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"First Love"

Ephesians: Unity in Christ  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Introduction: When you lose sight of why you do what you do.
CTS: Guard against a cold orthodoxy and tradition that lacks love for Jesus and others.

I. Closing Encouragement (Ephesians 6:21-24)

Concluding the book of Ephesians, Paul personalizes the letter. One commentator mentioned that Paul may have been dictating the letter and at this point begins to write at the very end with his own hand.

The Promise of Encouragement (21-22)

Paul promises the church at Ephesus that he sending Tychicus, whom they seem to know well. It has been thought that he may have originated in Ephesus himself, so as he traveled with Paul, he sends someone that knows them well back to deliver this letter. Paul obviously entrusts this man to do what needs to be done and to be instrumental in their encouragement as a church.

Why Tychicus?

Beloved brother (he is part of the family of God): Do we view one another as beloved brothers and sisters, one where we respect and love one another. Love should define the body of believers. One question we can ask within in our own context and within our churches is that, do we truly love one another to say “this is my beloved brother and sister in Christ?” And not just something we say, but really, do we really love one another in such a way that it causes our hearts to warm when we are gathered together with one another? Are we excited to see those that have gone on from our body come back to encourage us? Are we defined by our love for one another?
Faithful minister: Tychicus was one that was a faithful minister. He was faithful to the Gospel ministry. We should seek to be the same ourselves. Do we seek to be faithful? That word is seen as the primary descriptor of those in Scripture that are described as servants of the Lord. Are they faithful? Not successful. Not having the most numbers. Not pleasing men. But faithful to Jesus and His Gospel message. Faithful to disciple. Faithful to serve the Lord. Church, are we honoring those that are faithful in ministry? I’m not just talking about pastors or missionaries. I’m also talking about those that have been faithful to ministry in the church. Sunday School teachers, children’s ministry directors and volunteers, youth ministry, women’s ministry, kitchen, hospitality. Ect.
Matthew 25:21 ESV
21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

What would Tychicus do?

Update them on Paul and the ministry
Encourage their hearts (That encouragement would no doubt be a ministering role, not just a letter deliverer. He would exhort them, teach them, explain to them exactly what was going on. I imagine that if they had questions about what was written here, he could explain to them what was meant by Paul.)

Concluding Blessing (23-24)

And as a final word, he blesses this church. The standard blessing of that time would be reformed toward a Christian worldview.
Peace - peace with God and with one another, major themes throughout Ephesians.
Ephesians 2:14–17 ESV
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.
Ephesians 4:1–3 ESV
1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Love: Love is a major theme throughout Ephesians as well. Paul reminds them with this blessing of the love they have in Christ. (predestined in love for adoption Eph 1:4, loved by God Eph 2:4, rooted and knowing Christ’s love Eph 3:19, loving one another Eph 4:2, speaking truth in love Eph 4:15, building itself up in love Eph 4:16, walking in love Eph 5:2, loving as Christ loved the church Eph 5:25 Very clearly, this love is rooted in faith in Christ, made possible by God through Christ. It is from him and a result of Him.
Grace - For by grace you have been saved by faith. Grace that continues in our lives daily, as God gives us his undeserved merit to those that love have undying love for Jesus. We are reminded though that we only love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

Application

As with anything, a resolution to the letter, the end demands a response. That response is to be reminded that God’s ministers are meant for our good. This letter wasn’t just written for mere information sake. It was meant to stir the hearts of those that read it. Paul’s concern for the church is evident, and it’s a needed word for the church. They have been taught great orthodoxy and great orthopraxy. To know who they are then how they should live. They have been united in Christ, blessed with every spiritual blessing the heavenly places, once dead and now made alive, and have been made one with Christ and one with one another as the church. They have been then called to walk worthy of the calling to which they’ve been called. That call includes to be unified as a body, equipped as a body, ministering as a body, putting off the old and putting on the new, have biblical marriages and homes, and how all of life is to reflect the Gospel.
In the blessing, Paul reminds them of his intention. And Paul concludes the letter that we would know these things, be encouraged in the faith, and to experience the peace and grace of God that is made available by the love of Christ for us. The final admonition to the church is to have undying love for Jesus. That’s the ending application for the church. Do you have undying love for Jesus?

