To the Church of Ephesus, Don’t Forsake Your First Love…by Jim Nelson
I’ve been fortunate to be in a Men’s Bible study for the past six years with a group of mature and growing believers. These men are a major blessing to me. Meeting at 5:30 am every Tuesday morning isn’t always so easy, and caffeine is very special at that time of day! Recently, we finished studying the seven letters from Christ to the churches in the book of Revelation. What an amazing event this was for the Apostle John. He was taken from the island of Patmos in the Spirit where he meet Christ in heaven and was told to write on a scroll to these seven angels of the churches, which are the seven pastors.
Christ complimented the Ephesian church for their hard work and faithfulness. He indicated they were doctrinally and morally pure. They were hard working and disciplined. It’s important to understand that the Ephesian church was heavily persecuted by many false teachers. They were in a sea of paganism and false teaching. Just to mention a few, the Judaiziers, Gnosticism, Nicolaitians, Antinomianism, and worst of all was the worship at the temple of Diana, considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. This worship involved the grossest sexual immorality you can imagine. What’s interesting is that all of these false teachings are with us today in some form, Satan just re-brands them with new names, we must be watchful. With this going on, Christ told them they were faithful, they were giving, and they held onto the truth of the gospel and effectively dealt with false teaching and sin in the church. From almost every viewpoint, it would be considered a very good and successful church today.
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. Revelation 2: 4-5
Christ gives them a stern warning, “Repent, you have forsaken your first love.” They had become a program driven church, always busy and working hard, but had lost their sincere love for Christ. Their focus became the latest to-do list. We can all easily fall prey to a cold, mechanical observance of our faith. We need a heart full of love and worship for Jesus. Paul really drives this point home in 1 Corinthians 16:22 “If anyone does not love the Lord- a curse be on him, Come, O Lord!” This is a danger for every believer, and every church – that we slip into loveless patterns of piety and service.
As one commentator put it, “We need to consider the chain reaction of forsaking our love for Christ. Fading love for Christ is the forerunner of spiritual apathy. Apathy is the forerunner to loving something else. And love for something else means competing priorities with Christ, which in turn leads to compromise with the world and corruption, resulting ultimately in judgement”.
Christ’s message to the church, through John, is unequivocal: “Repent.” Over and over, Christ calls these wayward churches to repent and reform. Five out of the seven churches were commanded to repent. These were not casual, dispassionate warnings from our Lord. Each call to repentance was accompanied by the devastating consequences that awaited if a church failed to reform. Christ demands a faithful church.
It is only as we love Christ fervently that we can serve Him faithfully – our love for Him must be pure and He must be our greatest treasure! In Matt. 22:37, Jesus response to the Pharisees, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.”
We are to boldly and faithfully proclaim His gospel and for His church to be salt and light in a dark and desperate world (Matt. 5:13-16). That was the Lord’s message to these churches. He commanded them to put off worldliness and corruption, to renew their love for Him, and to guard the purity of His gospel and His church. Virtually every admonition, rebuke, warning, and call to repentance our Lord made in these letters is applicable to the church in the twenty-first century. My guess is this has been true throughout every generation of the church age.
Christ then closes with this comforting eternal promise for His redeemed church. “To him that overcome, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” An overcomer is a faithful follower of Jesus Christ.
The supreme characteristic of a Christian is deep abiding love for our Lord. Put another way, our love for the Lord is the truest measure of our commitment to Him. I remember our dear brother Sherman Pettis saying; “I love Jesus, He is my best friend” As we all know, Sherman was clearly an overcomer, a faithful servant, and is now with the Lord.
Let’s keep our heart and eyes on Jesus the founder and perfector of our faith, and remember that nothing can separate us from the love of God. (Romans 8:38-39)
Your brother In–Christ, Jim Nelson