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Revelation 2:2

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

I know thy works - For the eyes of the Lord are throughout the earth, beholding the evil and the good; and, being omnipresent, all things are continually open and naked before him. It is worthy of remark, that whatsoever is praiseworthy in any of these Churches is first mentioned; thereby intimating that God is more intent on finding out the good than the evil in any person or Church; and that those who wish to reform such as have fallen or are not making sufficient advances in the Divine life, should take occasion, from the good which yet remains, to encourage them to set out afresh for the kingdom of heaven. The fallen or backsliding who have any tenderness of conscience left are easily discouraged, and are apt to think that there is no seed left from which any harvest can be reasonably expected. Let such be told that there is still a seed of godliness remaining, and that it requires only watching and strengthening the things which remain, by prompt application to God through Christ, in order to bring them back to the full enjoyment of all they have lost, and to renew them in the spirit of their mind. Ministers continually harping on Ye are dead, ye are dead; there is little or no Christianity among you, etc., etc., are a contagion in a Church, and spread desolation and death wheresoever they go. It is far better to say, in such cases, "Ye have lost ground, but ye have not lost all your ground; ye might have been much farther advanced, but through mercy ye are still in the way. The Spirit of God is grieved by you, but it is evident he has not forsaken you. Ye have not walked in the light as ye should, but your candlestick is not yet removed, and still the light shines. Ye have not much zeal, but ye have a little. In short, God still strives with you, still loves you, still waits to be gracious to you; take courage, set out afresh, come to God through Christ; believe, love, obey, and you will soon find days more blessed than you have ever yet experienced." Exhortations and encouragements of this kind are sure to produce the most blessed effects; and under such the work of God infallibly revives.

And thy labor - He knew their works in general. Though they had left their first love, yet still they had so much love as excited them to labor, and enabled them to bear persecution patiently, and to keep the faith; for they could not tolerate evil men, and they had put fictitious apostles to the test, and had found them to be liars, pretending a Divine commission while they had none, and teaching false doctrines as if they were the truths of God.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

I know thy works - The common formula with which all the epistles to the seven churches are introduced. It is designed to impress upon them deeply the conviction that he was intimately acquainted with all that they did, good and bad, and that therefore he was abundantly qualified to dispense rewards or administer punishments according to truth and justice. It may be observed that, as many of the things referred to in these epistles were things pertaining to the heart - the feelings, the state of the mind - it is implied that he who speaks here has an intimate acquaintance with the heart of man, a prerogative which is always attributed to the Saviour. See John 2:25. But no one can do this who is not divine; and this declaration, therefore, furnishes a strong proof of the divinity of Christ. See Psalm 7:9; Jeremiah 11:20; Jeremiah 17:10; 1 Samuel 16:7; 1 Kings 8:39.

And they labor - The word used here ( κόπος kopos) means properly “a beating,” hence wailing, grief, with beating the breast; and then it means excessive labor or toil adapted to produce grief or sadness, and is commonly employed in the New Testament in the latter sense. It is used in the sense of trouble in Matthew 26:10, “Why trouble ye (literally, why give ye trouble to) the woman?” (compare also Mark 14:6; Luke 11:7; Luke 18:5; Galatians 6:17); and in the sense of labor, or wearisome toil, in John 4:38; 1 Corinthians 3:8; 1 Corinthians 15:58; 2 Corinthians 6:5; 2 Corinthians 10:15; 2 Corinthians 11:23, 2 Corinthians 11:27, et al. The connection here would admit of either sense. It is commonly understood, as in our translation, in the sense of labor, though it would seem that the other signification, that of trouble, would not be inappropriate. If it means labor, it refers to their faithful service in his cause, and especially in opposing error. It seems to me, however, that the word “trouble” would better suit the connection.

And thy patience - Under these trials; to wit, in relation to the efforts which had been made by the advocates of error to corrupt them, and to turn them away from the truth. They had patiently borne the opposition made to the truth, they had manifested a spirit of firm endurance amidst many arts of those opposed to them to draw them off from simple faith in Christ.

And how thou canst not bear them which are evil - Canst not “endure” or “tolerate” them. Compare the notes on 2 John 1:10-11. That is, they had no sympathy with their doctrines or their practices, they were utterly opposed to them. They had lent them no countenance, but had in every way shown that they had no fellowship with them. The evil persons here referred to were, doubtless, those mentioned in this verse as claiming that “they were apostles,” and those mentioned in Revelation 2:6 as the Nicolaitanes.

And thou hast tried them which say they are apostles - Thou hast thoroughly examined their claims. It is not said in what way they had done this, but it was probably by considering attentively and candidly the evidence on which they relied, whatever that may have been. Nor is it certainly known who these persons were, or on what grounds they advanced their pretensions to the apostolic office. It cannot be supposed that they claimed to have been of the number of apostles selected by the Saviour, for that would have been too absurd; and the only solution would seem to be that they claimed either:

(1)that they had been called to that office after the Saviour ascended, as Paul was; or,

(2)that they claimed the honor due to this name or office, in virtue of some election to it; or,

(3)that they claimed to be the successors of the apostles, and to possess and transmit their authority.

