“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:12.
In the book of Revelation the Lord Jesus directs the Apostle John to write a book about the things to be revealed to him. He was then to send this book to seven churches in Asia.
These churches are addressed in Revelation chapters two and three.
Most conservative commentators agree that there are four things being covered in these letters:
First, the letters are addressed to real historical churches, which existed at that time.
Second, these letters brought up concerns that would apply to individuals at any time in any church.
Third, the problems they addressed could occur in any church at any time.
And finally, the seven churches were prophetically representative of seven distinct periods into which the now nearly two thousand year old church age can be divided into since Pentecost.
There are those who dispute this last statement, but the evidence strongly favors it.
While there is no attempt to cover all of this here, the most crucial matter to the churches will be examined.
The church at Ephesus is the first one addressed by the Lord and the only one we will be discussing.
Bear in mind that this is representative of the very first church, which was started by the apostles of Jesus Christ; and that many members had actually seen Jesus with their own eyes. So the doctrine was correct.
This church’s life span was from about 33 A.D. to 100 A.D., around seventy years.
As you would expect, the Lord commends this church for their hard work, patience and strong stand against evil.
Moreover, because of, or in spite of the fact that they did not have the complete Bible as we do today, they tested those who came into the church who claimed to be apostles and rejected them if their doctrine was wrong.
“To the angel of the church of Ephesus write. ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: I know your works your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. 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.’” Revelation 2:1-3.
One of the tests that we can use today and perhaps is what they used then is as follows.
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.” 1 John 4:1-3.
This is good advice for all of us today; many churches and individuals would mislead us even now. The world has no lack of false prophets going about trying to pervert the gospel of Jesus Christ.
All but two of the seven letters have commendations similar to the one to Ephesus quoted from Revelation 2:1-3 earlier.
The pattern here is that the Lord has something nice to say to the churches before pointing out their error, this is a good habit for all of us to have if we are in a position of authority.
Jesus then points out the Ephesian error:
“Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” Revelation 2:4.
This fatal error was never corrected and has affected every church period throughout the church age.
“Your first love”, many of us can remember what it was like when we were first saved, the love and hunger for Christ, the desire to serve Him, suddenly seeing the world around us anew and with purpose, and an overwhelming peace.
On the other hand, have you forgotten; Christian works, the pressures of life, continual resistance by the enemy of your soul, death, and sickness. These and other things take our attention away from our center, which is Christ, and turn everything into restless works.
Try to remember your first love when you were young or when you were newlywed, the bride makes her husband’s favorite breakfast of eggs, bacon, biscuits and fresh squeezed orange juice.
The eggs may have been overcooked the bacon burnt and the biscuits were missing some ingredient, not to mention the seeds in the orange juice, but it was done in love.
The husband does the unpleasant jobs around the house and works hard to bring in the money it takes to make her a home, he does this because he loves her, as companions, they walk together, talk, and hold each other and bear one another up.
What happens? Do the breakfasts become expected? Though the food is by now excellent, is it unappreciated? Is the work around the house now his job? It is not hard to let things slip away like the sand in an hourglass, and it is human nature to forget.
Meanwhile there is a lot of bitterness that builds up between two people who loved each other so deeply. What do we do now?
The answer is in the Lord’s remedy for the lost love in the Ephesian church. It is actually in three parts, remember, repent, and return.
Remember, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen;” Revelation 2:5a.
Many things in our past bear forgetting, but love and kindnesses should be remembered.
Think on these things, try and remember how lonely you were before you met your spouse, the longer you have been together the more distant that feeling would have become, and of course life now is taken for granted, rather than as the precious time you have together.
Perhaps many things have caused you to drift apart, but you must remember, and repent of the coldness that has taken hold of your heart.
It is the same with your love for Christ, do you remember the utter hopeless you felt in the world?
If it has been a long time, it is likely that you do not remember; especially if you have entered into a comfort zone where everything is going so smoothly that you give no thought to your former life.
However, the world is a dead place, in spite of all the activity, nothing fulfills the hearts desires, things are gotten, consumed, and leave us craving more.
The terrors of hell are a remote memory, it has not ceased to exist, but have you forgotten how close you were to falling into that pit (as we all were), hell with continual flames burning away, though never consuming.
People plunge head long into that awful place minute by minute, in spite of the fact that Christ has paid the price to rescue them from it if only they would grab the lifeline He extends to them.
Eternity in hell with their consciences eating away at them for all the evil that they did in a lifetime, but you, have you accepted Christ as your savior?
If so, have you forgotten that He took the horror of hell on Himself for your sake. Remember, and repent of your carelessness in forgetting His sacrifice for you, return to your first love.
How do I retain my first love for Christ? The Lord gives us some very practical ways of doing this, for instance, He tells us this:
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5.
This whole segment in John 15:1-12, on abiding in Christ can be confusing, for we wonder how that is done. Abiding in Christ is the same as the idea of dwelling with Him.
We are told that if we keep His commandments we will abide in His love, now this is a good idea but if we concentrate on keeping His commandments, we may well make this into work.
Once you turn something into a job, you turn it into just another task that needs to be done.
The Ephesian church was good at this, but they had still left their first love. This should tell us that there is more to abiding than just keeping the Lord’s commandments.
The commandments are not burdensome, there are two really, first that we believe on the name of God’s Son Jesus Christ, and that we love one another.
“And this is His [God’s] commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.” 1 John 3:23-24.
The difficulty is in carrying this out in real life, the first is accomplished in our salvation. The second though is much more difficult, love one another, to do this consistently in our own strength is impossible.
Overall, people are much happier trying to keep commandments, it is easier to write a few rules or mottos down and tape them to their refrigerator and try to act them out over the day than to actually feel the love of Christ for the people around them.
In other words, folks are trying to follow a few rules to love one another rather than doing it from the heart.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” Romans 12:1-3.
“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another…” Romans 12:9-10.
First Love, Part 1 taken from godisrevealed.com posted on 6-8-15, updated on 1-14-19.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version, copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission, all rights reserved.