20 September, 2007

Dear Ephesus

I have begun a Bible study on the seven churches of Asia Minor found in the second and third chapters of the book of Revelation. There are so many practical applications for the Church today found in those two little chapters.

Wednesday we began with the letter to Ephesus. Ephesus was the 'mother kirk' of the other churches in that region, pastored by Timothy with apostolic oversight from John. The session of this congregation was known to have precision doctrinally and could spot heresy from a distance. At the time of the writing to the churches, this congregation had lost much of the zeal that 'first generation' Christians bring to a congregation. The love for Christ had grown cold. Jesus tells them that they are to do these first works again and to repent.

“The lush green color of springtime in the congregation has disappeared, and the fading shades… of Autumn are now prevalent. To put it differently, the church that Jesus addressed no longer consisted of first generation believers but of second and third generation Christians. These people lacked the enthusiasm their parents and grandparents had demonstrated. They functioned not as propagators of the faith but as caretakers and custodians. There was an obvious deficiency in evangelistic outreach as a result of a status quo mode of thought. They loved the Lord, but no longer with heart, mind, and soul.” -Simon Kistemaker

Jesus gives them a great promise though. If they overcome, they will be granted to eat from the Tree of Life. To a city that was full of false worship that was symbolized by the fig-tree, this promise would stand out as such comfort to those that longed to magnify the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Jesus’ last words… is not a threat but a promise: the victor will eat from the tree of life in the paradise of God. In this first letter the painful memory of paradise lost is transformed into hope, as the promise points ahead to the tree of life in the New Jerusalem… The great temple of Artemis at Ephesus was built on the site of an ancient tree-shrine, and the image of the date palm symbolized the goddess and her city, Ephesus. But Jesus excels Artemis, for he promises to those who overcome, through truth expressed in love, access to a tree that yields endless delight and eternal life. –Dennis Johnson.

May we not lose our first love, do those first works of love and worship towards Christ and neighbors, thus also being partakers of that eternal fruit from that Ancient Tree.


Mark said...

'Twas a good study, I'm looking forward to the rest of them. There's really a lot of depth there, and much for us to learn.

I meant to ask you Wed. night - you say that the session was known for its doctrinal integrity, and that the congregation had lost its zeal. While both are no doubt true, I guess I don't see Christ shifting from addressing session to the congregation or visa versa. I've always understood the letters to be addressed to the church as a whole. Thus, the congregation and session were known together for their orthodoxy, and they had together lost their zeal. I'm not trying to detract from the importance of session - there are plenty of Biblical reasons to honor them - but I wouldn't want to detract from the integrity of the laity, either. But then, I'm laity. :)

Regardless, the promises apply to us all, and that's a great comfort.

An Eshelman said...

I do not think that I intended to shift back and forth between session and congregation. When I mentioned congregation, I included the session. When I mentioned the session, it was because there was a special address to them (ie, stars and angels are members of session particularly).

I hope that clarifies.

Mark said...

I thought as much, thanks for the clarification.