The 7 Letters to the 7 Churches in Asia Minor: Revelation 2 & 3
The letters – were they real? The seven letters in Revelation 2 and 3 have always been regarded by the Church as specially bright and precious gems of Holy Scripture. The Apostle John is the scribe and penned them for our Lord about A.D. 94. Are they real letters of the Savior, or must they be regarded as a literary device employed by the author through the Holy Spirit’s guidance for the sake of effectiveness? There is no reason to depart from the view which presents itself most naturally that our Lord addresses real letters to definite congregations. Were they sent separately to each congregation or were they at once incorporated into the Book of Revelation? We don’t know. But we do know that these 2 chapters at once formed a part of the Apocalypse (the Greek word for Revelation). Together with chapter 1 they form the introduction to the book in which the present and future are portrayed in splendid and powerful visions.
Their pattern – the letters all follow the same general pattern. After the address, Jesus identifies Himself as the speaker with special pictures that define His divine nature as was already given in chapter 1. Then He commends and/or scolds the congregation, inserting a note of comfort or warning as the case requires. Finally, He closes with a promise joined with a plea to listen to what the Spirit is saying to them.
Letter 1 – The Church in Ephesus is the first to be addressed. It was natural that Ephesus should be given this prominent place. It was the first city reached by the messenger carrying the letters after leaving Patmos. The congregation was founded by the Apostle Paul on his second missionary journey. He labored there for 3 years. After him, Timothy was in charge. Then came John around the time of Jerusalem’s fall (A.D. 70). He toiled there until his banishment to the island of Patmos under the emperor Domitian – some time between A.D. 90-96.
After his release, John returned to Ephesus to serve until his death.
Ephesus was the largest city of the Roman province of Asia (western Turkey today), with a rich history of trade, travel, and warfare behind it due to its important harbor. But for years erosion inland had silted up its harbor and choked its waterway to the extent that the deep-hulled merchantmen could no longer dock there. The city of Ephesus was falling from its height of previous glory. Still, it was the metropolis of western Asia Minor, famous for cultural achievements and especially for the Temple of Diana (In Greek – Artemis) in its midst. The followers of Artemis rioted against Paul and gave him no small amount of trouble (Acts 19). Nevertheless, the Lord blessed Paul’s work in Ephesus and a large, flourishing congregation grew out of it. So well did it flourish that the congregation became the third city in point of importance among the early centers of Christianity, following the lead of Jerusalem and Antioch.
Three years of Paul’s teaching had laid a firm basis for doctrinal growth. There was much for which John could commend the Ephesian Christians years later: their hard work, endurance, discernment, and vigor. Ephesus, taught by two apostles, rejected all accommodation with paganism and those who advocated a softer approach to worldly influence upon their Christian life. They would not give in to an easy-going Christianity. For them to hesitate or doubt was to be lost. They stood firm in their teaching. However, as the church aged and as Ephesus’ glory faded, the congregation lost its passion for Christ’s saving love. This is the point of the Savior’s warning in the letter. Strong on doctrine, it had grown weak in the love it had at first.
The church father Ignatius, writing a generation later, still accorded the church high praise. It became a bishop’s seat where a notable council was held as late as A.D. 431. Then came decline. The coast, with continual soil erosion of the inner land, became malarial. The Turks came with ruin for Asia. The church died along with the city.
Today, the once proud city of Ephesus no longer exists. No Christian congregation gathers there around the gospel in Word and Sacrament. Sad to say, in line with Jesus’ warning in the letter, the “lampstand” is gone. May the Savior’s loving warning to be His call to every modern-day congregation also.
(adapted from The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia and Sermon Studies on Revelation 2-3 by W. Arndt)
Sermon for the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost June 19, 2022
Text: Rev. 2:1-7 Summer Series: 7 Letters to the 7 Churches 22:2329
Theme: Hear What the Spirit Says…To the Church in Ephesus.
One day a man approached Charles Spurgeon, the celebrated English preacher of a century past, and asked, “Is your church an ideal congregation? I am looking for the perfect church to join.” Spurgeon thought a moment and replied, “No, I am sorry to tell you, but our church is not the perfect one for which you are looking. But, if you happen to find such a church, I beg you, don’t join it, for you will surely spoil the whole thing.”
When it comes to church membership, many are looking for the perfect church to join. If that man had come to —– Lutheran Church, would he have found the perfect church here? No. He would have been disappointed. He would have found people who love their Lord and His Word. At the same time, he would have found prodigal sons and daughters who wander at times from the Lord’s path. Here he would find saints washed in the blood of Christ, but he would find sinners as well. So, we would have to conclude with Spurgeon that ours is not the perfect church either.
