Ephesus, the Burden of a Lost Love Revelation 2:1–7
The church of Ephesus was the first to be seen entering a crisis condition. Although commended for a number of things, this church had left its “first love.” If we take the approach of ranking the failures of the five churches most severely reprimanded, then the developmental sequence begins here and sets up a disastrous scenario:
Ephesus lost its first love.
Pergamum opened its doors to the world.
Thyatira turned to idolatry.
Ladodicea embraced self.
Many commendable attributes were being manifested by the Ephesian church. They were praised for their labor in the Lord. Their endurance under stress and satanic attack also drew commendation from Him. Evil practices were anathema to these early saints. Church discipline, with doctrinal discernment, was a rule of life for them as they exposed false apostles as the “liars” they indeed were. They hated “the deeds of the Nicolaitans” (v. 6). The Nicolaitans were preaching Christian life with licentiousness—apparently in the name of grace. God hated this, and so did they, and they were appropriately commended by Him.
Then words sweep onto the scene that carry the seed of spiritual catastrophe. “Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” (2:4). The Ephesians were guilty of a defect of the heart rather than the mind—a defect that would, unless repented of, ensure irreparable damage.
First, of course, was their becoming cool toward the Lord Himself. They were negligent in loving Him for Himself alone. Therefore, they would, quite naturally, begin to take Him, their position, and Christian privileges for granted. Subsequently, they drifted even farther from-their first, fervent love for Christ.
An inevitable consequence was the erosion of an attribute that had been previously commended by our Lord and the Apostle Paul. “Wherefore, I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all of the saints, Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers” (Eph. 1:15–16). Love for Christ resulted in a deep love and concern for the brethren. Their faith in Christ and love for the saints were praised as evidence of their healthy spiritual condition. Ensuing verses (Eph. 2:17–21) exhibit the potential bounty related to that relationship. Wisdom, the knowledge of Him, enlightenment, hope, the riches of His glory, and the greatness of His power were the legitimate resources of these believers. All of these things prayed for by the Apostle Paul for these Christ-centered saints were mighty and spiritual. And when the Ephesian church chose other implements, steadfast as they were in so many desirable areas, they forfeited the best and stood in danger of losing their testimony.
So serious was this love defection that they were referred to as “fallen” (v. 5). Thankfully, although they were becoming less than responsive to Him, His love for them remained constant, and He prescribed a remedy for their condition. “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten; be zealous, therefore, and repent” (3:19). The remedy offered by the Lord turned on two words, remember and repent: “Remember, therefore, from where thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works” (2:5). Repentance involves an emphatic turning in another direction. In this case, the direction is back to things once served but now, perhaps scorned.
We have, by and large, relegated revival meetings to the scrap heap of Christian history. Indeed, some even hold the term up to ridicule. But the essence of revival was to promote remembrance and repentance among the children of God. Revelation 3:20, rather than being a call to unbelievers to allow the Lord into their lives, was a call to the churches to repent of their defections, be restored to fellowship with Christ, and renew their first-person love relationship with their Lord, His people, and their service for Him. One may choose to call the mechanism by other names, but we are in desperate need of revival now.
As ever, with the churches the final appeal is directed to those who have an ear to hear “what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (v. 7). Regardless of what others choose to do, the call is to the remnant of spiritually hungry members of the body. Those who long for a spiritual better country are encouraged to press on with Him whatever the cost may be, because there is a promise: “I [will give you] to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God” (v. 7).
Never forget that we will be privileged to partake of the tree of life because Christ endured the tree planted at Calvary for us. With this as a constant reminder of His great love for us, we can be assured that our first love can be maintained