Summary: Letter to the Church at Ephesus
Everybody loves a love story, and there is no greater love story in the history of the world than the one found in this book. This book is the story of a love that is patient and kind, faithful and everlasting. It is the story of a God who loved us before we were born and Who loves us no matter what. This book is the story of God’s love for a world He created including you and including me. Every one of us has tasted love at some time in our lives; from a mom or a dad, from a husband or a wife, from a child or a close friend. We know something about human love….and as wonderful a mom or dad’s love is, as sweet as love is from a spouse or a child or a friend, nothing comes close to the love or satisfies the human heart like the love of Jesus.
This first letter to the churches in Revelation is written to the church in Ephesus, to a group of Christians who fell in love with Jesus. And they are a church that Jesus loves so deeply and so completely that He calls the church there, “His bride”.
At the time this letter was written, a lot had happened in Ephesus in the 50-60 years since Jesus’ death and resurrection. Ephesus was one of the larger cities in the Roman Empire and a center of commerce, a capital for crime and a gathering place for all sorts of religions. But the seed of the gospel of Jesus was planted there and quickly took root. The church at Ephesus flourished and in fact, became the largest and strongest church in the world at that time. It was the headquarters for the Apostle John; Bishop John. But if you visit Ephesus today, you will find that Ephesus is predominately Muslim and the church there is only a shell, a remnant of what it once was. And as we read in this letter from the Spirit of Christ to His Bride in Ephesus…we discover what went wrong.
“You’re working hard, staying busy…even enduring some hardships; you’re holding regular church services, but here’s the problem: You have forgotten your first love.” Now we can forget a lot of things. We forget where we put the car keys, we forget appointments and birthdates and anniversaries. We forget where we left our phone and we forget our password and even why we went into the next room! But how do you forget your first love??? No one forgets their first love! Mine was Sandra Scott; a beautiful red haired girl in Miss Dutton’s first grade class. She was my first love. But when Jesus mentions “First Love”, He isn’t talking about that grade-school crush where you ask the boy or ask that girl to put a “check in the box” if they like you. He means FIRST love, BEST love, the GREATEST love ever; the love above all loves. When He says the Church at Ephesus has forgotten their First Love, He’s saying that the Ephesian Christians have forgotten HIM….the One who loves them and the One who died to save them.
When I read those words in Revelation, I think about a story Garrison Keillor, author of the Lake Wobegon books, tells; aboutwhen his family gathered around the Thanksgiving table and remembered the blessings of the past year. He said Uncle John usually gave the prayer, which caused everyone to squirm because everybody in the family knew that Uncle John couldn't pray without talking about the cross and crying. And sure enough, He said, Uncle John prayed, talked about the cross, and cried. Meanwhile, the rest of us shifted nervously from one foot to the other and longed for the prayer to end. After all, He says, we all knew that Jesus died on the cross for us, but Uncle John had never gotten over it.”
It’s no accident that time and time again, the Scriptures refer to the church as the Bride of Christ—that our relationship with Jesus is likened to marriage. And what the Spirit says in this letter about the church in Ephesus is what we see happen to way too many married couples and is why the divorce rate is so high. Because shortly after the wedding, one or both of the partners begin to lose focus…lose interest. They take less and less time for each other and get busy with other priorities like work or kids, or hobbies or sports; even church activities. Every day, they pay a little less attention to their first love and gradually, things begin to change and the relationship begins to suffer.
Have you ever known a couple who have been married for 20-30 years and you can’t figure out for the life of you, why? They seem to lack the love that causes people to marry in the first place. An example might be the two high school sweethearts who got married and after ten years, the husband began to take his bride for granted. He neglected her, didn’t spend much time with her and so she got a dog to keep her company. And as it would happen, the dog was pregnant and had a litter of puppies. Now the dog and these puppies meant everything to her; they became her lifeline, which as you might expect, irritated the husband. Finally, the husband gave her an ultimatum: You need to advertise and get rid of these puppies. Either they go or I go! The next day, the local paper included this ad in the classifieds: My husband says either he goes or puppies go. Puppies are adorable, fat and pedigree. Husband is rude, fat and mixed breed. Take your pick. Now somewhere along the way, love had gotten away from those high school sweethearts. They found other priorities, other loves; they forgot their first love.