Spring 2022 Bible Reading Plan - Letters to the 7 Churches: Ephesus
FORMAT NOTE: There are 8 questions to walk through the text then three application questions at the end. Feel free to lead in a way that serves your group. The text to read as the leader is not in bold but directions and questions for the group are in bold.
What do we know about Ephesus?
- Paul spent between two to three years teaching in Ephesus (Acts 19:8-10).
- In his farewell letter to the Ephesian elders, he gives a clear warning to look out for "savage wolves" and men who would speak "perverse things.”
- Ephesus was once considered the most important Greek city and the most important trading center in the Mediterranean region.
- There were 14 temples dedicated to idolatrous pagan gods, but none rivaled the Temple of Artemis, the Greek goddess who was heartily worshiped by the Roman Empire during this time.
Read Revelation 2:1-7
1 “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.
2 “‘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. 3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 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. 6 Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 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.’
1. What do you think the significance of the verbs holding and walking in verse 1 is?
- The fact that Christ holds the seven angels in His right hand represents His sovereign power over them. Jesus walking among the seven golden lampstands reveals His presence, that He is not distant from His churches, but is in fact very near and among them.
The Church’s Condition: Christ typically addresses His church by commending its members on what they are doing well. He usually begins with the positive things they are doing, then proceeds to his warnings for the church.
2. In your own words, what is the church in Ephesus doing right?
- This church has done a great job guarding and defending their church against false teaching.
- They have listened to Paul’s warnings and have guarded the faith against false teachers.
3. Read verse 4. What do you think Jesus means that the church in Ephesus has abandoned the love they had at first? Why do you think Jesus is concerned about this?
The Correction: Jesus does not merely rebuke the Ephesian church and then abandon them in their state of condemnation. Instead, He graciously provides a solution to their fundamental problem.
4. How does each of these elements in verse 5 accomplish the goal of reconciliation?
- Remembering - Acknowledging your sin
- Repent - Turning from your sin
- Do - Responding to God’s forgiveness of your sin
5. What do you think “remember therefore from where you have fallen” means?
- The church in Ephesus does not love and do works the way they did in the beginning.
The Consequence and Reward: Each sermon closes with Jesus spelling out the consequences the church faces for its behavior. There are always two consequences: positive and negative. The church decides whether they will respond obediently or not to Jesus’ commands.
6. Read Verses 5-6. What do you think Jesus means that their lampstand will be removed? (Check out the footnote at the bottom!)
7. Why do you think Jesus puts an encouraging sentence like verse 6 in the place it is in?
8. What is Jesus promising to the one who heeds His warnings?
- If desired you can read verses about the Tree of Life: Genesis 2:9, Genesis 3:24, Revelation 22:1-2,14,19. How can we connect what’s happening in Genesis all the way to Revelation?
Jesus knows his churches’ situations intimately. He commends them for doing well, but He also sternly warns them when they are off track. The church in Ephesus is doing a great job of guarding doctrine! They’ve kept out the wolves and false prophets. Jesus also gives correction to His churches with a promise and blessing to those who take His warnings seriously. The church in Ephesus has abandoned the love they had at first! Jesus calls them to remember from where they have fallen, to repent, and to do good works. To the church in Ephesus Jesus promises eternal life with God to those who love Him.
- Doctrinal purity and loyalty can never be a substitute for love. Love for God and love for one another are inseparable. What are ways we can love God and one another today in light of what we’ve learned about the church in Ephesus?
- Why would having an understanding of Scripture be important as a Christian in America today?
- Why do you think the love we have for God and one another was significant enough for Jesus to write a personal letter to his churches?
Footnote: John Stott: “What is clear is that both stars and lamps diffuse light, even if in differing degrees. So Christ’s churches are meant to be light-bearers in the darkness of then world. No one can disperse the shadows of sin and sorrow but he who is the Light of the World and those whom he gave his own title. ‘You are the light of the world,’ he said in the Sermon on the Mount, ‘…let your light shine…’ (John 8:12; Matthew 5:14, 16). But the church’s light is as borrowed as the moon’s. If the stars are to shine and the lamps are to burn, they must remain in Christ’s hand and in Christ’s presence.” (What Christ Thinks of the Church, 17)