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Ephesus: A Church in Decline John M. Nielson. The Life Cycle of the Church at Ephesus with “The Church as a Social Institution” by David O. Moberg. Pre-suppositions. 1. Paul is the Author of Ephesians – which was addressed to that city or included it.

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ephesus a church in decline john m nielson
Ephesus:

A Church in Decline

John M. Nielson

the life cycle of the church at ephesus with the church as a social institution by david o moberg
The Life Cycle of the

Church at Ephesus

with

“The Church as a

Social Institution”

by David O. Moberg

pre suppositions

Pre-suppositions

1. Paul is the Author of Ephesians – which was addressed to that city or included it.

2. Apostle John wrote 1st John and it reflects his teaching as pastor of that church.

3. Revelation is written by the Apostle John and is the product of Divine revelation.

significant passages

7

Significant Passages

1. Acts 18:18-26 – The Church Founded

2. Acts 19:1-20:1 – Paul’s Ministry in Ephesus

3. Acts 20:17-36 - Paul’s Farewell Message

4. The Epistle to the Ephesians – Paul to Ephesians

5. I Timothy – Paul to Pastor at Ephesus (note 1:3-11

6. The Epistle of First John – John as Pastor (?)

7. Revelation 2:1-7 – Jesus to Ephesians

slide9

The Word of God

"To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:

These are the words of him

who holds the seven stars in his right hand

and walks among the seven golden lampstands:

(Rev. 2:1-6 NIV)

slide10

The Word of God

  • I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance.
  • I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men,
  • that you have tested those who claim to be apostles
  • but are not,
      • and have found them false.
  • You have persevered
  • and have endured hardships for my name,
      • and have not grown weary.

(Rev. 2:1-6 NIV)

slide11

The Word of God

Yet I hold this against you:

You have forsaken your first love.

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.

(Rev. 2:1-6 NIV)

slide12

The Word of God

But you have this in your favor:

You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

He who has an ear, let him hear

what the Spirit says to the churches.

To him who overcomes,

I will give the right to eat from the tree of life,

which is in the paradise of God.”

(Rev. 2:1-6 NIV)

advantages of ephesus

7

Advantages of Ephesus

1. Strategic Location

2. Participants in Miracle

3. Great Pastors

4. Great beginnings, tradition, & heritage

5. Victorious in conflict

6. Powerful presence of H.S.

7. Balanced congregation

commendations by christ

7

Commendations by Christ

1. I know your deeds. (v. 2)

2. I know your hard work. (v. 2)

3. I know your perseverance. (v. 2)

4. I know you cannot tolerate evil men. (v. 2)

5. I know you have rejected false teachers. (v. 2)

6. I know you have endured hardship. (v. 3)

7. I know you have not grown weary. (v. 3)

Based on G. Campbell Morgan

commendations by christ1

7

Commendations by Christ

1. Good Works

2. Hard Effort (that produces good works)

3. Persistence (in that effort)

4. Pure ethics

5. Pure doctrine

6. Faithful in persecution

7. Not weary (great strength)

NOT BAD!

but i hold this against you
“But I hold this against you.

You have forsaken

your first love.”

the meaning of first love

Question: Is “First Love” a matter of chronology, or quantity, or quality, or priority?

Moffat: “You have given up loving one another as you did at first.”

Weymouth: “You no longer love me as you did at first.”

G. Campbell Morgan: “First Love is the love of espousal and marriage – Romance, Excitement, Commitment. He points to Ephesians 5)

Was their First Love Jesus . . . & have they lost Him?

The Meaning of First Love

the meaning of first love1

Hugh Martin: “It is a matter of “cooling off.” (The Seven Letters)

W. M. Ramsay: First love is enthusiasm.

The “Tree of Life” comes from Hellenistic sacred trees.

“Removal” means the church building would be moved.

A “mild” denunciation because loss of enthusiasm is natural and easily rectified.

Ignatius of Antioch proves the recovery of Ephesus. (Letters to the 7 Churches of Asia)

The Meaning of First Love

results of lost love

7

Results of “Lost” Love

1. It means a fall from a great height. (v. 5)

2. It demands repentance. (v. 5)

3. It demands return to first works. (v. 5)

4. It means loss of Christ & His presence. (v. 5)

5. It means death of the Church

6. It means the loss of heaven. (v. 7)

7. It opens them to other sin(s) (implied) (love fulfills the law)

reasons for lost love

7

Reasons for “Lost” Love

1. Loss of Faith, Love, and Hope from our Work, Labor, Endurance (see I Th. 1:3) (BBC)

slide21

I know

your works,

your labor

your endurance.

(same words in Greek)

(Revelation 2:2)

We remember . . .

your work

produced by faith,

your labor

prompted by love,

and your endurance inspired by hope

in our Lord Jesus Christ.

