Message to Ephesus: Losing the Light of Love
July 9th, 1961 @ 10:50 AM
THE MESSAGE TO EPHESUS:
LOSING THE LIGHT OF LOVE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-9-61 10:50 a.m.
Well, let’s look at this sermon. After six months, I have finally come to the second chapter of the Book of the Revelation. If you want to follow the sermon, you can easily do so if you will turn to the Revelation, chapter 2, the first seven verses. This is the message of our Lord to the church at Ephesus. And it falls, the letter does, the message does, into three separate parts. First, He commends the church, then He has a complaint against it, and then He counsels the church. Now this is the text:
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 lampstands –
now the commendation –
I know thy works, and thy labor, 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: and hast borne, and hast patience, and for My name’s sake hast labored, and hast not fainted –
Now, the word of complaint –
Nevertheless, I have this against thee, because thou hast left thy first love –
Now, the warning, the counsel –
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 lampstand out of his place, except thou turn.
But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 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.
Then the following letter is to the church at Smyrna, and we will speak of that next Lord’s Day morning [Revelation 2:8-11].
This letter from our Savior to the church at Ephesus and seven words in His]commendation: First, "I know thy works" [Revelation2:2], and they were splendid! They were magnificent; this church was moved with Christian energy. They were alive, they were busy for God. If in that day they had an association as we have now, and if in that day churches sent an annual letter to the association in which they summed up and tabulated all of the work of the year as we do, the letter from the church at Ephesus would have been magnificent: baptisms, great number; new members, a multitude; gifts to missions, a great amount; gifts for local work, a like great amount. It would have been a splendid letter.
How different from the church that I heard that sent the annual letter to the association and filled in the blanks: baptisms, none; new members, none; gifts to missions, none. Then the clerk wrote at the bottom, "Brethren, pray for us that we may hold out faithful unto the end." This is an altogether different situation. They had a magnificent report to make; their works were splendid. Every once in a while I hear of one of our brethren who says, "We don’t believe in these statistics, and we don’t think they reflect at all the operation of the Holy Spirit of God."
Whenever I hear a man speak like that, I think of what Spurgeon said, when Spurgeon said, "Men who don’t like to give statistics about their work are men who are humiliated by their poor report." These things reflect the labor of God’s people; how many we win to Christ, how much have we devoted of our time, and talent, and gifts, and money, to the preaching of the gospel here and around this earth. And when God adds us up, that’s what we come to. And when a fellow says, "We believe in culture, and we believe in the self-development of our people, but we don’t believe in winning the lost and reaching out for other people," he forgets that great, mighty oaks grow in great forests. And the tallest tree in this whole world, I have stood and looked at it as some of you have, and it looks like a thousand, million other trees all around it. It is in the heart of a great Redwood district in Northern California. And you will find God’s favor upon a church that is out trying to do business for God just like this church at Ephesus.
"I know thy works, and I know thy labor" [Revelation 2:2]. Now, those are two different Greek words like they are two different English words. And we have the same feeling in English as it is in Greek. I know thy ergon, which is just the word for "work." And then, I know thy kopos, labor. And it has in it the idea of toil. They are working at a cost, at a sacrifice. And any road to eminence in any realm and in any area, is done at a cost and at a sacrifice. When Euclid was teaching geometry to young Ptolemy, the heir to the throne of the ancient Egyptians, when Euclid was teaching young Ptolemy, the young prince, pulling back from the intellectual labor involved said, "But Euclid, is there not some royal way that a young prince can learn geometry?" And Euclid replied to the young Ptolemy, "Young man, there is no royal road to learning." That is the same way in any preeminent achievement; if you’re going to excel in athletics, if you’re going to excel in scholarship, if you’re going to excel in working for God, you toil and you labor at it. "And I know thy labor" [Revelation 2:2], it was a church that worked at a cost and at a sacrifice. So many of our people are very happy to eat of the clusters, but they don’t like to toil and labor in the heat of the day in the vineyard.
And so many people like to ride on the gospel wagon, and if they can have a chief seat up there on the box seat, that pleases them fine. But they don’t like to get out and push and to pull. And all of the work of some of our people in a lifetime wouldn’t exhaust the efforts of a butterfly. This church toiled at it, and they labored at it, and they did it at a cost and at a sacrifice. I know thy ergon, and I know thy kopos [Revelation 2:2].
