Summary: Seven Letters to Seven Churches (1st in series).
EPHESUS: LOSS OF FIRST LOVE
INTRO: Ephesus was a very wealthy and cultured city. It was on a great highway. Travelers going to and from Rome to the east would go through Ephesus. It was a very corrupt city. The cult of Diana was very prominent. They had mingled religion with magic. The great temple of Diana was the center of pagan worship.
Ephesus was also a strong center for the worship of the Roman emperor. There is not much difference in liberal theology in churches today and the pagan worship in Ephesus.
In this wealthy, cultured, corrupt city, there was a church that was a good church. The word Ephesus means “desirable.” This was a desirable church. If it had been written up by the Baptist press of that day, it would have been a five star church. It was a busy, achieving, aggressive church.
Jesus wrote a letter to each of the seven churches in Asia. In these letters, he introduces himself as the one who is writing with a different description.
I. REGULAR ACTIVITY OF THE CHURCH (vv. 1-3).
Jesus recognizes the regular church (v. 2). When he uses the three words “works” “labor,” and “patience,” he is describing a church that is standing up to the task, and doing it’s job. These words indicate that real service is being rendered. They ministered to the people in the community.
The word “works” speaks of actual service rendered. People’s lives were really being touched. “Labor” indicates that “painful effort was required to produce the works.” These were sacrificing, ministering people. This description is more impressive when we realize that it was Jesus who gave it. This was not the pastor’s evaluation.
They were also standing for the truth (v. 2). This was a church with convictions; they stood for moral purity. They could not bear those who were evil.
More than that, it was a church that would not tolerate theological heresy (v. 2). They stood for the fundamentals of the faith. They stood for the truth of God’s Word.
They were standing up to the test (v. 3). This means that they stood firm in the face of opposition and hostility. Every church that is a true church will rub the community wrong. The world is never going to accept a church that dares to be like Jesus.
II. RUINOUS ATTITUDE OF THE CHURCH (vv. 4-5).
Next, Jesus talks about the ruinous attitude of the church. In one simple sentence, the picture changes. Here is a church that was doing everything right but for the wrong reasons. This church had given itself to the outward expressions of serving God, but had left its first love. They had lost their passion.
The word “left” is a strong word. It really means abandoned or forsaken. They had completely forsaken that first love they had for the Savior. They put emphasis on sound doctrine and practice but forgot the Lord.
Sometimes it is possible for us to be so busy being Christians that we forget about the Lord. We forget why we are doing what we are doing. Sometimes we think we have problems, but our problems come back to one simple thing. We have left our first love.
Do you realize the implications of what Jesus is saying? It is possible for us to do all the things we ought to do and still abandon him. We can be faithful to the church, active in outward activities, and still not love Jesus. All of our service that is not motivated by our love for Christ is worthless.
Jesus described them as fallen (v. 5). Here was a church that seemed like anything but a fallen church. In one statement he summed up the whole problem. Their service had become mechanical. Their worship had become routine. They did not have the old fire. There was no place for emotion.
Their devotion was gone. That spirit of giving all for God regardless of the cost was gone. But they could hate! (v. 6). They could hate, but they had forgotten how to love.
III. RIGHT ADMONITION TO THE CHURCH (vv. 5-7).
Notice the rigid admonition Jesus gave. He said three things to this church. He reminded them that love has to be paramount. No love, no life--that is the rule.
If we have no real love for Jesus in our hearts, then the reason for our existence has vanished away (v. 5). A church without love for Jesus is useless. It gives a wrong impression of what Christianity is all about.
But he gives an admonition that is encouraging because the condition does not have to remain. It can be changed, and he gives three steps.
1.. Remember–literally means “keep on remembering.” God never intended for us to forget what it was like before we were saved.