If the first of these, it would seem that the only ground of claim would be that they had been called in some miraculous way to the rank of apostles, and, of course, an examination of their claims would be an examination of the alleged miraculous call, and of the evidence on which they would rely that they had such a call. If the second, then the claim must have been founded on some such plea as that the apostolic office was designed to be elective, as in the case of Matthias Acts 1:23-26, and that they maintained that this arrangement was to be continued in the church; and then an examination of their claims would involve an investigation of the question, whether it was contemplated that the apostolic office was designed to be perpetuated in that manner, or whether the election of Matthias was only a temporary arrangement, designed to answer a particular purpose. If the third, then the claim must have been founded on the plea that the apostolic office was designed to be perpetuated by a regular succession, and that they, by ordination, were in a line of that succession; and then the examination and refutation of the claim must have consisted in showing, from the nature of the office, and the necessary qualifications for the office of apostle, that it was designed to be temporary, and that there could be properly no successors of the apostles, as such. On either of these suppositions, such a line of argument would be fatal to all claims to any succession in the apostolic office now. If each of these points should fail, of course their claims to the rank of apostles would cease; just as all claims to the dignity and rank of the apostles must fail now. The passage becomes thus a strong argument against the claims of any persons to be “apostles,” or to be the “successors” of the apostles, in the uniqueness of their office.

And are not - There were never any apostles of Jesus Christ but the original twelve whom he chose, Matthias, who was chosen in the place of Judas Acts 1:26, and Paul, who was specially called to the office by the Saviour after his resurrection. On this point, see my work on the Apostolic Church (pp. 49-57, London ed.).

And hast found them liars - Hast discovered their pretensions to be unfounded and false. In 2 Corinthians 11:13, “false apostles” are mentioned; and, in an office of so much honor as this, it is probable that there would be not a few claimants to it in the world. To set up a claim to what they knew they were not entitled to would be a falsehood, and as this seems to have been the character of these people, the Saviour, in the passage before us, does not hesitate to designate them by an appropriate term, and to call them liars. The point here commended in the Ephesian church is, that they had sought to have a “pure ministry,” a ministry whose claims were well founded. They had felt the importance of this, had carefully examined the claims of pretenders, and had refused to recognize those who could not show, in a proper manner, that they had been designated to their work by the Lord Jesus. The same zeal, in the same cause, would be commended by the Saviour now.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
These churches were in such different states as to purity of doctrine and the power of godliness, that the words of Christ to them will always suit the cases of other churches, and professors. Christ knows and observes their state; though in heaven, yet he walks in the midst of his churches on earth, observing what is wrong in them, and what they want. The church of Ephesus is commended for diligence in duty. Christ keeps an account of every hour's work his servants do for him, and their labour shall not be in vain in the Lord. But it is not enough that we are diligent; there must be bearing patience, and there must be waiting patience. And though we must show all meekness to all men, yet we must show just zeal against their sins. The sin Christ charged this church with, is, not the having left and forsaken the object of love, but having lost the fervent degree of it that at first appeared. Christ is displeased with his people, when he sees them grow remiss and cold toward him. Surely this mention in Scripture, of Christians forsaking their first love, reproves those who speak of it with carelessness, and thus try to excuse indifference and sloth in themselves and others; our Saviour considers this indifference as sinful. They must repent: they must be grieved and ashamed for their sinful declining, and humbly confess it in the sight of God. They must endeavour to recover their first zeal, tenderness, and seriousness, and must pray as earnestly, and watch as diligently, as when they first set out in the ways of God. If the presence of Christ's grace and Spirit is slighted, we may expect the presence of his displeasure. Encouraging mention is made of what was good among them. Indifference as to truth and error, good and evil, may be called charity and meekness, but it is not so; and it is displeasing to Christ. The Christian life is a warfare against sin, Satan, the world, and the flesh. We must never yield to our spiritual enemies, and then we shall have a glorious triumph and reward. All who persevere, shall derive from Christ, as the Tree of life, perfection and confirmation in holiness and happiness, not in the earthly paradise, but in the heavenly. This is a figurative expression, taken from the account of the garden of Eden, denoting the pure, satisfactory, and eternal joys of heaven; and the looking forward to them in this world, by faith, communion with Christ, and the consolations of the Holy Spirit. Believers, take your wrestling life here, and expect and look for a quiet life hereafter; but not till then: the word of God never promises quietness and complete freedom from conflict here.
Ellen G. White
Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, 322

“‘For the Lord spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying, Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. Sanctify the Lord of hosts Himself; and let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread.’ ‘To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.’ Isaiah 8:11-13, 20. The world is not to be our criterion. Let the Lord work, let the Lord's voice be heard. LS 322.1

