THE LIVING WORD TRANSCRIPT
Program Air Date - 10-22-06
LESSON TITLE: "THE SEVEN CHURCHES OF ASIA: THE CHURCH AT EPHESUS"
Paul once said, "be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus," 2 Tim.2:1! Here we are again on another beautiful Lord's Day with the opportunity to be strong in the grace of God. What a great and wondrous privilege this truly is.
And with that in mind let me say, thank you for choosing to be with us as we together give this time to our creator. How blessed we are at this time to again sing praises to our God and to study from His matchless Word. I hope we all will do our part to make this time together acceptable in His sight. Now will you bow with me in prayer!
Well, today is the day! At 2:00 we will have our 10th taping of songs for the Living Word Program. This singing will be taped at the Kansas Expressway Church of Christ building in Springfield and we hope that many of you have already made plans to be with us. The songs we tape today will be used in the near future on this program as a part of our times of worship before God. So please join us in this time of offering and service to God. I look forward to seeing many of you there.
This morning we want to begin with a song that talks about the trust we can have in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So, at this time won't you join in with the congregation as we together sing, "Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus."
(SONG # 1)
When was the last time this old world let you down? Probably almost every day we have experiences that remind us of how little faith we can put in this world and the things of it. The Bible tells us that this is just the way the world is! Because it is made up of the things of the flesh, therefore it can not be counted on.
On the other hand, God can be depended on in all areas of life. In fact, in Matthew 19:26, Jesus said, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." Truly with God anything is possible and we can know He is able and will do the things which He says. However, with men, again we are unsure - never knowing whether we can depend on them or not.
Another verse which helps us with the dependability of God is found in Hebrews 6:18. There the writer says, "it is impossible for God to lie." Isn't it great to know that we can have full confidence in God and in what He promises. Everything that He has said and confirmed to us in His word, can be counted on!
Therefore we have the promise of the blessing of this earth and the ultimate promise of the hope of heaven. Again, keeping in mind that with God these things are possible but with men they are not.
So, where should you put your trust today? In the things of man or in the things of God. The problem is, you can't have it both ways. You can't serve God and mammon, as Jesus said in Matthew 6:24. Another verse which helps us with this whole topic is found in 1 John 2:15. There it says, "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." Again the point is we must chose to put God first or the World.
A few verses down we find the reason why we must choose God. In verse 17, we read, "And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever."
So why not put your full confidence and trust in something you can completely count on - that is the creator of all, our God and Father in Heaven. If we make the right choice, we will receive all those things which God has promised us in His Word. So let me ask you, where does your faith lie today, in Jesus or the World?
Today, we have a guest speaker with us who is the minister for the Highway 13 Church of Christ, brother Kevin Patterson. We thank this brother for being with us and we look forward to him leading our thoughts from God's Word at the appropriate time. This morning, we will continue with our new series entitled, "The Seven Churches of Asia." Our specific lesson of the morning will deal with, "The Church at Ephesus." So, please continue with us this morning, and after our next song together brother Patterson will return with our lesson of the day. Now, let's join in our next hymn together, which is called, "Seeking The Lost!"
(SONG # 2)
Speaker: Kevin Patterson
Good morning and thanks again for staying with us. As was mentioned earlier, we are starting a series of lessons that was begun last week under the title of "The Seven Churches of Asia." This morning, according to Revelation chapter 1 and verse 11, we're going to study the first of those congregations of the Lord's body, the church at Ephesus. Before we begin with our reading for the morning which we will find in Revelation chapter 2 and the first seven verses, I want to ask you this question: Have you ever known of someone who skipped to the very last page of a book so that they could see the outcome of the story without having actually read the story in order for itself? Well that in a way is what we are going to be doing this morning because as we study the church at Ephesus, we're going to really go to the last details that we find the Bible recording concerning this congregation.
Beginning in verse 1, "To the angel of the church at Ephesus write; These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands. I know your works, your labor, your patience that you cannot bear those who are evil and you have tested those who say they are apostles and they are not and have found them liars and you have persevered and have patience and have labored for my namesake and have not become weary. Nevertheless, I have this against you that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen, repent and do the first works or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place unless you repent. But this you have that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give to eat from the Tree of Life which is in the midst of the Paradise of God."
As we analyze this passage of scripture, I want you to first note that the Christians at Ephesus are commended for the works. They do a number of very good things. They labor. They're patient. They persevere. They cannot bear those who are evil and they even expose those who falsely call themselves apostles. But then the Christians at Ephesus are condemned, condemned for the condition of their heart, not because they do not love God, not because they do not love good things but because evidently it has ceased to be their first love. In the passage that we read from verse 4, God says in essence through the inspired writer, John, "You have left your first love." And so this is what we look at this morning. The Christians at Ephesus did good works but they left their first love.
As we examine this relationship, we realize that good works and proper love walk hand in hand throughout the scriptures as do a lot of other categories. For instance John 4 and verse 24 teaches us that true worship, the only kind of worship that is pleasing to God is going to be the kind of worship that is in Spirit and in Truth with the right attitude, along with the right action. You can't have one without the other and be pleasing to God.
In James chapter 2 and verse 17 we read that faith by itself if it does not have works is dead. So we realize that having simply a mental belief in God is not sufficient. On the other hand, working and trying to achieve your own salvation without faith in God is just as insufficient. One must put that mental faith, that belief system into action if you want to have a living faith that is pleasing to God.
Well the same is true between works and love. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13 in the first three verses, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clinging symbol and though I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge and though I have all faith so that I could remove mountains but have not love, I am nothing, and though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor and though I give my body to be burned but have not love it profits me nothing." Obviously a Christian must have love but that love of God must also be of first importance. Our love for God and for things that are true and good and pure and holy in His sight must be of a first importance, a first priority in our lives.
