A Critically Important Lesson from Church History
Dear Calvary Family,
Even as the 500th anniversary of the Reformation is being celebrated this week around the world, we want to continue to be changed by the truth of God's Word and the work of God's Spirit in our lives and in our church. And, there is much for us to learn by reflecting on church history.
Nearly 1500 years before Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, the early churches were already in need of reformation. When people take tours to the “seven churches of Turkey,” they are planning to visit the ruins of cities, not vibrant growing communities of faith. One of those churches is Ephesus, Turkey. In Paul’s day, this was an important port city serving as the trade center of the world.
Paul visited that city around 53 AD. He preached the gospel so effectively for two years “that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.” Acts 19:10
Here is how Luke summarized that powerful work in Ephesus: "Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices. And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing." Acts 19:18–20
Read how even the unbelievers were amazed at the gospel’s impact on their community: “You see and hear that not only in Ephesus, but in almost all of Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away a considerable number of people, saying that gods made with hands are no gods at all. “Not only is there danger that this trade of ours fall into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis be regarded as worthless and that she whom all of Asia and the world worship will even be dethroned from her magnificence.” Acts 19:26–27
The transformational power of the gospel was changing the economy and religious life of this city. We should all be praying for that same impact in Orange County.
Sadly, 43 years later, as the Apostle John wrote to the church at Ephesus to commend their resistance to sin and false teaching, he had to include this rebuke from Jesus: "But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent." Revelation 2:4–5
No one goes to Ephesus today to learn how a church can transform their community with the gospel. So what happened in those first 43 years of their church to extinguish the “lampstand” of our Lord?
Certainly there were many factors, but somewhere along the way they lost their “first love” and devotion for our Lord and the application of His Word in their lives. The church John wrote to were the children and grandchildren of those believers that witnessed the transformation of the city as Paul preached. For some reason, that first love of a vibrant faith was not passed on to the following generations.
This brief history lesson should speak to all of us how a church can lose its “first love” and forget what is of primary importance in our Christian life. Calvary, at 86, is twice as old as those believers to whom John wrote. And we must never forget our “first love” in Christ and the importance of passing on our faith to the generations that follow us.
This Sunday I will teach three qualities that Paul emphasized to Ephesus that we must never forget so we can light the way for others to follow Christ. Please join us in the Worship Center at 9:00 am or 11:00 am.
And, if you want to learn more about the significance of the Reformation, the theology "rediscovered" by Martin Luther and what it is that Protestant churches like Calvary are protesting, join us for a new Wednesday Life Class series, Why the Reformation Still Matters, starting tonight at 7pm in Fellowship Hall.
Pastor David Mitchell
P.S. Remember, you get to enjoy an extra hour of sleep as Daylight Saving Time ends this Sunday and we set our clocks back one hour Saturday night. If you forget and arrive early, there will be coffee and donuts available at our Corner Bookstore!
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