Thursday, 3 September 2020
“I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; Revelation 2:2
Jesus, addressing the church at Ephesus, now provides them with a compliment. The church in Ephesus is unique in that it is the only church detailed in three different locations in the New Testament. It is mentioned in Acts 18:18-19:41, it is the addressee in an epistle of Paul, and it is addressed as one of the seven letters to seven churches here in Revelation.
These positive words of the Lord can be broken down into five thoughts. The first one is, “I know your works.” This is a common theme for all seven churches. It is Jesus’ way of saying, “I know what you are doing – whether good or bad, whether of faith or not, etc.”
Nothing is hidden from Him, and the words are intended to convict them of this. It reflects the “eyes like a flame of fire” that were noted in the first chapter. His eyes pierce through all things, seeing what we may think we can hide. The word “works” simply speaks of actions that carry out a desire or purpose.
The Lord knows what the churches have been doing in this regard. For now, knowing their works, He next continues with, “your labor.” The word carries with it a sense of toil, and by implication the things that come along with that, such as pains and weariness. He knows what they labor at, and He is approving of it.
Next, He notes, “your patience.” This word signifies perseverance, steadfastness, and so on. The word “constancy” comes to mind. They remain unswerving in their ability to wait. However, this patience is not without limits. The Lord positively states concerning this “that you cannot bear those who are evil.” In other words, their patience is correctly directed, and will not stand for evildoers. It is a high mark of commendation to note an attribute such as patience, and yet to note what that patience will not tolerate. This then is what is reflected in Johns own words –
“If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; 11 for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.” 2 John 1:10, 11
The Lord next says, “And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not.” An apostle is someone sent by another. If they claimed to be apostles of Christ, it means they have claimed that they were sent by Christ. At the late date of the writing of this letter, it is surmised that only John was left of those designated apostles. But even if the word is more broadly used, such as “an apostle of John,” which someone could claim, those at Ephesus were diligent to test them and see if it was true. They immediately rejected those who were not.
With that stated, the verse finishes with, “and have found them liars.” Regardless of who they claimed sent them, the Ephesians were careful to reject any who did not present a true message. This is reflected in the warning of Paul to the Corinthians –
“But what I do, I will also continue to do, that I may cut off the opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the things of which they boast. 13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.” 2 Corinthians 11:12-15
The Ephesians were able to spot such people and reject them. Their claims were found false.
Life application: Taking some of the Lord’s points directed to the Ephesians, we can consider our own state in relation to them. At times, the fruits of our labors don’t come quickly, and we tend to fall away from the effort because it appears there is no reward for the task. However, striving patiently will usually end in seeing maturity of those fruits. Such was the case in Ephesus.
Also, how many churches, in an attempt to be “inclusive,” allow perversion, greed, idolatry, etc. to enter into their fellowship? We need to be careful to never allow even the slightest amount of yeast to enter into our doctrine or into our fellowship.
Concerning the testing of those who claimed to be apostles, or have any other type of authority, we need to size them up, listening carefully as visiting people speak. We need to then check what they have said against the standard, meaning Scripture.
As a summary, we can –
1) Strive to emulate that which is commended in Scripture, and
2) Stand against false doctrine and false teachers. But unless we know our Bibles well, these things are impossible to accomplish. And so, we are to be well-grounded in its teachings.
Lord Jesus, Your word tells us of the things You hold as commendable in the church. Help us to remember these things, and then to act upon them in our own congregations – assisting in right deeds and labors, being patient in what we do, standing up against evil, and testing visitors’ words and actions against Scripture. May You be pleased with how our churches are run. Amen.