Revelation E5, “The Great Cult” 2:1-7

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.

“‘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. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. 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. 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 in the paradise of God(Revelation 2:1-7 ESV).’

As the reader finished reading this particular passage and you were dwelling on the giant sized faith of your daughter Elizabeth.  The reader stopped and made an odd statement.  He was clear to mention this wasn’t John’s suggestion, but we will deviate from the letter for some time, before reading about the other churches, since we were mentioned specifically.  He began.    

“It has been a decade or two since Paul and Timothy first arrived here, and we have seen many things change.  Some things have stayed the same.  Artemis is still a major part of the travel trade to our great city.  People still arrive here to pick up their little idol to take home.  However, the preaching of the gospel changed the landscape here forever since those days, but remember brothers and sisters if you were one of the originals back then what it was like when the gospel was new here.  Some of you came out of the Artemis worship.  Some of you were leaders and even priestesses to the Artemis idol.

I am not ashamed to say it was hostile back then.  Outside the church people wanted Paul out of town and some wanted the people of the church dead.  The preaching of the gospel even effected the silversmiths.  Demetrius the silversmith and some cronies rose up against Paul because of the preaching against Artemis.  The local economy was suffering, so they ran Paul out of town.  But praise God!  People were following Jesus!

To make matters worse inside the church, Paul wasn’t allowed back in the city.  So, young Timothy was here trying to make sense of it all.  Priestesses of Artemis were interupting the services during teaching times, and the celebrating of The Lord’s Table.  Some of them were Priestesses who were new converts to Christ, but still had some unlearning of the cultic ways.  They felt a woman should be upfront instead of a man.  There were also Hymeneus and Alexander who were excommunicated for their vicious deeds.    

Paul actually had to address Timothy about these issues.  He wrote a letter to Timothy, which has been referenced often.  He addressed the problem with the Artemis Priestesses and the Artemis way of thinking with these words:  

I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. 11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control (I Timothy 2:8-15).’

I want to remind you all of that day.  It was hard to stand for Christ, and maybe we are moving towards that again, but it was very hard to stand for Jesus then, some of our own brothers and sisters were killed shortly after that time.  We were smaller in number.  But, we had to show ourselves as different than the Artemis followers.  Even when Phoebe came to visit the church we didn’t have her teach at first.  Because we needed to set the culture straight on the Artemis story, that it was all a lie.  We needed to lift up the one true God.  We refused to worship the emperor, which ultimately led to the end of some of the great ones, even Paul and Peter.     

But, do you remember it brother?  We told this message over and over again.  Adam came before Eve.  Our origins are not with Artemis being superior and helping with the birth of her twin brother Apollo.  Paul told us to undo this thinking in our culture, and remember brother, we did it.  We changed the landscape here considerably.  The men here were finally getting a chance to talk (a rare cackle from the back, and a couple of laughs).”   

He continued after a pause and a quick smile, “But, who would have thought?  Many of you came from the worship of the local gods, but you were saved through seeing the changed lives, marriages, families and especially the women become peaceful and quiet for a season. 

If someone ever got a hold of that letter, and didn’t understand our unique cultural situation here, good luck. The people of Corinth and Galatia used a copy of that letter because they understood our setting and they also know Paul and how practical he was (laughs).”  

He went on, “But, man we over came a lot.  That took guts.  We stood for something.  We have gotten comfortable.  We have depended on the apostles too much?

We still stand for something and the testing of our faith is on the way.  Some of you in the room, may be asked to give even your own life.  Are you ready for that?  The room got especially quiet.  Are you ready?  Are you committed?  Return to the love you had for Jesus Christ at first.”  

You just sat there in awe of the story that you are a part of and how it is all unfolding right before your eyes.  You don’t always realize it or appreciate it.  You thought about how Paul forced this group of believers to stand for the one true God and reject all other pagan gods including the emperor, but especially the lengths he went to have the people do the opposite of Artemis worship. 

You thought about how in John’s letter God still is happy that we hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans.  Of course we do.  We have never been into inclusive doctrine.  We want to follow what is right.  That is easy, but maybe, just maybe we have gotten comfortable.  Before recent events it had become easier to be a believer here.  We have finally been able to live at peace with the pagans around us.  But, maybe that comfort is hindering our walk as well.  

Maybe peace isn’t the goal.  Maybe Jesus is the goal.  Jesus comes in peace, but those who reject Him don’t make it very peaceful.  Maybe we have begun to call things blessings that are the result of a subtle compromise.  We desire just to get along with our neighbors and maybe we don’t preach the message as strong as before.  Have I begun to love my comfort?  It is a hard concept, you thought, since recent events have you fearing for your life.  The people around us need Jesus and we are the closest thing to Jesus they will ever meet. 

In some ways we have come a long way.  Back then when Paul wrote his letter to Timothy, not to dress provocatively like the Artemis cultists with their braids, and special jewelry was something that needed heavy attention.  Back then with all the young converts a visitor would have seen some of the same people in both settings.  That is no longer the case. 

We now look like believers, but maybe the pagans aren’t as comfortable coming around us.  Or maybe we have begun to look too much like them, and they have no reason to come here.  Looking back I do understand how we have lost our first love.  I have!  Where is our zeal for the Gospel?  Where is mine?  What seems scary is if we don’t get back there, God will remove our lampstand.  Our standing as a church will be gone.  What does that even mean?  I don’t want to find out, you thought.  It seems better to loose your life for the gospel’s sake, than to gain your life at the expense of your soul.  

The reader put the old scroll of Paul’s down reverently, and began to read John’s letter again right where he left off.  No further words were necessary.  

Thank you for reading!  Come back next Thursday to see what happens next.  

 

This post was continued From: 

Revelation E1 Why Us? 1:1-3 (Theological Thursday)

Revelation E2, He Really Sees Me!!! 1:4-8 (Theological Thursday)

Revelation E3, “Faithful Together” (Theological Thursday)

Revelation E4, “Ephesus” 2:1-7

Continues To:

Revelation E6, “God, Help My Sister” 2:8-11

Revelation E7, “The Throne of Satan” 2:12-17

Revelation E8, “Nicolaitans” 2:12-17 Continued

Revelation E9, “Sexual Attack” 2:18-29

Revelation E10, “Dead or Alive!” 3:1-6

Revelation E11, “Brotherly Love” 3:7-13

 

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