Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Revelation of Christ's Expectations (Love)

ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE

Christ expects His church to be full of love for Himself and others.

“Love” (agape) is selfless love.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12).

Love is demonstrated by your actions (priorities).

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).

“Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10).

CHRIST’S FIRST MESSAGE

Here are the details of Christ’s first message:

CHURCH: Christ addresses the church in Ephesus.

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write” (v. 1a).

The church in Ephesus was established by Priscilla and Aquila, who had been left there by Paul in A.D. 52 and were aided by Apollos (Acts 18:18-25). Paul returned and spend two years and three months there (Acts 19), apparently using Ephesus as a center for evangelizing the whole region (19:10). Later, Timothy and then John ministered in Ephesus.

Ephesus was a prominent city (population of 250,000). It was famous for the temple of Artemis/Diana (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World; Acts 19:23-41).

DESCRIPTION OF CHRIST: He has authority over and awareness of the churches.

“‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands’” (v. 1b).

PRAISE: They love the truth and refuse to give up.

“‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary’” (vv. 2-3).

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15-16a).

“I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock” (Acts 20:29).

The Ephesians had struggled with false teaching. “So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14).

Paul urged Timothy to promote correct doctrine in Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3-7). The Ephesians eventually corrected their earlier problem, but they became cold in their orthodoxy.

REBUKE: They have abandoned their first love.

“‘But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first’” (v. 4).

Is Jesus talking about love for Himself or others? Probably both. “We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:19-21).

“I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride…” (Jeremiah 2:2a).

In a marriage, love can cool. The Ephesians did not make a conscious decision to abandon their “first love,” but over time their love for Christ and others had grown cold.

Without love, we are nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

SOLUTION: They need to remember, repent, and repeat.

“‘Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first’” (v. 5a).

WARNING: They are in danger of ceasing to exist as a church.

“‘If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate’” (vv. 5b-6).

Being a “lampstand” (providing light) is an act of love. (The “two witnesses” (Revelation 11) are symbolized by “two lampstands,” v. 4.) Jesus said, “Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it give light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:15-16). When a church stops proclaiming light through its words and actions, it ceases to be a church.

PROMISE: Conquerors are promised eternal life.

“‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is the paradise of God’” (v. 7).

The “tree of life” is a symbol of eternal life (Genesis 2:9; 3:22-24; Revelation 22:2).

“Who is he who overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (1 John 5:5). The “conqueror” (“overcomer”) is one who is faithful to Christ. (Eternal life is not a reward for faithfulness. Eternal life is a gift of God’s grace.)

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION

Do you love the truth more than you love Christ and others?

Has your love cooled?

Are you being a lampstand (displaying Christ’s light) through words and actions of love?