LOVE LETTERS SERIES
NUMBER ONE – THE CHURCH AT EPHESUS
BY: JACKIE CAPORASO
MESSAGE NO. 179
LETTER TO A SEASONED CHURCH
A WORD ON BAPTISM
YOU HAVE LEFT YOUR FIRST LOVE
THE TREE OF LIFE
TO THE ANGEL
LETTER TO A SEASONED CHURCH
When John was on Patmos, he received seven letters from the resurrected Lord. These letters were sent to the angel of the seven churches that were active at that time, but we know that they are addressed to all the churches that were formed since.
The first letter was sent to the church at Ephesus. This church was disciplined and had been tested in many ways; they were not babes in Christ. The city of Ephesus was a wealthy and prosperous center. Its harbor could accommodate large ships, and commerce was thriving.
The city was famous for its magnificent Greek temples where the worship of false gods was rampant. It was a hot bed of superstitions, notorious for magic. Paul wrote that he fought with beasts (strong demonic forces) at Ephesus. The church at Ephesus had a great deal to overcome, yet after the destruction of Jerusalem it became the Christians’ Headquarters. So they greatly rejoiced when they were told that the Lord was very pleased with them, but imagine their surprise when He said that nevertheless, He had something against them!
The letter read, “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them to be liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.” (Rev. 2:2-3) This was a great report card. Who would not be happy with that? They had learned their lessons well.
At the beginning of our walk with the Lord, He takes us through a time of learning. Just as children need to learn to submit to the authority of their parents and teachers in order to become good citizens, so in Christ, we need to learn to submit to those who have gone before us. This way we learn to submit to His Spirit. How can we ever submit to One who is invisible if we cannot submit to those who are called to teach us?
Some who have heard a higher word, but have never learned to submit to the discipline of the Spirit, find it hard to follow their true Leader. Bill Britton’s vision of the “Harness of the Lord” is a good word on this subject.
The church at Ephesus was seasoned; they had received the baptism with the Holy Spirit and were moving in the gifts. Apollos had come to teach at Ephesus and later Paul visited and asked, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit since you believed?” (Acts 19:2 KJV) Without the baptism in the Holy Spirit, one cannot really know Him.
Jesus explained this, “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him for He dwells with you and will be in you.” (Jn. 14:16-17) Without this Helper, we are in darkness no matter how much we know Him intellectually. The Holy Spirit connects us to the realm of Spirit.
When Jesus spoke these words to His disciples, He was literally dwelling with them in flesh and blood. But when He left the visible realm, He returned to dwell within by His Spirit. Paul explains, “Examine yourselves, as to whether you are in the faith. Prove yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? Unless indeed you are disqualified.” (II Cor. 13:5)
When Paul asked these questions to the church, he was pointing out that the One we call the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ. He wanted them to know in whom they really believed. He asked the question and answered it too. “What do you believe?” Do you not know that it is Jesus Christ who dwells in you?
Do we know that it is the Lord Himself that dwells in us? Have we proved it out through the fire? Or do we know what someone told us? If we did not prove Him out, we are not qualified to run the race because we will not be able to win. It is Jesus Christ within (Holy Spirit) that enables us to run the race to become sons of God.
The world cannot see this and it cannot know Him. The church who has not received the Holy Spirit baptism cannot see Him either. She may lead the people into good morals and upright living, but she cannot lead them to know Him in Spirit and in truth. At Ephesus, they had received the Holy Spirit but there was another problem. They were entangled in their works and could no longer hear His voice.
A WORD ON BAPTISM
Many fundamental churches teach that the Holy Spirit comes and indwells the believer when he or she first believes; this is true. Yet Paul asked the church at Ephesus, Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed?” And they said to him, ‘We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit. And he said to them, ‘Into what then were you baptized? So they said, ‘Into John’s baptism. Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.” (Acts 19:2-6)
They had been baptized into John’s baptism of repentance. When we believe in Jesus as our Savior and repent, we are cleansed from our sins and made ready to follow Him. However, it is when we receive His Holy Spirit as our Lord and Master in our lives that we are empowered to know Him in Spirit and in truth. His Holy Spirit may well be in us, but it is when we welcome Him that He immerses us daily into Himself and becomes Lord of our lives, otherwise we limit Him and even quench Him.
