The Importance of the Church of Ephesus

26 Feb
Good Works

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It seems that John recorded the very words Jesus dictated to him, so it is Jesus who is actually speaking in Revelation 2:1-7. There are 1822 words accredited to Jesus in the book of Revelation – three times as many words as in the rest of the New Testament outside the Gospel narratives  (Acts is next with 514 words). To put this in perspective, there are 2971 words attributed to Jesus in his table discourse in John 13, 14, 15, 16 & 17. There are 2441 words attributed to him in Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5, 6 & 7), and there are 2296 words in Jesus’ lengthy discourse in the Gospel of  Luke at Luke 14, 15, 16, & 17. Therefore, it seems to me that, if one places special importance upon what is considered the actual words Jesus said over the rest of Scripture, the Apocalypse comes in second in importance only to the Gospel narratives. So, if this is a valid assessment, we should pay particular attention to what Jesus says to these seven churches in Asia Minor.

Jesus said he knew all about the church’s works (G2041), their labor or toil (G2873) and their patience (G5281). Their works (G2041) had to do with the things in which they occupied themselves; it is what they accomplished, or, in other words, the deeds they did. Jesus used the same Greek word to say: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works (G2041), and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). He also used the word to condemn the Pharisees: “All therefore, whatever they bid you observe, that observe and do: but do not ye according to their works (G2041): for they say, and do not” (Matthew 23:3). Jesus said that he knew of the church’s reputation at Ephesus, that their works were good, and God was honored in what was done.

Jesus also knew of their labor or toil (G2873). That is, he knew of the trouble (G2873) the church had to undergo in order to carry out their good works (G2041). This Greek word is used of the trouble (G2873 – shame) the Apostles caused the woman for the good work she had done for Jesus (Matthew 26:10). It is also used of the trouble (G2873 – shame) the widow caused the unjust judge by constantly coming to him for the justice due her, but which he was reluctant to administer for her (Luke 18:5). So, Jesus says that he knew of the pressure the church at Ephesus had undergone in order to do the good works they had done in his name.

Finally Jesus said he knew of their patience (G5281). In other words, he knew of their endurance (G5281), as they waited for their good works (G2041) and toil (G2873) to bear fruit. It wasn’t easy to continue to endure the pressure they were under, as they worked the works that God called them to do (cf. Ephesians 2:10), but they did, and Jesus commended them for doing so.

Moreover, Jesus told the church that he knew they couldn’t bear them who were evil (Revelation 2:2), but to whom is he referring? Did Jesus speak of the evil the gentiles were doing, as they worshiped the goddess, Diana? Although idolatry is indeed an abomination to God, nevertheless, I don’t think Jesus referred to idolatry, because having such an attitude toward idolaters would make it difficult to reach out to the them in love with the Gospel. One cannot express care in Jesus name for someone and at the same time have contempt for the sight of them. Instead, I believe Jesus was pointing to the people, both Jews and gentiles, who wearied (G2872) the Ephesian church, as they sought to preach the Gospel.

The Greek word John uses for evil is kakos (G2556), which describes a person with a bad nature, i.e. a troublesome and destructive person.[1] The Greek word is used of people who were worthy of capital punishment (Matthew 27:23; Mark 15:14; cf. Acts 23:9). It was also used of Paul, when he persecuted the church (Acts 9:13), and of the Philippian jailor, who was about to kill himself, when he thought all the prisoners had escaped (Acts 16:28).

Paul spoke of a man in Ephesus, named Alexander, who had left the faith (1Timothy 1:19-210). After doing so, he had tried to do Paul a great deal of harm (i.e. evil – G2556; 2Timothy 4:14). It was probably this same man the Jews at Ephesus put forward to speak against the Christians, during the riot that occurred there over the images of Diana (cf. Acts 19:33), and, no doubt, this same Alexander was one of the beasts, whom Paul fought at Ephesus in the name of Jesus (1Corinthians 15:32). Notice that Paul didn’t fight after the manner of men in 1Corinthians 15:32. Rather, Paul warned that we should not allow the evil deeds of others to overcome us, but, instead, we should overcome evil works through good works (Romans 12:21), and it is precisely this that Jesus commends the church at Ephesus of doing in Revelation 2:2. They endured the evil deeds of others, both Jew and gentile alike, as they continued to preach the Gospel. So, all things considered, the church at Ephesus was a very gifted and important young church in Asia.


[1] See Thayer’s Greek Definitions.

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Posted by on February 26, 2019 in Apocalypse, Book of Revelation


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