And I know thy hupomone, thy – you have it translated "patience" [Revelation 2:2] – thy triumphant commitment in the face of all kinds of discouragements and difficulties. I know thy patience, thy staying with it, thy never giving up no matter what, may be poor, may be hungry, may be cold, may be naked, may be discouraged, may be a thousand things to put stumbling blocks in our ways, and we all have them. And you will never do anything without meeting those things. But I know thy patience, thy stubborn triumphantness, staying with it until the blessing and the victory comes. I know that about you. I see it in you. And then at a great characteristic, staying with it, battling it out, pouring your life into it, never giving up until the victory comes.
In preparing this sermon, I read a story about an evangelist. He was a hunter and he bought two new bird dogs and he put the setters in his backyard. And upon a day, there came, walking down the alley, there came a vicious mean-looking bulldog who also meant business. And when the evangelist saw the bulldog coming, he thought, well, I better take my two bird dogs and put them in the basement because we will have an awful fight here. And it would be awful on that bulldog." Then he thought, "Well, I just think I’ll let that thing learn a lesson."
So the bulldog jumped over the fence and pretty soon the whole yard was full of two bird dogs and one bulldog going at it. Well, after a little while, the bulldog got enough. He jumped back over the fence and went back home and spent the rest of his days licking his sores. Well, the evangelist thought that was it. Sure enough, the next morning at the same time, down the same alley came that same bulldog, jumped over that same fence and away they had it again, those two bird dogs against that mean-looking vicious bulldog. And the same thing happened. When the bull dog got enough of it, he jumped back over the fence, went back to his yard and spent the rest of the day licking more sores, and more scars, and more wounds. And the evangelist said, "I tell you he’s got enough now."
The next day, at the same hour, down the same alley, jumped over the same fence that same bulldog, and they had it again. And sure enough those two bird dogs just chewed him up. And after that bulldog had enough, he jumped back over the fence, went back home, and spent the rest of that day licking his wounds and his sores. And then the evangelist went away in a revival meeting and was gone about three weeks. And when he came back, he happened to say to his wife, "I happened to think about that bulldog. I guess he finally got enough?"
"Oh!" said his wife, "You just never saw the like." She said, "Every day on the hour that same bulldog came over that same fence, and they had that same fight." And she said, "I want you to know that bulldog kept coming until now when those two bird dogs see him, they start whining and running into the basement. And the bulldog comes over and he’s the lord and monarch of everything of which he puts his foot." That’s exactly what hupomone means: staying with it! And it reminded me of this poem that I read.
No one is beaten ’til he quits,
No one is through ’til he stops,
No matter how hard failure hits,
No matter how often he drops,
A fellow is not down ’til he lies
In the dust and refuses to rise.
Fate may bang him around,
And batter him ’til he’s sore,
But it is never said that he’s down
While he bobs up serenely for more,
A fellow is not dead ’til he dies,
Nor down ’til he no longer tries.
[Author and work Unknown]
Man, stay with it! And it will surprise you what God will do for you. I know thy staying with it, thy stubborn and triumphant patience [Revelation2 :2].
And then the fourth thing, "and how thou canst not bear them which are evil" [Revelation 2:2]. It’s very easy to accommodate yourself to evil.
Vice is a monster of such vicious mien,
As to be hated needs but to be seen,
But seen too often, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.
[from "Essay on Man"; Alexander Pope]
When I came down here from Oklahoma, the years that I was in Oklahoma, it was a state which had prohibition written into its laws. And the great thing and the great blessing and prohibition is not that there are not some people who violate the law, but the great good thing about prohibition is this: that it takes public advertising off of the street and off of the highways. And where you have prohibition, when a man drinks, he’s got to deal with the bootlegger underneath the counter and in the back alley. He’s got to be a violator of the law. And he’s got to do it furtively and clandestinely. And he’s got to do it like a criminal. But when you legalize the thing, why, these signs pointed up and these blinking lights invite people to it. And the purpose of advertising, the reason they spend millions of money for advertising is to increase the sale of their wares. And they’ve got to have a new crop of young people to drink their products and to use their liquors or else they would go broke. So advertising is their means to do it. And prohibition destroys their public advertising.
