A Church without Love (Rev. 2:1-7)

Publié le 3 juillet 2021 dans Traductions

Sermon by Pastor Vincent Bourrel

Introduction

We’re starting a summer series on the letters to the 7 churches in Asia, found in chapters 2 and 3 of the Book of Revelation. We are at the end of the first century when the apostle John (a very old man in exile on the island of Patmos) receives this revelation from Jesus Christ himself who dictates these letters to him.

The 7 recipient churches were assemblies established in Asia Minor (Turkey). They have different health conditions and different circumstances. To each one Jesus sends the appropriate message. This shows us that Jesus is interested in his churches, he knows them, he is delighted by some things and saddened by other things. He knows the EBTM, he watches over us. He wants to encourage us and stimulate us in the faith.

This morning we are studying the letter to the Church of Ephesus. 

Reading: Rev. 2.1-7

PC: A church that has forgotten to love is a church that has ceased to be a church, and that is why Jesus warns that he will take away his candlestick v.5

v.1 « Angel » a representative of the church who will have to carry the message to the whole church (the word « angel » = messenger).

Jesus is aware that his churches are not perfect but he is not saying: « listen, the church was a bad idea, drop it ». No, the church is his plan. He points out the good sides and denounces the bad ones so that we can progress. And if he is speaking to the whole community, he is asking each of us to listen carefully.

THE PRAISE v. 2-3

Jesus as a good teacher begins by noting what is going well in this church.

1. His hard work: they serve, to teach, to convince, to correct, to instruct in justice, to help, to visit, to share their faith… They do not spare their time or their pain for the work of God.

2. His perseverance: despite a difficult situation, in an idolatrous city (The temple of Artemis, one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world was 4 times larger than the Parthenon in Athens. It had several 1000 priests and priestesses. There was a flourishing industry of manufacture of miniature temples in silver) and occultism was very present there. They remained faithful to the Lord.

3.His intransigence towards evil: « you cannot bear the wicked » they are sensitive to sin and they exercise discipline within themselves. Paul had given in his epistle to the Ephesians (4:31) instructions :

« Let all bitterness, all animosity, all anger, all clamor, all slander and all kind of wickedness disappear from among you »

 And you get the feeling that they’ve applied themselves to it. 

v.6 The works of the Nicolaitans, also mentioned in the letter to the church from Pergamum, there is little information regarding their errors, but Irenaeus (Father of the Church) wrote about them that they were « leading a life characterized by an outrageous indulgence ”and Clement of Alexandria that the Nicolaitans“ abandon themselves to pleasure like goats… denying themselves nothing ”Thus the works of the Nicolaitans involved sensual temptations which led to debauchery. But the Church of Ephesus hated this corruption. It’s not easy in a city like Ephesus or Toulouse today to cope with the surrounding pressure that changes definitions of what is right or wrong. Our definition is based on the Scriptures and not on what our environment is willing to accept.

4.His examination of the statements of the teachers: v.2 “you have tested those who claim to be apostles and are not, and you have found them to be liars”. 

The church is exercising discernment. Paul had warned the elders of the church when he last saw them. By telling them that false teachers will come to corrupt the church. So watch. 

Acts 20: 28-31 

But the church of Ephesus clung to the Scriptures and exposed false teachers.

5. His resistance to suffering v.3 « you suffered because of my name and you did not grow weary » Despite all the difficulties that the Church of Ephesus had to face for 40 years they persevered, they even suffered because of the name of Jesus (this is often the case when opposing evil) and they did not grow weary.

Each church should have its own characteristics, but they should flow from our love for Jesus Christ which brings us to the heart of the letter.

THE WARNING v.4

« But what I have against you is that you gave up your first love »

Ephesus is the mother church of the churches in Asia. She was famous in the beginning for her faith and love in Eph 1.15 Paul (the church planter) wrote to the first generation of Christians, “Therefore I too, Having heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and of your love for all the saints, I never cease to give thanks for you ”

40 years later, a good part of the first generation of Christians is does not exist anymore.

And the penetrating eye of the Lord spotted alongside this great zeal for the preservation of the gospel and for purity, a sad lack of first love, of that outburst of the heart that does things in response to the love of God.

The first love we had after knowing God’s love for us? When we have been forgiven of our sins, that we have embraced eternal life. Was this love for God, for brothers and sisters and for lost souls?

The first love in a romantic relationship prompts you to do amazing things. You hop on a plane, train or car to spend time with your loved one, even if it’s only a few hours. You spend hours on the phone, to tell I do not know what … You are attentive to the desires, the desires of the other … you are concerned that nothing disturbs your love. You are less concerned with what you eat than who you eat with. No matter the size of the apartment or its comfort, what you like is that it is inhabited by the one you love. You do things not because you have to do them, but out of love for your loved one.

We are losing our first love …

When we are less eager to reunite with our brothers and sisters and share with them the bounties of our Lord.

When we are more sensitive to the theological rigor of a testimony than the joy of discovering Christ.

When we passionately love theology but can’t stand people anymore.

When we have become experts in the ordo salutis (the order of salvation: election, call, regeneration, conversion, justification, adoption …) but we no longer share our faith with people outside.

The EBTM is a church at risk, we are concerned to be faithful to the Scriptures, we want to be a church that seeks holiness and conformity to Christ, we are a church with several generations of Christians… There is a danger in a knowledge of the Word which does not produce a love for God and for our neighbor. Knowledge swells but love edifies.

