URC Daily Devotion: 20th February

Revelation 2: 1-7

‘To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands:

‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance. I know that you cannot tolerate evildoers; you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them to be false. I also know that you are enduring patiently and bearing up for the sake of my name, and that you have not grown weary.  But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.  Remember then from what you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.  Yet this is to your credit: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.  Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. To everyone who conquers, I will give permission to eat from the tree of life that is in the paradise of God.


Ancient Ephesus is a favourite port of call today for pilgrims hoping to walk in the footsteps of St Paul. In his time Ephesus was the chief city of the region: three great trade routes converged on it, it was the venue for the ever-popular Pan-Ionian Games, and its greatest glory was the Temple of Diana. Paul had been lucky to escape with his life, when his preaching was interpreted as an attack on the cult of Diana, and seen as a threat to those who profited from it.

By the time John is writing the church has had time to grow. He commends them for their toil and patient endurance. Strange how today we’re still more likely to hear that someone was a great worker for the church, than to hear them praised for their faith, But then we read that the Ephesians are bearing up for the sake of Jesus’s name: once you opt for the minority religion there is likely to be stress, whether  the faith is expressed in word or in deed. If Christians do decide to stand out from the crowd, is this more likely to be seen in our actions or in our ideas?

One thing that the Ephesians have got right is their hatred of the works of the Nicolaitans, who are clearly reckoned to be heretics. Possibly they were a group who overstated Christian freedom and turned liberty into licence: “Just have faith, and you can do as you like.” We always need to be wary of those who get things totally wrong about  the Christian faith , but not to the point of embarking on heresy hunts today.  John offers us a timely warning as he commends the church for their strong line against the Nicolaitans, but also criticises them for abandoning their first love.

Does this simply mean that like many of us they’ve lost their initial fire and enthusiasm? Or is it love itself that has grown cold through the bitterness of this debate with their opponents? As William Barclay put it, “strict orthodoxy can cost too much, if it has to be bought at the price of love”.


Speak, Spirit, to the churches
and encourage us still to keep faithful
even if we are out of step with the world around us.
Speak, Spirit, to the churches
and discourage us from easy condemnation
of those who do not see things our way.
Speak, Spirit, to the churches
and let love be at the heart of our response.  Amen

Today’s Writer

The Rev’d John Durell is a retired minister in the Northern Synod.

Bible Version

New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved

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