There is no such church this side of heaven for here we are not yet perfected. But there are congregations that can serve as good examples for us of that which the Lord wants in a church. Likewise, there are congregations that serve as examples of the way we ought not to be. That is what the Seven Letters to the Seven Churches in Asia Minor help us understand. Will we find ourselves in one or more of these letters? Yes. So may we heed our Lord’s admonition found at the end of each letter: “Hear what the Spirit says.”
Today we hear what He says to the Church in Ephesus: (text). Here was a church 1. Working hard for the truth, yet 2. Growing cold in its love, but 3. In repenting it would hang on to its lampstand and eat from the Tree of Life in the Paradise of God.
I. Working hard for the truth (strong on doctrine).
When the Lord had John write this letter to Christians in Ephesus, the church was firmly established. It was older than our congregation, being some 45 years old. During that time, it had developed some good, strong Christian traits. But some bad ones had also crept in. Jesus began by describing Himself as “the One who holds the 7 stars in His right hand and walks among the 7 golden lampstands.”
In the chapter before this, we learn that the 7 golden lampstands stand for the 7 churches and the 7 stars stand for their pastors. The assurance was that the Lord was with His people and pastors, supporting, guiding, and protecting them, for “wherever 2 or 3 are gathered in His name, there He is in their midst.” What a comfort that is to Christians everywhere!
I am sure that the pastor and people in Ephesus were glad to hear it, for Christians are light to this world, bearing the light of salvation in Christ to a world darkened by sin and unbelief. It’s challenging. But to know that the Lord Himself is standing by you, directing, guiding, and holding you in His powerful hand, is great comfort. Who wouldn’t want to hear that the almighty and gracious God holds them, especially in the troubled days in which we live, when wickedness seems to have free course? In the midst of the anger and turmoil that swirls around us He promises: “I am with you always to the end of the world.” Ah, dear friends, He walks among us.
As He walked among the Ephesians, on the one hand He was pleased by what He saw. His omniscient eye, described “like blazing fire” (1:14), saw their hard labor. They were a hard-working group, founded by the Apostle Paul, instructed by Timothy, and established by the Apostle John. Their pastors and people persevered in the faith taught them. Bearing up under persecution and hardship, they remained strong on doctrine, working hard for the truth. They would not tolerate wicked and immoral men. They would not put up with false teaching “apostles” who claimed to be sent by God but were not, nor would they follow the sinful practices of the Nicolaitans. And Jesus commended them for it.
Do we work hard for the truth? Are we non-tolerant of false teaching and evil lifestyles that go contrary to God’s Word? Sometimes when Christians are working hard for God’s truth, they are called “unloving” and “intolerant” by others. If Christians refuse to put up with sinful ways or prefer not to work with other groups that don’t accept all of the Bible’s teachings as Christ gave them, they are looked down upon as unloving. But when Paul founded this congregation, he instructed them to “speak the truth in love” (Ep.4:15). They spoke the truth about sin and error and pointed to God’s grace to us in Christ.
Christians do that not because they are unloving, but because they love their Lord and rejoice in His Word that alone can save us. They love people too, not wanting others to continue walking in sin and error which leads to unbelief and eternal damnation. So, they work hard for the truth. And the Ephesians, strong on doctrine, persevered in the face of the hardship that was thrown at them.
And so must we. Wishy-washy tolerance of false teaching that compromises the truth of God is not pleasing to the Savior. It harms souls and can destroy them in eternity. The Savior wants His Church to remain strong on doctrine, working hard for the truth – God’s truth. So He encourages, “He who has ears, Hear What the Spirit Says…To the Church in Ephesus.”
II. Growing cold in its love.
Yes, Jesus commended the Ephesians for their stand. Yet, they were not a perfect congregation. In fact, their hardworking nature seemed to have taken a bad turn for which Jesus scolded them: “Yet, I hold this against you. You have forsaken your first love.” Forsaken your first love? What could that mean? Perhaps a good way to put it would be to say, “You have forsaken the love which you had at first.”
Something had happened. Their love had grown cold. You know, that is a sign of the End Times which Jesus gave when He said, “The love of most will grow cold.” That’s a sign of the end that makes me shudder. I picture it as a nice, warm fire being drowned in a bucket of cold water. If people’s love and concern first for God and then for the neighbor is snuffed out, what kind of chaos and harm will result?