YOU HAVE LEFT YOUR FIRST LOVE
We all know about God’s great love for us, we can certainly count on that. We know about the pure love that the Lord has for His Bride, the Church, but do we know how much our Lord longs for His Church to express her love for Him?
Jesus wrote to Ephesus and to us, “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” (Rev. 2:4) It was with great love that Jesus rebuked these dear saints. He had just commended them for their perseverance and patience and He had told them how pleased He was that they could discern false apostles among them; they were terribly disappointed when they heard that He had something against them.
There was even more. He said, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place – unless you repent.” (Rev. 2:5)
This was very serious; it was a very strong warning. Their light, or ability to see by the Spirit, could even be removed. If one came to us today with such words, we might be quick to reject them as though they were not from the Lord. Yet these are true words. If we set our works over His desire, we will lose the ability to see in the Spirit. We will move again by the letter and His Word will hold no depth for our lives.
What is the “first love” that Jesus wrote about? Let us look at the word “FIRST.” When the Bible translators came to the Greek word “PROTOS” they translated it “FIRST.” The word actually means “FOREMOST” which could be understood as “FIRST” in time, in place or in order of importance.
It is my belief that in the letter, the word FIRST denotes the order of importance as well as the order of time. So what is the love that must be first in order of importance? It is the love for the Word of life. It is the love for the pure, unadulterated Word of God. It is the living word as compared to the letter of the word that kills.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (Jn. 1:1) “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the word of life.” (I Jn. 1:1)
This Word of life was made flesh and our Lord Jesus displayed this life during His time on the earth. Man’s love for the Word was lost when Eve listened to the serpent that dwelt in the tree of knowledge of good and evil. She was lured into believing that they could be as God and run the world without Him.
All words were from God. The serpent did not create anything; he could only take God’s words and twist them into lies. He is the master of lies. A lie is truth that has been distorted and warped. The serpent was offering Eve the same word of God, only now it was a word from the tree of knowledge of good and evil instead of from the tree of life. It was a misrepresentation or counterfeit of the true word.
The word was now filtered through the intellect and was no longer the word of life. It was the word of God interpreted by man’s intellect and reasoning. It was the letter of the word that kills; it was void of the Spirit.
From that time on, Adam’s race was in love with its own wisdom. Man became skilled at manipulating words using the wisdom of the tree of knowledge. Man leaned on his own understanding and descended into gross darkness. Man thought that he could solve the world’s problems by knowledge of the law. Jesus came against the lawyers of His day. Today the country is flooded with lawyers who are plunging the people down even further into the mire.
This is the status of man without Christ. Today because much of the church that is called by His name is void of His Spirit, it is as the world, teaching man’s psychology. The masses love it. They are flocking to mega churches by the droves. They are deceived into thinking that such teachings can make them rich and happy. They have replaced “First love” with love for intellectual reasoning.
Jesus made this important statement, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” (Jn. 6:63) Jesus was speaking about the Word of God. He had just been explaining to them the need of eating His flesh and drinking His blood.
He was telling them that if the Word that He speaks is interpreted by the flesh, or the natural intellect, it profits nothing. It is the Word by the Spirit that gives life. Those who took His word of eating His flesh literally, were appalled and walked away. The word had to be understood by the Spirit.
The pure Word of God is the Word interpreted by the Spirit. It is Spirit and it is life. Paul wrote, “…the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (II Cor. 3:6b) When Jesus walked this earth, He walked and talked the Spirit of the Word. The Pharisees accused Him of not abiding in the Law. They could never know that Jesus embodied the Law of the Spirit of life.
