The Church at Ephesus - The Church Without Love

Rev 2:1-7

Rev 2:1-7

1 "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:

2 "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;

3 "and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary.

4 "Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.

5 "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place-- unless you repent.

6 "But this you have, that you hate the deeds 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 to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God."' (NKJ)

In each of the letters to each of the seven churches, we find some similarities of structure. Jesus opens by repeating some characteristic of Himself from chapter one. That characteristic is appropriate for that church in a particular way. Next He will commend the church if there are any commendations to be made. He then will give any condemnations if there are any to be made. Next follows the exhortation to repent or remain faithful followed by a promise to those who overcome.

There is some variation because one of the churches has no commendation and two of them have no criticism. Each of these churches were real churches and these messages did apply to them at the time of the Revelation. Some have also considered that these churches represent a period of church history. There is without doubt a striking similarity between the condition of these churches in the order in which they are given and the general nature of the condition of the church over the centuries. We will not have time to develop these things in these messages.

Let us then look at the obvious. Let us examine this passage to find what Jesus would have us to see.

  1. Who is speaking?
    1. He who holds the seven stars in His right hand.
      1. This gives us the idea of authority.
        1. The right hand is always a place of authority.
        2. Jesus is now seated at the right hand of the Father.
        3. Since the stars are the pastors of the churches it is both a fearful and blessed though to know they are in the hand of Jesus.
        4. Under His authority and control.
        5. As they will one day give an account for their stewardship (Heb. 13:17) to their Lord it is right that they should be under His direction.
      2. This is also a place of blessing.
        1. When Jacob blessed Joseph sons he crossed his arms laying his right hand on the youngest son to show that the youngest would be blest more than the older.
        2. It is a great blessing to pastor one of the Lord's churches.
      3. It is also a place of security.
        1. In John 10:27-29 Jesus talks about the security of the sheep as being in His hand and the Father's hand and relating that they could never be taken from those positions.
        2. John 10:27-29 27 "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 "And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 "My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand. (NKJ)
    2. He who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands.
      1. The idea here is one of continued fellowship.
      2. Jesus is always amongst His churches.
      3. He is there to guide them and help them bear up under the trials and temptations that this world has for them.
    3. He who knows all about them.
      1. In each of these letters to the churches He begins with "I know"
      2. That indicates that He is not only aware of our situation but is also concerned.
      3. His desire for us is to be conformed to His own image.
        1. Rom 8:29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (NKJ)
        2. Rom 13:14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. (NKJ)
        3. 2 Cor 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (NKJ)
        4. Eph 1:4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, (NKJ)
        5. Eph 4:24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. (NKJ)
        6. Phil 3:21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. (NKJ)
        7. I Jn 3:2-3 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. (NKJ)
  2. To whom is He speaking?
    1. The angel
      1. As we have already stated this is the pastor.
      2. We often think of angels as spirit beings and so many times they are.
      3. But the word aggelos is used of both men and spirit beings, for the word simply means messenger.
      4. In Matt. 11:10 the same Greek word is used to describe John the Baptist. "For this is he of whom it is written: 'Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You.' (NKJ)
      5. We are told that the pastor at the time the letter was written was Timothy.
        1. Timothy was placed in this position it seems by Paul and had been pastor there for the past 30 or so years.
        2. History tells us that shortly after this Timothy was martyred.
        3. I think it is amazing that in view of who started the church (Paul) and who had been her pastor since that time that we should find her deficient in any way.
    2. Of the church at Ephesus
      1. Although the letter is addressed to the pastor of the church, the substance of the letter is addressed to the church at Ephesus.
        1. It was also the place where Paul had established one of the best churches of that time.
          1. He had spent 3 years there and many had been converted.
          2. The success of the church was so great that the silversmiths raised a revolt because they thought that their trade of making idols of Diana would someday cease, and they were correct.
          3. One of the greatest letters that Paul ever wrote was written to this church.
      2. Ephesus
        1. We are told that this was the largest city in Asia Minor.
        2. It was the center of the worship of Diana, the goddess of fertility.
          1. It was here that thousand of male and female prostitutes gave their services to the temple of Diana.
          2. It was considered an honor for the families to give their young daughters and sons to be priests and priestess as they were considered.
          3. This was such an immoral religion that we can scarcely consider anything so hideous today.
          4. Or can we, with the lifestyles that we find as common place today.
  3. For what does He commend them?
    1. Their works.
      1. There was no problem with what they were doing.
      2. The church was full of good works.
      3. This was not a lazy or apathetic church but one who was doing all the right things.
    2. Their labor and patience.
      1. As we look at their works we notice that they persevered.
      2. Many work well for a time but then they want to stop.
      3. Its as though some Christians think you can retire from being a Christian.
    3. For not being able to bear those who are evil.