So in Oklahoma, in the years of my ministry there, I never saw it advertised. And the first thing I noticed when I came to Dallas was the liquor store. On every prominent corner, there you’ll see it. And there the lights blink and there the neon signs point to the doorway. That’s the first thing I noticed when I came to Dallas. And when I came to the First Baptist Church, the first thing I noticed was a liquor store right there where we let our children come into the building. In thirty feet of the St. Paul entrance where our children enter, there’s a liquor store! And I noticed it when I came here to Dallas. I’ve been here seventeen years; I don’t notice it anymore. I don’t notice it anymore. I have accommodated myself to it. I accept it now. I don’t ever mention it except once in a while. I sent our young lawyers down there to the city council and said, "What you mean, got a liquor store here in thirty feet of where our children get off to come learn the Word of God."
And they said, "The ordinance reads, you can’t have a liquor store within three hundred feet of the entrance of a church except downtown." Except downtown, so the thing stays there. But I have accommodated myself to it. I don’t notice it anymore. Don’t notice it anymore. But this church "could not bear them which are evil" [Revelation 2:2]. It was cognizant of them. They noticed it. And the Lord commended them for it.
And then number five: "And thou hath tried them which say they are apostles and are not, and has found them liars" [Revelation 2:2]. They tried the big ones with the little ones. And when a man didn’t ring orthodox, they didn’t countenance it. They didn’t countenance him. They didn’t receive him. They didn’t accept him. You know, I can give you a rule for practically all of our institutions of higher learning, including our seminaries. If you’ll be an out-and-out radical, and if you’ll doubt every doctrine in the Bible, and if you will assail every revelation of Holy Scriptures, that’s a sure-fire way to be invited to appear before our intellectual student group. For you see, if a man believes he’s persona non grata, but if he doubts everything, then he’s a great scholar. And the more he doubts and the more he assails the doctrine, the more acceptable he is in these certain intellectual circles.
I have never been able to understand that. To my dying day I never will. When a man doubts the inspiration of the Scriptures, and he assails the virgin birth, and he calls Jesus an illegitimate son of a German soldier and a peasant girl named Mary, and when he makes fun of the myths and the fables of the Bible, and he throws it all in the trash heap in the name of higher criticism and religion, I say he’s an infidel, and he has no place in the Christian pulpit or in any Christian schools by the grace of God. And this church couldn’t bear those who said, "We are apostoloi – we are sent from God," and they denied everything about God. And they wouldn’t countenance them, and Jesus commended them for it.
Then the sixth thing: "And hath borne [Revelation 2:3] . . . " Look what they couldn’t bear. They couldn’t bear, they couldn’t bear those who did evil [Revelation 2:2]. And they couldn’t bear those who preached the false doctrine and proclaimed the false gospel. But they could bear toil and self-sacrifice and the giving of themselves into the ministry of God. And the seventh thing: "And hast borne, and for My name’s sake hast labored, and hast not fainted" [Revelation 2:3]. What a commendation that is!
Preacher, I’m going to quit. They don’t appreciate me. I’m going to quit. They don’t appreciate me. I’m going to quit. I was running the heavenly race, but now I’m walking in the way, and I think I’d just faint and stop. I’m going to quit, I’m going to quit. They say things about me, and I’m going to quit.
Man a living! If you listen to what people say about you, oh, oh! You never would show your face. Just don’t listen. Just don’t listen. Just don’t read. Don’t read. Burn all the papers. Burn all the magazines. Just don’t pay attention. And all the letters you get, put them over there. Let your secretary read them and she’ll put them over there for you. Oh, oh! Ha, don’t let it bother you, don’t let it bother you, and if it does bother you, don’t let it bother you. Just go on. Just go on.
That’s the way it was in Ephesus: they labored at it! [Revelation 2:2]. "And how thou stayed with it, and for My name’s sake hast toiled, and you did not faint [Revelation 2:3]. And you didn’t faint. Just be a piece of iron on the anvil for God, and if God beats you into a plowshare and plunges you into the earth to break up fallow ground, that’s all right. Or if the Lord beats you into a scepter and puts it in your hand, and you reign and shine, that’s all right. Or if the Lord beats you into a spear point to battle the enemies of God, that’s all right. But do not faint. "Lord, here I am. Here I am." And stay with it – to labor and do not faint [Revelation 2:3].
And I tell you after you read all of that about the church at Ephesus, you’d say, well, there just never was such a church. There never was such a church. There couldn’t be anything wrong with that church. There just couldn’t be. Now, the great high priest entered into the holy place, and there he trimmed the wicks and took care of the seven golden lamps. And our great High Priest here in this Bible is presented as dressed in royal and priestly robes. He walks among the golden lampstands of His churches [Revelation 1:13]. And He pours in the sacred oil, and He eliminates the impurities and strains it out. And He trims the wicks, and He makes the light to shine.
