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REVELATION OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE - Chapter 2 - Verse 2

Verse 2. 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 Joh 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 Ps 7:9; Jer 11:20; 17:10; 1 Sa 16:7; 1 Ki 8:39.

 

And thy labour. The word here used—kopov—means properly a beating, hence wailing, grief, with beating the breast; and then it means excessive labour 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 Mt 26:10—"Why trouble ye [literally, why give ye trouble to] the woman?" (compare also Mr 14:6; Lu 11:7; 18:5; Ga 6:17) and in the sense of labour, or wearisome toil, in Joh 4:38; 1 Co 3:8; 15:58; 2 Co 6:5

2 Co 10:15; 2 Co 11:23,27

et al. The connexion here would admit of either sense. It is commonly understood, as in our translation, in the sense of labour, though it would seem that the other signification— that of trouble—would not be inappropriate. If it means labour, 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 connexion.

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 Barnes on "2 Jo 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 Re 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 honour 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, (Ac 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 peculiarity 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, (Ac 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 Co 11:13, "false apostles" are mentioned; and in an office of so much honour 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 men, 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 recognise 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.

{b} "know thy works" Re 2:4,13,19; 3:1,8,15; Ps 1:6

{c} "tried" 1 Jo 4:1 {d} "are not" 2 Co 11:13

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