II. Final Warning (Revelation 2:1-7)

I am now shifting to Revelation because I want you to see the last words written to the church at Ephesus in Scripture. Important words also to remember. If were to take stock of the church over its history, we would look back and see that the church had a pretty stacked lineup of leaders/pastors. Paul obviously had a hand in plant the church according to Acts. He wrote the letter we just walked though to them. Timothy, Paul’s young protege pastored the church. Church history tells us that John the apostle pastored the church as well. But even with all of that, we see that Jesus has to warn the church, one last final time...
I am borrowing from a commentator these three C’s of this text that I want you to see, since it is a strong way to outline the text:

Commendation (2-3)

The commendation is this: Faithful to the task, they tested the truth, and they were tough, willing to endure and bear whatever came for the name of Christ.
The commendation is that they were very warrior like, the fighter. They fought against that which was false. They stood for something they truly believed in, and challenged anything that was against those strongly held beliefs. They say that churches often take on the personality of their pastors/leaders. Which is a very convicting and honestly frightening thing. But John at one point was the pastor. One of the sons of Thunder, he no doubt took on the passionate warrior type mentality, defended truth against falsehood. The church had taken to that. Passionate defense of the truth. People of orthodoxy. Tough and willing to endure whatever it required to stand upon it.
The church today must be strong like this as well. Again, this is commended by Jesus. Working hard to defend the Bible, the Gospel, even the notion of “objective truth” in a subjective truth world. Patient endurance against those that would try to stifle it. Standing against evil, not able to bear with those that do evil. Waiting until Jesus comes again, a stalwart of truth and righteousness. Good things!
1 John 4:1 ESV
1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
Truth must be defended. It is good to be concerned about what is right and wrong. False teaching is seen and ignored and put out of the church. We fight this good fight, not growing weary, even when the pressure is on for us to recant or give in to half-truths and compromise.

Concern (4)

Yet the criticism of Jesus hits to the heart of the issue. Just like the Pharisees of their day, you can be so concerned about being right that you lose sight of what it means to love. The concern for people, their condition and position before God, is what should drive the church. Our orthodoxy should inform our love. We want to be truth tellers, but truth tellers with the intent of fulfilling the Great Commission.
John the Apostle, though a son of thunder, was also rebuked for such extreme, cold, angering orthodoxy. Strike them down Jesus! And yet that can be some of the ways that the church today can act. Strike down those sinners Jesus! And maybe not in such words, but definitely in how we treat and act towards those that significantly disagree with us. John would later figure out that, yes, defend the truth, but he would also have to be a son of love as well. His letter of 1 John says “love” 46 times. His Gospel says it 57 times. John learned that orthodoxy must be coupled with love, or its a dead and cold orthodoxy.
The church at Ephesus lost its first love. Jesus. Everything that they were doing was now more of securing the institution of Christianity rather than the source of Christianity. Love of Jesus is to drive all that the church does. Does our preaching, our teaching, our singing, our ministries all derive from a love for Jesus, or a love of tradition or defending against the enemy?
The love they had at first also has a horizontal aspect. Because of love for Jesus, it should inform our relationships with others. Love defines how we interact and minister to one another in the church.
John 13:35 ESV
35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Love is how we are defined by as we interact with the world. That love isn’t excusing or even supporting sin, like many today see it as such, but rather, its telling the truth of the Gospel and pointing people from their sin to the One who takes away all our sin. The church can be so inwardly focused, staunch in its defense of the truth and its traditions, that it loses sight of the purpose of which the church is called to, the Great Commission. This is to be expected, and that love will begin to grow cold...
Matthew 24:12–14 ESV
12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Let me ask this question with all the love in my heart towards you as the church, but are we truly loving the world around us, or are we so focused on ourselves, our comforts, our traditions, and what we do inside this building that we have forgotten the purpose of what we are ultimately called to do? Are people being reached with the love of Christ or are we too concerned about how this different way of doing things might mess up my preferences and the way we’ve always done things? Are we more concerned about making disciples of Jesus or retaining the traditions and keeping the status quo. And are we willing to make changes if necessary when things no longer work?
I know this is bit of a rabbit trail, but are we learning how to love the lost around us, even if what they stand for is diametrically opposed to every way you grew up? To love someone as Christ loved them is not to win them to the 1950s version of our world, but rather, to point them to the kingdom of God that transforms our lives today. Are we willing to say, you know what, these old ways are no longer effective, maybe we should try something different to reach our community with Jesus. Maybe we can try to restructure the way we’ve always done things with the one express purpose of honoring the Lord Jesus and making disciples, no matter how different it might be from what I’m used to.
The church at Ephesus has seemed to lost sight of what it is that they were called to do. They lost sight of the love that Jesus loved them with, weren’t loving the Lord, and weren’t loving the people around them. All the objective facts of love toward them was supposed to drive them in their love for God, one another, and for the world.