And it says, as He walks among His churches, His eyes are as a flame of fire [Revelation 1:14]. With penetrating accuracy He looks into every part, every section. And what our eyes can’t see because the smoke of the world blinds us, His eyes with deadly accuracy and flaming penetration, He looks into the very soul life of His church. And He so looked at Ephesus. Outwardly, they were faultless. Their ministry was in order; Christ and the stars in His hand [Revelation 1:16, 20], and all of their service just mechanically correct.
How could the Lord find anything wrong with this so beautifully ordered and working church? How could He do it? Nobody could, except God. And when He looked into their souls and into their hearts, He saw that the old gladness, and the old joy, and the old abounding love had altered. And with pathos He says, "But, but I have," and here in the King James Version in italics you have somewhat , "But I have against thee this, this: Thou hast left thy first love" [Revelation 2:4]. You are still at it, but you don’t have any victory in your heart. You are still here, you are still working, but the joy and the gladness of it has vanished away. And you’re still present.
But that overflowing abounding gladness in the soul, it’s all gone, and there you are like a piece of ice. And there you are in all of the conservatism of life, shut up to all feeling and all emotion and all enthusiasm. There is no place for it in your heart. And there is no place for it in your church. And your church is like an icehouse. And you’re formal, and you’re correct, and you’re just so. You are haughtily faultless, icily regular, splendidly null. Oh, I wish I could think up phrases like that to call them! Mmm, mmm! Just so, just right; everything, every minutiae portentously done, elaborately done; no heart in it, no spirit in it, no unction in it, no drive of enthusiasm in it, no gladness and overwhelming abounding love in it – just doing it. The most respectable people in the world, and there they are – over, and over, and over again.
I preached to an evangelistic conference in our denomination in one of the great states on the eastern seaboard. And a doctor of one of these denominations was there and heard me preach. And when it was over, he said, "I’m going to my people, my denomination, my leaders, my such-and-such, and I’m going to ask them if they won’t get the preachers together, and the people together, and let you come over there and preach to them, and we have a evangelistic conference, and see if we can’t get our church alive again, and our denomination winning people again." He said, "Would you come?"
I said, "The Lord help me, but I will."
So he got them altogether and because he was a great famous doctor and wealthy and affluent and influential, why, the high major domos and factotums of his church didn’t say a "Nay." So in the capital city of that state, they planned an evangelistic conference, the first one they ever had in the history of the denomination, and they invited me over there. Man alive! That was the wrong thing to do. And I knew it was. I knew it was. There they sat – in all of their rigidity and in all of their thoughtless iciness – and there they sat. And I just poured everything I had into those appeals. And then right after I would get through, why, they had another man with his clerical garb on to follow me and negate everything I had to say. They didn’t like what I had to say and certainly they didn’t like the way I said it.
And so when it was over, why, that was the last time they had ever got together for an evangelistic conference. You see, they don’t like evangelism! And they don’t like soulwinning! And they don’t like strangers, and they don’t like outsiders, and they like themselves, and they like that icy ritual through which they go every Lord’s Day morning. And I don’t blame them, I wouldn’t go but one time a day; I would close the thing up at night, too – tighter than a door drum – and I’d cut off all the lights. I wouldn’t go back either, I wouldn’t go back either. And they like it that way. And if you were to exhibit emotion in that church, or enthusiasm in those places, they would think you were psychologically weak and you were rationally unstable. And the reason you are like you are is because you don’t know any better. If you had any sense, you’d be like they are – dead, and null, and dull, and dry, and uninteresting, and without enthusiasm, and without love – cold like an ice cake.
A. J. Gordon, God bless his memory, one of the greatest preachers of all time, A. J. Gordon was pastor of the Clarendon Street Baptist Church in Boston. And I copied this about what he had to say about his fellow ecclesiastical corpses up there in Boston. He said, "Ecclesiastical corpses lie all about us; the caskets in which they repose are lined with satin and are decorated with solid silver handles and abundant flowers. And like the other caskets they are just large enough for their occupants with no room for strangers. These churches have died of respectability and have been embalmed in self-complacency."
Oh! You say, "Preacher, they haven’t died!" Listen, for the thousand years that the Church of England has been going in England, there are not two percent of the people in England who attend them. When I was in Westminster Abbey and attended church there, you could put up there in that choir everybody that was in the service in a church that is enormous. They love that respectability and love that beautiful ritual – they say – but they don’t go! Nobody goes except a handful; and finally, they don’t go.
