Revelation 2:1-7 Keeping Christ As My First Love

Revelation 2:1-7 Keeping Christ As My First Love February 7, 2016

Revelation 2:1-7 Keeping Christ As My First Love

Neville Morrison discovered his house was on fire. Fortunately he lived only four houses from the fire station. He sprinted to get help. The firefighter that met him at the door told him to call 911. “I have no phone,” he said. “You can see the blaze coming out of the roof of my house!” The firefighter shut the door in his face. By the time firefighters did respond, the home was a total loss.

We need to take care that we don’t become as complacent as these firefighters in our proclamation of the gospel. Whatever reasons those firefighters thought they were there for, their primary function is helping citizens put out fires. Paul understood that his purpose was the gospel. That is the church’s purpose as well. We must not get sidetracked.1

When the Apocalypse was penned, the city of Ephesus probably boasted a population of somewhere between 100,000 and 250,000.2

Let’s take a tour of Ephesus to see what kind of difficulties this church encountered. (show slideshow of tour to Ephesus in 2004).

The cult of Artemis was a part of the mystery religions of the Greco-Roman world. Gritz notes that they are called “mysteries” because of the injunction to silence imposed on their respective followers, especially concerning the rites and ceremonies practiced in the inner sanctum of the temples. She also mentions that two features of these religions, notably asceticism and sensuality, were in contrast to one another. Gritz says, “With the emphasis on feeling rather than thought, these cults utilized many different means to affect the emotions and imaginations of their followers: drama, acts of purification, processions, fasting, and esoteric liturgies.”34

SEVEN PARTS OF THE LETTER TO THE CHURCH OF EPHESUS

  1. Address – to Ephesus (Revelation 2:1)

  2. Depiction of Jesus – Seven Stars and Seven Gold Lampstands (Revelation 2:1)

““Write to the angel of the church in Ephesus: “The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand and who walks among the seven gold lampstands says:” (Revelation 2:1, HCSB)

  1. Commendation or Praise – The works of the church (Revelation 2:2-3, 6)

I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate evil. You have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and you have found them to be liars. You also possess endurance and have tolerated many things because of My name” (Revelation 2:2–3, HCSB)

Yet you do have this: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” (Revelation 2:6, HCSB)

  1. Condemnation or Rebuke – Left your love for Christ (Revelation 2:4)

But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first.” (Revelation 2:4, HCSB)

  1. Exhortation – Remember, Repent, Redo (Revelation 2:5)

Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.” (Revelation 2:5, HCSB)

  1. Call to pay attention to the Holy Spirit (Revelation 2:7)

  2. Promise to the overcoming Christian – to eat from the Tree of Life (Revelation 2:7)

““Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. I will give the victor the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in God’s paradise.” (Revelation 2:7, HCSB)

In this first letter to us as the church, Jesus addresses a church that is very committed to working for Jesus, but not staying in love with Him. This church showed their commitment out of duty, but not delight.

The danger of turning my love of Jesus into a duty instead of a delight.

I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate evil. You have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and you have found them to be liars. You also possess endurance and have tolerated many things because of My name” (Revelation 2:2–3, HCSB)

The church was very much against the false teaching of the Nicolaitans. This group mixed sexual immorality and idolatry. Heretical sect in the early church which is mentioned by name twice in the Book of Revelation. The church at Ephesus was commended for hating the works of the Nicolaitans (2:6)5

Yet you do have this: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” (Revelation 2:6, HCSB)

Yet, despite this good work, they were in danger of leaving Jesus.

The danger of leaving Jesus because I still felt a duty to Him, but no delight in Him.

But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first.” (Revelation 2:4, HCSB)

The corrective exhortation concerns the fact that, although they labored faithfully and showed discernment theologically, they had left their first love. Notice He doesn’t say they lost their first love. He says they left it.6

Although we can do all kinds of work for Jesus Christ, ultimately, we can lose our commitment to loving Jesus. It is a test of commitment to loving Jesus. The question is not whether you will fall in love with Jesus, but whether you will stay in love with Jesus. Jesus will always stay committed to you. That is why you are guaranteed eternal life. The question is how will you keep your commitment to Jesus.7 Jesus is committed to His wife. Are you committed as a Christian and are we committed as a church to stay in love with Jesus?

Both of these dangers lead to a form of carelessness.

If I am careless with my office, stuff piles up and I have too much clutter.
If I am careless with the dirty dishes, it doesn’t get clean.
If I am careless with my relationship with my wife, then my relationship suffers.

Warren Wiersbe notes that what we do for the Lord is important, but so is why we do it!

What is “first love”? It is the devotion to Christ that so often characterizes the new believer: fervent, personal, uninhibited, excited, and openly displayed. It is the “honeymoon love” of the husband and wife (Jeremiah 2:1–2). While it is true that mature married love deepens and grows richer, it is also true that it should never lose the excitement and wonder of those “honeymoon days.” When a husband and wife begin to take each other for granted, and life becomes routine, then the marriage is in danger.