      1. Some today could not appreciate our Lord's view here.
      2. We find ourselves in a live and let live world and the church has bought into it.
      3. We live in a world where corruption in politics is not only expected but accepted.
      4. We have a society that thinks what president does in the hallway of the oval office will not affect his decisions he makes in the oval office.
      5. We have the International Olympic Committee who for years has been taking kickbacks from those who would hope to have the games in their cities while they expect the athletes to play by the rules.
      6. There is a certain denomination whose leader is under indictment for stealing (misappropriating) church funds and yet he thinks everyone should just forgive him and move on and he will continue in his post.
      7. Many churches today do not speak out against the evil.
        1. They have not found too much they consider evil.
        2. They think we should be positive in our approach.
      8. Well the Lord commended this church for their being so positive about standing against evil.
    4. For testing those who said they were apostles and were not.
      1. Just because someone claims something does not make it so.
      2. There are many today who claim to be apostles or prophets but cannot prove that they are.
      3. They think that just because they believe it we should too.
      4. There are too many passages about false prophets and false apostles for us to blindly follow anyone.
        1. Jer 14:14 And the LORD said to me, "The prophets prophesy lies in My name. I have not sent them, commanded them, nor spoken to them; they prophesy to you a false vision, divination, a worthless thing, and the deceit of their heart. (NKJ)
        2. Ezek 22:28 "Her prophets plastered them with untempered mortar, seeing false visions, and divining lies for them, saying, `Thus says the Lord GOD,' when the LORD had not spoken. (NKJ)
        3. Matt 7:15 "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. (NKJ)
        4. Matt 24:11 "Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. (NKJ)
        5. Matt 24:24 "For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. (NKJ)
        6. 2 Pet 2:1 But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. (NKJ)
        7. I Jn 4:1 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. (NKJ)
    5. For their hatred of the deeds of the Nicolaitans.
      1. Most think this is a sect of Gnostics who promote immorality.
      2. Others think from the etymology of the word that it refers to the promotion of the clergy over the laity.
      3. What ever it is, they hated it and so did the Lord.
    6. For their perseverance.
  4. For what does He criticize them?
    1. They had moved.
      1. Whenever we find ourselves away from God we must remember that God is not the one who has moved.
      2. When we find the fellowship broken, it is not God who has left us, it us who has left Him.
    2. They had moved from their first love.
      1. First love is that love that we first had for our Savior when we first saw Him as our Savior.
      2. It is like the love that we find in a new relationship between a young lady and young man.
      3. How do we maintain that first love.
  5. What warning does He give them?
    1. Remember.
      1. Memory is a wonderful thing.
      2. It allows us to experience a feeling by simply remembering an event or occasion.
      3. Can you remember the cleanness that you felt when Jesus first made you clean.
      4. Do you remember the peace that you had when you first knew that He had forgiven even your darkest sins.
      5. Do you remember the sadness that you felt when you first knew that it was for your sins that Jesus died of the cross.
      6. Do you remember the love you felt as, in your mind, you first saw His precious blood flow down at Calvary.
      7. Do you remember how unworthy you felt when you first knew that God had sent His Only Begotten Son to die in your place.
      8. Do you remember how that fathomless love broke your stubborn will and left you with only humble gratitude in your heart.
      9. When you remember those times, does it make you ashamed that you have gotten away from Him your first love?
    2. Repent.
      1. Turn back to that loving Savior as He holds out for you His nail scared hands.
      2. Turn back to the One who gave all because of His love for you.
      3. Turn back to the One who could have called the angels and came down for the cross had it not been for His love for you.
      4. If you find yourself going the wrong direction, the only thing to do is to turn around, go back to where you got off track and then continue in the steps of Jesus.
    3. Do the first works.
      1. You remember the first works don't you.
      2. Remember when you not only did your duty but enjoyed it.
      3. When it seemed that you could never do enough.
      4. When your service was not only faithful but warm, bubbling and passionate.
      5. No one had to remind you or encourage you to labor for the one you loved.
    4. Or He will remove the lampstand.
      1. As we look at these things we must apply them to individuals for it is as individuals that we change the whole.
      2. But the warning here is to the church.
        1. There are no perfect churches, but some churches are better than others.
        2. Churches are imperfect because they are made up of imperfect people.
        3. But the church is a unit that under the leadership of the pastor is responsible to God.
        4. Judgement can fall on a church just as it can on individuals.
      3. The removal of the lampstand.
        1. The lampstand gives light, which represents truth as well as the presence of Jesus Christ, (I am the light of the world)
        2. Most believe that this means that the church becomes and unchurch.
        3. That is, it may continue to exist but that the Lord is no longer the head of it as He has removed His stamp of ownership because they have moved far enough away that they are no longer His.
    5. Those who have ears to hear need to listen.
      1. To each of the churches we find this phrase.
      2. It gives us a warning. A warning that we had best listen. If we cannot listen, then there is no hope.
  6. What promise does He give them?
    1. Those who overcome will eat of the tree of life.
      1. There are many things about this tree that we will wait until the end of the book to see.
      2. But to eat of the tree of life represents eternal life.
    2. They will be in the paradise of God.
      1. The word comes form a Persian word which means park.
      2. Suffice it to say that that is where God is and we will be happy and very fulfilled there.

