“I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars…“
Jesus is in the business of appraising His church, and Jesus always commends His church first, if He can. He commends first and censures second. He always ends with a challenge to repent.
I know your works, your labor, your patience,
It is interesting to note what Jesus thinks is important. What we deem important may not be the same as what He thinks is important. Jesus commends the church for hard work. Today, many people do not value a healthy work ethic but denounce it as unworthy of a “balanced” Christian. However, the Bible never advocates a “balanced” life in the sense of being lazy or compromising our devotion to God. It declares the importance of a “sober” life, a dedicated life, and a life yielded to God. Relying on His grace and strength, we serve Him with our whole heart.
Jesus takes note of the Ephesian church’s “works” and “labor.” The Greek word for “labor” is work to the point of exhaustion. Although there is a time for rest, there is also a time for hard work. Forty years after its foundation, the Ephesian church was a hard-working one. These Christians were not couch potatoes. Their faith was real.
Jesus expects more than work and labor: He expects that we will develop a certain attitude toward hard work. He wants us to be tenacious of soul.
“You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier” (2 Timothy 2:3-4).
Jesus commends Ephesian Christians for the tenacity of their character. He notes how much we work for Him. “Patience” is the ability to hang in there in the face of trouble by exercising faith in God. Patience is the fortitude of faith, the ability to endure things that we would not endure without faith.
and that you cannot bear those who are evil.
The Ephesian church could not put up with false doctrine. This is doctrinal evil here.
And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars
The Ephesians knew enough of the Word of God to put false teachers to the test. They had enough sense to know what is true and what is not true in the Word.
Apostolic succession is not a biblical doctrine. Apostleship in John’s day was valid. Some people saw the apostle’s power, so these fakers tried to pass themselves off as apostles. Jesus commends the Ephesian church for their ability to identify these phony apostles. They unmasked them as liars. This was a church free from doctrinal corruption. The first four churches in this list of seven dealt with false teachers (2:2,6,9,14-15,20).
Jesus values doctrinal orthodoxy. These Christians could define and defend their faith. They knew enough of the Word not to be drawn into theological fads.
On his last visit to Ephesus, about forty years before the writing of Revelation, Paul addressed the problem of false teachers. He called the elders throughout Ephesus to come to a meeting in Miletus. In his farewell message, he challenged them with some important issues.
“For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves (false teachers) will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves (people from the church) men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears” (Acts 20:29-31).
Paul knew that they were going to confront false teaching. They would not let just anyone speak in their pulpits, for they had doctrinal standards.
We should value doctrinal orthodoxy just as Jesus valued it.
Jesus knows in detail, everything every believer is doing. The church cannot get away with anything. Jesus inspects the state of the church at all times. He removes churches from existence, and He brings them into existence. Sometimes He removes the “messenger,” and sometimes He removes the entire “lampstand” (the church itself).
The church in the 21st century is doctrinally gullible. This is because we are becoming increasingly experiential as the basis for our evaluation of things. We do not use the Bible; we use our experience to determine whether something is true. This is exceedingly dangerous.
The pastorals (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus) challenge pastors to “teach” their congregations. Sometimes the word “teach” means “doctrine.” These are the keywords of all three of these books written to pastors. Yet, this is exactly where the church leaves true Christianity today.
Jesus is constantly removing churches today who do not teach the truth.