Matthew 6 and verse 33, Jesus said, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you."
He also said in Mark 12 and verse 30 the extent of our love is this, that "You should love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength." In other words, when we love God we must love Him first and with everything that we have.
So what happened to the church at Ephesus? They continued to do good works, but what happened to the love? What happened to their priority? Well, even tough they were obedient to the Lord's commands, they were evidently influenced perhaps by their surroundings. What was Ephesus? Well, first of all, let's recognize that Ephesus was a very large and important city on the West Coast of Asia Minor. It was a center of business because it was located at the mouth of a river and was a very favored seaport and also an important trade center west of Tarsus. It was also a center of diversity. In Roman times, Ephesus was the largest city in the province of Asia boasting a population of around 300,000 people. It was also a center of religion. The temple of Ardimus or Diana according to her Roman name has been ranked as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. In Paul's day, this temple was supported by 127 columns each of which was nearly 200 feet high. It was certainly a very important place in many areas. Paul even had visited this important place in Acts 18 and 19 in his second and third missionary journeys, the last of which he stayed for over two years preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. But Paul mentioned one time in 1 Corinthians chapter 16 verses 8 and 9 that there were enemies to that truth found in this area. He wrote, "But I will tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost for a great and effective door has opened to me and there are many adversaries." Who and what were these adversaries?
Well perhaps we might be able to look and find some of those answers by taking a look at some of the record of these missionary journeys in Paul's visits to Ephesus specifically found in Acts 19. In Acts 19 verses 8 and 9 we read that the scriptures teach us that Ephesus had some people who loved their position more than they loved the truth. We read that "Paul went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God. But when some were hardened and did not believe but spoke evil of the way before the multitude, he departed from them and withdrew the disciples reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus."
Here's a situation where Paul is preaching the Truth but because some people do not want to receive the Truth, they then turn around and start bad-mouthing Paul and the church. They start spreading rumors. They start doing anything to prevent themselves from perhaps losing their popularity, perhaps losing their position, whatever they can do to keep themselves comfortable with where they are. These are people who did not want to change.
We also see another passage of scripture, Acts 19 verses 11-16 that Ephesus also had some people who loved their power more than Truth. Verse 11 of Acts 19 reads, "Now God worked unusual miracles by the hand of Paul so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them. Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits saying, 'We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.' Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest who did so." Now listen to this. When there are people who see the power that Paul has and they want it for themselves, they covet the power and they try to use that power without the authority of God, notice what happens. "The evil spirit answered and said, 'Jesus I know and Paul I know, but who are you?' Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them and prevailed against them so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded." There are people today who would rather protect and preserve their power base than to acknowledge and obey the Truth.
We also see that the scriptures teach that Ephesus had some people that loved their possessions more than the Truth. In one instance in Acts 19 beginning in verse 23, "About that time there arose a great commotion about the way which is the church for a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith who made silver shrines of Diana, brought no small profit to the craftsmen. He called them together with the workers of similar occupation and said, 'Men, you know that we have prosperity by this trade. Moreover, you see and hear that not only at Ephesus but throughout almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people saying that they are not gods which are made with hands. So not only is this trade of ours in danger of falling in disrepute but also the temple of the great goddess, Diana, maybe despised and her magnificence destroyed whom all Asia and the world worship.' And when they heard this, they were full of wrath and cried out saying, 'Great is Diana of the Ephesians.'" What did Demetrius and others do? They stirred up trouble because Paul because of his truthful teaching was turning people away from idols and by turning them away from idols, he was turning them away from these people's business and rather than being able to line their pockets with the people's gold Paul was in fact hurting their pockets and as a result these people lashed back. Some people will protect their possessions. They will protect their money rather than acknowledge the Truth.
Could these worldly influences ever effect the church? Well Paul cautions the elders of the church at Ephesus to remain diligent against such things by protecting themselves, the members of the Lord's body with which they were charged to shepherd. Acts 20 and verse 17, Paul called the elders at Ephesus to him and in verse 25, he said to them, "Indeed now I know that you all among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God will see my face no more. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men for I have not shunned to declare to you the whole council of God. Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood, for I know this that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you not sparing the flock, also from among your own selves, among yourselves men will rise up speaking perverse things to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears." Paul says to the church at Ephesus to the elders in particular, he says to them, "Watch out. Oversee the flock that you are charged to shepherd. Make sure and protect them. Ensure that the Truth is taught and make sure that you stand up for what is right, because there is going to come a time when people from the outside will come into your midst and even from among the own eldership there will arise people who will speak false things."
In 1 Timothy 1, 1-7, Paul gives Timothy, the young preacher, the instruction to remain in Ephesus and make sure that you preach the Truth against those who are present who would lean toward false teaching and even turn to it.
When Paul wrote his letter to the church at Ephesus in the early 60's AD, he wrote it to "the saints who are at Ephesus and faithful in Christ Jesus," Ephesians 1, verse 1. He goes on to encourage them to remember what the Lord had done for them, about the single-mindedness of God, about how the church is the Lord's and He is the head of it, but he also warns them to speak the Truth, something that they would continue to do but to speak the Truth in love.
So let me remind you this morning, elders protect the church. Preachers, defend the Truth. And Christians, never, ever leave your first love. May God bless you.
(SONG # 3 - "Ring Out The Message!")
Again, let me thank you for choosing to be with us this morning. I hope we all have been encouraged through our time spent together. Please, remember you are invited to join us every Sunday morning at 7:30, as we commit ourselves to this service of God.
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May we never leave our first love in this life, but rather always put God first in all things! So, let me ask, "what type of commitment to you show toward God in your daily life?"