“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
One of the most remarkable things about Scripture is how one of its writers like St. John can be writing to a specifically 1st century audience such as the 7 churches of Asia Minor and yet sound as if he’s writing today to you and to me! What the Spirit says to the churches is what the Spirit says to the Church and her members today. There are various ways of reading what John, through the Spirit, has to say to us, but one of the most fruitful is to see them as being in 7 different spiritual states. Each of them is likely to have things that sound like us and things that don’t sound like us.
Let’s see what the Spirit has to say to us through the first 2 churches, Ephesus and Smyrna.
Maybe you are like the church of Ephesus, who was commended by the Spirit for much but also castigated by the Spirit for something. Or maybe you’re like the church of Smyrna who was in poverty but was rich, in tribulation, and needed to be encouraged.
The church of Ephesus was a church that had once loved Jesus Christ. They labored for the Lord, exhibited patience, and could not bear those who were evil. They had even tested the false teachers and found them liars.
But somehow they had left their first love and had turned from it. At an earlier time, when St. Paul wrote to the church of Ephesus, he had commended them for their love, saying that he had heard of their love (1:15). And yet he must also have seen a continuing need for them to grow in love, almost as if he could see that what John saw might be possible in time, for he commands them to bear with one another in love (4:2, 15, 16). They needed the armor of God to continue standing and persevering.
The outcome if they did not return to love is a chilling one. If they do not remember the first things of love, then Christ will come to them quickly and remove their lampstand from its place. Whether this means a loss of salvation or the loss of some other reward, it’s a stern rebuke that must be taken seriously.
Some of you may be in the position of the Ephesians. I’ve known and heard of many Christians who seem to manifest the love of God in their lives, only to turn from it at some later time. It’s a very real possibility that each of us must consider very real, before that terrible possibility becomes a reality.
The reward for overcoming such a temptation, for repenting and turning back to the Lord is so great that it’s worth meditating on. The choice is between forgetting the Lord and His love and having your lampstand removed, or remembering the Lord, returning to Him, and eating from the Tree of Life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God. The choice is therefore one of following the first Adam in sin and death or the second Adam in obedience and life. It’s the choice between eating the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil without permission and being cursed or eating the Tree of Life with permission and being abundantly blessed.
Whatever the Tree of Life in the Paradise of God is, it’s what I want. But to receive it, I must not let my love for the Lord grow cold.
Some of you might be more like the church of Smyrna, which is in an interesting situation. Those of you who are churches of Smyrna might feel as if you’ve been cursed by both God and man. You might be undergoing some kind of persecution or suffering. You might not feel very good. You might be in poverty of body, mind, soul, or possessions, or you might be in some kind of great tribulation.
But assuming that your suffering has not been brought about by your own sinfulness, you might be in a blessed state. It might well be that the Lord is testing your faith. Do not fear any of the things that trouble you (aside from sin and its children): do not fear what you suffer or will suffer. You are being allowed to be tested, so that your faith might be made more pure.
Be faithful, even to the point of death, as Christ was, and you will receive the crown of life. Don’t judge with the eyes of men and look at how you feel, but look instead to Jesus Christ who suffered for you but is now crowned with glory – for you!
You are probably somewhere in one of these 2 churches. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to you.”
Prayer: Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy.
Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy.
Amen. (St. Augustine)
Point for Meditation: Get quiet for a few moments and consider this question: “What is the Holy Spirit telling me about my spiritual life and relationship with Jesus?”
Resolution: I resolve to take time today to listen to the voice of the Spirit in my life and hear what He is telling me about my life.
© 2012 Fr. Charles Erlandson
Category: Give Us This Day