The churches have died of respectability and have been embalmed in self-complacency. We are the elite, and we believe in culture. And we believe in developing our own. And the whole world dies and is lost.
If by the grace of God, this church is alive (referring to the Clarendon Street Church), if by the grace of God, this church is alive, be warned to use your opportunity, or the fate of them that buried thy sisters will be at the door to carry thee out.
Now, we ought to do things decently and in order, and we ought not to turn our churches into hullabaloos and into riots, I know. But there ought to be in us a great enthusiasm, and a marvelous compassion, and a wonderful love, and a gladness in it all. There’s going to be a family join this church tonight. And I wish I could tell you what he said to me. He said, "You know my wife and I went down there to the First Baptist Church, and we didn’t know you was supposed to carry a Bible." You see I don’t let them in unless they bring a Bible. Now, if some of you plan to join this morning, and don’t have a Bible, well, you forget that. You come and then you get your Bible.
Anyway, he said, "I didn’t know we was supposed to have a Bible." Then he said, "My wife and I went to church and sat down there at the back just to see." And he said, "When time came to read the Holy Word of God, there were three different members of your church that offered us their Bibles." "Here, take my Bible." He said, "It made an impression upon us." And then he said, "When the service was over, your members welcomed us and shook hands with us and made us so glad we were alive, as though you wanted us." And he said, "My wife and I talked it over and we are coming down there and join that church Sunday night."
Tonight! Ah, that’s the way it ought to be. My land, what if you had somebody you loved, somebody you loved with all of your heart, like your sweetheart? Like your wife? What if you had somebody that you loved and this is the way you expressed it? You sent them there, and you burn incense before them, and you go through a litany before them and all of that ritual before them? I can imagine that wife, that sweetheart, that loved one, saying: "Listen, husband, listen, sweetheart, throw that stuff away. And come over here real close and hold me tight."
And then boy, boy! That’s the way, full of life, full of feeling, full of joy, full of gladness! You just got it all over and you can’t help it, that’s what Jesus likes. That’s it, that’s it, and you forget about the way. And you forget about it, just do it! One of my boys here in this church was trying to get another boy here in this church to ask a girl in this church for a date. And the first boy said to his friend, he said, "Listen, I’d like to have her and I’d like to take her out. But I don’t know how to ask her."
And the other boy said, "Listen, chum, stupid! There ain’t no wrong way to ask a girl. Ask her!" That’s the gospel truth, that’s the truth. There ain’t no wrong way to make love to Jesus if you’ve got it in your heart, just have it in your heart. Why, some of these people say they can’t pray unless they’ve got all kinds of beautiful flowing language. Don’t think of it like that. And some people say they can’t pray unless they write out those beautiful words. Oh, no! Just tell Him, just talk to Him like somebody was the best friend and the closest and the finest and the dearest and sweetest you ever had in your life. And just tell Him. Just tell Him. Be with Jesus like you would somebody you love. "Because I got this against you: you have left thy first love" [Revelation 2:4]. Not that their rigmarole wasn’t just right. And their genuflection wasn’t beautifully done. And their liturgies said just perfectly, not that! But you don’t have the flame in your soul, and it’s gone.
And He says, "Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen" [Revelation 2:5]. You’re fallen. There’s not anything in the world that will take place of that something on the inside. You just try it. Cover somebody you love, your wife or your sweetheart, cover with flowers or with boxes of candy or all kinds of gadgets and things and presents, and in your heart it is as cold as ice, and see if she likes it. I tell you, if she responds to you in return, and loves you in return, she doesn’t care about the flowers or the candy or the gadgets, that is I don’t think she should, she cares about you, she likes you. She would rather have you rather than anything in the world. That’s the way, and that’s the way with our Lord. Remember, remember, "thou hast left thy first love [Revelation 2:4]. Remember from whence thou art fallen" [Revelation 2:5]. And then His words of counsel. He said, "Remember and repent, turn and do. Come back. Come back" [Revelation 2:5].
Oh, I got to quit! May I apply the thing to us in just about two minutes, if we can? O Lord, come and trim our wick! O, Lord, look at our church and our people with flaming eyes, Lord, look into our souls and our hearts. Lord, is a whole lot of what we do mechanical? Mechanical? Just doing it because it’s the hour to do it? Because it’s the day and the time to do it and we do it mechanically? But we don’t have any heart in it, and don’t have any joy in it. And there’s no unction from heaven in it. We do what we do mechanically. Do we, Lord? Do we?
