We now come to the first admonition to the church in Ephesus. Jesus actually has a lot to praise them for. They were working hard for him. In the face of hardships, they persevered and didn’t grow weary. (2a)
More, they were quite vigilant against false teachers, testing those who claimed to be apostles but weren’t. And when they were found to be false, the church kicked them out. (2b) They simply wouldn’t tolerate any kind of false teaching. (6)
But still there was a problem. Jesus told them,
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. (4-5)
Too many churches are like this today. They work hard in their ministries. When persecution comes, they endure.
More, they are very vigilant in their doctrine. They are quick to warn against false teachers. And they refuse to tolerate sin in their midst.
But they’ve lost what is most important: their love for God and their love for others. And without that love they become a shell of what God wants them to be.
And God tells them, “Repent. I don’t want you to simply be hardworking servants. I don’t want you to simply be patient martyrs. I don’t want you to simply be vigilant soldiers. I want you to be a people who actually love me. And I want you share the love I’ve given you with those I’ve put around you.”
If we don’t?
I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. (5b)
Remember here that the lampstand represents the church, not salvation. So when he says this, he’s saying, “If you, my church, don’t return to its first love, I will remove you from its place. Oh you may still have your church services, but I will no longer use you as a light in this world.”
I think of I Corinthians 13 as I read this. Let me paraphrase.
If our churches are sound in their doctrine, calling out false teachers and kicking them out, preaching holiness and denouncing sin, but they have not love, they are only a resounding gong or clanging cymbal.
If our churches are hardworking, giving to the poor and doing all sorts of ministry within the church and without, but have not love, they are nothing.
If our churches endure persecution and stand fast in the midst of it, but have not love, they gain nothing.
Antichrists are here. The antichrist is coming. And many troubles will come along with him. But if we have not love, we are not ready to deal with any of these things.
How is your church? Is it ready to deal with these things? Or is it about to be removed from its lampstand?
And how about you? Have you lost your first love?
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (7)
This word is for you and your church.
If you can overcome antichrists, troubles, and persecution, all without losing your love for him and others, Jesus says he will give you the right to eat from the tree of life, which in the paradise of God. (7b).
What will Jesus say to us when we stand before him on judgment day?