Awhile back I mentioned that I had picked up Sam Storms' book of meditations on Colossians, The Hope of Glory. I enjoyed that book so much that I recently purchased Storms' similar book of meditations on the seven letters of Revelation 2-3, called To the One who Conquers.
I really appreciated this quote on the church in Ephesus:
The first church to receive a letter from Jesus was located in a city that wasn’t even remotely Christian. No laws existed to protect their freedom of religious expression. The worship of false deities was institutionalized. The only things on which the Ephesian believers could rely were God himself and one another. Yet, as we’ll note in a subsequent lesson, they labored faithfully for the gospel, endured patiently, and were intolerant of evil. Yes, the church had its problems, for which Jesus issues a stern rebuke, but its members had not abandoned the faith.
How would you and I fare in such a pagan atmosphere? I ask this because it often appears to me that many Christians believe the church in America can survive only if it is afforded legislative protection, only if politically conservative and Christian candidates are elected to national and local office, only if the next appointee to the Supreme Court is pro-life, only if prayer is restored to our public schools.
Make no mistake: I’m eternally grateful for the laws that safeguard our rights, and I consistently vote for those candidates who are social, fiscal, and moral conservatives. But have we come so to depend on such political blessings, economic liberties, and the legal protection Christianity enjoys that in their absence we fear the destruction of the church and the silencing of our witness?
The church in Ephesus, as with so many other congregations in the first century, knew nothing of a constitution, a first amendment, or a right to vote. Yet they survived, and thrived, in the midst of what strikes us as unimaginable state-sanctioned idolatry and immorality. Before we panic or lose heart at the state of our state, or the condition of our city, we would do well to remember the promise of Jesus: “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).