February 16, 2022
William Tyndale was born around 1494 in Gloucestershire, England. He was a leading light in the Protestant Reformation until his execution in October of 1536. His crimes included translating God's Word into the common language. So, in 1536, Tyndale was convicted of heresy and executed by strangulation, after which his body was burned at the stake.
Not a safe time for reformers. Tyndale, among others, was killed for proclaiming the truth. Those were difficult times to be a particular kind of Christian.
We are not even close to experiencing any sort of persecution or martyrdom here in the United States. Being a Christian is not a crime. If anything, over the years, some Christians have over-identified with political parties or movements in ways that aren't healthy.
We cannot possibly relate to the pressure put on Tyndale, let alone the people to whom the seven letters were written in Revelation 2-3. The risk of persecution and even death weighed heavily upon them. It is within that context that the first letter was written to the church at Ephesus.
The church at Ephesus was spiritually strong. In Acts 18, we learn that Apollos was discipled by the church. After Paul left Ephesus, he left the church in the capable hands of Aquila and Priscilla. Under their tutelage, Apollos grew in his faith and became a strong leader, in his own right. Paul later returned to train and retrain other pastors. It was such a beautiful community of faith, that they wept openly when Paul said he was leaving them.
Jumping forward to Acts 19, in verses 8-10 we read:
And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly,
reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some
became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way
before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples
with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. This continued for two
years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both
Jews and Greeks.
The planting of the church in Ephesus launched the Christian faith into numerous other cities. These were prodigious followers of Jesus.
But all was not idyllic. There were antagonists. There were riots. Believers were running for their lives. It was a time of opportunity and chaos.
The biggest events every year were held at the Ephesian Games. These were massive pageants of athletics and drama and parades and sacrifices. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 16:8-9, "But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries." Paul stayed because the Ephesian Games presented a golden opportunity to share the gospel with an influx of pilgrims and athletes from all over the Mediterranean world.
Ephesus was also home to pagan cults and gods and goddesses. There was commercial activity around these cults, along with the accompanying debauchery.
Because of the aforementioned commerce, Ephesus was a banking center, specifically the pagan temples. The inner shrines of the temples were considered sacred, therefore the wealthy kept their currency and treasures there. Also, big business grew around selling idols to put on your chariots, in your house, and to hang around your neck. Worship around these temples, gods, and goddesses exhibited acts of hysteria, debauchery, drunkenness, sexual deviation, and frenzies of shameless mutilation. Philosopher Heraclitus wrote that, "The people who engaged in that were fit only to be drowned."
That was the culture in which the church labored. In such a culture, the church needed discernment. Some people brought false teaching into the church. They wouldn't give up many of the trappings of their pagan culture. When Paul moved on, he warned them to guard against it. They had to be tough-minded. Where they strayed was they forgot to also be tenderhearted. Loving God and loving your neighbor are not mutually exclusive.
One thing to keep in mind, as this point captures what is essential to The Revelation to John, is those who overcome have not conquered an earthly foe by force, but are those who have remained faithful to Christ to the very end. Think of our friend, William Tyndale.
The letter to Ephesus concludes with an encouragement. Verse 7 says:
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.
What happened to Adam and Eve? When they sinned, they were kicked out of paradise. Verse seven says that in Christ, God and His people will be restored to that perfect fellowship which existed before sin entered the world.
And now, a Moment of Spurgeon:
"Hell never did enclose within its gates a single soul that rested
on the cross of Christ, and it never shall."
With Much Love and Affection,