(1 Thessalonians 1:3)

reasons for lost love1

7

Reasons for “Lost” Love
  • Loss of Faith, Love, and Hope from our Work, Labor, Endurance (see I Th. 1:3)

2. Intolerance for evil can become legalism that kills love.

3. Busy-ness with good works may crowd out the time for love.

4. Protecting the doctrine can lead to rigidity that stifles love.

5. Being so commendable can lead to self-sufficiency so we don't depend on God & His love.

6. Beginning to lose love allows the evils of society to re-infect the church.

7. It’s a natural process.

challenges to the church at ephesus

Acts 20:13-38

Guard yourself and the flock (28)

Be Shepherds (28)

Beware of wolves from without (30)

By hard work, seek to help the weak (35)

Be givers (35)

Challenges to the Church at Ephesus

challenges to the church at ephesus1

I Timothy 1:3-11

  • Beware false doctrines & controversies (3-4)
  • The goal of this command is love (5)
  • Love flows from
    • a pure heart
    • a good conscience
    • a sincere faith (5)
  • The importance of morality (8-11)
  • Instructions regarding overseers & deacons (ff)

Challenges to the Church at Ephesus

challenges to the church at ephesus2

Epistle to the Ephesians

Commended for their love for the saints (1:15)

Unity is found in Christ (Implied love?) (2:11-18)

Paul’s prayer for them is built around love (3:14-21)

They are to speak the truth in love (4:15)

Live a life of love patterned after Christ (5:2)

Warned about immorality (5:3ff)

Challenged regarding love in the home that is seen as a reflection of the love of Christ for the church.

Challenges to the Church at Ephesus

challenges to the church at ephesus3

Epistle of First John

Key themes are obedience and love that are constantly seen as inter-related.

The word for “love” is always “agape”

God’s love is made complete in us by obedience (2:5)

Living in Light means loving your brother (2:10, 4:19-21)

Lack of love leads to stumbling (2:10-11)

Love for the world is incompatible with love for the Father (2:15)

Challenges to the Church at Ephesus

challenges to the church at ephesus4

Epistle of First John

  • God’s love for us is lavish (3:1)
  • Love for the Brethren confirms that we are God’s children (3:10, 14; 4:7-12)
  • Love’s definition is:
    • Christ’s sacrifice (3:16
    • God’s love for us (4:10)
    • God Himself (His character/essence) 4:16
    • Obedience to God (5:3)

Challenges to the Church at Ephesus

challenges to the church at ephesus5

Epistle of First John

  • Love’s words must be exceeded by love’s actions (3:18)
  • Love removes the fear of judgment (4:17, 18)
  • There is double warning in 2:18-27 regarding doctrine and love.
  • According to tradition, John’s greeting was . . .

Challenges to the Church at Ephesus

“Little Children,

Love One Another!”

