Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee because thou hast left hy first love.
Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen and repent and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly and remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. (Rev. 2:4 & 5)
I’ve been memorizing certain passages of scripture recently (which has been an immensely rich and profitable exercise), and started recently in the book of Revelation.
I got up to the letter to the Ephesians in chapter 2 and discovered myself.
The book of Revelation is written to the seven churches – typologically THE complete church, as seven is a number which reveals completion. It is not written – as was the Old Testament – to the nation of Israel, or even the Jews (as some New Testament epistles reference Hebrews or Jews of the diaspora as their recipients), but to the seven churches of Asia, i.e. the complete church. I mention this in part because there are many misconceptions which have held the mainstream Christian belief about the last days, and many hold the concept that the events of the Revelation speak of the nation of Israel, and of earthly Jerusalem, while the context even of whom the book is written to is the CHURCH, and repeatedly reminds us that the church are the servants of Jesus Christ.
As the book is written to he Church, its application is to the Church: ALL those who follow Jesus Christ.
The individual letters at the begining of the book speak to ALL OF US, and apply to ALL OF US, as is said in each individual epistle: ‘He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the seven churches.’ Let everyone with an ear listen, and give heed to these things that God says to them – TO US.
I have always read the first three chapters in the Revelation this way, and there is inevitably application to all of us in each, though I sometimes resonate with one of the seven more than the others. I hope to find myself in them all as I memorize them, and let the word become graft into my soul.
In part – as I discovered me in the Ephesian church, and I am in the begining of the process of memorizing the book, I thought perhaps I’d keep a running commentary as I go. With the Lord’s help it will be revelatory bible teaching combined with some personal testimony.
Like a can opener, this letter to the Ephesians cracked me open and revealed my contents. It describes in a few short verses where I have been in life for some time now…
Unto the angel of the church in Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks.
I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars; (Rev. 2:1 & 2)
I realize that there has not been in me the same zeal for the Lord that I once had. If you follow my blog, you may not notice since my writings have become – for the most part – my ministry outlet. And like the Ephesian church, I have worked, and labored, and born patiently for the Lord, and these writings are part of that labor.
I don’t need to go into grizzly details, but for a brief overview, we have been burned repeatedly by churches (organizations) and ministers. Where we have simply tried to settle in and contribute, have instead been despised, taken for granted, chastized, and ignored. I’ve had revelations from God which have brought me only persecution, and rejection from friends, family and church; once early on the Lord revealed to me that because I obeyed Him in a certain area, people were judging my heart. He showed me that people were accusing me – and what they were accusing me of – before Him in prayer.
I’ve been burned out… or rather had been burned out some time ago, but I had gotten off the ground, hoisted my cross and kept going; me and Jesus.
Still… its been hard to bear the same zeal I once had.
As I meditated on the first seven verses of Rev. 2, I began to think about: what were my first works? What was it that not only kept me going, but that kept the fire ablaze inside of me?
The Ephesian church had an early revival with the Apostle Paul. His first work among the Ephesians was to teach them about the Baptism in the Holy Ghost… and to ensure they got it. The first Ephesian disciples had been converted under the teaching of Appolos, but Paul stepped in shortly after and established the church there. He preached in the Jewish synagogue (as Appolos had done), until they kicked him out. Undeterred Paul procured a lecture hall at an Ephesian school and held church meetings there. The power of the revival that took place shoot the entire region, in fact, it is testified that under Paul’s ministry EVERYONE in the region then called Asia – not just the Ephesians – heard the Gospel (Acts 19:10). By that record, all the churches of Asia – to whom the Revelation is written – were born out of the church of Ephesus – little wonder it’s the first church addressed by Christ in Rev. 2.
Not only was the revival widespread and sweeping in scope, but Ephesus was the place where Paul was known for having ‘special miracles.’ The miraculous power and renown of Paul’s Christianity were so great that it inspired copycats to attempt some of his miracles. Even the failure of these copycats inspired a great move of God among witches and strange pagan demonologists. (This story of the begining of the Ephesian church can be be found in Acts 18:24 – 19:20)
The Ephesians had left their first love. They had labored on, and learned a lot about discernement, and patiently persisted in the Gospel, but they needed to return to the first works.
What were my first works? What was my first love? How do I return to the zeal and passion I once had?
You know what I think it was? Like the Ephesian church, which was born out of genuine biblical teaching, and Holy Ghost power, I, too have experienced powerful Holy Spirit encounters. the envigoration, and vitality in operating in the supernatural is revitalizing! I used to operate daily in personal prophetic ministry.
What are my ‘first works’ that which really got me going since the time of my nativity in Christ? Sort of in a nutshell… operating in spiritual gifts.
So what happened?