The same “Pharisee spirit” is in the church today. It comes against the Word that the Spirit speaks. These are quick to accuse anyone of not abiding in the Law. They will ask, “Where do you go to church? Who is your covering? How do you know you are hearing from God?” They will try to make you doubt the Word that you hear by the Spirit.
When Jesus left, He sent His Holy Spirit to speak directly to our hearts. The Holy Spirit works in us to turn our hearts back to the love of the truth.
During a time that I was teaching a small group of saints, the Lord spoke to me with this dream, “I was standing behind the pulpit singing a song to the people. The song was an old popular French song called “La vie en rose.” When I woke, I knew that the song spoke of a new message that He was giving me for His people. The intent was to stir their hearts and rekindle their love for the true Word.
The words of the song said it all. This is the literal translation, “When He takes me in His arms and speaks softly to me, I see life in the pink (rose colored). He speaks to me words of love, yet everyday words, and it affects me greatly. He has entered in my heart, and I know that this is the reason for my happiness. It’s Him for me, me for Him in this life. He has told me, gave me His oath for life. So as soon as I perceive Him, I can feel the beats of my heart within.”
The song speaks of the Bride who beholds her true Love. As soon as she perceives Him, she feels her heart beating fast within her. She is like the Shulamite in the Song of Songs, who was steeped in the luxury of the king’s palace (best of what religions have to offer) but her heart could not be satisfied until she found her beloved Shepherd.
She is like David whose soul panted after the true God like the deer pants after the water brook. The Lover of our soul is calling for the love that once was there but is now buried deep under the pile of rubble called intellect.
The Lord is not afraid to use a popular French song to convey His message. With each word, He reaches into the hearts of His called out ones and retrieves the love that was there for Him in the beginning.
A sister in the Lord sent me a dream she had recently. She says, “I was dancing with my mother’s boss, a natural Jew by birth. His name was Max… perhaps Maximillion. He asked me to dance, I was a little shy. He took hold of me and we danced very well. He was so good a leader that it was easy to follow. He spun me around a few times but it was all in his control.”
There was a little more to this dream but this part is so clear. Our Bridegroom is taking hold of us and although we may feel inadequate, He is such a good Leader that He brings us to follow perfectly in His steps. We are coming to the place where we find perfect harmony and timing with the Spirit of our Lord. We are totally under His control.
The mother is the church and her boss is Jesus Christ. He is the Highest, the Dearest, the Strongest and the Greatest of all. He is Maximillion. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. A dance represents closeness too. It is for lovers. We are finding our first love again.
There is no better way to go through this life than to dance in perfect timing with His Holy Spirit. It is not a surreal love affair with an invisible being; it is love for all that is pure and true – It is love for the Word of life in Spirit and in truth – It is the unspeakable joy that stirs within when we hear His voice.
Each time that His Holy Spirit speaks a personal word to us in His own way, we are in His embrace and we find the strength that we need to face that day. He is the true bread of life and He is our first and most important love.
Many have replaced that first love with the love of going to meetings, conventions and conferences where they hear good preachers. I am not saying that the Lord will not lead us there, but if we prefer the thrills of a meeting and the word of a preacher above the voice of the Spirit within, we have left our first love. If we are more excited about going to hear a good word than we are about hearing His personal word to us in our daily life, we have left our first love.
Dreams and interpretations from the Lord are a form of prophecy. Over the years, I have dealt with many who hear from the Spirit through dreams. This in itself has been quite an experience. Even in dreams, the Spirit speaks to each one in ways that are tailor-made to their understanding. For instance, I once met a man who had many dreams from the Lord. He needed help to interpret them so he came to me.
This man was a college professor with a doctor’s degree in business administration from Harvard. He loved the Lord but he was also very intellectual. The Spirit spoke clearly to him in many dreams; most of them had to do with complicated business deals.