Con: Some have left their first love. They need to remember, repent and do the first works.

Others have never left the love of Christ because they have never known it. You cannot return to somewhere you have never been.

This message was preached at FBC Toulon, by Albert Harmon. See it at http://toulonbaptist.com  
 

 

 

Sunday January 24, 1999

The number of these epistles is seven, corresponding with the number of the churches. Each one also embraces seven distinct parts: first, an address; second, a citation of some one or more of the sublime attributes of the Speaker; third, an assertion of His complete knowledge of the sphere, duties and doings of the persons addressed; fourth, a description of the state of each, with such interspersions of praise and promise, or censure and admonition, as the case required; fifth, an allusion to His promised coming, and the character it will assume to the persons described; sixth, a universal command to hear; and seventh, a special promise to the ultimate victor. In the last four, the order of succession is varied from the first three, and the call to attention is there put after the promise "to him that overcometh;" but in each these seven parts may be distinguished, showing that there is a completeness and fullness about the whole, which will not admit of their being confined in their signification to the few particular congregations to which they were originally addressed. (from Seiss' Apocalypse)

But these epistles show us more particularly what was the moral condition of the primitive churches. Nor is the exhibition what we would perhaps have expected. churches founded and instructed by apostles, and ministered unto by those who were the pupils of the apostles, appointed under apostolic supervision, we would think to find models of every excellence, and pure and free from the evils, heresies and defections of later periods. But these epistles show that the churches then were much like the churches now, and of all ages: that is, interminglings of good and bad, and as full of the workings of depravity as of the fruits of a true faith. (from Seiss' Apocalypse)

It should be noted that each message with its warning or counsel or comfort begins by calling attention to some aspect of the majesty and glory of Christ as to His person and work as it is revealed in the vision of chapter one. But, significantly, this is always in some way related to the needs, problems, and conditions within the local assembly. This serves to stress how Jesus Christ perfectly meets our need, and is the source of our strength. All the problems and needs of the church are met in Jesus Christ. He and He alone is the ANSWER to our needs and the SOLUTION to our problems. J. Hampton Keathley III; Studies In Revelation

In each letter to the churches, there is a unique relationship between the problems they faced and the particular nature and character of the environment in which they lived. It is these conditions that presented particular temptations, testings, and problems. J. Hampton Keathley III; Studies In Revelation

"To the angel

. . . it is often used also of men in Greek literature as a whole, and in several instances this word referred to human messengers in the Bible (Matt. 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 7:24, 27; 9:52). It is properly understood here as referring to human messengers to these seven churches. These messengers were probably the pastors of these churches or prophets through whom the message was to be delivered to the congregation. The messenger of the church at Ephesus, which at that time was a large metropolitan city, was undoubtedly an important person and a leader in Christian testimony at that time. John F. Walvoord The Revelation of Jesus Christ

I consider the angel of the church as signifying the messenger, the pastor, sent by Christ and his apostles to teach and edify that church. I consider what is spoken to this angel as spoken to the whole church; and that it is not his particular state that is described, but the states of the people in general under his care. The angel or bishop at this time was most probably Timothy, who presided over that church before John took up his residence there, and who is supposed to have continued in that office until 97 a. d., and to have been martyred a short time before John's return from Patmos. (from Adam Clarke Commentary)

I think that this is quite amazing that a church who had such a grand foundation and such great leadership should find itself on the list of those who have marked deviancies. If this could be true of such a great church within 30 years after its founding, I think it should encourage us to watchfulness lest we also be drawn away from the love for Christ Jesus.

