- Religion and Philosophy
Are You Guilty of Having Left Your First Love?
What We Must Glean from Our Lord's Letter to the Church at Ephesus
The only time in the entire Bible that Jesus directly addressed the Church is found in the Book of Revelation.
There, Jesus composed seven letters to seven individual congregations throughout Turkey, including Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea (Chapters 2-3).
Each of the letters were written to address issues specific to the congregation and their individual members. But at the same time, Jesus continues to speak to all congregations and to all Christians even today.
We would be remiss to think otherwise. What Jesus ascribed concerning the works and condition of those first century congregations, He continues to speak to you and me in the twenty-first century. His words are as relevant today as they were in John's time.
Therefore, it is incumbent upon each of us to explore each letter, and therein embrace each praise and rebuke, encouragement and hope, despair and delight. Bearing in mind, that our Lord continues to move about the Church, watchful to guard against internal and external evils and mindful to rightly preserve its spiritual well-being as steadfastly today as yesterday.
In this article we will consider our Lord's letter to Ephesus (Rev. 2:1-11). Foremost, because it identifies an issue that is very prevalent amongst our congregations and fellow Christians: A false sense that we have a sincere relationship with Jesus because of good works.
With that in mind, let's jump in and see whether the words of Jesus strikes a chord and perhaps He intends to admonish us as He did the Ephesians.
The Ephesians were not a lazy congregation devoid of church service. On the contrary, the works of the Ephesians were admirable.
"I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil", Jesus said. "And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary" (vs. 2-4).
So it's not the works of the Ephesians in question.
According to Jesus, they labored hard to serve the church, persevered in their duties with patience, weeded out the unrepentant, and guarded themselves against false teachers and doctrines.
Moreover, these things the Ephesians did gladly for His name’s sake persistently with devoutness and fervency.
"Nevertheless," Jesus said, "I have this against you, that you have left your first love" (v.4).
The love in question is the "early love" of the congregation. That first enthusiastically warm and affectionate love following a new life in Christ. Where self is denied, all that displeases God is gladly abandoned, and fellowship one with another is joyfully embraced.
In other words, despite commendable devotion to the Word of God, Jesus is lamenting because the members had strayed from sincerity. Or as one commentator puts it, "The members were going through the motions without emotion".
This certainly exists today.
Many Christians (perhaps even you and I) attend church services out of obligation or a force of habit rather than a passionate desire to worship God as we did in the beginning. Many of the earlier hearts that were tender in fellowship for one another have now become argumentative and divisive.
"’Remember therefore from where you have fallen", Jesus says. "Repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent” (v.5).
Christians are called upon to be "the light of the world" (Matt. 5:14). That is, to uphold Jesus Christ (Who is light; John 8:12) and illuminate Him to the world as a witness of His unyielding love and grace. When we are guilty of a wrong attitude that quenches the work of the Holy Spirit, our usefulness to Christ ceases, and we will lose any future opportunity to be of fruitful service to Him. A concern, by the way, that plagued the Apostle Paul during his ministry (1 Cor. 9:27).
Look again to verse five (quoted above) with an eye upon two specific words that instruct us how to remedy our condition: "Remember" and "repent".
Jesus is making a very gracious appeal here. He is trying to arouse in us the fond memory of our early love relationship with Him so that we would, by our own volition, correct our condition and not require His chastening.
Oh, that each of us would take a moment and remember the joy of that early love for Jesus we felt when we received Him as our Savior. And if that joy and exhilaration is no longer there, may we harken to His voice and repent.
About the Author
James Kobzeff is an evangelical born-again Christian who has long had a passion for the Church to know the Revelation. His commentary is the result of having studied and taught the Book many times over the past thirty years and is considered a continual work-in-process.
You can read more at his blog Learn the Revelation