By the same token, the Spirit conveyed His word to a little seamstress as she dreamt of cutting out dress patterns, and to a mechanic as he dreamt of fixing cars. This is the beauty of God’s word to us; He speaks on a level that we understand. His ministers are called to take the word that He speaks to the people and open their understanding to what He is speaking to them. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, Christ has made us able ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit.
It is when we hear what the Spirit speaks to our hearts that we begin to mature spiritually. No matter how thrilling they are, general sermons or teachings cannot bring anyone to the place of maturity in Christ. It is when we realize that the Spirit really speaks to us personally that we discover His love for us and fall in love with Him in return. It is the word spoken to our ear that we must cling to and love more than life itself. It is first love.
It was the secret that the writer of Proverbs had found when he wrote, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your path.” (Prov. 3:5)
The key is to acknowledge or recognize Him in the little details that He brings to each day. He loves this and He will draw us closer to His heart. He will absolutely take charge of the way things go for us each day.
THE TREE OF LIFE
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” (Rev. 2:7)
Before the Lord gave this promise to the Overcomer, He pointed out that one must have an ear to hear what the Spirit is speaking in order to understand what He is about to say. Jesus was introducing the “Tree of life” to the church.
It is necessary that we set aside our preconceived ideas and truly hear what the Spirit is saying. Jesus said that this tree is found in the midst of the Paradise of God. Does this mean that we have to die and go to a far away place called Paradise to get access to that tree? Is this what Jesus meant when He promised that He would give to eat of that tree to those who repent and return to their first love? Did He mean that they would have to die physically first or was His promise for the here and now?
When the Lord says that He will give the Overcomer to eat of the Tree of life, He did not mean after physical death. He meant that the Overcomer would eat of that Tree here and now. It means that the Overcomer has access to the Paradise of God now. Note that this is not a promise to the believer; it is promised to the “Overcomer.” All one has to do is to meet the condition laid out by the Lord, “Repent and do the first works. Return to your first love!”
To understand the meaning of the Tree of life, one must understand that there is a great difference between the Word that Jesus speaks by the Spirit, and the written or spoken word that is interpreted by the letter.
TO PARTAKE OF THE TREE OF LIFE IS TO UNDERSTAND THE MEANING OF THE WORD BY THE SPIRIT. Many still understand only the letter, which profits nothing; it does not give life.
Those who heard Jesus’ discourse on eating His flesh and drinking His blood could not understand Him because they could not hear by the Spirit; they were offended. Jesus was talking to them from the Tree of life and they were accustomed to the words that came from the tree of knowledge.
When Eve and Adam ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, “The eyes of both of them were opened and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.” (Gen. 3:7)
Suddenly, they were aware of their nakedness and proceeded to do something to fix it. Fig leaves represent the works that men do to cover their nakedness. Later, when Jesus came to the fig tree He found no fruit… nothing but leaves. Men are much like the fig tree, they show off their good works while the fruit lay buried under and no one is able to see it. They use leaves (good works) to cover their nakedness.
Words and languages are all of God. The trees in the Bible represent people and words. The tree of knowledge of good and evil is God’s word that is void of His Spirit. Its meaning has been brought down to the literal letter; it produces death. The Tree of life is the living word of God.
Because of Adam’s fall, we are all born with a mind that understands only the things of this literal world. Our language is of the carnal natural mind. We cannot comprehend things of the Spirit. Only when we have access to the Tree of life do we begin to know the true God.
The letter that the Lord sent to Ephesus reveals the condition that man must meet to partake of the fruit of the Tree of life. We meet this condition as we follow the Holy Spirit through trials designed to bring us closer to Him. We first fall in love with the literal Word of the Bible. When we learn obedience to that word, the Holy Spirit teaches us obedience to His Word in Spirit.
It is through walking with Him, in step with Him, that we fall in love with Him who is Spirit and life. Now we love Him and worship Him in spirit and in truth. This is the full meaning of the Tree of life.