of the church of Ephesus write,

"Once the proud capital of Ionia and the chief harbor of proconsular Asia, Ephesus was a extremely wealth and beautiful city built around the bay of the same name, near the mouth of the river Cayster (now known as the Lower Menderes), which flowed between the Tmolus range in the north and the Messogtis on the South and then across an alluvial plain to the AEgean Sea. . . . Wooded mountain ranges ran down to the sea and these proved an irresistible temptation to the Romans, who began systematically to strip them of their trees. In consequence, the soil was eroded and washed down to silt up the river and the harbor and, despite herculean efforts to keep the approaches clear, the harbor was slowly transformed into a swamp and today twenty miles of land cuts the city off from the sea. . . . The glory of an earlier day has departed and today the remains of the fourth city, built by the Byzantines, form part of the shabby, unpretentious village of Seljuk. The ruins of the ancient theater and some of the buildings a short distance away serve as a poor reminder of the great city of the past, the Vanity Fair of Asia. . . . Ephesus was architecturally superb. Its theater, which was 495 feet in diameter and held 25,000 people, is that referred to in Acts 19. The Marble Way, lined with statues and fountains, ran from the temple of Artemis through the city to the Megnesia Gate. The Arcadian Way, another main road which ran from the theater to the harbor, was 1735 feet long and 70 feet wide; it was lined with columns and slopes and various buildings, and was illuminated at night. . . . The most outstanding architectural feature was, of course, the temple of Diana. . . . Mythology describes Diana as the daughter of Zeus and the twin sister of Apollo. The temple of Diana was a huge building, four times as large as the Parthenon at Athens, and it stood on a platform 425 feet by 220 feet. The building itself was 340 feet by 165 feet and had 120 Ionic columns, each 60 feet high. . . . The service of the temple was in the hands of a high priest, eunuch priest and three grades of priestesses and a large number of temple prostitutes, both male and female. Thousands of worshippers flocked to the city for the festivals and to pay their homage to the goddess. . . . At the date of the New Testament, Ephesus was a prosperous commercial center and was the largest city of its day." The Patmos Letters, Fredk A. Tatford, Kregel Publications 1969

In the history of the church, this congregation speaks of the apostolic period. Ephesus was the main center of Grecian culture and heathen idolatry. Here was located the temple of the goddess Artemis (Diana), adorned and ornamented by all of Asia, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world (cf. Acts 19). Aquila, Priscilla, and Apollos labored in this city; and Paul preached here for three years at one time. In Ephesus John, having left his home in Jerusalem, ministered for thirty years. KJV Bible commentary

We know from Acts 19:8 - 20:1 that Paul had started the church there and with great success. He spent three years laboring among the people there and through that effort the gospel had went into the whole of Asia. It is believed that although Paul had not personally ministered to the other churches in Asia Minor, yet through his work here the other churches were started. The success of the work was seen in that the idols makers were beginning to feel the pinch and set the whole city in a uproar concerning these Christians. Paul was forced to leave or face possible death. Timothy was the man who took Paul's place here for a number of years. And could have even been the angel of the Church of Ephesus. Later Paul would write to the church one of the most spectacular letters that he ever wrote. In the letter we do not find the problems that were present in many of the other churches. It seemed to be a church that had everything going for it.

The first and most distinguished was that of Ephesus. This Church was characterized by strong impulse toward God, earnestness, and zeal, and yet with a giving way in these qualities from what they were at first. This is signified in the word [epsesis], which thus exactly fits to the description. He who holds the seven stars, and walks in the midst of the candlesticks, found in Ephesus works, labor, endurance, steadfast opposition to evil, faithfulness and firmness in discipline, cheerfulness in bearing any burden for Christ's sake, and a just hatred of deeds and practices which Christ also hates. But He found there also this defect, which called for repentance and return to first works, if they would not be unchurched entirely: namely, that they had left their first love. There is such a thing as having and exercising a sharp penetration into the true and the false, a correctness of judgment in sacred things, a zealous and self-sacrificing devotion to the right and true, and an earnest-minded severance from false apostles and all evildoers, and yet being without that warmth and purity of love which is the first impulse in the breast of young disciples, and without which, well cherished and kept in vigorous life, there is unfitness to meet the judgment or to stand in it. And this was the sorry fault of the Church of Ephesus. Of course, it was not the estate of every particular member that is thus described. There were Smyrnaotes and Philadelphians in Ephesus also; but their number was few, and the prevailing characteristic of the whole together was great zeal for truth and right, with a love in fatal decline. (from Seiss' Apocalypse)

'These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands:

Jesus is seen as one walking among the churches. This speaks of fellowship, guidance and discipline.

