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REMEMBER FROM WHERE YOU HAVE FALLEN.

by Jerry Carmichael

Message delivered at the 2022 Kentucky Indiana Fellowship in July 

REVELATION 2:1-7  “To the angel of the church of 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, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake 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.” ’

      The church at Ephesus received the first of the seven letters to the seven churches in the Book of Revelation. Let us look at the background to the church there.

                      THE CITY OF EPHESUS WHERE THE CHURCH WAS LOCATED.

  1. Vernon McGee described the city: “Ephesus was the chief city of the province of Asia. It was called 'the Vanity Fair of Asia.' It was both the religious and commercial center of that entire area which influenced both east and west – Europe and Asia.

     The temple of Diana was there, which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, being the largest Greek temple ever constructed (418 feet by 240 feet). There were over 100 external columns about 56 feet in height, of which 36 were hand-carved. It was built over a marsh on an artificial foundation of skins and charcoal so that it was not affected by earthquakes. The doors were of cypress wood; columns and walls were of Parian marble; the staircase was carved out of one vine from Cyprus. The temple served as the bank of Asia and was the depository of vast sums of money. It was an art gallery displaying the masterpieces...Behind a purple curtain was the lewd and crude image of Diana, the goddess of fertility. She was many-breasted, carried a club in one hand and a trident in the other”. Ephesus was a large city with a population of 225,000 and possessed a huge harbor.” (Harold Willmington in Wlllmington Guide to the Bible, p. 541).

    It was in this culture, much like the culture of today, that God planted a church honoring the Lord Jesus Christ.

THE CHURCH AT EPHESUS

     This congregation was founded by the Apostle Paul in Acts 18-19. In Acts 18 Paul stopped there briefly on his way to Jerusalem, leaving Priscilla and Aquila there at Ephesus. About the same time Apollos arrived. Apollos was a very learned man in what he knew. But he only knew of the baptism of John. He evidently had not heard what had happened at Pentecost. So in ACTS 18:24-26 we read, “ Now a certain Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.”

     Luke records for us in 18:27-28, “He wanted to go across to Achaia (Greece), the brethren encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him; and when he had arrived, he helped greatly those who had believed through grace; for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public; demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.” Wouldn't you love to have a few men in every church like Apollos.

     In Acts 19 then Paul arrived at Ephesus at the beginning of the third missionary journey and learned of these disciples who had believed John, but did not have the full revelation of Jesus yet. Paul taught them about Jesus. Paul probably focused on 3 POINTS: the Life, Death and Resurrection message which is so prominent in the book of Acts. (Study the sermons in Acts and you will see this many times.) So they were baptized in the name of Jesus and the Holy Spirit came upon the 12 men.

     Paul spent the next three months teaching them and witnessing in the synagogue, “reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God.” (Acts 19:8) Paul ended up spending two years there (19:10), teaching, working miracles, and witnessing that the gods of this world are no gods at all. 

     Of course, there in Acts 19 you have the account of the big uproar caused by the trinket makers, the silversmiths. After the uproar was calmed down, Paul called the disciples, exhorted them and then left to continue his third missionary journey as he departed for Macedonia and Greece. 

     But note that the church had been established! The dates for Paul's two plus years there would have been about 54-56 A.D. So about six years later, 62 AD, Paul sends this letter from the Roman prison where he had arrived about 61 AD. The church at Ephesus received this first letter from Christ through the pen of Paul. It was addressed to the saints with no mention of elders or deacons, perhaps some indication of lack of leadership in the first century. The Open Bible notes, “This epistle emphasizes the truth that the Church is the body of which Christ is the head. There is no higher point of revelation than is reached in this epistle which shows the believer as seated with Christ in the heavenlies and exhorts him to live in accordance with this high calling.” This may have been the reason that they fell because they did not live in accordance with their high calling

     In Ephesians 1:3 they were the church that was taught about all the spiritual blessings we have in Christ. In 2:8 they were the church that was reminded that they were saved by grace through faith, one of the great doctrinal verses. In 4:4-6 they were the church that was reminded of the seven unities that draw us together in Christ. “One body, One Spirit, One hope, One Lord, One faith, One Baptism, and One God and Father of all.” This is very powerful teaching that needs to taught and understood by every church member. In 5:22-6:9 the church at Ephesus had been taught about the relationships of husbands, wives and children, the family unit!! And the family unit is what makes up the body of Christ. They were taught about the relationship of slaves and masters, which would translate to boss and employees in our culture today. In 6:10-18 they were the church that received the teaching about putting on the whole armor of God so that they could withstand Satan.  