And Lord, are our hearts actually some other place? Some other place? There was a time when we loved to go to church, and we loved the sermons, and we loved prayer meetings, and we loved the Bible reading, and we loved to see people saved. But now, but now, they’re long and dull and wearisome, and our jaded appetites need to be cajoled and quickened by novelties out there in the world. "Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world" [2 Timothy 4:10]. Lord, are we like that? Our hearts are out there somewhere, not here, not here?
O Lord, O Lord, and do the first works. Remember, and come back. O Lord, have we cease to love Thee? "I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love" [Revelation 2:4]. You know, if you love the Lord really, all the rest would fall in order. And if we don’t love the Lord, really, everything else turns to dust and ashes. That’s why I had you read the passage:
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I have become as sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I can move mountains, and have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all of my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing, There abideth faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
[1 Corinthians 13:1-3, 13]
Simon, Simon, lovest thou Me? Yea, Lord; Thou knowest that I love Thee.
Shepherd My lambs.
Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me? Lord, Thou knowest I love Thee.
Take care of My sheep.
First and always loving God, loving Jesus; and everything else will fall in its order. Don’t you worry about decorum; don’t you worry about fine language; and don’t you worry about beautiful order; and don’t you be troubled about the mechanism and the mechanics of the thing; that will all come to place in its time if, "Simon, Simon, lovest thou Me?
"Yea, Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee" [John 21:15-16].
That’s it, "I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love" [Revelation 2:4]. Oh, come back! Come back, and let God fill our souls with abounding gladness and joy once again. Turn, turn, come back.
While we sing this song of invitation, somebody this morning to give his heart in faith to Jesus, would you come and stand by me? Somebody this morning to put his life in the fellowship of our church; would you come and give the pastor your hand? "Pastor, this is my wife and these are my children, we are all coming this morning, the whole family of us." Would you make it now? Would you make it this hour? Would you make it this moment while we stand and sing this song? Come, come, come as the Spirit of God shall lead the way. Come in this balcony; there is a stairway at the front, and at the back, and on either side; and in this lower floor, in the aisle, and down here to the front, "Here I am, preacher, and here I come." While we stand and while we sing.
THE MESSAGE TO EPHESUS – LOSING THE LIGHT OF LOVE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. A seven-fold commendation
A. "Thy works" – a church moved with Christian energy
1. Church annual letter – no baptisms, no new members, no gifts to missions
2. Some brethren given no meaning to statistics
a. Spurgeon, "Those who don’tâ€¦"
B. "Thy labor, toil" – work at a cost, a sacrifice
1. Euclid to Ptolemy, "â€¦no royal road to learning"
2. Many like to ride on the gospel wagon if they can have the chief seat
C. "Thy patience" – persistence in toil
1. Hunter with two setters and a bulldog
2. Poem, "No one is beaten â€˜til he quitsâ€¦"
D. "Not bear evil men" – excelled in discipline; not accommodating to evil
1. Alexander Pope’s "Essay on Man"
2. Liquor stores allowed right next to our church
E. "Tried them which sayâ€¦" – not tolerant of false doctrine
1. Dealt with the great ones and the little ones
2. Today if you doubt every doctrine and assail every revelation of Scripture you are considered a great scholar
F. "Hath borneâ€¦" – patient in suffering, persecution
G. "Labored and not fainted"
1. People who quit because they feel unappreciated
II. Complaint – condemnation
A. The work of the high priest – gointo holy place, trim the wicks, take care of seven golden lamps
1. Our great High Priest walks among the lampstands of His churches, pours sacred oil, removing impurities, trims the wicks and makes light to shine
a. His eyes are as a flame of fire – He looks into every part with penetrating accuracy
B. Outwardly Ephesus was faultless, commendable
1. They had left their first love – joy and gladness of their work had vanished; cold and formal
C. There are many who like it that way – lack of enthusiasm an advantage
1. My address at evangelistic conference on East Coast, first one in history of denomination – it was the last
2. A. J. Gordon – "Ecclesiastical corpsesâ€¦"
3. Family joining us tonight
4. Young man trying to ask a girl out
1. Remember you are fallen
B. Come, put our light in order
1. Our service mechanical
2. Our hearts elsewhere(2 Timothy 4:10)
3. Love for Christ is gone(1 Corinthians 13:1-13, John 21:15-17)