This is a note of warning and comfort. It stresses Christ's authority, control, possession, and provision for the messengers of the local churches who have the responsibility to lead and teach God's Word. They are in the hand of the risen Savior to whom all authority in heaven and earth has been given (Matt. 28:18). As the one who holds them, He will provide for, protect and enable them for their ministry. But this also stresses the messenger's need to be both submissive to and dependent upon his Lord for all that is needed for his ministry. J. Hampton Keathley III; Studies In Revelation

"I know your works,

The thing that churches as well as individuals must never forget is that the Lord knows. He not only knows what we are doing but He also knows what we are thinking. He knows our hearts. Any church can give a good show with a large congregation and much activity. But the Lord knows what we say when we are not at church and He knows the thoughts and intents of the heart. Jer. 17:10

"I know," serve to stress Christ's omniscience, interest, and evaluation of the works, life, and activity of the church. Nothing escapes Him, nothing! Compare 1 Corinthians 3:12f; 2 Corinthians 5:9-10; Psalm 139:1-12. J. Hampton Keathley III; Studies In Revelation

"I know thy works." We need to understand that He is speaking to believers. The Lord Jesus does not ask the lost world for good works. For example, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost" (Titus 3:5). In Romans 4:5 Paul says, "But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." Christ is talking to His own. After you are saved, He wants to talk to you about good works. He has a lot to say about this subject. In Ephesians 2:8-10 we read, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." Paul could write to Titus, "They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate" (Titus 1:16). Someone has said, "The Christian ought to be like a good watch--all gold, open-faced, J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary

your labor, your patience,

"Perseverance" is Jupomenw, from Jupo meaning "under" and menw meaning "to abide." It refers to the capacity or ability to endure, to remain under pressure or pain over the long haul. It looks at staying power. Compare James 1:2-4. This word stressed the extent of their labor whereas "toil," kopos, stressed the degree. Verse 3 will expand on this. J. Hampton Keathley III; Studies In Revelation

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;

They tested everyone who came to Ephesus claiming to be an apostle. They would ask them if they had seen the resurrected Christ, and they soon found out whether or not they were really apostles. If they were not, they asked them to leave town. The Lord Jesus commended them for testing men, and I feel this is more needed today than it was even then. J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary

The church was a working church who persevered in those works. They also could not bear those who were evil. There was holiness in the church. They were careful to keep themselves pure. They also expected those of their number to keep themselves pure. Today many people think that we should live and let live. That God's people are to be tolerant of all kinds of evil as long as we ourselves are not evil. But Jesus commends them for their purity in who they would associate with.

The church was also a church who had tried those who said they were apostles and found them to be liars. The nature of a false teacher is that they teach things contrary to the Bible. Baptists have always held that the Bible is the standard by which everyone's teaching is to be tried. Isa. 8:20; Acts 17:11; 2 Tim. 3:15-17 It is evident that these false teachers had come along with their doctrine and the church had compared these false teachings to what they had heard from Paul and other and found them to be false.

"and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake

For His name's sake they were bearing the Cross. They preached Christ. They believed in the virgin birth of Christ; they believed in His deity; they believed in His sacrificial death and resurrection. And they paid a price for their belief. J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary

The church was also faithful to the task. They had labored consistently since Paul had brought them the truth. This perseverance demonstrates a vigorous life for the church.

and have not become weary

Dwight L. Moody once said when he came home exhausted after a campaign and his family begged him not to go to the next campaign. He said to them, "I grow weary in the work but not of the work." There is a lot of difference. You can get weary in the work of Christ, but it is tragic if you get weary of the work of Christ. J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary

"Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.

Indictment for lack of devotion. In spite of these most desirable traits Christ declared that the church at Ephesus had failed in one important matter, namely, "thou hast left thy first love." In the Greek the order of the words is especially emphatic in that the object of the verb is before the verb_"thy first love thou hast left." The word for love (Gr., agaphn) is the deepest and most meaningful word for love found in the Creek language. Though they had not departed completely from love for God, their love no longer had the fervency, depth, or meaning it once had had in the church. John F. Walvoord The Revelation of Jesus Christ

The spiritual problem of the church at Ephesus can best be seen in the perspective of the threefold nature of man's spiritual poverty. Some spiritual needs stem from lack of faith in Cod so that the individual either falls short of salvation itself, or, if saved, he lacks an abiding dependence on God and the promises of His Word. This constitutes a defect in the area of the intellect or in theology. The second problem of spiritual experience is in the exercise of human will. Many who have trusted in Cod have never yielded themselves completely to Cod, and as a result have not been filled with the Spirit. There is no indication that the church had seriously fallen short in either of these two spiritual areas. Their defect was a matter of heart rather than of head or will. The ardor which they once had had grown cold. John F. Walvoord The Revelation of Jesus Christ

In the letter to the Ephesians, written some thirty years before in the early days of the history of this church, Paul commended them for their love for all saints. He wrote at that time, "Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers" (Eph. 1:15_ 16). The church seems to have fulfilled the same commendable qualities found in the apostolic church in Jerusalem. The period following Pentecost, described in Acts 2, was characterized by love and devotion for Christ Himself, a love for the Word of God, a love manifested in fellowship with the saints and in their prayer to God, and a love expressed in commendation to Timothy of "all them also that love his appearing" (II Tim. 4:8). John F. Walvoord The Revelation of Jesus Christ

