Revelation 2:1-7: 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 men, 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 your first love. 5 Remember the height from which 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 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
Ephesus, a major trading center, was the most important city of Asia Minor, and Paul stayed there about three years, making it his base of evangelistic operations in the area. Certainly that church had a good start with Paul and later Timothy there; afterwards the Apostle John was there about three years also. The book of Ephesians was written about 60 AD, while most interpreters think Revelation was written about 95 AD, so the church had 35 years to grow and then to lose their vibrancy. That is terrible for God’s Kingdom, and today we still see that happening with churches and with individual believers too. Satan constantly fights us and we have to seriously guard ourselves so we don’t get like the Ephesians.
Re-read all the good things this church had to commend: they served others well and checked to be sure any visiting ministers spoke only the truth of God, for often traveling preachers came. Different sects tried to break into the congregation and distort the truth, but the Ephesians didn’t allow it. They stayed faithful during the tough times when it was easier to compromise with worldly views. Jesus praised this church highly. Take just a moment to stop and consider all the ways Christians are tempted to compromise with the cultural viewpoint. Have you made any compromises that don’t fit in with the Bible?
However, the most important thing was lacking; they had left their first love for Christ. In other words, they were doing all the right things but for the wrong reasons. Their whole-hearted devotion to Christ had dwindled. That can easily happen to us also. Can you remember that first joy and excitement you had as a brand new Christian? You wanted to go and tell everyone about Jesus, didn’t you? What happened through the years? That’s where this church was. They did all the good things and even suffered when necessary, but the works they were doing had become sufficient for them. In our case, going to church might become routine. The Lord’s Supper or Communion might no longer mean quite as much as it used to. Prayer becomes more asking for my family and myself and not so centered on God’s will coming to pass on earth as it is in heaven. But perhaps that’s not true of us and we still love the Lord a lot and serve Him faithfully; however, the fervor and zeal just aren’t quite the same. We, too, need to ask God if we fall into that issue of losing our first love. This happens easily as we are busy with the rest of our lives of family, work and church. How often do we stop and think of God as we’re going through our daily routine? Are we really seeking God’s Kingdom or our own? In other words, whose interests comes first in our lives? We must continually guard ourselves that we keep Christ first in our lives. Even when we are busy doing other things, is our spirit open to hear the Holy Spirit? When we are, He will often guide us about the things we are doing, giving us a more effective way or a better idea.
If we find that God isn’t first, we need to do exactly what Jesus tells this church: (1) Remember what it was like when they first believed and fell in love with Him. We don’t know we’ve lost anything until we stop to remember what it was like at first. Then we realize the vast difference. (2) Repent and confess our sin to God, asking Him to restore our desire for closeness with Him. Repentance means we stop doing what we had been and go back to the way we were at first. (3) Go back to our daily prayer times and Bible study. Let those times become meaningful, not just a routine we perform at the beginning or end of the day. Think about God during the day and what the Holy Spirit might be trying to say to us. These are the things that get us back to our first love of Christ.
Just as a baby must continue learning to grow, so must we if our spiritual lives are to grow into maturity in Christ. A child is tested in school to be sure they are learning all that is taught; we can use these letters as a test for ourselves to see where we need correction in our spiritual lives. That’s why they are vital to us today. One interesting note is that each promise given here to the churches is fulfilled in Revelation, chapters 21 and 22. See what a wonderful future we have.
Philippians 3:12-14 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.