Ephesus: Loyal But Lacking
Ephesus was a great and wealthy city of Ionia.
The population of Ephesus was diverse.
Living in Ephesus were the wealthy and the learned, the poor and the illiterate.
It was a wealthy, cultured, corrupt city.
Ephesus was a natural starting place on the continent for a circular message from the Isle of Patmos.
John, the writer of Revelation, had been the chief leader of Christians
around Ephesus for a quarter of a century.
The history of the founding and early operation of his church is recorded in Acts 18-20.
The church had been in existence for about forty five years when this message was sent.
The Lord introduces Himself to the Ephesian church as the one who holds in His right hand the seven stars,
and the one who walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks.
Because of His position in the midst of them, there is no question as to his knowledge of the church.
He knows what is going on and He is caring for it.
He is holding in His right hand its destiny as it is wrapped up in the pastor.
He observes its every virtue and flaw and sends this message to reveal them.
Commendation, 2:2-3, 6
When there is anything to be commended in the church, the Lord mentions it first.
There are many things for which the church at Ephesus can be commended.
The Lord commends them for their loyalty in practice.
"I know thy works, and thy toil, and thy patience."
"Works" has reference to actual service which is being rendered by the church.
This was an active and aggressive congregation.
"Toil" lies deeper than works.
The word translated toil has reference to the effort that produces work at the cost of pain.
In the word is the echo of men who beat upon their breasts with cries of anguish as they pushed toward a desired end.
This was a working church.
"Patience" reveals the attitude of persistence in the toil that produces work.
In the New Testament, it is not the passive word of current usage.
There is no folding of the hands in waiting in this word.
It literally means "to remain under."
It means staying when the burden is heavy.
It means holding one's own in the face of every difficulty.
The three words together give a strong impression of their loyalty in practice.
They are even more meaningful coming from the lips of the transcendent Christ.
They are also commended for their loyalty in doctrine.
"Thou canst not bear evil men" indicates that the Gnostic teachers had gained little ground at Ephesus.
The Gnostic teachers claimed to be genuine apostles and missionaries, the church had tested them,
and found them to be false, and rejected them.
The Ephesians had endured much because of their loyalty to the name of Christ.
They did not grow weary in the midst of difficulties caused by persecution and of false doctrine.
To the unstable Galatians, Paul said, "Stop getting tired of doing good." (Galatians 6:9)
These Ephesians exercise great strength and did not need such a warning.
The work of the Nicolaitans was met in Ephesus by a righteous wrath against all iniquity.
The Ephesians hated the doctrine of the Nicolaitans.
That attitude was the attitude of the living Christ.
Christ also exercised a constant displeasure against evil of every kind.
The exact identity of the Nicolaitans have not been made.
From their relationship to those who held the doctrines of Balaam (2:14-15)
there evil appears to have been the promotion of some form of antinomianism.
Whatever their false teaching was, it was hated by Christ and Christians at Ephesus.
When you hear this commendation, you might be thinking how could anything be wrong in such a church as this.