The church at Ephesus was now in its second generation of Christians, those who had come into the church in the thirty years since Paul had ministered in their midst. Though they continued to labor faithfully as those who had preceded them, the love of God which characterized the first generation was missing. This cooling of heart which had overtaken them in relationship to God was a dangerous forerunner of spiritual apathy which later was to erase all Christian testimony in this important center of Christian influence. Thus it has ever been in the history of the church: first a cooling of spiritual love, then the love of God replaced by a love for the things of the world, with resulting compromise and spiritual corruption. This is followed by departure from the faith and loss of effective spiritual testimony. John F. Walvoord The Revelation of Jesus Christ

Forsaken first love." The word "left" is the Greek word afihmi, "to leave, forsake, depart." It stresses an act for which one is personally responsible. This is not LOST LOVE, but LEFT LOVE and suggest three particular problems: (a) they had moved away from their original position of devotion and fervor for the Savior by a gradual departure (Heb. 3:7f); (b) they came to put service for the Lord ahead of love, devotion, and fellowship with Him (remember 1 Thessalonians 1:3 and compare Proverbs 4:23); (c) their labor gradually came to be merely mechanical, the thing they were responsible to do, but the Savior wants it to be the result of the abiding life, the result of an intimate walk with Him through the Spirit of God (John 15:1-7; Gal. 5:1-5, 16-26; Eph. 5:18). J. Hampton Keathley III; Studies In Revelation

It is the loss of your first love that makes you seek the comfort of your bodies instead of the prosperity of your souls. C.H. Spurgeon

For all of their works and perseverance, they had left the love that first caused them to labor. There labor may have been from a sense of duty or simply become routine. What ever the cause that love that had once made the labor a joy was now gone. It is like the newly married couple who cannot seem to be together enough when first married. They cannot seem to do enough for each other. Nothing is seen as a job or labor but is an act of love. But as the years roll on, instead of love being the motive behind the actions, often times now duty and responsibility have taken its place. So it was with the church at Ephesus. They were still doing and being faithful in everything but the force behind the action had changed. Orthodoxy and work does not necessarily a church make. Vance Havner used to say that it was possible to be straight as a gun barrel and just as empty.

He was saying to the Ephesians, "You are leaving your best love." They hadn't quite departed from that love, but they were on the way. It is difficult for us in this cold, skeptical, cynical, and indifferent day in which we live to understand this. The world has intruded into the church to such an extent that it is hard for us to conceive of the intense, enthusiastic devotion the early church gave to the person of Christ. The early church first went off the track not in their doctrine but in their personal relationship to Jesus Christ. J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary

See their first love, Eph. 1:15. Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, (NKJ). This letter was written under Domitian, thirty years since Paul had written to them. Their warmth had given place to lifeless orthodoxy. Compare Paul's view of faith so-called without love, 1 Cor. 13:2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (NKJ) (from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary)

In Matt. 24:12 Jesus tells us that in an age of sin, it is difficult to maintain love. "And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold." KJV

"Thy love the first." This early love, proof of the new life in Christ (#1Jo 3:13), had cooled off in spite of their doctrinal purity. They had remained orthodox, but had become unloving partly because of the controversies with the Nicolaitans. Robertson Word Pictures

There is a very important lesson in this message for God's people in any period of history, but the message here is particularly important for our performance oriented society. It is the warning that, if we are not ever so careful, we can lose our spiritual vitality, the abiding life principle where we live and serve out of our awareness of Him, and slip into mere orthodox routine. J. Hampton Keathley III; Studies In Revelation

"Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works,

We need to remember how quickly people can forget the blessings of God. Psalm 106:9-14 He rebuked the Red sea also, and it was dried up: so he led them through the depths, as through the wilderness. And he saved them from the hand of him that hated them, and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy. And the waters covered their enemies: there was not one of them left. Then believed they his words; they sang his praise. ¶ They soon forgat his works; they waited not for his counsel: But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert. KJV

Remember. This is a call to reflect, to go back and recall the past. The Savior is saying, "remember the way it used to be in your relationship with Me." Undoubtedly, the process of looking back is also a call to recognize one's true condition. We can't very well confess sin if we don't clearly see it for what it is. Has our Christian life lost some of its excitement and joy? Are we finding our Christian work rather boring and dull, even to the point of drudgery? Have we lost the joy of the Lord, if so, it is because we have left the position of devotion and occupation with Christ. J. Hampton Keathley III; Studies In Revelation