Just think of it: it is possible to serve, sacrifice, and suffer “for My name’s sake” and yet not really love Jesus Christ! The Ephesian believers were so busy maintaining their separation that they were neglecting adoration. Labor is no substitute for love; neither is purity a substitute for passion. The church must have both if it is to please Him.

By reading Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians, you discover at least twenty references to love. You also discover that Paul emphasized the believer’s exalted position “in Christ … in the heavenly places.” But the Ephesian church had fallen and was not living up to its heavenly position in Christ (Revelation 2:5). It is only as we love Christ fervently that we can serve Him faithfully. Our love for Him must be pure (Ephesians 6:24).8

THREE STEPS TO RETURN TO YOUR FIRST LOVE

Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. (Revelation 2:5, HCSB)

Step 1: Remember

Jesus says, “Therefore remember from where you have fallen.” The word “therefore” refers back to a loss of love for the Lord Jesus (2:4). They fell from a deep love for the Lord. They fell from fellowship with Him. They fell from all heart to all head. They lost warm love for the Lord. The Greek word translated “fallen” means that they were in a state of spiritual decline. This was more than an occasional slip. Jesus exhorts the Ephesians to “remember” from where they have fallen. This is critical. If we remember the love we initially had for God’s Word, prayer, fellowship, and witnessing, we will be inspired to action.

Step 2: Repent

The second step to return to your first love is to “repent.” The English word “repent” conveys the idea of sorrow or contrition. The Greek word does not carry that idea; it is more a total change of thought and behavior. It conveys both ideas of attitude and behavior depending on the context. “Repent” means to change one’s thinking. It is clearly connected with changed behavior, as seen in the following phrase “and do the deeds you did at first.”

The meaning of “repent” is clear: change your attitude toward your love for Christ (2:4). Reverse your lackluster love into a burning love for the Lord Jesus. Think about the depth of love you have for Him. Change your apathetic love to an appreciating love for Him.

Step 3: Redo

Jesus urges the Ephesians to “do the deeds you did at first.” The context indicates that by first works Jesus wants this church to get back to their “first love” for Him, the love they had when they first became Christians (2:4). James 4:8 expresses this thought in his epistle when he writes, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

Step 4: Remove

If the church does not remember, repent, and redo, Jesus gives an “or else” warning…“or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.” Jesus is not afraid to give an “or else” to His church. He states that He will come in judgment to discipline His church for having a cold heart toward Him. Jesus always disciplines those He loves (Heb 12:4-11; 1 Pet 4:17). He would not love His church if He did not discipline it. To discipline is to care about the people you discipline. In this case this is a collective discipline of the entire church.

Jesus says that He will “remove” the church from a sphere of effectiveness or possibly out of existence totally. The removal of the lampstand is clearly figurative language. Does it refer to eternal damnation? Absolutely not! Nothing in the context supports this. Rather, what is in view is temporal in nature. If the church did not repent the Lord would remove the church’s ability to bear witness for Him.23 When this occurs, the light of the church goes out and results in the church no longer having an impact on its neighborhood or its world.

This eventually happened to the church in Ephesus when Islam invaded Turkey and wiped out Christianity in Ephesus. There is no church at Ephesus today, nor much of one in the modern city of Kusedasi, nearby. The country of Turkey, where all seven of these churches were located, is more than 98% Muslim today, a Mecca of false religion and a vast spiritual desert.

What is true in Turkey is also true elsewhere. Thousands of churches disappear every year throughout the world. Christ has removed many, many lampstands over the centuries. This is serious—no love, no light! The church that loses its love will soon lose its light, no matter how doctrinally sound it may be.9

What were you doing when you were on fire for the Lord?

I was going to church.”

Go again!

I was getting up early for morning devotions.”

Do it again!

I sang praise to the Lord as I drove down the street.”

Sing again!

Remember how it used to be when you were amazed by the Lord’s goodness—do again what you were doing then, and you will see the cutting edge return. The injunction of Jesus is simple: Remember, repent, and return (or redo).10

1 Jim L. Wilson and Rodger Russell, “Firefighter Refuses to Believe Man Whose House Is on Fire,” in 300 Illustrations for Preachers, ed. Elliot Ritzema (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015).

2 Paige Patterson, Revelation, ed. E. Ray Clendenen, vol. 39, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2012), 83.

3 S. H. Gritz, Paul, Women Teachers, and the Mother Goddess at Ephesus: A Study of 1 Timothy 2:9–15 in Light of the Religious and Cultural Milieu of the First Century (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1991), 33.

4 Paige Patterson, Revelation, ed. E. Ray Clendenen, vol. 39, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2012), 81.

5 Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1548.

6 Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003), 1671.

7 Jim Erwin, “Revelation 2:1-3:22 Seven Tests of a Healthy Church,” sermon, posted on http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jimerwin/2016/01/31/revelation-21-322-seven-tests-of-a-healthy-church/ on 31 January 2016, accessed on 03 February 2016.

8 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 572.

9 Keith Krell, “6. You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling (Revelation 2:1-7),” Bible.org, https://bible.org/seriespage/6-you-ve-lost-loving-feeling-revelation-21-7, published on 3 March 2006, accessed on 02 February 2016.

10 Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003), 1671.


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