Sunday, May 03, 2020

Cycling around Ephesus, Smyrna and Pergamos

Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos

Which church would you like to belong to?


The Church in Ephesus is the major church in Asia. It stands in the centre of Greek worship of pagan gods and calls out heresy. The Church at Ephesus tests all that it bears and measures it against the Word of God.

The Church in Smyrna is a poor church and is surrounded by a large population of Jews who hate Christianity for perverting the Jewish faith. It does all that it can to use its meagre resources to carry on.

The Church in Pergamos is an academic church with a large library. Emperor worship occurs in the city yet the church holds fast to the Name of Jesus.

So which church would you like to join?   


Hold on! Aren't they all supposed to be part of the same One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church? If so then it really doesn't matter which church you go to. Surely the orthodox Ephesus, the impoverished Smyrna and the well-read Pergamos are the same. They all peach the risen Christ, don't they?

This is true. In order to be a Christian, you have to accept that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, God Incarnate, born, crucified and risen from the dead. If we believe in the Risen Christ then we have to believe that He has risen again for a reason. We have to believe that He is still interested in His Church despite His Ascension. We have to believe that He continues to speak to His Church as well as through His Church.

He says very different things. While these churches are all part of the One Church, they are doing things differently and they all need to hear what He says to them. And what does He say? 

The orthodox Ephesus: He calls it lacking in love.
The poor Smyrna: He says that it is going to suffer greatly.
The well-read Pergamos: He says that it has compromised the Christian Faith with false teaching.

Which church do you want to belong to, now?


We might say in a fit of piety that we would want to be part of the church in Smyrna because at least that Church hadn't departed from the Faith. But then, in order to join, we should make ourselves as poor as they, sell all that we have for its support and prepare for hard times.

Fair enough, let's go to Ephesus instead to make use of the riches that we have. We might say that we want to make sure that we preach the right things, believe the right creeds, and reject all false doctrine. So many people do this but, in their zeal, they forget to love. They become Thought Police and Christianity becomes an exercise in ticking boxes and reading the right documents.

Hmm. Perhaps we should go to Pergamos instead in order to be a little more open to other possibilities. We might say that we want to be well-read and accommodate different opinions. The trouble now is that we compromise our Faith and water it down by accepting doctrines that go against what Jesus says.

Well then, we need to go back to our Faith and give up all our books and learning and be small and simple. Let's go to Smyrna.

And round and round we go. Smyrna, Ephesus, Pergamos and back to Smyrna.


We cannot expect our local church to be unchanging. We have to listen to Christ and grow. This does mean that there will be stages in how we grow. We need Ephesus and Pergamos to balance out and we need Smyrna to keep things real. Orthodoxy is vital because Orthodoxy points to Who God is. A broad education prevents us from becoming brittle. And we must remember our spiritual poverty to prevent us from becoming proud or too loose in our belief.

The key thing is that we are not treading in circles. We are spiralling upwards towards Christ. That might seem like circles at times but, if we're truly listening, we will get closer and closer to what the three churches have in common - Our Lord Jesus Christ.

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