Repent. Repent is the Greek word, metanoew. This word means to change the mind or purpose, to change one's decision. It means to recognize one's previous decision, opinion, or condition as wrong, and to accept and move toward a new and right path in its place. The verb is in the aorist tense in the Greek which may look at a single, decisive act. Repentance includes confession of sin with a view to stopping the bad behavior so it can be replaced with what was right. J. Hampton Keathley III; Studies In Revelation

Repeat. "Do the deeds you did at first." This is not a call to more Christian service or to renewed Christian activity. They had plenty of that. Then what does the Lord mean and how does this apply to us? J. Hampton Keathley III; Studies In Revelation

So, what are the first deeds? John does not say, but in the light of the above mentioned passages they include the basic techniques and disciplines of fellowship and abiding in the Lord. It would include such things as honest confession of sin, prayer, Bible study, reading, meditation, memorization, fellowship with believers, being occupied with Christ and refocusing all of our life on Him, the faith rest life, reckoning on our position in Christ, etc. (cf. Mark 3:14; 6:30-32; John 15:4-8; Ps. 119). J. Hampton Keathley III; Studies In Revelation

[Do the first works]-- which flowed from thy first love. Not merely `feel thy first feelings, ' but do works flowing from the same principle as formerly Gal. 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love. (NKJ) (from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary)

{And repent} (kai metanoêson). First aorist active imperative of metanoeô, urgent appeal for instant change of attitude and conduct before it is too late. {And do} (kai poiêson). First aorist active imperative of poieô, "Do at once." {The first works} (ta prôta erga). Including the first love (#Ac 19:20; 20:37; Eph 1:3) which has now grown cold (#Mt 24:12). Robertson Word Pictures

or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place-- unless you repent.

The Lord's purpose in dealing with the sins of His people and churches is to bring them to repentance. To cause them to see their sin as God sees it and then to take action to change. With this church He encourages them to go back to the place where they lost their first love and correct the problem. They needed to be revived, to return to here they once had been, to renew that love relationship with the Lover of their souls. It is important for us to see that He is not calling them to renewed service. They had plenty of that. He calling for a renewal of a relationship.

The Lord is not powerless to execute His will. He warns them that if they choose to not repent, then He will take action. The action that He threatens is to remove the candlestick. We have been told in 1:20 that the candlestick represents the church. To remove the candlestick means that of removal of the church. It is a dreadful thought of a church, with all its works, labors, and perseverance would not truly be one of the Lord's churches because He had removed the candlestick. We must be ever mindful that the church is not our's. It is the Lord's church. As long as the church makes sure that Christ is the center of everything that is done and our love for Him is the motivating force, everything else being in line, it will always be the Lord's church.

Will remove thy candlestick. "Thy" refers to the Angel of the church through whom the address is made. To remove the candlestick would be to suffer the church to cease to exist. How signally this has been fulfilled in the case of Ephesus is seen in the fact that not one vestige of the church remains, and of the city itself naught but moldering ruins. What concerns us, however, is that this warning is addressed to every church which has lost its first love. Unless it repents, and does its first works, its candlestick will finally be removed from its place. People's New Testament

"But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

They also were not tolerant of the Nicolaitans. We will look at this group later in the book. For right now we just need to say that this was commendable on their part. This was one of the worst and first errors to take a permanent hold in the early churches.

Christ himself hates the teachings and deeds of the Nicolaitans (ha, not hous, deeds, not people), but the church in Pergamum tolerated them. Robertson Word Pictures

These were, as is commonly supposed, a sect of the Gnostic, who taught the most impure doctrines, and followed the most impure practices. They are also supposed to have derived their origin from Nicolas, one of the seven deacons mentioned Acts 6:5. The Nicolaitanes taught the community of wives, that adultery and fornication were things indifferent, that eating meats offered to idols was quite lawful; and mixed several pagan rites with the Christian ceremonies. (from Adam Clarke Commentary)

...though as to Nicolas himself, it is said, that he lived with his own lawful married wife, and no other, and that his daughters continued virgins all their days, and his son incorrupt; and that these men, so called, only shrouded themselves under his name, and abused a saying or action of his, or both, to patronize their wicked deeds: he had used to advise paracrhsqai th sarki, by which he meant a restraining of all carnal and unlawful lusts; but these men interpreted it of an indulgence in them, and so gave themselves up to all uncleanness; and whereas, he having a beautiful wife, and being charged with jealousy, in order to clear himself of it, he brought her forth, and gave free liberty to any person to marry her as would; which indiscreet action of his these men chose to understand as allowing of community of wives. John Gill; Commentary

Others believe, based on the etymology of the word which can mean, "one who rules the laity" or "laity-conqueror," that it was an error that exalted the clergy over the laity. J. Hampton Keathley III; Studies In Revelation