…and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars;
Have you tried the false apostles, and found them liars? Scripture admonishes us to prove all things and hold fast that which is good (1 Thess. 5:21), and right here among the merits of the Ephesians was their trying of those who claimed to be apostles.
While much is made of the word, and cessationists like to lean on the idea that there were only 12 apostles in scripture, and any other who bears the title is a fraud and a blasphemer, there are in fact more than the twelve who are called ‘apostles’ in scripture. Barnabas, for example was called an apostle (Acts 14:14) while traveling with Paul, likewise, Paul refers to two men named Andronicus, and Junia as apostles who are found nowhere else in scripture (Romans 16:7). While we traditionally like to cannonize the twelve (plus Paul) as the only apostles, the biblical writers did not seem to do so themselves. And since the word says we are to ‘try’ them, we cannot simply throw out the baby with he bathwater and assume that anyone who uses the word apostle in the contemporary is a liar.
The word ‘apostle’ means simple ‘sent one.’ Some people teach today that an apostle is a church planter, and overseer, but such a distinction is noplace made in scripture, rather it’s assumed – rather like the early Pentecostals assumed that the evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Ghost is the gift of tongues (nowhere actually taught, but seemed to be present in *most of the biblical accounts of people receiving the Holy Ghost baptism – though in fact it is an assumption negated by Paul in 1 Cor. 12:30).
An apostle is someone who was personally sent by Jesus Christ, just as Paul declares, confirming his own apostleship and validity to the Galatians: Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead.) (Gal. 1:1)
What combines Paul with the twelve as an apostle? He, too, was sent personally by Jesus Christ, Himself as they were (1 Cor. 9:1); certain aspects of his ministry gave evidence that Jesus truly had sent him (2 Cor. 12:12).
There were many apostles in the early church, and many CLAIMING to be sent by Christ (apostles). Jesus commended the church in Ephesus because they tried the apostles, and found through the trying that some were not apostles at all, but liars. Neither did the Ephesians bear them that do evil.
Just as in the days of the early church, there are those who call themselves apostles in our day. When someone claims to be an apostle, or calls someone an apostle, my question is this: “Did Jesus personally send this person?” (I believe that is certainly possible; I believe there are apostles today, and that Christ still personally sends mnisters.) Or are they assuming apostleship because they oversee churches (which is the office of a Bishop, biblically speaking, not an apostle, necessarily) or for some other reason?
Have you noticed that a lot of the emphasis made of Holy Ghost power in our day is done by… false apostles?
Have you tried them that say they are apostles? One of them is rewriting the bible in the image of his theology, adding and subtracting from God’s word, and is being lauded and taken seriously throughout the evangelical church… but first by those who call themselves apostles.
In our current cultural phenomenon, false apostles take the capital on spiritual gifts, on miracles, and the power of the Holy Ghost by implying (and sometimes state outright when they are surrounded only by others of their line of thinking) that only their group and those that subscribe to their worldview are the only ones who really believe in the supernatural power and gifts of the Holy Spirit. (The early Pentecostals did the same though with more merit, as prior to that movement most churches legitimately had come to the belief that the age of miracles was over. (Don’t get me wrong, I’d say with A.A. Allen: “If one hair on my head wasn’t Pentecostal, I’d pull it out!” The issue – like the first three chapters of Revelation show – is ‘what is wrong, and what is right of our beliefs, behavior and doctrine?’)
The mentality (that their church culture alone is on page with the Holy Ghost) is not accurate, but creates a danger for believers who then flock to the ‘signs and wonders’ movement churches who present their doctrine and theology as though it is Holy Spirit inspired, when in fact liars, judaizers and pseudo-prophets fill the pulpits and preach bizare doctrines and fables which then – like leaven – permeate the church (see, also post: Signs, Wonders, the Roots of Holiness and the Last Days deception; Will there Be Nephilim in the Last Days?; The Rapture and the Return of the Old Covenant).
This has made me wary of these false apostles, and their leaven in the church so that it is difficult to encourage operating in supernatural because those who act like they have the capital on it are loud and boisterous, and sweep the zealous into their net. I have encountered many people socially whom I have encouraged in the things of God who are or become avid disciples of Bill Johnson, and begin using the groups’ bible re-write (one of the links above goes to an excellent video review of the Passion ‘Translation’, which is well worth viewing).
So it has been with a combination of rejection, burnout, and perceiving error (and its danger in the church) that I have fallen from my first love.
None of these make valid excuse for me, just as the Ephesian church was not excused of losing their first love for these same reasons. There was a time that I would look for opportunities to operate in the gifts of the Spirit, and to minister to others in the personal, social strata. I need to get back to that.
What fills you with fire and passion in the things of God? What were the displays of your first love in Christ? May we all return to the zeal of a newly born-again believer!