Some very wise men in the kingdom have been known to state that we are always just one generation from apostasy. In seeing the growth of harmful trends in these last several years, we’re convinced that a full generation is not needed! But let us focus on what can occur in one generation’s time, and Judges 2:10 is so appropriate just here. Reference has been made to Joshua’s generation, and then this: “And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after then, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.” This, in one generation’s time!
Our Lord had made it so plain, in John 6:45 – “It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.” We see the emphasis we’re making now in the wording of the Great Commission, recorded by Matthew: “Go ye therefore, and teach….teaching them…” “Matthew 28:19, 20). A shift away from the study of, and teaching of, the Word of God is the opening of the door and a begging for apostasy. That lesson has been well demonstrated in Israel’s history, and it has been repeatedly shown in the history of the church. But, do we learn?
We can see deviation at work in one generation’s time in what we read of the work in Ephesus. This was a noteworthy stop in the apostle Paul’s missionary endeavors (Acts 19), and we combine that fact with several others made plain in the New Testament. May we be reminded of blessings and benefits received by Ephesus:
(1) Paul had visited there, and caused some to take their place faithfully in Christ. Not every city or community in the New Testament era had an apostle to visit them early in their work, but Ephesus did!
(2) Late in his missionary work, Paul called the Ephesian elders to meet him at Miletus, and he reviewed his work before them, gave them special charges pertaining to their work, spoke of dangers before them as wolves should seek to harm their flock, and gave them specific warnings regarding some false men arising from their own ranks! (Acts 20:28-30). Not every church, and not every eldership, was blessed in having an apostle to meet with them and call special attention to dangerous times ahead, with warnings given to them to be faithful, but Ephesus had such warnings given!
(3) And, the apostle Paul wrote a letter to the Ephesian congregation, with that special emphasis on Christ, Head of the church; the giving of God’s foreordained will for the saving of men; the word of truth as the instrument of salvation, and the great unity the Spirit teaches, with the need to loyally maintain and keep it! Not every New Testament congregation had a letter sent to them from an inspired apostle, but Ephesus was so blessed!
So, those benefits: Paul’s physically being with them, Paul’s meeting with the leadership for special teaching and warning, and Paul’s great lessons to them in his letter sent them. What benefits and blessings were given to Ephesus!
In less than a generation’s time, we see Ephesus again, as the Lord, the Head of the church, writes to that congregation. The letter to Ephesus is one among seven, recorded in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. The Lord, always faithful in noting loyalty and dedication, refers to some of that in Ephesus’ history, but then we have this: “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” (Rev. 2:4). Against the blessings and benefits earlier received by Ephesus, now we have words from the Christ himself: “Ephesus does not love me as she earlier did.” And not too many years later, in the apostasy of the late first century and beyond Ephesus ceased to be the people of God! It thus HAS HAPPENED, and it IS HAPPENING today, and it WILL HAPPEN to some in the future. Will we learn from Ephesus? Remember, IN ONE GENERATIONS’S TIME – OR LESS