     I WOULD THINK THAT THEY CARRIED OUT PAUL'S TEACHING. But sometimes we don't do what the Scriptures teach us, do we? AND SOMETIMES WE DON'T PASS IT TO THE NEXT GENERATION!

    The church may have been a great church because they had great doctrines and a great founder, but perhaps they had no great leadership to encourage the necessity of living for Christ. So within 30 years time something must have tragically happened that caused them to need to “remember from where they had fallen”. ARE    THERE CHURCHES TODAY WHO NEED TO HEAR THIS????

     Doesn't this describe many of the churches today who have fallen by the wayside and have closed their doors? When churches fall away from the teaching of truth they soon close their doors. The church at Ephesus lost their witness in their community. There are churches today that no longer meet! They no longer worship! They no longer get into the Bible and Prayer! They have no ministries to meet peoples' needs! Lots of churches no longer stand for the truth of God's Word.

                        THE CHURCH AT EPHESUS ABOUT 30-35 YEARS LATER.

     In Revelation 2:1-7 the church received another letter, this time from Christ through the pen of John as he was told to send these letters out to the seven churches. The early church held that the Apostle John was banished to the isle of Patmos by the emperor Domitian who reigned from 81-96 AD. Some writers place the exile in the 14th year of his reign, Which  would be about 95 AD. Domitian banished men to various places of exile. But he didn't know that if Christ wants to get to one of His children, exile doesn't matter. Paul heard from Christ while in prison in Rome and sent the letter to Ephesus. John heard from Christ while in exile on Patmos and sent the second letter to them. 

     Jesus appeared to John in chapter one and identified Himself as “the Alpha and the Omega!” John was in the Spirit on the Lord's day and heard the loud voice like the sound of a trumpet! In 1:11 he heard Jesus say to him, “Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus and Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” Those seven churches were in cities in Asia Minor that formed a sort of trade/mail route. All of these are located in present day Turkey. The city of Ephesus lies in ruins at this time, primarily a tourist attraction. I was there in 1967 when I was in the Navy.

     Note The description of Jesus in Revelation 1:12-17. Here is the only real description of Jesus found in the Scriptures. “And I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands; and in the middle of the lampstands one like the son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His breast with a golden girdle. And His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were a flame of fire; and His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been caused to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters. And in His right hand He held seven stars; and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength. And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as a dead man!!” So Jesus identified himself and then told John to write “the things which you have seen, and the things which are”,and the things that shall take place after these things (V. 19). This is a natural three-fold division of the book. He had seen Jesus in Chapter 1. In chapters 2 and 3 the seven churches are the “things which are.” And Chapter 4-22 are the things “that shall take after these things.” So John warned the seven churches with this message. 

                                                “REMEMBER FROM WHERE YOU HAVE FALLEN!”

 

     The format of the letters to the seven churches is basically the same. Each one states that the letter is to the “angel of the church at...” Does your church have an angel that specifically watches?? The word can mean “messenger”, perhaps the minister of the church. Jesus is identified as the sender of the letter. Jesus is “The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands.” John had just seen Jesus in 1:12-17. There is no one else in all of Scripture that can be described in this way except Jesus. When you have time for personal study read all seven descriptions of Jesus in these seven letters!! 

     Then in verse 2 Jesus states that He knows the church. He knows the deeds of every church. He knows the works (toil, Labors) of every church. He knows the challenges of every church. In the case of Ephesus their challenge was fighting against false teachers and their false doctrines. In verse 3 He knows those who have endured trials and tribulations, yet have stayed true to the Word of God. He knows those who have endured for His name's sake, and have not grown weary in well doing. All of these things are still true concerning every church today!!

