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Lesson Two • The Church at Ephesus

Dr. Randy T. Johnson

1. What is the Compliment Sandwich (also called the Feedback Sandwich or Criticism Sandwich)?

2. What are some strengths and weaknesses of this approach?

Mark Murphy wrote a blog for Leadership IQ entitled, “The Compliment Sandwich: What is it and Why is it so Bad?” Murphy writes, “Neurologically, we humans just don’t hear the stuff in the middle. We hear the compliment given at the beginning because it comes out of nowhere. And we hear the compliment at the end because that’s the last message and it’s the thing that sticks with us. But we don’t hear what’s in the middle, so the constructive criticism gets lost.”

In referencing the seven churches, Jesus typically uses a different approach:

Compliment – Criticism – Command

He acknowledges what they have or are doing and then points out their flaws. However, instead of leaving them with another compliment, He gives an action step. He sets forth the challenge. The last statement is so important because this is what needs to happen next. As a coach, I knew my last words were the most important ones as I sent my players into the match.

The church in Ephesus is the first one addressed. Revelation 2:1 says, “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.’”

3. Who is referenced? What are the seven stars? What are the seven lampstands?

4. What is Jesus doing in this passage? What stands out to you?

During the first century, Ephesus was a major city of Asia Minor (even the most important of the seven cities listed). It was a seaport and the home to various religious beliefs (Gentiles and Jews). It was the location of the great temple of Artemis (Acts 19) which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The Greeks identified this fertility goddess as Artemis and the Romans as Diana.

In Revelation 2:2-3, Jesus gives the church in Ephesus a number of compliments, “I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.”

5. What compliments are given to the church at Ephesus?

Paul speaks of some of these traits in 1 Thessalonians 1:3, “Remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” In Galatians 6:9, he says, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

6. Which of these traits would be most interesting to you?

7. How can these traits be developed?

I like how James Hamilton describes the Lord’s compliments of the church at Ephesus, “We can summarize these nine good things that the Ephesian church is doing by grouping them into two categories: 1) deeds and 2) theology. Everything said about their deeds is good: they’re working, toiling, patiently enduring – stated in both 2:2 and 2:3, and they are bearing up for Jesus’ name. And everything said about their theology is good, too: they are recognizing the difference between good and evil, testing those who claim to be messengers of other churches, and refusing to recognize liars.”

In Revelation 2:4, Paul points out one criticism, “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” James Hamilton says, “But the one thing that the church lacks…seems to indicate that the Ephesian church is muddling through without much joy, holding out with steadfastness but with faded fervor. It may be that they are slipping into a pattern of just going through the motions.”

8. How can this relate to us in marriage?

9. How can this relate to us spiritually?

Finally, in Revelation 2:5-7, the Lord gives the command, “Remember therefore from where 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 you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”

10. What are they supposed to remember?

11. What does it mean to repent?

Matthew Henry writes, “They must repent. They must be inwardly grieved and ashamed for their sinful declension; they must blame themselves, and shame themselves, for it, and humbly confess it in the sight of God, and judge and condemn themselves for it. They must return and do their first works.” For some, that might sound too harsh, but sin should not be taken lightly. Leon Morris adds, “Christians can never dally with wrong. There must be a sharp break with it.” If you have been slipping away from the Lord, come back home. He is waiting for you. He misses you.

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Mark 12:30