Trouble in Ephesus

First Timothy 1:1-20

by Paul George

First and second Timothy along with Titus were written to two pastors and deal with the life of local churches. Three subjects are addressed in the apostles Paul’s letters to Timothy; false teachers, church government; adherence to the teachings of Jesus and Paul.

Timothy was the son of a Greek Gentile and a devout Jewish mother named Eunice. His association with Paul began during the time of Paul’s second missionary journey. Paul called Timothy his son, because he became a Christian through the preaching of Paul and looked up to Paul as a son looks up to his father for guidance and advice. Timothy filled the role of a faithful son and Paul the role of a loving and caring father. Paul probably wrote the first letter to Timothy from Macedonia while on his way to Nicopolis.

Timothy wanted to go to Nicopolis with Paul but Paul wanted asked him to remain in Ephesus. There was a mission to perform in Ephesus only a faithful servant of Christ could perform. Although Paul had the authority to command Timothy to remain in Ephesus, out of a heart of love, he asked him to remain in Ephesus. From the context of verse three, it appears Paul did not tell Timothy why he wanted him to stay in Ephesus or he is reminding Timothy why he wanted him to remain in Ephesus; there was a problem in the church that needed fixing.

Before leaving Ephesus Paul warned the elders, “After my departure savage wolves will come among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, spreading perverse things do draw away the disciples after them.”

In the Ephesus church, as there were in other churches founded by Paul, there were Jews and Gentiles who gained positions as teachers who brought Judaism and paganism into Christianity. The Jewish teachers were adding Jewish fables and endless genealogies to the teachings of Paul. The Gentiles were adding pagan practices and rituals. The additions to the teachings of Paul and the pagan practices were undermining the foundation of the foundation of the church and the Christian’s hope and filling his mind with perplexing doubts and fears. They were not accomplishing the true goal of teaching, encouraging Christians to improve in godliness and godly behavior. This was a major problem in all the first century churches.

Teachers, as well as pastors must not teach and preach subjects that lack Scripture support and cause fruitless discussions. They must avoid subjects and discussions that draw the mind of the student, the congregation, away from the truth. They must avoid subjects and discussions that do not promote practices and obedience that is vital to spiritual growth as well as faith.

Timothy must not only see to it that he does not preach any other doctrine except the doctrine taught by Paul, he must charge others that they do not teach any other doctrine except the doctrine taught by Paul. Timothy must keep his preaching pure and uncorrupt and it is his responsibility to see to it that the teachers in the church keep their teachings pure and uncorrupt.

The big question is, “Can we apply what Paul wrote to Timothy to local churches of the 21st century?”

We are living in a time when people are trying to establish unity and harmony in the world and the church. This is not a bad thing. In the church unity and harmony is necessary if the church is to achieve the goal Jesus has set for it. Can we honestly say there is unity and harmony in local churches and in Christianity? The major problem in local churches today is the same problem that existed in the Ephesus church. The Christians were tolerating doctrine that was undermining the gospel message. Paul deals with this in detail in his letter to the Ephesians.

We can, as the old saying goes, cut a little slack. The first century Christians did not have the advantage we have. They had to depend upon the spoken word and not the written word. They were the pioneers of Christianity. They were entering hostile territory. They had obstacles to overcome we have never been called on to overcome. Nevertheless, they were doing what many are doing today. They were putting their confidence in human knowledge and wisdom.

The source of the problem in the Ephesus was the same source in local churches today. It was both external and internal. There were men who came into the church and men who were part of the church when Paul left Ephesus who were like savage wolves. They were drawing the people away from the truth, the gospel message. They seemed like honest and sincere men. They wanted to be teachers but lacked the ability to be teachers. These men did not understand there is a call from God involved in the filling of the position of teacher or pastor. There must be a love for the truth. There must be a dependence on the Word of God and not speculation, the words of men, which result in fruitless discussions. Fruitless discussion takes us farther and farther from the truth. Paul did not tolerate false doctrines in the churches he established and we should not tolerate it today.

It is a difficult thing to admit, there are pastors and teachers who are perverting the Word of God. Instead of addressing the issue as Paul did, there is a tendency to hide behind the “you shall not judge” commandment. Instead of trying to justify the toleration of the perverting of the Word of God, we need to remember what God told Ezekiel. He told Ezekiel to stand on the wall and warn the people of coming danger. If he did not warn the people, their blood would be on his hands. If he warned, the people and they did not heed the warning their blood would not be on his hands. I do not want Jesus to find any blood on my hands do you?

Jesus spoke out against the religious leaders of His day because they were driving people away from the kingdom of God with traditions and perverting of the law. Paul would not tolerate the false doctrine in the church because it was undermining the Christian’s hope and faith. In this generation, it is undermining the Christian faith as well as the foundation of the nation. It is the duty of every true believer in Christ to stand firm in the faith and earnestly contend for the faith, it is our duty to speak out against false doctrine.
False doctrine is one of the favorite weapons of the enemy. It enables him to create division, confusion, strife and contention in the church.

