Christ Speaks to Seven Churches in Asia Minor


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Christ Himself admonished His church and literally says, "I hold this against thee." If only today we would see the words of Christ are as valid now as when he spoke them to John. They are as applicable to our churches as to the church at Ephesus. It is a serious matter when Christ who gave Himself for the church says I have something against you. (See Eph. 5:25)
Christ=s admonishment was that they had left their first love." In contrast, Paul in Ephesians 1:15, written in 64 AD commended them for their love unto all the saints. He encouraged too them to continue to walk in love. (Eph. 5:2) They ignored God=s instruction and in a period of approximately thirty years had grown to the point of substituting the pride of good works for love of Christ.
Jesus says in strong language to this busy, laboring, discerning, persevering church, that hated evil, Ayou have forgotten your first love." They had forsaken and abandoned a personal relationship with Christ. The word used here for love is "agape" is the deepest, personal and totally unselfish kind of love. Jesus says to the church, "Look at yourself as I see you! You are to occupied with church pride, numbers, programs and routines. You should serve me out of love, not loyalty to an organization."
It has been my experience that often churches which appear so successful outwardly, when examined more closely are found wanting. One church in a town where I ministered had a seemly very prosperous church. They had large numbers and many reports of people being saved. I knew the church's denomination was in doctrinal error in several areas but how could one criticize such success? In time it became clear the Gospel the church preached was unsound and flawed. When questioned about their clear compromise of Scripture the church pointed to its outward success as proof of God's blessing on their ministry and refused to even consider that anything was wrong. They looked good outwardly, but were in fact dishonoring Christ with their false practices all the while thinking themselves to spiritually sound. It is the word of God, not outward success which determines a church=s spiritual relationship with the Lord. A church in doctrinal error is in sin and by their disobedience has separated themselves from the Lord and He cannot nor will bless them or be a part of their work. Churches must examine themselves in the reality of the teachings of the Bible to determine reality and see themselves as Christ sees them.
Clearly the Bible teaches God will not under any circumstances bless error. Ephesus' failure was refusing to follow Paul's instruction to "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves." (2 Cor. 13:5) The attitude Paul is teaching in this instruction is one of constant self-evaluation. "For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged." (1 Cor. 11:31) They were so busy and taken with their work they had left their love of Christ.
Outwardly, they may have prided themselves in their love. But it was an emotional love, not "agape" which manifests itself in total unselfish dependence on and devotion to Christ. The word used for "hast left" implies an intentional and not accidental act. They knew they were in error, but it did not matter to them. You see they were running this church in human power and did not see the need of the Lord. It is the same error of one trying to work or earn their salvation. They were operating in their own righteousness and not God=s. This church was proud of its organizational achievements and self-sufficiency and their human accomplishments robbed them of blessings and presence of the Lord. God is saying that even doing good for improper reasons is wrong. This should certainly be a rebuke against many churches today who take such pride in their numbers, programs, buildings, etc. Paul rebuked the Galatians who were so legalistic in applying the letter of the law. "For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love"(Galatians 5:6). In verse 13, Paul continues and says, ". . . by love serve one another." Paul gave thanks for the ". . . work of faith and labor of love” of the Thessalonians. (1 Thess. 1:3)
God's love is the essence of His character and the reason for all He does. The believer, too, must reflect that love to those around him; that is why this was so important the Lord. How could a church or believer be used by God to reflect His marvelous love, if they have abandoned it?

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