Revelation 2:1–7 (NKJV)
John moves from his description of the scene during his vision to the first writing to one of the seven churches, Ephesus.
1 “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write,Revelation 2:1-7
‘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.” ’
This writing or letter to Ephesus begins, as do most of the letters, with a commendation of their positive traits. After Jesus re-identifies Himself as the One who holds the seven stars and walks among the seven golden candlesticks, He states that he is aware of the works, labor, patience, and high standards of the church at Ephesus. He applauds there good acts, including their intolerance of those who are evil. They have been diligent to test those who claim to be apostles, even though they are not, and have exposed their lies. The people of the church at Ephesus have persevered through their hard road and persecution, and have patiently labored for Jesus’ name’s sake. They have shown great strength and determination in their representation of Jesus Christ and His church.
However, the one thing Jesus has against them is that they have left their first love. This is an often-quoted passage of Scripture, used to encourage people to go back to their initial depth and commitment of love to Christ. The dedication of the members of the Ephesian church is without question. They are sold out, persevering in the face of great odds, and charging forward in the name of Jesus. However, where is their love and depth of relationship with Ghrist? Hating evil is not enough. One must love God just as much–if not more–than they hate evil if one is to have a solid relationship with Jesus Christ. Orthodoxy without relationship is empty.
Jesus does not simply measure out a guilty verdict, but also gives the Ephesians a solution: repent! In his call to them, He instructs the reader to remember from where he or she has fallen, and collectively as a church, and renew or redo their first works. Recommit the church to not just the works to which they are called, but to the love in relationship that saved its members to begin with. The danger of getting the place of simply going through the motions is that in any relationship, love is the element that keeps the relationship alive. Love God with all your being. Love Him before you serve Him. Service should be the outgrowth of our love for God, not the ultimate goal of Christianity. In order to maintain their golden lampstand, and the Son of Man walking in and out of their church, watching over, protecting, calling, and anointing that church, one must at times go back to the altar and rededicate his or her life to God in a love covenant, remembering the great act of grace that saved him or her. The church can only be vital if its members are vital. Find a place of intimacy with God and lead others to that place as well, so that the church may be vibrant, alive, and in love with Christ.
Keep hating the deeds of evil people, as God does as well, but never stop loving Jesus with all that is within you. Listen to the voice of the Lord and be attentive to what He says. If you overcome by your relationship with God and by your commitment to Him in love and service, you will one day eat of the tree of life and live in heaven with the Lord for eternity. The Paradise of God is created for those who keep their first love, and in moments of weakness, find an altar and repent so that their first love comes back to life and fills their world. Live in love with Christ above all!