Revelation’s Seven Churches: Ephesus
By Mark A. Finley
This month we will begin a series of Bible studies on Revelation’s seven churches. The messages to these churches applied in John’s day to specific conditions within each church mentioned in Revelation. Of course there were more than seven local Christian congregations in John’s day. These particular congregations were chosen for a purpose. They have special application to the Christian church in succeeding generations. They represent the Christian church on a historical continuum, starting with the first church, Ephesus, and proceeding to the last church, Laodicea.
In this series of short Bible studies we will ask, “What is the Holy Spirit trying to tell me in this passage of Scripture?” Precious truths regarding our own spiritual lives are present in these messages.
1Who is described in Revelation 1:12-17? Read Revelation 1:18-20. What words of encouragement does He speak to each of the seven churches?
Jesus encourages His people with these hopeful words: “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last” (verse 17). The eternal Christ promises to be with His people in every generation. He is not some “absentee landlord”; He is with His people. As the old hymn says, “Just when I need Him, Jesus is near.”
2Read Revelation 2:1. What is Jesus doing? Who are the stars He holds in His hands, and what do the seven golden candlesticks represent? See Revelation 1:20.
Jesus’ church never needs to fear. He is in its midst, holding it in His hands, walking among His people. In spite of the enormous challenges that come to His church, it is secure in His grip and can face the future with confidence.
3Read Revelation 2:2, 3. What does Christ find in the church of Ephesus to commend?
The word “Ephesus” means desirable. These early Christians labored to the point of exhaustion. They persevered in the face of overwhelming odds. They stood fast in the midst of persecution and protected the church against false doctrine. They hated the “deeds of the Nicolaitans” (verse 6), a group of radical heretics who taught that love was license and that obedience to the law was unnecessary. The Ephesian Christians were doctrinally straight and missionary-minded.
4Read Revelation 2:4. What concerned Christ about the church at Ephesus?
Unfortunately, the church members at Ephesus left their first love. They placed duty before devotion. What they did for Christ became more important than who they were in Christ. Their work for Jesus crowded out knowing Jesus.
5Read Revelation 2:5. How did Christ counsel them to remedy the situation?
Jesus counseled these church members to do three things: to remember, to repent, and to return.
What do you do when you lose your first love, when your Christian experience goes stale? What do you do when you are merely going through the motions and are locked in formalism? You remember when your heart burned with love for Jesus. You repent and return to the things you did when your Christian experience was fresh and new. You return to spending time with Jesus in Bible study and prayer. You place devotion before duty. You place “being” before “doing,” because who you are in Christ is more important than what you do for Christ. You can “do” without “being,” but you can never “be” without “doing.”
6Each of the admonitions to the seven churches ends with the expression “to him who overcomes” (Rev. 2:7). Why do you think Jesus ends His instructions to each church this way?
7Why did Jesus long for the Ephesian Christians to overcome, and what promise did He give them if they overcame?
The New Testament church was filled with people deeply committed to Jesus. It grew and flourished in His love and grace. Christ filled their hearts and transformed their lives. But as time went on duty crowded out devotion. Work for the church overshadowed worship of the living Christ. Echoing down through the ages is this appeal that Christianity is all about knowing Jesus deeply, intimately, and personally.