Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. (
If this church were in your town, you would want to join it. Preachers would jump at the chance to pastor it. The First Baptist Church of Ephesus would lead the denomination in every category. This was as close to a perfect church as you might get. You probably wouldn’t find anything wrong. Still, it is not man’s opinion that matters, but the judgment of Christ. What did He have to say?
He began with commending them about the many good works they were doing (v.1-3). The members were busy in the service of the Lord—a beehive of activity. They were not only diligent, they were discerning—holding to the truth. They would not tolerate a liberal in the pulpit. In a culture filled with corruption, they were not contaminated. They were marked with energy and endurance despite the hostile environment. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all churches possessed these qualities?
Then comes the, “but,” and with it the complaint Jesus levels. “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” (v.4) They didn’t lose their first love, as you will hear it at times misquoted. To lose it means that this failure may have slipped up on them, which would have been bad enough. Instead, they made a deliberate decision that brought this condition. They chose work over worship. Personal intimacy with God was set aside for public efforts before men. The latter gets you pats on the back and strokes the ego. Neglecting the former, however, disconnects us from the source of blessing—the church finding itself on a religious treadmill, running feverishly, but not going anywhere.
It happens in marriages. The relationship begins with a flame of passion. After the honeymoon, the couple begins to turn attention to buying a home, making a living, raising the children—not doing bad things, but decisions that cause them to drift apart. Then comes the sad news that shocks us—the marriage is in trouble. It seems to us like it was a sudden thing, but little by little, they had left their first love. We do that with Christ. The church at
There was a cure for their ills prescribed by the Divine Counselor (v.5). They were to remember the love they once had for Christ. Then, they were to repent by confession of their neglect and commitment to rekindling the romance. Worship must assume preeminence again. The relationship rather than the resume’ must be built.
The consequences of failing would be severe. God basically tells them, “I will turn the lights out.” They did not heed the warning. That thriving church declined and died. You can tour ruins unearthed by the archaeologist in ancient
but you will find no thriving church. It
is happening to local churches all across Ephesus . America
Still there is the promise to those who overcome—who resist the temptation to leave their first love (v.6-7). Let us listen and learn—or our church can go out of business as well!