God placed cherubim with a flaming sword that turned every way, to guard the way of the Tree of life, so man could never enter in again. Jesus came to this realm of death and as Son of Man; He walked through the fire; even unto the death of the cross. According to the Spirit of holiness, and by the resurrection from the dead, He triumphed over death and opened the way for us to follow Him.
Jesus called the Holy Spirit, the “Spirit of truth.” “However when He, the Spirit of truth has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” (Jn. 15:13)
The Word of Truth had been lost in Adam. Since that time, man has been living by his intellect – the very place where the serpent (the father of lies) operates. But the Spirit of truth speaks only the words that He hears Him speak. This is why man’s psychology is so dangerous; it proceeds from man’s reasoning.
Great speakers have always been popular with the crowds. Orators were famous on the marketplaces of Greece and of Rome. The eloquence of a speaker can capture an audience and move the world. Because of his eloquence and ability to reach his audience with words, they called President Ronald Reagan “the great communicator.” People have always been attracted to men who are gifted with words. The mega churches that are drawing the crowds to day are using words of man’s wisdom to lure the people – even as the serpent lured Eve.
One of the most important differences between man and beast is his God-given ability of language. Words communicate. Words are from God, they are God. It was in the garden that the serpent (the liar) took God’s word and twisted it into a lie by bringing it down to the realm of the literal letter. This is why God made the serpent to crawl on its belly. He cannot get off the ground. He belongs to the realm of the earthly.
The garden that is described in the Bible may have been a literal garden, but by the Spirit, it is obvious that it represents the mind and heart of Eve and Adam where the serpent planted his words and ideas.
The Bible says that there were many trees in the garden. Natural fruit trees are a good source of food for men’s bodies, but in the spirit, fruit trees represent sources of food for the souls of man. The tree where the serpent resides is a counterfeit of the tree of life. Its fruit comes in the form of words of wisdom that make man feel very smart, sophisticated and independent from God.
Words have power; they can restore and give comfort. “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life.” (Prov. 15:4a) Words are fruits from the trees of the garden of our minds and souls. If a man is totally isolated without books, radio, TV or means of communication, the time will come when he will lose connection with the flow of life and lose his sanity.
There are good words and evil words too. There are words that give joy and hope and words that are destructive and do damage. One can use words as a form of abuse. The power to bless or to curse is in the words we speak. The old prophet wrote, “The Lord has given Me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary…” (Isa. 50:4a)
Words of truth are restored to us in Christ. He is the “Tree of Life.” Some trees nourish the intellect while others just give us pleasure in this life. Some give us instructions to do our daily work and some can destroy us, but the Tree of Life is the pure daily Word of God that He speaks to us from His Spirit within; they are words of life and of power for our lives.
It is when one returns to the love of the truth that he is able to receive from the Tree of life. In Adam, man did not retain his love for truth. Ephesus had done many wonderful works and they knew how to recognize false ministries, but they could no longer hear words of truth that the Spirit wanted to speak to them.
We know that the letters addressed in the book of Revelation are not only for the church that was then; they are sent to the complete church that has been gathered in Christ ever since.
In the natural, we know that education is key to the well being of a nation. To hear God’s word in the Spirit is key to the prosperity of any man’s soul. This word is not addressed to unbelievers; it is addressed to a church called to partake of its fruits and to show forth its life to the nations.
The church in the world has manifested the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. She has been a champion in upholding laws of good conduct and moral uprightness, but she has denied the Helper and has failed to manifest the true life of Christ. She has been too wrapped up in her works and too busy to hear His voice.
She has become professional, and as the professional dancer on the bridge of my dream (see below), she has lost the diamond ring on her finger – her union with God). This is the condition of the visible church today. She will violently reject anyone who presents her with a word revealing her condition.
