Emails to the Churches

Jun 17, 2013

A street view of the ruins of Ephesus.

A street view of the ruins of Ephesus.

“But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen from your first love! Turn back to me again and work as you did at first. If you don’t, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches.”

The letters that John wrote to the seven churches in Asia late in the first century were all very different. Each church had its own challenges, problems, and issues. In John’s vision, what he wrote down as our New Testament book of The Revelation, two of the first three chapters are devoted recording these seven letters.

Each of the seven churches that John wrote to in Revelation had their own challenges, problems, and issues.

Each letter is dictated to John by Jesus. The Lord has a special message for each of the churches. In some of the letters, He praises the churches. In others, He chastises them sharply. In the letter to the Ephesian church, Jesus praises them and chastises them.

The Ephesian church had a fascinating history. The Apostle Paul started the church on his third missionary trip around the year 54 AD. He spent three years in the city and saw tremendous growth in the number of believers there. The story is recorded in Acts 19-20. It was in Ephesus that Luke wrote about Paul doing “extraordinary” miracles. Many people were healed and set free from demonic oppression.

Church tradition tells us that the Apostle John spent some twenty years in Ephesus working, working with the church and planting others in the surrounding area of Asia Minor. Another tradition indicates that it was the Ephesian church that first started copying and collecting a library of the Apostle Paul’s letters. Succeeding generations will be forever grateful to them for doing that!

It was the Ephesian church that first started collecting and copying a library of the Apostle Paul’s letters. 

About forty years after the Ephesian church was started, however, things had changed. That is when this letter from Jesus was penned in The Revelation. Jesus starts the letter by commending them. He has “seen their hard work and their patient endurance.” They have defended the faith. Those are good things. Those are important things.

Then Jesus told the Ephesian Christians of His complaint against them: “You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!” While hard work, patient endurance, and defense of the faith are important, they are not nearly as important as how we love God and each other.

During His earthly ministry Jesus summed up the entire Old Testament Law into two commands: “Love God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as your self.” On the night before Jesus’ crucifixion, He reiterated the importance of love to His followers: “This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have love you.”

This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.” Jesus

When I read Jesus’ words to the Ephesian Christians in Revelation, I realize that He was not just writing to them. He is also writing to His Church in every generation. It is so easy to get caught up in being a “good Christian” and doing the things that Christians do that we can forget the simplicity of the Christian life. Love God and love other people. If we can get those two right, everything else will just fall into place.

Annie and I are sharing the love of God in Curitiba, Brazil. Would you consider being a part of our support team? Just click here to get involved. Obrigado!

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