Read verses 4-6
Q: Who are the Nicolaitans?
A: Their name appears to combine “nico”— “suppression of the people”, and “laitan”— “rulers of the laity”. This describes a kind of self-appointed clergy class attempting to rule over everyone else.
Point: Ephesus was not only dealing with false leadership attempting to gain entrance by claiming to be an apostle, but attempts to corrupt from within by the Nicolaitans.
Q: What was the Nicolaitans’ specific teaching?
A: When they are mentioned again in the letter to Pergamum, it stipulates they were directly associated with the teachings of Balak as a “stumbling block… to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality”. (Rev. 2:14-15)
Observation: This is a specific Early Church problem which is mentioned both by Peter (2 Pe. 2:15) and Jude (Jude 15). These two issues were are the heart of what the council in Jerusalem ruled as being most important for Gentile believers to avoid (Acts 15), so it is not surprising that this was a palpable challenge to the Ephesians’ faith.
Application: This combination has taken various forms during the history of the Church and persist even now. It is most evident when a false teacher or false movement integrates lust and fleshly desires into their doctrine and practices.
Q: What is the theme for Ephesus as provided in the text?
- “I know your deeds…” (v.4)
- “…do the deeds you did at first…” (v.5)
- “…you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans…” (v.6)
“For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.
Q: What is the biblical definition of “deeds”?
A: The underlying term “egron” is translated “deeds” when it appears in Revelation some 16 times in 15 verses. (Rev. 2:2, 5, 6, 19, 22, 23, 26; 3:1, 2, 8, 15: 14:13; 16:11; 18:6; 20:12, 13) It is used 12 times alone in the letters to the seven churches. It conveys the idea of the result or object of employment, making, or working.
Q: How is the issue of “deeds” connected to the issue of the Ephesians’ love?
A: It’s actually a separate but related issue. Jesus is basically saying, “You’re not slack in your work, but you’re no longer doing it like when you were motivated by love and not duty”.
Observation: Ever notice the difference in the person for whom something is a job vs. the one who considers it a calling?
Q: But isn’t doing good deeds enough?
A: It is seen as so serious that Christ calls for repentance, a return to deeds done out of love, and if uncorrected, “I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place”.
Point: The condition of the heart is always given the priority, even when it comes to things we would normally categorize as “good”.
Application: Ephesus was handling many things well technically on the larger issues, but ultimately failing spiritually on the personal level.