true need. We offer them a more digestible Gospel that satisfies their quest for pleasure. Add to these standards thirty eight years of time and you have a church that lost itís first love.
Godís answer to this church is to remember (He does not want them to forget what it was like at the beginning and the difficulty they faced to become a church.) Second He calls them to repent. (That means to have a change of mind about the direction they are going. Consider carefully the choices they are making and their consequences. Finally God calls them to return. (that means determined action is required in order to restore it to its former first love.) Unfortunately the church at Ephesus did not follow through and had a disastrous end.
THE CHURCH OF EPHESUS LOST ITS FOCUS WITH THE TRUE HUNGER OF MANíS HEART AND WAS UNABLE TO UNDERSTAND HOW TO SATISFY THAT HUNGER.
I am GLAD that I bumped into your message today. Your writings seem to be on target. I then read, "I saw Jesus today" - the story of your cancer patient. You are doing God's will, so I just wanted to comment. Keep up the good work of evangelism...it IS God's will...and it IS what the church at Ephesus lost.