E W Rogers, Oxford

Part 2 of 8 of the series The Apocalyptic Letters

Category: Study


The beginning of the Christian work of God in this city is recounted in Acts 18. 19 to 19. 20. There are many additional allusions to it in Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church which will well repay searching out. The believers began with a zealous love for Christ which caused them to burn their books instead of selling them. Had they sold them, they would have spread the poison and retained the proceeds. But they suffered the loss. A little later their love was still aflame and Paul experienced this on calling the elders to him at Miletus, Acts 20. 17-38. Some years later their love was still aglow, and Paul was able to feed them with strong meat contained in his prison Epistle Ephesians, but he could not do this at Corinth, 1 Cor. 3. 2. Years rolled by, and some thirty years later they had left their first love, a departure that would result in Christ being ultimately outside the door, Rev. 3. 20. Whether this first love should be interpreted as a person or as a thing little matters. One should read Jeremiah 2. 2 ff in this connection; it is most revealing as to how the Lord reacts to such ungrateful requital.

This decline took place despite the fact that there were works, labour, patience, and even intolerance of evil persons and false apostles. There was unabating labour for His name’s sake. Actively they wrought; passively they endured. But the motive spring of love was lacking. Ponder the Lord’s interrogation of Peter, “Lovest thou me?”, John 21. 15-17, and the affirmation of Paul, “the love of Christ constraineth us”, 2 Cor. 5. 14- How easy it is to engage in a multiplicity of church activities, yet for all to be done by promptings unworthy of Christ. What a contrast is this with the motivation of the Thessalonians’ service, namely their “work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope”, 1 Thess. 1. 3.

What Paul had foreseen when addressing the elders at Miletus had now taken place, Acts 20. 29. “Evil men” and “false apostles” had attempted to come in, but the church could not bear the former, and had by trial discovered the spuriousness of the latter since they lacked the requisite credentials. These “false apostles”, 2 Cor. 11. 5; 12. 11, had previously beguiled the Corinthians, but they had not so far caught the Ephesians. The “elect lady” was warned by John against such persons, 2 John 9.

The pronouns “thou” and “thy”, which so frequently recur, refer to the “angel”, who is symbolized by the “star” denoting, as we have said, the responsible guiding element in the local church. It is this overseership which is first praised for what is praiseworthy and then is held responsible for the failure in the church. Overseers nowadays should mark this well.

To their credit stands their hatred of the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, a hatred shared by the Lord. There has been much conjecture about these Nicolaitanes. It does not appear to be tenable to associate them with Nicolas of Acts 6; the presumed evidence is far too flimsy. Nor does history know of any such sect in these early times. The etymology of the word must be examined for any symbolic meaning. The word Nicolaitanes is comprised of two Greek words: nico, to conquer; and laos, people. It therefore suggests a caste which dominated the common people in the church, much like those who would lord a heritage, 1 Pet. 5. 3. Diotrephes at Ephesus (presumably), whose self-assertive, dictatorial and exclusive behaviour involved even the apostle John, 3 John 9-10, is a typical case.

If this be the true explanation, it is not to be wondered at that clerical commentators do not mention it, for their very position would be condemned thereby. Happily, many of them are far better than the position which they hold; some indeed have had the courage to abandon it. But nothing scriptural whatever can be said in support of any form of clerisy; it is contrary to all New Testament teaching.

The Ephesians had left their first love. They should therefore remember from whence they had fallen and repent and return to their original position. Adam fell from his exalted position due to his not loving the Lord with all his heart. The record of Rebekah in Genesis 27 contrasts unfavourably with that of chapter 24. Adam lost his place in the garden and if Ephesus would not repent they, too, would lose their place. The lampstand would be removed, and this, in fact, actually took place. We should point out that not every local church that has ceased to exist has been thus removed by the Lord; there may be many other contributing causes. But North Africa stands as a solemn witness; once many lampstands were there, but behold it now! The Lord who ever walks in judicial garb in their midst removes this and that lampstand from the place of testimony because true motive is lacking. The area is thereby left in utter darkness.

The overcomer is promised precisely what our first parents forfeited. He would eat of the tree of life which is in the midst of the paradise of God. Adam and Eve were removed from the earthly garden, but God’s paradise is now in heaven, 2 Cor. 12. 4.

The phrase “tree of life” is remarkable, for the Greek word for “tree” denotes not a living tree but a dead tree stump. On such the Lord was hanged, but as a result of His death we live. Ponder Revelation 22 verses 2, 14 and 19 R.V. These verses have to do with those who are admitted to, and those who are barred from, the tree of life.