We need to also understand if we do stand firm and earnestly contend for the faith that has been handed down to us the ungodly and even some professing Christian will label us narrow minded, out of touch with reality, judgmental. If we truly love Jesus, we will not tolerate unsound doctrine and will earnestly contend for the faith regardless of the judgmental attitude of the enemy of the gospel. If we want to protect those who are not established in the faith we will not tolerate unsound doctrine.

The ungodly of this world, inspired by their master, are working overtime for him. They are using every resource available to destroy Christianity. They are busy trying to drive a spike into the heart of the church and kill her. In the heat of their hatred, they do not know what destruction they are bringing down upon themselves and their master does not care.

There are times when I look back into the late 1950’s and 1960’s. I watched a spiritual revival take place in the United States sponsored by the enemy of God and man. On the most part, the church was silent as thousands of souls slipped into the pit of darkness many never to return. This revival was dismissed as merely a fad that would go the way of all fads. Today we are reaping the harvest of that fad. We cannot do anything about the past. We can make a change in the present. We can make an impact on the future.

As Adam and Eve may have asked themselves standing outside the Garden of Eden, where do we go from here? We need to ask ourselves where we will go from here. Let us pick up the Christian banner, follow our great Captain, Lord Jesus Christ, go out, and meet the enemy head on. When do we begin, today in this service, in our living room.

The Thrill is Gone!

Revelation 2:1-7
by Robert G. Brooks


The church at Ephesus was the most important church of Asia Minor; the most important church of the seven churches of Revelations. The city of Ephesus was a commercial center. It was a center of religious worship, its temple to Diana being one of the seven wonders of the world. The “seven stars” speaks of Christ’s sovereign protection of His church. They are symbolized as lampstands. Jesus said, “Ye are the light of the world.” But He said sin in the church would cause Him to “remove thy candlestick.” (vs. 5)

I. Jesus said, “I know”
The church is under His eyes which “were as flames of fire” (1:14) Jesus sees us to the very depths of our souls.

A)    Ephesus was a working, busy church. Someone observed that the modern church is run all   too often like a secular business (without the Holy Spirit); all under the motive of egoism in teaching, preaching, and administration. Ephesus labored with patience. Many churches have come to define Christianity by the number of church services one attends in a week rather than service beyond the walls of the building. Indeed, when the word “church” is used all too often it is the image of a building rather than the people.  One of the most lonely places in the world is an empty church.
B) They were orthodox, rejecting false Apostles as liars and evil men. (vs 2) Today there are many false cults who may knock on our doors with “false Christs” and witness many strange teachings by twisting Holy Writ. In Galatians 1:8 Paul warns: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached, let him be accursed.” In verse 9 Paul emphatically repeats the curse! 2 John 9-11 warns not to invite them into our houses, nor bid them Godspeed, or if we do such, we partake of their sins.
C) In verse 3 he commends them a second time for their patience and labor.

II.  Although Christ Commends Them He Expresses a Strong Criticism ( vs 4)
Verse 4 may be translated “The love you felt at first you have now lost.” The old blues singer, B. B. King, has a song entitled, “The Thrill is Gone.” That sums up the danger of the church at Ephesus! That first encounter with the Living Christ, that first thrill of sins forgiven, that first meditation of His love on the cross, that first enlightenment that His holy blood was shed for our iniquities, the being stabbed awake of our rebellion against the Creator of our being, the lost thrill of sharing the Good News with some individual, or the thrill of giving to missions so that the world may share in His salvation – have you lost these?

One can be coldly orthodox, even patient, and doing “church work”, but fallen from one’s first fervor, and thereby be ineffective, because one is laboring “in the flesh”– without the leadership of the blessed Holy Spirit

III.  Christ’s Remedy For Merely Human-Inspired Service and His Warning (vs 5)
A) Repent…of the loss of your first ardour.
B) Remember….. that they were fallen in spirit to the human spirit, not to the Holy Spirit
C) Work….labor with the enthusiasm of the first service – or Jesus would remove them from being a lighthouse for the pagan city of Ephesus with their extreme idolatry to Diana.
D) Repent of formalism – The importance of repentance is twice emphasized.

IV. Who Were the Nicolaitanes? (vs 6)
They cannot be identified. It is surmised they were a sect that called themselves Christians, yet were antinomian; that is to say they tolerated immorality, even fornication. Note the Ephesians hated their “deed”, not the persons, and in this they followed their Lord, God “so loved the world,” but He hates with perfect hatred the evil which envelopes mankind!  Paul said, “Abhor that which is evil, cleave to that which is good” (Roman 12:9). We even have in our day a church that tolerates sodomy in its hierarchy!
V. Let the Spirit Rule the Church (vs 7a)
Thus eternal life in Christ is promised (vs 7b)


Jesus rebuked the Ephesian church, for no authentic light can emit from a church which merely does “church work”, is coldly orthodox, is self-righteously moral – but which has lost the thrill of those first days of conversion.  For that church is backslidden!
How about you, friend? Is the Thrill gone? God help us!
If you are not born anew – you too need to repent and receive the thrill of the Living Christ.