18 July 2012

Revelation 2:1-7

"I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance. I know that you cannot tolerate evildoers; you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them to be false. I also know that you are enduring patiently and bearing up for the sake of my name, and that you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first." (vv. 2-4)


Through John's Revelation, Jesus now speaks prophetically to the seven separate churches ("lampstands" (v. 1)) and the first of these is in Ephesus. As with all the messages to these churches, there is knowledge and intimacy; John knew these people well, their strengths and their weaknesses. One can only presume that, whilst exiled on Patmos, John received up to date information about these Christian brothers and sisters on the mainland.

The message to the Ephesian church begins in a complimentary way. They are affirmed as being hardworking, patient, and not tolerating false teachers - notably the sect called Nicolaitans who advocated various pagan practices and immorality in the name of spiritual freedom. It is clear in these verses that the church members are following the rules (verses 2-3).

However, this short message also suggests that that they have lost their love of God. When reading these words to the church in Ephesus, I am reminded again of John Wesley's three daily 'general rules':

  • Do no harm
  • Do good
  • Stay in love with God

The Christians in Ephesus appear to be conducting themselves well, but seem to have lost the fervour and excitement of being in love. The prophetic words in this passage are a call to remember that the God of love requires repentance; a change in thought and attitude that starts with knowing just how much God loves each one of us first. Followers of Jesus, then as now, need to understand just how much love was demonstrated on the Cross and that at the heart of our faith it is all about having a deep relationship with God. It is this that the Ephesians seem to have abandoned (verse 4).

There are references to Old Testament teaching throughout Revelation, and this short instruction to the Ephesians ends in verse 7 with a reference to the tree of life in Genesis 2 and 3. Eternal life is made possible again for all those who are faithful to Jesus.

To Ponder

  • What do you think about John Wesley's three general rules (Do no harm, do good, stay in love with God) as a recipe for daily living as a Christian?
  • Two emphases in this short message are the importance of orderly living, and then the need to be in love with God. How do you express both at the same time?

Bible notes author

Michael King

Michael King is a Methodist local preacher. From 2000-2011, he was leader of the Methodist Church's World Church Relationships team, and was the vice-president of the Methodist Conference in 2012/2013.