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Oct 15, 2014, 10:50 AM | Article By: Galandou Gorre-Ndiaye

“He who has an ear, let him hear...”

John, the disciple of Jesus, the one who referred to himself in the Gospel of John as ‘the one whom Jesus loved,’ outlived the Twelve - most of whom died as martyrs.In his old age, while in exile on the island of Patmos, present-day Malta, our Lord Jesus appeared to him in a vision and instructed him to write to the seven churches in Asia Minor – a province of the Roman Empire then.

These letters were addressed to the heads of the different churches and bore either a statement of praise or criticism concerning the present state of the church, words of encouragement, commendations, even reprimands or warnings and promises. It is interesting to note that though the names of special churches were mentioned, all of the letters were read in every church. Every church therefore was aware of the ‘goings-on’ in the other churches and were thus called to order.

During the first century, the integrity of the early church in Ephesus was being challenged by the prevailing economic, political and cultural atmosphere in the region. Each particular church had a peculiar issue or experience to deal with. To the church in Ephesus, our Lord asked the apostle John to write: “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.” (Revelation 2:2-3)

Ephesus was the capital of Asia Minor, and among one of the richest cities at that epoch. It was also situated at the crossroads of land and sea trade routes. As an attractive commercial and tourist centre, its reputation was kept alive. Ephesus prided itself on the temple of Artemis – the goddess of fertility better known as Diana. People travelled from all over the region to worship in this temple. Idolatry was rife. Amidst this flurry of activity however, the church persevered, stood firm, and was overall hard-working. That the church could withstand such influences was highly appreciated.

Our Lord Jesus therefore commended the church for its uncompromising stance against the wave of false teachings by the Nicolaitans. This group of believers taught that Christians could indulge in immoral behaviour and also eat meat sacrificed to idols as a way of exercising their newly-found ‘freedom’ in Christ. By rejecting these teachings, the Christians in Ephesus refused to compromise their faith even though they had to endure persecution and hardship. Whilst this was a positive move on their part, it was the only thing that worked in their favour.

The letter continued: “Yet I hold this against you; you have forsaken your first love.” (Revelation 2:4) The church in Ephesus though hard-working had grown cold in fervour. Their love for the Lord had visibly dwindled to its lowest ebb. They had lost the enthusiasm with which they had embraced the faith at the onset. Though zealous on the outside they were no longer manifestly warm on the inside.

It is important for our relationship with the Lord to remain always on a perpetual high if we are to remain faithful. Our attachment to Christ must be governed by genuine, pure, untainted love, not as a duty or for the eye-seeing of men.

From this letter we deduce that our Lord Jesus is constantly watching over his church and is concerned about its spiritual maturity and its effectiveness as a body. The more we express our love for the Lord, like children do, the more authentic its expression. To think that we can pretend to love the Lord from whom nothing is hidden would be to deceive ourselves. When we love the Lord with all our heart, mind and soul we are assured of a relationship like a knot that cannot be easily broken.

The lukewarm and nonchalant attitudes, coupled with the indifference and business-as-usual postures of a large majority of our twenty-first century churches also point to the need for a rekindling and a revival from their ‘deadness.’ If ‘signs and wonders’ should characterise the church of Christ, then we must depart from the routine, placid and lack-lustre worship services by yielding to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. We serve a resurrected Lord who has paid a price for our salvation and that is the reason for our JOY. The spirit of idolatry and immorality along with political influences that have pervaded our churches must give way to the Rock on which the church was built. We, like the church of Ephesus, have forsaken our first love for the love of self and personal agendas, motivated by personal interests. What is worst, mundane practices have infiltrated the church of Christ.Jesus is saying, it cannot be tolerated.

Our Lord Jesus gave a stern warning to the church in Ephesus which is being directed at us as well. He instructed: “Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.” (Revelation 2:5) We need to take a stand in order to be ridden of all the world-infested negative influences that we have yielded to in the church.

A promise follows the rebuke: “To him/her who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life.” (Revelation 2:7) Our ancestors Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and brought death to humanity. Overcomers will eat from the tree of life and live forever.