    “But I have this against you...” (V. 4). Five of the seven letters contain this phrase, two do not. The church at Smyrna was a church under persecution and trials, prophetically may be looking at the church right after the days of the Apostles when the Jewish and Roman governments brought great persecution on anyone who claimed to be a Christian. The Lord does not chastise us when we are suffering for Him!!! The church at Philadelphia was the church that had the open door set before them and they were taking advantage of it. We usually think of the church at Philadelphia as the missionary church of the last two centuries. Our Restoration heritage came during those two centuries. BUT The church at Ephesus had lost their first love!!!

                                         HOW DO CHURCHES LOSE THEIR FIRST LOVE?

     First of all, we lose our first love when we forsake the true teachings of Scripture. How can you be a church without the Bible?? We lose our first love when we water down the Bible to say it doesn't mean what it says. That's when we forsake the truth. We lose our first love when we take Scripture out of its context. When we do, we can lose our love for it. Some people like to “penknife” the Scriptures we don't like or believe!! Brother Garrett told about a church group tearing out Revelation! Dave Reagan's statement is a good one: “If the plain sense makes good sense, don't look for any other sense, lest you end up with nonsense!” Read that again! The church at Ephesus did not know this truth leading them to lose their first love.

     We lose our first love when we forget about the true mission of the church. Jesus said, “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Our mission is to take the gospel to the world. But we get smug with our little group of people and time takes its toll and the church disappears. Sometimes we lose our first love when we focus on bringing in more money to the church. “Get that man to come! He will be a giver!” I remember that it was Hudson Taylor, founder of China Inland Mission, a great missionary, who said, “God's work, done God's way, will never lack God's supply!”  

    The true mission of the church is not just to bring people to Christ but to continue teaching them. Many souls fall by the wayside because we baptize them, then drop them!! On the other hand, many in our culture today are taught that if you get baptized then you can live the way you want to live cause you are “once saved, always saved.” I have heard a number of times that “You don't have to go to church, you don't have to worship, you don't have to take communion every Sunday, etc. etc.” In other words, so you don't have to be faithful til death! God will still let you into heaven!” Remember Hebrews 10:25-27 where the writer warns “not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more, as you see the day drawing near. For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment....” The antecedent to “sinning willfully” is “forsaking our own assembling together.” 

     The church at Ephesus was told to “Remember from where you have fallen and REPENT!” That says to me that falling away is a sin and repentance is necessary!! If you can't fall away, if you can't fall from GRACE, (which some people believe and teach), then why would Jesus command to repent??? 

     Repent and do the first works you did when you came to Christ! Start anew serving Christ if you have fallen away! If you don't, your lampstand may be removed. We look around and there are a lot of lampstands that have been removed from our heritage. Jesus says to “Remember from where you have fallen, repent, and get your light shining, before it goes out completely.”

     One good thing about the church at Ephesus that Jesus commends is that they “hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans”. Whoever the Nicolaitans were, the Lord hated their deeds. It may have been a “salvation by works” heresy that became popular and is still popular today. The “deeds” of the Nicolaitans became the “doctrine of the Nicolaitans” at Pergamos! (Rev. 2:15) Deeds often become doctrines if we are not careful!

    The Lord closes each of the letters with a special promise. The church at Ephesus is promised that those who overcome will be able to eat of the tree of life in Paradise noted in Revelation 21-22. The way to that tree was cut off in Genesis 3. Now the only way to eat of that tree is by accepting the one who died on a tree that we might have eternal life! That one is Jesus, the same one revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures. The same one that some day every knee shall bow before Him and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. SOMEDAY!

     In the meantime, we need to remember from where we have fallen and repent and do the deeds we did at first or else our lampstand will be removed!

 

                              Jerry Carmichael is minister of the Dugger First Christian Church in Dugger, IN.




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I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

John 16:33