Revelation 2:1-3:22 comprises seven letters within the single letter of Revelation and can be titled “Christ’s Challenge to Churches to Overcome.” Each of the seven churches is addressed in turn for admonition or for commendation. The letters reveal a pattern. A greeting is intended to relay a message to the entire church body. A word about Christ parallels His description in chapter 1 and is closely related to a condition in each church. That condition is introduced by “I know that,” followed by a command toward specific action related to that condition: Either as a warning or an encouragement, the Lord is coming. An exhortation to hear and heed is followed by Christ’s promise for those who overcome in Christ.
The first church addressed is at Ephesus (2:1-7). This church had lost the priority of love for God (2:4). In effect, the church somehow had lost the joy of salvation. Ephesus was a prominent center of hedonism in the ancient world (temple of Diana; Pan-Asian Games). The church had become so rigidly orthodox in their opposition to their decadent community that they abandoned love. Though the church at Ephesus had done many commendable things, they had come to ignore Christ personally. In 2:1 Christ identifies Himself with expressions from 1:13, 16, and 20. He is asserting His sovereignty over the church through images of the possession of power and unrestricted movement.
They are not apathetic; initiative and action mark this church (2:2-3). Despite repeated attacks from false religionists, the church persevered. They put great effort into correctness. What was right was highly valued - They “meant business.” However, they had developed what Ray Robbins calls a “censorious hypercritical spirit” (2:4). Such a rigid spirit toward “correct belief” and “correct practice” can only produce an impersonal relationship within a church, toward their community, and toward the Lord Jesus. This church had changed from their beginning, but believed they had not. If a church insists on everyone “measuring up,” then church fellowship cannot stand that strain. Jesus is not advocating lowering their standards; He is challenging them to rediscover the primary standard for a church – His love.
His condition for judgment depended upon their response (2:5). They could uphold “correctness” (2:6), but not in unbending stiffness toward others. They could know life and goodness in the joy of salvation of Christ again. They could overcome if they would listen to Him (2:7).
Dr. David Moore is a Baptist preacher in Pampa and an online instructor in Bible and theology for Taylor University and Nations University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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