Command (5-7)

Jesus then makes it very clear.
Remember: Look back at where you came from. Look back to when you first surrendered your life to Jesus. Remember when it wasn’t rote. Remember when it was about loving Jesus. Remember that passion and zeal for Christ.
Repent: Repent means to turn 180 degrees. The path that the Ephesian church is on is one that lacks love for Jesus. It lacks the essential ingredient of what it means to be a disciple. Love.
Do the works you did AT FIRST: Jesus tells them to go back to that time and remember the works they did. The works they did were based in the love they had for Him and for others. Apparently, their actions weren’t based in love anymore. It was based in a cold orthodoxy, rote, tradition. Instead, the works we do should be based in love.
1 Corinthians 13:1–3 ESV
1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
But if the command is not heeded, if Jesus’ words are ignored and not acted upon, this is the result:The removal of the lampstand from the presence of Jesus.
What does this mean? The church will die.
Does this means that there are those that lose their salvation? No. The individual believers that truly follow Jesus will continue on. They will gather with a body that is loving Jesus. But this local church would die. Not the universal church, but this local congregation. Here is the sobering reality about the church of Ephesus. Remember the pastors and leaders this church has had. Remember that Jesus wrote these very words to them. Do you know what happened to the Ephesian church? It no longer exists, along with the very city itself. The church died. Their lampstand was removed.
It doesn’t matter how many powerful and charismatic pastors you have. It doesn’t matter if they pastor better than any other pastor in the world. They could be the most gifted preacher you have ever come across. If the church doesn’t head the Word, love Jesus, and love others by proclaiming the Gospel and making disciples, it doesn’t matter how good the preaching and teaching is and how much the pastor visited you, the church will die.
And here is the sobering words of Jesus, and ones that we must take to heart. We have been called out of darkness, out of our sin, and given life eternally because of the love of God for us. This has been accomplished by Jesus. We are transformed as God’s people, regenerated, and now are able to love God as we have been created to do as we should. Only in Christ and only through the Holy Spirit is this possible.
But the sad reality is that there are many local churches throughout history that have died. Why? Because they refuse to love Jesus. They refuse to put aside cold orthodoxy, inward focus, and petty arguments at the expense of truly loving Jesus and loving others. When a church has lost its first love, Jesus Himself, they will die. Church, do we want to die? The question we must ask ourselves, individually and corporately, is do we love Jesus? And we can say it all we want. We can say, of course we love Jesus! Yet do our actions and our ministries reflect that? Do our attitudes and words with one another reflect Jesus or selfish motives? Is Jesus the reason for everything we do? Is church about us or about our programs, our traditions, what we want? Or is it about the glory of King Jesus, a distinct love for Him and for one another, and especially the lost world for whom Jesus died? Church, can we really say we love Jesus and love others?
WE MUST GUARD AGAINST COLD ORTHODOXY AND TRADITION THAT LACKS LOVE.
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