One of the most interesting aspects of Revelation is the letter to the church in Ephesus.
1 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands.
2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.
3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.
5 Consider how far 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.
6 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
7 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” Revelation 2:1-7
In a previous post we have studied the letter in its historical setting and its relationship with our present experience so I won’t go into all of that a second time. However, I would like to focus on verse 4 and 5a, “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen!”
The church at Ephesus was doing everything right. They had persevered under persecution and hardships (v. 3), they had been zealous in good deeds and hard work and resisted false teachers and the wicked teachings of the Nicolaitans. In our modern church settings we would consider the Ephesians to be a shining light to the community. They were theologically pure; they resisted false teachers, and refused to lose their faith because of persecution.
Yet, God says, “You have forsaken the love you had at first.” What does he mean by that? We get an insight into this by looking at 1 Corinthians 13:1, “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” The Ephesians knew all the right things and how to act the right way but somewhere along the line they had forgotten that Christianity is all about Jesus and not performance.
The church at Ephesus had exchanged Jesus for a parcel of good works and a pat-on-the-back for standing up to persecution. However, they were doing all these things out of a sense of pride instead of the humility of being a follower of Jesus. Churches today are no different from Ephesus and pride themselves upon their charitable work, or the number of people attending, or the money they raise, or the celebrity status of their pastor.
When we begin to rely upon our works, our giving, our church reputation, or our ability to face persecution instead of Jesus we need to consider how far we have fallen. Being a follower of Jesus is about loving Jesus and we do that through getting to know Him. And we get to know Him through study, Bible reading, and prayer. Of course those things can become idols and substitute for a relationship with Jesus.
We as Christians need to take time to reflect upon what brought us to Jesus, the innocent joy we had when we first believed. When we read our Bibles we need to seek Jesus and allow the words to speak to our souls.
If we reflect and meditate upon Jesus love our first love will come back to dwell within our hearts through the Spirit.To be victorious is to return to our first love and for all of us who long for that experience and relationship with Jesus we are promised that we will eat from the tree of life. (v. 7) So many Christians struggle because they are trying to hard, striving to prove to God that they are worthy of His love, when all we need to do is allow the love of Jesus to dwell within our hearts. We are not saved by our ability to know Scripture, face persecution, or do good deeds, but instead we are saved by the grace and love of Jesus.