In our previous study, I mentioned the dream that the Lord gave me at the beginning of my walk with Him. Because I neglected to give the interpretation, a few readers have asked me to do so.
First, the dream was about “Two professional dancers, dancing on top of a high bridge that spanned a river of swift running water. At one point, the woman lost the wedding diamond ring that she had on her finger and the man dove repeatedly in the river, trying to find it. I was standing on the banks of the river with several others. I reached out toward the river and I retrieved a delicious apple pie, as you would out of the oven. When I offered it to the two on the bridge, they became furious.”
These professional dancers represent the professional church that is in the land today. They are called to be the bridge between God and man, but instead of teaching the people, they are entertaining them by showing off their so-called “spiritual” proficiency. They are energized by greedy religious spirits, and they have lost their union (ring) with their true Husband – the Spirit of God.
No matter how they try to find it again, they cannot. Apples are a type of Gods’ Word, and apple pie is God’s Word served ready to eat and delicious. When the professionals are offered this word, they are offended and feel threatened. They reject the messengers as well as the Word. This is God’s way of judging the Church. He sends His messengers and when they refuse the truth, they are judged already.
Many that were once on these high bridges have come down to the lowly places of the Spirit. They stay huddled close to the river of life that flows in the earth (within their hearts). Their calling is to be an example and hold up the truth in the face of those who have turned their calling into a profitable profession.
TO THE ANGEL
The seven letters that John received on Patmos were not addressed to the church in general; they were specifically addressed to “the angel” of each church.
The Bible speaks of all kinds of angels. They are beings created to accomplish God’s will. There are ranks among angels. The archangel Michael has the highest power and authority. Seraphim hold a very high rank and the cherubs are mentioned some ninety times in the Bible. It seems that they hold a very special place among the angels. There are multitudes of angel messengers such as the ones that Jacob saw going up and down the ladder; Gabriel is one of those.
We know that there are angels who followed Satan in the rebellion. Then there is the angel who rebuked John when he knelt to worship him “Now I, John, saw and heard these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things. Then he said to me, ‘See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets…” (Rev. 22:8–9a) Was this angel a special messenger on the order of Gabriel or was it a prophet on the other side of the veil?
This brings us to the angel of the church to which Jesus sent His letters. The word “angel” here depicts one who is a messenger to the people of the church. This messenger is a “word ministry to the people.”
In his epistle to the Ephesians, Paul explains that Jesus gave “word ministries” to “equip the saints” and grow them up spiritually. “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers.” (Eph. 4:11) These are all “word” ministries.
These ministers are called and anointed to hear the word of the Spirit and minister it to the saints. Some are pulpit preachers, some are not, but they are all “angels” or “messengers” of the Lord. Along the course of their ministries, they are given various responsibilities that the Lord Himself sets up for them.
Their primary mission is to equip the saints and edify the Body of Christ. Many move in their callings without fanfare, while others are well publicized and become famous, but all are vital to the Body of Christ.
Among these, there are also those that the Lord calls wolves in sheep’s clothing. They have crept in among the flock and have managed to imitate the true calling and replace the word with bogus messages. Their false anointing often seems stronger and more believable than the true.
Writing of these Paul says, “For such are apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.” (II Cor. 11:13-14) The Church at Ephesus was able to discern the false workers. However, our God has all His true word (angel) ministries at work among the saints.
The letters sent to the Church are addressed to those who are teaching the saints to hear His Word and equipping them for their ministry. They have been working in the true Church and are still at work today. The Spirit opens the way for them to give His Word where He sees fit. It may not be a pulpit platform. It is often to just one who has an ear to hear. It is my conviction that all who have walked with the Lord and are hearing from His spirits are messengers of His love and word, in His time and in His way. They are the ones who serve His “apple pie” to whomever He sets on their way. “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (Prov. 25:11) To be continued…
Because of His love,
LOVE LETTER SERIES NO. ONE – MSG. No. 179 [Jackie Caporaso] 1