“Those employed in any department of the work whereby the world may be transformed, must not enter into alliance with those who know not the truth. The world know not the Father or the son, and they have no spiritual discernment as to the character of our work, as to what we shall do or shall not do. We must obey the orders that come from above. We are not to hear the counsel or follow the plans suggested by unbelievers. Suggestions made by those who know not the work that God is doing for this time, will be such as to weaken the power of the instrumentalities of God. By accepting such suggestions, the counsel of Christ is set at naught.... LS 322.2

“The eye of the Lord is upon all the work, all the plans, all the imaginings of every mind; He sees beneath the surface of things, discerning the thoughts and intents of the heart. There is not a deed of darkness, not a plan, not an imagination of the heart, not a thought of the mind, but that He reads it as an open book. Every act, every word, every motive, is faithfully chronicled in the records of the great Heart-searcher, who said, ‘I know thy works.’ LS 322.3

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Ellen G. White
Selected Messages Book 2, 20

There are dangers to be guarded against on the right hand and on the left. There will be inexperienced ones, newly come to the faith, who need to be strengthened, and to have a correct example before them. Some will not make a right use of the doctrine of justification by faith. They will present it in a one-sided manner. 2SM 20.1

Others will seize the ideas that have not been correctly presented, and will go clear over the mark, ignoring works altogether. 2SM 20.2

Now genuine faith always works by love. When you look to Calvary it is not to quiet your soul in the nonperformance of duty, not to compose yourself to sleep, but to create faith in Jesus, faith that will work, purifying the soul from the slime of selfishness. When we lay hold of Christ by faith, our work has just begun. Every man has corrupt and sinful habits that must be overcome by vigorous warfare. Every soul is required to fight the fight of faith. If one is a follower of Christ, he cannot be sharp in deal, he cannot be hardhearted, devoid of sympathy. He cannot be coarse in his speech. He cannot be full of pomposity and self-esteem. He cannot be overbearing, nor can he use harsh words, and censure and condemn. 2SM 20.3

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Ellen G. White
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6 (EGW), 1111

After the decision of the council at Jerusalem concerning this question, many were still of this opinion, but did not then push their opposition any farther. The council had, on that occasion, decided that the converts from the Jewish church might observe the ordinances of the Mosaic law if they chose, while those ordinances should not be made obligatory upon converts from the Gentiles. The opposing class now took advantage of this, to urge a distinction between the observers of the ceremonial law and those who did not observe it, holding that the latter were farther from God than the former. 6BC 1111.1

Paul's indignation was stirred. His voice was raised in stern rebuke: “If ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.” The party maintaining that Christianity was valueless without circumcision arrayed themselves against the apostle, and he had to meet them in every church which he founded or visited: in Jerusalem, Antioch, Galatia, Corinth, Ephesus, and Rome. God urged him out to the great work of preaching Christ, and Him crucified; circumcision or uncircumcision was nothing. The Judaizing party looked upon Paul as an apostate, bent upon breaking down the partition wall which God had established between the Israelites and the world. They visited every church which he had organized, creating divisions. Holding that the end would justify the means, they circulated false charges against the apostle, and endeavored to bring him into disrepute. As Paul, in visiting the churches, followed after these zealous and unscrupulous opposers, he met many who viewed him with distrust, and some who even despised his labors. 6BC 1111.2

These divisions in regard to the ceremonial law, and the relative merits of the different ministers teaching the doctrine of Christ, caused the apostle much anxiety and hard labor [1 Corinthians 1:10-13 quoted] (Sketches from the Life of Paul, 121, 122). 6BC 1111.3

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Ellen G. White
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7 (EGW), 956-7

1 (ch. 1:16, 20; Psalm 121:3, 4; see EGW on Ephesians 5:25). Constant Diligence in Behalf of His Church—In the message to the church at Ephesus, Christ is represented as holding the seven stars in His hand, and walking in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks. He is represented as “walking” among them, thus illustrating His constant diligence in behalf of His church. He that keepeth Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. Nor does He become indifferent. These figures are to be carefully studied by the undershepherds, and faithfully applied to their own experience, that they may not lose sight of their great privilege of securing light from the Source of all light, and giving it in turn to those for whom they labor (Letter 4, 1908). 7BC 956.1

1-5 (1 Peter 1:5; Jude 24). The Warder of the Temple Courts—[Revelation 2:1-5 quoted.] The words fall from the lips of One who cannot lie. The picture reveals eternal vigilance. Christ is in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, walking from church to church, from congregation to congregation, from heart to heart. He that keepeth Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. If the candlesticks were left to the care of human beings, how often the light would flicker and go out! But God has not given His church into the hands of men. Christ, the One who gave His life for the world, that all who believe in Him may not perish but have everlasting life, is the watchman of the house. He is the warder, faithful and true, of the temple courts of the Lord.... 7BC 956.2

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