The clarion call of this letter is to remember, to repent and to repeat. Remember demands a looking back to the former condition; repent entails a consideration of the present state; and repeat envisages a recovery for the future. This recovery can only be achieved by the removal of every other rival claimant to our love, and to make Christ Himself our “first love”. All else will then be given its proper relative place. Overseers need to learn afresh that they are firmly held in His right hand, and are responsible to Him for those whom He has entrusted to their care. Saints need to learn afresh that the Lord is walking in the midst of the lampstands and from Him nothing can be concealed. An awareness of His presence and a sight of His Majesty as detailed in chapter 1 would evoke the awe and love of His people. Have we lost that awareness?

There are 10 articles in
ISSUE (1970, Volume 21 Issue 3)


Four Looks

Gospel Work and other Assembly Activities

His Fulness and Our Fulness

The Lord's Table and The Lord's Supper

Outline Studies in Hebrews, Chapter 13

Overseership (2)

Peter, James and John

The Second Coming of Christ (2)

The Vision of the New Temple - Chapters 40-42

There are 8 articles in this series

The Apocalyptic Letters - Introduction








There are 90 articles by this author

To Spread the Gospel - the Believer’s Responsibility







The Purpose of God

Paul’s Prayer

What a Change!

The Epistle to the Ephesians

The Mystery

Ministry in the Church

Gathered Threads

Some Practical Lessons

Paul’s Pastoral Epistles - Introduction

1 Timothy 1

1 Timothy 2

1 Timothy 3

1 Timothy 4

1 Timothy 5

1 Timothy 6

2 Timothy 1: ‘Be Courageous’

2 Timothy 2: ‘Be Careful’

2 Timothy 3: ‘Be Constant’

2 Timothy 4: ‘Be Considerate’

Titus 1: God is Faithful

Titus 2: Christian Behaviour and its Effects

Titus 3: The Christian and the State

The Believer’s Responsibility in Regard to the Spread of the Gospel

The Infallible Christ

Will the Church go through the Great Tribulation?

The Man of God out of Judah

Having been Gathered Out

‘For Me to Live is Christ’

Short Papers on Some Fundamental Truths

After all This

The Scriptures of Truth (Part 1)

The Scriptures of Truth (Part 2)

Evidences of New Birth

The Inspiration of Scripture

On the being of God - The Holy Trinity

The Attributes of Divine Persons

Eternal Punishment

Gospel Preaching: the Message, Motive and Method

The Believer’s Responsibility in regard to the Spread of the Gospel. 2 KINGS 7 : 9.

Question: What is the meaning of “being crafty, I caught you with guile”? (2 Cor. 12: 16)

Question: Ought Christians to testify to all whom they meet?

Question: Is it wise to submit to being called “Plymouth Brethren”?

Question: Assembly Ceasing to Exist

Question: Delivering unto Satan

Question: Does the pre-eminence of Christ Guarantee that the Saved will Outnumber the Unsaved?

Question: The Activities of The Holy Spirit in the Eternal State

Question: Is the Devil PERSONALLY able to operate in more than one place at a time?

Question: Are the instructions in James 5. 14 applicable to-day?

Question: What was wrong with the desire of the sons of Eli for roast flesh Instead of boiled flesh?

Question: Does John 14. 6 imply that the unevangelised heathen will be lost?

Question: Conviction of Sin?

Question: Attitude of Young Believers in Assembly

Question: Why did blind Bartimeus address the Lord Jesus as “Jesus, thou Son of David”?

Question: Were the “miracles” of Peter and Paul examples of faith comparable with... Heb. 11?

Question: Ministry before the Breaking of Bread?

Question: Necessary to be Baptised to Break Bread?

Question: Concerning “He that believeth on Me the works that I do shall he do also.”

Question: In what sense have believers been crucified with Christ?

Question: The Publishing of Able Brethren's Addresses to Conventions, etc.?

Question: Why are the Proverbs Neglected as a Basis for Practical Ministry?

Prayer to the Lord Jesus


The Ministry Of Reconciliation 2 Cor. 5. 19-21

Question: Does 1 Cor. 14. 34 apply to all meetings when brethren are present?

Question: How far are we justified in speaking of God as Father when preaching the gospel?

Question: What are we to understand by the “spiritual body” referred to in 1 Cor. 15?

Question: To what does the phrase, “that which is perfect,” refer in 1 Cor. 13?

Question: How is it that many of the laws in the O.T. appear to be quite cruel?

Question: If believers go to be with Christ immediately at death how can they be raised?

Question: What happens to the believer when he dies before the Lord returns?

Question: Sins of the believer at the Judgement Seat of Christ?

Question: Satan disputing with Michael?

Victory And Defeat

Paul’s thorn in the flesh

Evidences of New Birth

Coming Judgements

The Millennium

The Consummation

Our Hope

Events in Heaven with the Saints

Events on Earth

The Apocalyptic Letters - Introduction