The Church at its Best

J. Vernon McGee

The Church at its Best is a short 10 page work on the church. He examines the churches of the New Testament identifying good and bad in them.

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Excerpts from Church at its Best

The church at Ephesus was the church at its best. And it was located in the city of Ephesus where you see religion at its worst. Ephesus was the center of heathen idolatry. Pagan practices there were more degraded than in any other place. Ephesus has been called the Vanity Fair of Asia. Pliny, that great pagan, said it was the light of Asia. It was both a commercial and religious center and capital of that entire area.

The church at Ephesus is a typical New Testament church. This is the church at its best.

He says this to all seven churches, “I know thy works.” Here it is good works. When we read the messages to Laodicea, we see that the works were bad works. But at the Ephesian church the works were good.

Note that the Lord Jesus Christ is speaking only to His church. He is speaking only to believers. He is not speaking to unbelievers about good deeds! The Lord has the world shut up to His cross, and He is not asking any lost man to do anything.

“Dead works” are works of the flesh. But the Holy Spirit was producing in the Ephesian believers a fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, etc. (Galatians 5:22).

The Ephesian believers could not bear evil men. The word “bear” is the same word John used when he wrote of Jesus: “And he, bearing his cross, went forth into a place called The place of a skull” (John 19:17). The Ephesian church would bear a cross, but it would not bear evil men. It had no patience with evil men. It is interesting that our Lord said, “I know your patience, but I also know you are not patient with evil men.”

Today we think we manifest a marvelous Christian virtue if, when we see someone sinning, we shut our eyes to it because we want to be broadminded. However, the Ephesian church had spiritual discernment, and it could tell when evil men came into their midst. The church today lacks this discernment. You see, Ananias and Sapphira could not live in the early church because the church was so holy. But today they get by rather well. A young preacher said to me, “I have a New Testament church.”

There were men moving about in that day who were false teachers. They wanted the honor that came to apostles. And this church loved the apostles – the Apostle Paul had been their founder, and the Apostle John had been their pastor. But again, this church had keen spiritual discernment. It was continuing in the apostles’ doctrine, which was one of the marks of the New Testament church. When there came into their midst false apostles, they knew them. When a preacher came to them – though he knew the Shibboleths, had a tear in his voice, a pleasing personality, and a great big basso voice – they didn’t take him in if he denied the virgin birth, or if he said Christ was not God, or if he did not believe the Bible was the Word of God, or if he did not teach that Jesus was coming back personally. The believers in Ephesus were not deceived, and Ephesus represents the New Testament church.