1 stage of incipient organization

1. Stage of Incipient Organization

A. Dissatisfaction with existing churches

B. Collective excitement

C. Charismatic, authoritarian, prophetic

leaders

D. Sometimes hard to designate a founder

Moberg

slide30

2. Period of Formal Organization

A. Formal membership

B. Separation from parent group

C. Membership goals

D. Seeks the perfection of society & individuals

E. Creed protects orthodoxy

F. Slogans that emphasize group's distinctives

G. Distinctive code of behavior

H. Differences draw persecution

Moberg

slide31

3. Stage of Maximum Efficiency

A. Leadership is less emotional - more statesmanly

B. Rational organization replace charismatic leadership

C. Historians & apologists emerge with “propaganda”

D. Intellectuals repelled by earlier emotionalism are drawn in

E. Moves from a despised sect to near-equality with recognized organizations

Moberg

slide32

3. Stage of Maximum Efficiency

F. Hostility toward others diminishes

G. First generation of converts has mostly died

H. Development of committees & boards

I. Rituals and procedures are seen as means, not ends

J. Rapid, but uneven growth with periods of integrating new members

K. Incomplete integration gives rise to internal dissension

Moberg

slide33

4. The Institutional Stage

A. Formalism saps group's vitality

B. Bureaucracy concerned with perpetuating its own interests not original theological distinctives

C. Administration centers in self-perpetuating boards

D. Those in authority talk one thing and practice another

E. Mechanism of structure becomes an end in itself

F. Creeds become venerated relics

Moberg

slide34

4. The Institutional Stage

G. Organized worship becomes a ritual, empty formality

H. Symbolism replaces internal, personal devotion

J. Conflict with the outside world is replaced with toleration

K. Membership standards relaxed to gain respectable members

L. Feelings of intimacy decline

Moberg

slide35

4. The Institutional Stage

M. Membership becomes passive and remote from leadership

N. Activities once considered secular now become major attractions

O. Institution becomes the master, not the servant

P. Sermons become topical lectures, not fervent discourses on sin, salvation, and doctrine

Moberg

slide36

5. Over-institutionalism Leads to Disintegration & Death

A. Formalism, indifference, obsolescence, absolutism, red tape, patronage, corruption

B. Loss of confidence in leadership

C. Many withdraw to new sects

D. Support becomes nominal and half-hearted

E. Futile attempts at restoration by a few

Moberg

historical observations

7

Historical Observations

1. Ephesus seems to have succumbed to the processes outlined by Moberg. (See Revelation)

historical observations1

7

Historical Observations

1. Ephesus seems to have succumbed to the processes outlined by Moberg. (See Revelation)

2. Evidence for that is found in the Letter of Ignatius of Antioch.

historical observations2

7

Historical Observations

1. Ephesus seems to have succumbed to the processes outlined by Moberg. (See Revelation)

2. Evidence for that is found in the Letter of Ignatius of Antioch.

3. Ephesus became center of Montanism.

historical observations3

7

Historical Observations

1. Ephesus seems to have succumbed to the processes outlined by Moberg. (See Revelation)

2. Evidence for that is found in the Letter of Ignatius of Antioch

3. Ephesus became center of Montanism.

4. Ephesus became center of Gnosticism

historical observations4

7

Historical Observations

1. Ephesus seems to have succumbed to the processes outlined by Moberg. (See Revelation)

2. Evidence for that is found in the Letter of Ignatius of Antioch

3. Ephesus became center of Montanism.

4. Ephesus became center of Gnosticism

5. Ephesus became center of Mariolatry

artemis diana ephesus museum
Artemis/Diana – Ephesus Museum

Photo by Carlos Serrao

historical observations5

7

Historical Observations

1. Ephesus seems to have succumbed to the processes outlined by Moberg. (See Revelation)

2. Evidence for that is found in the Letter of Ignatius of Antioch

3. Ephesus became center of Montanism.

4. Ephesus became center of Gnosticism

5. Ephesus became center of Mariolatry

6. Ephesus became center of magic traditions

historical observations6

7

Historical Observations

1. Ephesus seems to have succumbed to the processes outlined by Moberg. (See Revelation)

2. Evidence for that is found in the Letter of Ignatius of Antioch

3. Ephesus became center of Montanism.

4. Ephesus became center of Gnosticism

5. Ephesus became center of Mariolatry

6. Ephesus became center of magic traditions

7. Ephesus was involved in controversy over the date to celebrate Easter.

(preoccupation with peripheral?)

SYNCRETISM

contemporary applications

7

Contemporary Applications

Without Love . . .

1. Possessions become Materialism

2. Freedom becomes Antinomianism

3. Free Choice becomes Pluralism

4. Individualism becomes Isolationism

5. Abundance becomes Loss of Value

6. Ease becomes Hedonism

7. Obedience becomes Legalism

SYNCRETISM

slide47

1

2

3

4

5

Gen #1 Gen #2 Gen #3

slide48

50 AD 75 AD 100 AD 125 AD

EPHESUS

1

2

3

4

5

Founding 51 Revelation 95

Paul’s Farewell 57 Ignatius 117

The Epistle 60-62

slide49

1

2

3

4

5

Your

Congre-

gation

Church

of the

Nazarene

Gen #1 Gen #2 Gen #3

the penalties of lost love
The Penalties of “Lost” Love

Removal of the lamp stand

Invasion of other problems

The death of the Church

No entrance into Heaven

the remedy for lost love
The Remedy for “Lost” Love

Remember

Repent

Return

The Prodigal Son

Love can’t be mandated from above.

It begins at the bottom,

but must be modeled at the top.

the promise to those who lost love
The Promise to those who “Lost” Love
  • God’s call to the wayward
  • Entrance into Paradise
  • Eternal Life

Behold!

I stand

at the door

and knock!”

an addendum

Cultural issues:

Evidence author knows the city

Hellenistic Sacred Trees

The threat from Paganism & the Imperial Cult

Ephesus as asylum where criminals could hide

vs. Cross where sinners find refuge/new life

Eventual movement of Ephesus and the Church

to a site near the complex of Diana worship

see Ramsay and Hemer on these

an addendum . . .

slide54

an addendum . . .

  • Cultural issues:
  • As is often seen in Scripture & true contextualization, there is the use of local images that can be transformed and/or contrasted with Christian Concepts. (John’s use of “Logos”)
  • 2) The Church living in the neighborhood of paganism means three things:
  • a) the danger of syncretism and compromise
  • b) the potential for persecution
  • c) the opportunity for evangelism & outreach
  • The absence of “First Love” complicates each of those
  • 3) Now . . . about US!?!?
bibliography
Bibliography

Ellul, Jacques. Apocalypse: The Book of Revelation, Seabury Press, NY 1977

Gardner, Percy. The Ephesian Gospel, Williams Norgate, New York, 1915.

Heick, Otto W. A History of Christian Thought, v. 1, Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1965.

Hemer, Colin J. The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting. Eerdmanns: Grand Rapids, 1989.

Martin, Hugh. The Seven Letters, Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1956

Meinardus, Otto. St. Paul in Ephesus, Lycabattus Press, Athens, 1973.

Moberg, David O. The Church as a Social Institution, Prentice Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1962.

Morgan, G. Campbell, A First Century Message to a Twentieth Century Christians, Fleming H. Revell Co., New York, 1902

Ramsay, W.M. Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia, A. C. Armstrong & Son, New York, 1905.

also: The New Shaff-Herzog Religious Encyclopedia & online resources