Love is the supreme motivation. 1Co 13.1-3 “if I don’t have love I am nothing… it is useless” 

We can do everything without love, distribute meals for the homeless, translate a message for English speakers, preach a sermon, supporting missionaries, teaching children, couples and adults, writing articles denouncing doctrinal deviations… without love. But we do it badly. We do it with the wrong motives, for the wrong reasons, to appear, to be seen well, to establish our own justice, by obligation, by tradition… without love.

Love is the ultimate goal. God is love. He who does not love has not known God. cf Paul’s prayer for Ephesians 3: 14-21: That we know and practice the love of God.

Love is the supreme proof. “We know that we have passed from death to life because we love the brothers”. The world will see that we are his loving disciples for one another.

When a doctor of the law questioned Jesus in Mt 22.36-40, “Master, what is the greatest commandment of the law? Jesus answered and said unto her, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and the greatest commandment. And this is the second, which is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. « 

The purpose of the law is to teach us to love God and our neighbor.

TO FIND BACK ONE’S FIRST LOVE v. 5

1.To remember: When we first tasted the grace of God. Nothing seemed more beautiful, more glorious, more satisfying than knowing God’s love for us sinners. The baptism, the emotions, the joy and the enthusiasm of young converts touch us because it reminds us of what we too have known. (illustration: in the bus 83 in the streets of Paris, nights of prayers, going out to testify, missing a meeting at the church was unthinkable …) True spiritual misery is that which does not see or no longer sees shining the love of God. If we are no longer able to marvel at God’s grace even though we have a better knowledge of it. So our 1st love cooled down. This is what should humiliate us. Greater knowledge of God should give us greater love for him. When we lose sight of the gravity of sin, we begin to lose the joy of forgiveness.

2.To repent: it is a sin, it is not inevitable. We can be forgiven for our cold … It is so serious that the Lord warns that the absence of repentance will result in the removal of the candlestick from its place (v.5). The church is no longer of any use, his testimony will be taken away from him by the Lord because he would not want us to meet a church that has forgotten to love. This is why Jesus introduced himself at the beginning of the letter as the one who holds the stars in his right hand and who walks among the candlesticks. He has the authority to do so. « I will make you cease to be a church, either by suppressing yourself completely or by slaying yourself with spiritual death. »

3.To practice his first works: I was amazed by the love of Jesus for me and thirsty for the word to know him, I read and I practiced what I understood, I was quick to ask forgiveness, to share, to simply testify of what God has done in my life, to seek the company of brothers and sisters, to sing simply the praises of the Lord, to await his return, to live in the concern of pleasing him… The first works are motivated by love. A young girl Mathilda Wrede gives her shoes to a girl who did not have them. Sometimes our early works were not done in the most skillful, wise way, but they were done with the enthusiasm of first love. 

The book of Acts records church plantings and how the gospel has spread with dynamism and authenticity. Even today, church plants have a constant concern to present the gospel in a relevant way, an effort to present Jesus, a concern to reach the world, a welcoming of new touching, no habits, no rites … that’s what makes them attractive. Jesus is at the center, she is passionate about the gospel. Over the years, the need to organize, to structure oneself, to correct errors or lives, to define precisely what one believes, to choose responsible persons, to acquire premises … can dampen the momentum of the former love. It is an evil that threatens a church like EBTM. We have worked on organizing ministries, Confession of Faith, training leaders, … but we run the risk of forgetting why we are doing all this. It is the love of God. This is why the practice of the first works is essential, do not get used to not testifying to your faith, rejoice, marvel for each soul saved, recognize that it is the work of the Holy Spirit… 

Read the Bible with this thirst to discover more wonders of the Word, or read with a person who discovers the gospel and you will see how refreshing it is to review the miracles of Jesus, his teachings, his work on the cross with a heart that discovers . There is a brother in the faith who has this freshness. He calls me several times a week « It’s wonderful how Jesus loves me, how he takes care of me, I’m grateful because I was able to talk to my doctor, my children, my wife, my mother, my colleague, can we pray together?…” These prayers are simple, they spring from her heart without too much evangelical jargon. It is refreshing.

4.To seize the promise v.7 There is an individual responsibility (to all who have ears) to examine themselves and repent, this is how we can transform the church not by pointing the others, our brothers. But by acting on our own heart. What the Spirit said to the churches, to the EBTM

« To him who overcomes I will give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. » 

The overcomers are the believers, those who have placed their trust in Jesus who persevere in faith and love. They will taste the « tree of life » it is the promise of eternal life, it is the symbol of the intimate communion of man with his God.

By the fall man was excluded from the garden, deprived of the enjoyment of this tree. Jesus promises us that to find it.

Conclusion

If you do not love the Lord you are not yet a Christian. I ask you then to turn your eyes to Jesus Christ crucified. It is for you, out of love for you that he gives his life, to pay the price for your sins so that you are not condemned with this world. See with what love you are loved.

 Repent (= recognize your faults, your need for God, for forgiveness) and believe in Jesus who gives you forgiveness as the price of your faith. Then act accordingly.

If you already love Jesus Christ, you may be like the apostle Peter when the Risen Lord questioned him, asking him, « Do you love me? Peter replied, » You know I love you, « the one who has denied knowing Christ 3 times knows he does not love as he was loved. We know that our love for God and our neighbor can sometimes sink very low. If this is your case repent and believe that God forgives you and believe that God will pour out his love in your heart through the Holy Spirit. And practice your first works. Be sensitive to works of love, they often go against our own comfort, our tendency to selfishness … but they are the ones that fill our hearts with joy, they make us taste the presence of God.

Like Peter, you may need to say: « I love you » to Christ.