“Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write.” The first of the seven
letters written to the seven churches in Asia Minor is addressed to Ephesus.
The church at Ephesus is the mother church of the circle of churches in
Asia Minor. It appears to be a church with works “I know thy works and thy
labour.” But it is a church without love, “thou hast left thy first love.” So,
the main question to us today is: Has your first love also become your last
Ephesus was a great commercial city because of its strategic location. The
city was located on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, at the mouth of the
Cayster River, and on several main roads. It was the fourth largest city in
the ancient world, with probably about 250,000 inhabitants in New
Testament times.
The city was inhabited by Greeks, Jews, Egyptians, Phoenicians, Persians,
and Romans. It was a crossroads of Eastern and Western civilizations and,
thus, a meeting place of many religions. We find Egyptian temples, the
temple dedicated to Artemis (Diana) and two temples dedicated to the
emperor. The temple of Artemis was one of the seven wonders of the
world. That temple was very impressive (1.5 times the size of the cathedral
in Cologne): 360 by 165 feet with 127 columns, 36 of which were encrusted
with gold and precious stones.
The church in Ephesus was visited by Paul on his second missionary
journey (Acts 18:19-21), and on his third missionary journey, he worked in
Ephesus for more than three years. From Ephesus, the gospel thus came to
the whole area (Acts 19). Later, Timothy worked there (1 Tim 1:3 and 2
Tim 1:18), and still later, according to tradition, John.
But what an amazing contrast we see between Ephesus as described in Acts
19 and here in this letter in Revelation 2. In one generation (some 40 years)
time, so much has changed. The outward behavior is still the same, but the
spiritual vitality is gone. In the great city was a loveless church. Next week,
we will discuss this letter in a little more detail. But this quick reading
already presents us with some pressing questions. How is it that in one
generation, the first love disappeared? Can it be reversed? And most
importantly, what about us? Is everything in our lives defined by Christ's
love for us sinners? Are we living lives filled with wonder at the works of a
Triune God? Are we leading Spirit-filled lives?

Rev. J.Th. Pronk