« AnteriorContinuar »
Ver. 1. Unto the angel of the church of 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.
Ephesus was the metropolis of Lydia in Asia. A church was here early collected : and with this church Christ commences his epistles to the seven churches. Each epistle is directed to the angel of that church. In this term, probably, were included whatever teaching elders there might be in that church. Some suppose the pastor or pastors of each church were all that is meant by the angel of that church.
Others suppose it meant, especially, a person who was a moderator or president of a consociation of the particular churches found in each city named. We read, Acts xx. 17, of elders in the church of Ephesus. And we are informed that the apostles, and others ordained by them, “ordained elders in every city.” Those first churches were wont to have a plurality of elders in each church. And we learn, in church history, that in the first Cliristian ages, contiguous churches were led to form themselves into a kind of consociation, for their mutual benefit; each consociation having a standing moderator ; which moderator might be the person
denoted by the angel of that church. Whether this were the case; or whether this angel means the eldership of that church, meaning to include all its officers, is not essential.*
* Mosheim says, “It is highly probable that the church of Jerusalem, grown numerous, and deprived of the ministry of the apostles, was the first that chose a president. And it is no less probable that the other churches followed so respectable an example.” Of these presidents, or ancient bishops, he says (relative to their difference from modern bishops) “they had not power to decide or to enact any thing without the consent of the presbyters (common pastors) and the people.” Scott speaks of them as moderators, or censors, elected
Jesus Christ, in each address, gives a description of himself from some of his notable characteristics exhibited in the first chapter of this book, and in different sacred Scriptures. And there seems to be some affinity between the trait of character thus selected, and the state or character of that church. It appears to have been selected for their admonition, or their consolation, as their case required.
To the Ephesian church, the address is thus given: from him “who holdeth the seven stars in his right hand; and walketh in the midst of his seven golden candlesticks.” Blessed indeed is Zion, that her Saviour and Lord walks in the midst of his churches, by his word, ambassadors, and ordinances, by his spirit of grace, and his government of all things. In these, he is a wall of fire round about, and a glory in the midst of her. And Christ's true ministers are assured, that they rest in the right hand of their Lord and Master. "Lo, I am with you always." "My grace is sufficient for thee !"
Ver. 2. 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.
3. And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.
Their good deeds, the Saviour first notes, to their praise. They had laboured in duty ; they had patiently endured trials; they had detected and abhorred evil doers; they had examined and exposed false teachers. Paul had
at the discretion of the churches, and probably (he thinks) with the countenance of the apostles ; but that they possessed no official superiority to other teaching elders. Jerome, afterwards when some of these bishops were struggling to be viewed as of a superior order, opposed them, and said, “ Let therefore the presbyters (common pastors) know, that as by the custom of the churches they are subject to him who is their president; so let the bishops (these standing presidents) know that they are above presbyters more by the custom of the church, than by any true dispensation of Christ.” This order of ministers thus arose only by human discretion and custom, and were only first among equals in office. Each city of note seems to have had such a president, or bishop of the churches in that city and vicinity. And this might have been the angel mentioned in the address of each epistle.
warned that church, (Acts xx. 29, 30,) “ For I know that after my departure, shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock: also of your own selves shall men arise speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them.” So it had taken place. These impostors (as all false teachers do) pretended they were sent of God. This church had tried those false apostles by the word of God, and condemned them as liars. And this their faithfulness Christ especially notes and approves; and this testimony he leaves for the benefit of all, to the end of the world. And the good deeds of this church, the Saviour repeats :—their patience, their labours for his sake; and their perseverance! Few perhaps are the churches, at this period, concerning whom so much good can be said ! Much reason then, have many to tremble, when they peruse the following:
Ver. 4. Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
5. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
They had suffered the pious fervour of their first gracious affections to abate. In this, they had been guilty of criminal inattention and ingratitude. A speedy repentance of this sin was demanded ;—to love as they had first loved; or Christ would soon visit them, and dispossess them of: their church blessings.
This awful judgment was, in after days, executed upon them.
Too many have left their first love; while the love of the world has taken its place! Such have reason to be deeply affected with this warning of the glorious Head of the church.
Ver. 6. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
The Nicolaitans were a sect of Antinomians who, under the notion of Christian liberty, pleaded for a licentious community of wives. Such a hateful sect existed, and were
here, by the head of the church, condemned. And the Ephesian church had dealt faithfully with these licentious hypocrites : and probably, had cleansed their community from them. And this faithfulness, Christ publicly approves for the benefit of all his churches, from that period.
Tradition has branded Nicholas, one of the seven deacons, as the infamous leader of this sect. It seems probable that this is incorrect, and very injurious. Those seven deacons were said to have been “ sull of the Holy Ghost.” Could one of them, then, be guilty of such enormity? No doubt there were different men of this name.
It does not follow that because one by the name of Nicholas, led in this error, it hence must be this pious deacon. This is not to be admitted without positive proof.
Ver. 7. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches: To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
This is connected with the address of the Ephesian church: yet it is “what the Spirit saith unto the churches." It is equally applicable to all of similar character, in all ages ; and it is most unhappy that so many who have ears, pay so little attention to what the Spirit of God urges here upon them. This conduct will one day “ bite like a serpent, and sting like an adder.” Let us hear; and so hear, that our souls may live! Can as much be said in favour of all our churches, as was said in favour of the church of Ephesus? But they had suffered the fervour of their first love 10 abate! The command to those who have once loved, is, “Keep yourselves in the love of God.” Abound therein more and more.” -“ Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord.”—Confidence that we once loved God, with present contentment without it, is not the way to overcome, but to sink in despair !
The motive to overcome here is powerful. Such shall feed upon the antitype of the tree of life. Adam in the garden of Paradise (we are led to believe) was, at the close of his term of trial, to “put forth his hand, and eat of the tree of life, and live for ever.” This act was to have been the sealing of his active personal righteousness, as his legal title to an eternal confirmation in holiness and
bliss, alluding to which order, our text assures us, that all who overcome shall find, at the close of their season of trial, something in their second Adam well answering to this Jesus Christ," the Lord our righteousness, “the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth,"—will be to them the tree of life indeed, to fix them in eternal holiness and bliss.
Ver. 8. And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;
Smyrna was a large city in Asia Minor. The gospel was early preached here with success; and a church was here found which entirely escaped censure; and which received much commendation. The trait of Christ's character selected for them, therefore, is his eternal Divinity, and his death, and resurrection; essential glories in the Christian salvation; “God was manifest in the flesh ;" “Who was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification."
Ver. 9. I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty (but thou art rich), and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.
They had a severe lot in the early persecutions, but none of their trials were overlooked by the omniscient eye of their Immanuel. Their poverty too, he noted, and would a thousand-fold compensate. And he assured them they were rich. “God hath chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith, and heirs of his kingdom.” When I am weak, then am I strong.”—Emptied of self, and filled with the fulness of God. And, for their further consolation, Christ assures the church that he was not inattentive to the insults and impertinence of false religionists among them, who, while disturbing their holy order, claimed to be viewed and treated as the true people of God. The term Jews here, means true saints. The Saviour declared, that, instead of such being true saints, they were “ of the synagogue of Satan.” Many, from that day to the present, have made equally high claims with no better