Years before this when Paul was still alive, he wrote in his letter to the Ephesians, “have love for all the saints….Continue to be rooted and established in love” (1:15;3:17). But something had happened. The warmth of their love for the Savior had grown cold. As a result, love for their neighbor had grown cold, too.
Do you remember the story of the Good Samaritan? How the priest and the Levite walked down the road to Jericho and saw a man beaten and bloodied by robbers. They left him on the roadside to die. Quickly the priest and Levite turned the other way and walked past him. And they were church workers! How could one leave a person lying in such a wretched state and not help? Love had grown cold. How can that happen? Well, Jesus doesn’t exactly tell us. Perhaps He wants us to think how it could possibly happen in our lives.
Do you remember what it was like as a child or have you seen children eager to hear Bible stories in Sunday School, VBS, or at home? They can’t wait to get there and hear more. And after hearing the stories, they eagerly tell their parents and others. Does such an eagerness and hunger for God’s Word still lie within you today?
Are you as devoted to hearing the Gospel as you once were, taking the Sacrament, studying His Word, going to church weekly to praise Him for His boundless grace in your life? Or are you perhaps a little careless, non-committed, self-centered in your living? If we were totally truthful, we would have to say that things could stand some improvement within each of us and our church. So it is that the Savior calls, “Whoever has an ear, hear what the Spirit says.” He says, “Remember the height from which you have fallen. Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”
We need to repent daily and return to our first love – Christ; “to deny ourselves, pick up the cross, and follow Him.” Oh, we have plenty of good reason to repent and return to Him and His people in steadfast love. Don’t you love Him, “if He died for you and freed you from all your sins with His own blood and made you a kingdom, priests to serve our God and Father forever”? How could we fail to love Him? And if we love Him, won’t we seek to please Him? And if we seek to please Him, won’t we strive to obey Him in all things? Yes, we will for “the love of Christ compels us.” His love drives us onward. How shall it happen? By hearing what the Spirit says.
Thank God for the Holy Spirit who leads us to such a life of repentance when we hear God’s Word. He rewarms that love for Christ and His people within us and enables us to work hard for the truth. With ears open to Him, He will not allow that lampstand of God’s grace to be taken from us. Then one day, as we fall asleep in Jesus here, we shall wake to walk in the Garden of God.
That’s what the word “Paradise” means – “Garden.” It takes our thoughts back to Eden in the beginning when Adam and Eve ate from the trees in the Garden and God walked and talked with them in the cool of the evening. Then it jumps our thoughts forward to Golgotha when our Lord Jesus turned to the broken man on the cross next to Him and promised, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.” Paradise. Doesn’t the sound of it make you long to see it, to be near Him who created you, redeemed you, and wants to draw you to Himself where perfection reigns and you may eat of the Tree of Life and never die again? Forever in God’s Garden called “Paradise.”
God grant that we work hard for His truth, remain warm in our love, and in steadfast faith overcome all things in a life of daily repentance, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Zion Lutheran Church of Springfield
(A member congregation of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod)
4717 S Farm Rd 135 (Golden Avenue)
Church phone: 417.887.0886 Pastor’s cell phone: 417.693.3244
You can also find us on Facebook
The Second Sunday after Pentecost June 19, 2022
“Whoever has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Rev.2:7
F o r O u r V i s i t o r s
The family of Zion welcomes you as we worship the Lord today. We encourage children to worship with us. However, if you need to leave with your child, there is a nursery room to the right as you exit the sanctuary. The rest rooms are located in the hallway between the sanctuary and the fellowship hall. Visitors, please sign our guest book to the right, just outside the sanctuary. We’re glad that you are here and pray that through our worship the Lord grants you peace.
U p o n E n t e r i n g G o d’ s H o u s e
“Shout praise to God, all the earth! Make music to the glory of His name. Come and see the works of God. How awesome His deeds for all people! Let me tell what He has done to save my life” (Psalm 66).
W h a t T h i s S u n d a y i s A b o u t
Proclaim How Much Jesus Has Done for You. God’s Word is powerful. With His word Jesus cured people of their illnesses, even raised some from the dead. With His word He revealed His power over Satan and drives out sin and evil. Even devils must obey Him. Therefore, we come to Him in prayer and confidently say, “Deliver us from evil.”
Knowing His power over evil in our lives and experiencing the greatness of His saving forgiveness, He sends us out to be witnesses of the great salvation that can be found only in Him and the power of His Word. Therefore, the Psalmist wrote: “Let me tell what He has done to save my life.”