From nikao, "to conquer," and laos, "the people," or "laity." There is no ancient authority for a sect of the Nicolaitanes. If the word is symbolic it refers to the earliest form of the notion of a priestly order, or "clergy," which later divided an equal brotherhood #Mt 23:8 into "priests" and "laity." What in Ephesus was "deeds" # Re 2:6 had become in Pergamos a "doctrine #Re 2:15. Scofield

Note that what was merely a matter of deeds in Ephesus, became an accepted doctrine in Pergamum because it was tolerated. An important lesson. If we do not correct our practices by the Word, they will become traditions that become the doctrines of men who nullify the Word of God. J. Hampton Keathley III; Studies In Revelation

"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Jesus called on the people of His day to understand that just because people had ears that it did not mean that they would hear. You have heard people say, "They only hear what they want to hear." We need to make sure that our ears are open to the Word of God. There is that sinful nature that we all fight against which would have us not hear. Lets us pray that God would give us hearing ears and seeing eyes. For those who did hear at Ephesus, Jesus promised them that they would be able to eat from the tree of life. The tree of life is first mentioned in Gen 3:24. In Revelation it is mentioned later in Rev. 22:2, 14.

To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life,

But what about "the tree of Life"? First, the tree of life is literal. It is not just a symbol for eternal life or for the person of Christ. In Revelation 21:1-22:5, John is describing the eternal state which includes the new heaven and the new earth with the new Jerusalem, a literal place with some 25 verses devoted to its description. It is not a symbol. Second, it is probably not just one tree, but a collective term referring to a whole row of trees that exist between the river and the avenue described in Revelation 22. This is all a part of the beautiful park or paradise of God. Third, having a right to the tree of life is not equivalent to salvation, nor is it necessary for the maintenance of life. Why? Because possession of eternal life and the maintenance of eternal life comes from possession of Jesus Christ who is our eternal life. All believers possess eternal life at the point of believing in Christ (John 3:16). Furthermore, eternal life, as God's gift to those who believe, is never maintained by what we do. Compare 1 John 5:11-12; John 1:12; 3:16, 18, 36; 5:24; 6:47; 11:25, 26; 20:31; 17:3. Fourth, the tree of life, then, must offer some kind of superlative experience and blessing though the details are simply not explained to us. It is left with a certain vagueness, but in 2 Corinthians 12:4 we read that Paul, when he was caught up to Paradise, heard inexpressible words which a man is not permitted to speak. Hodges writes, "The vagueness surrounding the promise of the tree of life is an example of the deliberate inexplicitness of the rewards which are mentioned. Almost all of the other promises have something of the same undefined, but numinous, character." J. Hampton Keathley III; Studies In Revelation

which is in the midst of the Paradise of God."'

The main bliss of Paradise is, it is the Paradise of God: God dwells there <Rev. 21:3>. We lost in Adam the paradise of man; we gain in Christ the paradise of God. We were driven out of that: we `go no more out' of this. (from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary)  


A Devotion by C.H. Spurgeon; Morning and Evening

"Thou hast left thy first love." -- Revelation 2:4

Ever to be remembered is that best and brightest of hours, when first we saw the Lord, lost our burden, received the roll of promise, rejoiced in full salvation, and went on our way in peace. It was spring time in the soul; the winter was past; the mutterings of Sinai's thunders were hushed; the flashings of its lightnings were no more perceived; God was beheld as reconciled; the law threatened no vengeance, justice demanded no punishment. Then the flowers appeared in our heart; hope, love, peace, and patience sprung from the sod; the hyacinth of repentance, the snowdrop of pure holiness, the crocus of golden faith, the daffodil of early love, all decked the garden of the soul. The time of the singing of birds was come, and we rejoiced with thanksgiving; we magnified the holy name of our forgiving God, and our resolve was, "Lord, I am Thine, wholly Thine; all I am, and all I have, I would devote to Thee. Thou hast brought me with Thy blood -- let me spend myself and be spent in Thy service. In life and in death let me be consecrated to Thee." How have we kept this resolve? Our espousal love burned with a holy flame of devoutedness to Jesus -- is it the same now? Might not Jesus well say to us, "I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left they first love"? Alas! it is but little we have done for our Master's glory. Our winter has lasted all too long. We are as cold as ice when we should feel a summer's glow and bloom with sacred flowers. We give to God pence when He deserveth pounds, nay, deserveth our heart's blood to be coined in the service of His church and of His truth. But shall we continue thus? O Lord, after Thou hast so richly blessed us, shall we be ungrateful and become indifferent to Thy good cause and work? O quicken us that we may return to our first love, and do our first works! Send us a genial spring, O Sun of Righteousness.