To that end we pray: Lord God, You sent Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, into this world to destroy the works of the devil and protect Your people from all evil. Keep us safe in every affliction by Your Holy Spirit so that we may have peace and remain blessed forever. Send us forth as Your witnesses to all; for Jesus’ sake we pray. Amen.
– T h e W o r d o f G o d f o r T o d a y –
The First Lesson: Isaiah 43:8-13
When the heathen nations could produce no witnesses to vindicate their dead “gods,” the Lord called His servant Israel to the witness stand, to testify that He saved His people. Likewise, the Lord calls us to testify what we learn of Him.
The Epistle Lesson: 2 Timothy 1:3-10
The Apostle Paul sat in prison awaiting his end to life here. Instead of being downcast, in faith he rejoiced and thanked God for His grace. He encouraged Timothy to go forward and boldly profess the faith to all.
The Gospel Lesson: Luke 8:26-39
In a territory outside of the Jewish people in Jesus’ day, Jesus showed His power over Satan by freeing a frightening man who was possessed by many demons. As the man learned of Jesus as the Savior, Jesus sent him to witness in his hometown all that Jesus had done for him.
O u r P r a c t i c e o f H o l y C o m m u n i o n
ut of deep love for the truth of God’s Word and precious souls, we follow the practice of Close Communion in our congregation. This has been the practice of Christians for centuries and reflects the Bible’s teaching on unity of faith in the reception of the Supper (1 Cor.10:17). It does not judge a person’s heart but anticipates agreement in that which God says. Since we do not wish to put anyone in the position of declaring such agreement with us before study in the Word is possible, we ask that only those who are communicant members of this or another Wisconsin Synod or ELS congregation come to receive the Sacrament.
The Organist: Jane Rips The Preacher: Pastor Edwin Lehmann
Point to Ponder: “Over the beautiful arched doorway of a certain hospital, the following words are engraved in white stone so that all who enter may read and ponder: Mercy is a room in our hearts for the misery of others. Mercy is, as it were, a special room in our hearts which is stored with genuine concern for others…. Jesus said, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Lk.6:36). Hearts that have been warmed by the love of God, revealed to us through Jesus Christ, our Savior, are to reflect His love in their dealings with their fellowmen. He who took divine pity on us expects us to reach out to our fellowman in a love and kindness which reflects His own.”
— Herman Gockel on Warmed by God’s Love to Love
Outline of Our Worship
Opening Thoughts on the Service
Opening Hymn: #561
Order of Worship: The Service: Setting Two with Holy Communion: page 172-187
Prayer of the Day
The Ministry of the Word
2 Timothy 1:3-10
The Gospel Acclamation pg.179
Sermon: Revelation 2:1-7 Hear What the Spirit Says… To the Church in Ephesus.
The Nicene Creed pg.180
Our Response to the Word
Prayer of the Church: pg.182
The Lord Blesses Us
Preparation for Holy Communion Hymnal page 183-186
(Visitors: Please read the box on page 2 regarding Holy Communion)
Distribution Hymn: #950
Thanksgiving & Blessing Hymnal page 187
Second Sunday After Pentecost – Series C
Old Testament Lesson: Isaiah 43:8-13 – You Are My Witnesses
8Bring out the people who are blind, though they have eyes, and the people who are deaf, though they have ears.
9Let all the nations be gathered together, and let peoples be assembled. Who among them has declared this? Who has made known to us the former things? Let them produce their witnesses to show that they were right, so that people can hear and say, “This is truth.”
10You are my witnesses, declares the Lord. You are my servant, whom I have chosen, so that you may know me and believe in me, so that you will understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, and after me there will not be another. 11I, yes I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior. 12I myself declared it. I brought salvation, and I announced it. It was not some strange god among you. You are my witnesses, declares the Lord, and I am God. 13Indeed, from the first day, I am he. There is no one who can deliver anyone from my hand. I act. Who can reverse it?
Epistle Lesson: 2 Timothy 1:3-10 – Do Not Be Ashamed to Testify
3I thank God, whom I serve with a clean conscience as my ancestors did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day. 4When I remember your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. 5I remember your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am convinced that it also lives in you.
6For this reason I am reminding you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7For God did not give us a timid spirit, but a spirit of power and love and sound judgment. 8So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Instead, join with me in suffering for the gospel while relying on the power of God. 9He saved us and called us with a holy calling, not because of our works, but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, 10and it has now been revealed through the appearance of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
Gospel Lesson: Luke 8:26-39 – Jesus Heals a Demon-Possessed Man
26They sailed down to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across from Galilee. 27When Jesus stepped ashore, a man from the town met him. He was possessed by demons and for a long time had not worn any clothes. He did not live in a house but in the tombs. 28When he saw Jesus, he cried out, fell down before him, and said with a loud voice, “What do I have to do with you, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torment me!” 29For Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. In fact, the unclean spirit had seized him many times. He was kept under guard, and although he was bound with chains and shackles, he would break the restraints and was driven by the demon into deserted places.
30Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion,” because many demons had gone into him. 31They were begging Jesus that he would not order them to go into the abyss. 32A herd of many pigs was feeding there on the mountain. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission. 33The demons went out of the man and entered the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and drowned.
34When those who were feeding the pigs saw what happened, they ran away and reported it in the town and in the countryside. 35People went out to see what had happened. They came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet. He was clothed and in his right mind, and the people were afraid. 36Those who saw it told them how the demon-possessed man was saved. 37The whole crowd of people from the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were gripped with great fear.
As Jesus got into the boat and started back, 38the man from whom the demons had gone out begged to be with him. But Jesus sent him away, saying, 39“Return to your home and tell how much God has done for you.” Then he went through the whole town proclaiming what Jesus had done for him.
The Holy Bible, Evangelical Heritage Version® (EHV®) copyright © 2019 The Wartburg Project.
C a l e n d a r & A n n o u n c e m e n t s f o r Z i o n L u t h e r a n C h u r c h
Divine Worship Service with Holy Communion
Fellowship & Bible Study
| 9 am
Cleaning of the church steeple
Divine Worship Service
online – Facebook
Fellowship & Bible Study
A Brief Bible Study on God’s Word for Today
Faith is the very foundation of the Christian life. Faith, worked by the Holy Spirit through the gospel, enables us to witness and allows us to do great things for the Lord as we see eternal life as our ultimate goal.
The Epistle Lesson: 2 Timothy 1:3-10 (answers are found on the back side)
- How would the sincere faith have passed from grandmother, to mother, to son? What can we learn from this family relationship?
- Why did Paul refuse to feel shame over repeated imprisonment and mistreatment?
Those We Remember In Our Prayers: Those We Remember In Our Prayers: Greg Miller; Lou Schulz; William & Laurie Moon; Pauline Jaeger; Dave Ballou; John Workentine; Kirsten Jaster (Laurie Moon’s sister); Lois Wiese; Greg Pierson (the Long’s son-in-law); Libya, Jodi Milam’s granddaughter, diagnosed with anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis; Elizabeth Lisenby; Barbara Long, at home; the family of Pearl Busby, living in Minnesota, a former member here at Zion in the 1990s and early 2000s, who entered eternal life earlier this spring.
Forward in Christ’s June edition arrived. If you did not get a copy yet, there are plenty of copies in the narthex for family and friends. Also, Meditations series of devotions for the summer are there. Again, there are plenty of copies in the narthex. Share one with a neighbor or friend if you can.
Summer Sermon Series Today we begin a 7-week series for the summer, based on the Seven Letters to the Seven Churches in Asia Minor recorded in Revelation chapters 2-3. They form a good basis for each of us to consider the question: “What does the Lord want in me and my church?” That is not proper English grammar. But the emphasis on “me” is meant to highlight the truth that first “I” must change and live in my Lord. And as each does the same, the church, motivated in love for the Gospel of Christ, takes on the characteristics and work that the Lord looks for in His redeemed people.
Would You Like a Hymnal? Some have asked about acquiring one of the new, blue hymnals. Would you like to receive one? If so, please see pastor. If there is interest, we will send in an order so that you may have one for your personal use. One of the highlights of the new hymnal is the section on home devotions and the addition of the Small Catechism. Also, if you would like to have one of the older, red Christian Worship hymnals, you may take one from the fellowship hall.
The Week in Review
Last Sunday Worship: 32; Bible Class: 21; Midweek Bible Class: 4; Offering: $2,327.
Next Sunday’s Lessons:
Pentecost 3: 1 Kings 19:19-21; 2 Corinthians 11:21-30; Luke 9:51-62 (CW-21, Series C)
Sermon Text: Revelation 2:8-11 Letter to the Church in Smyrna
Answers to Today’s Epistle Lesson Brief Study:
- Lois and Eunice daily shared God’s Word and promises with Timothy as he grew up in their home. Parents and grandparents are an important part of God’s plan in feeding the faith of His little lambs.
- He was suffering for the sake of the Gospel message. He knew that his Savior was guarding what was truly valuable, his salvation. So he could rely on the power of God to help him overcome any timid nature within him.
This week I am praying for……