Saturday, 5 September 2020
Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Revelation 2:4
The Lord, speaking to the church at Ephesus, has provided two verses of compliments to them for their efforts. However, He now notes a negative aspect of their conduct, saying, “Nevertheless.” He has been speaking well of them, but this introduces words for their correction. That is firmed up by saying, “I have this against you.”
The word “this” isn’t in the Greek. It simply says, “Nevertheless, I have against you that…” The directness of the statement ignores that it is one thing or ten things. It simply forces the mind to consider that, despite all the good things they have been commended for, the Lord is not pleased with the direction they are heading. One issue can be considered “a little leaven” as Paul calls it in 1 Corinthians 5 (and again in Galatians 5). And as he says both times, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.”
The Lord expects what He has to say to be corrected. Doing more good works in other areas will not cure what is wrong, nor will it cover it over. The yeast will spread, and the entire church will be destroyed. And the thing that He finds deficient is “that you have left your first love.”
The words go back to what occurred with Israel in the Old Testament where the Lord said to Jerusalem through the prophet Jeremiah –
“Go and cry in the hearing of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord:
“I remember you,
The kindness of your youth,
The love of your betrothal,
When you went after Me in the wilderness,
In a land not sown.”’” Jeremiah 2:2
The word Jesus uses, aphiémi, gives the sense of abandoning, leaving, neglecting, and so on. What had happened is that their labors, attention to doctrine, and so on that are noted in the previous two verses became what consumed their time and energy. This was so much the case that they had actually neglected their love for the Lord who saved them in the first place.
What may be the case is that many years earlier, the last time that they had seen Paul, he gave them this final note of instruction –
“I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts 20:35
The word for “weak” can mean physically or spiritually. Prior to Paul’s letters, it is always used in the gospels and Acts as indicating those who are physically weak, diseased, sick, and so on.
It is just speculation, but for all we know, they may have gone back to the town after meeting with him and said, “we need to set up a ministry to support the weak, just as Paul said.” In this, they diligently set forth to do what was right, but got so caught up in the ministry that they forgot the purpose of the ministry – to proclaim the gospel and to love the Lord who first loved them.
In fact, Paul’s final words to them in his epistle said, “Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen” (Ephesians 6:24). They had, in fact, failed to take that closing statement to heart. In their zeal to do good works, they had forgotten their first love. Their efforts became the focus, and a social gospel took over. In essence, “We will do good in order to be considered good.”
But, without Christ Jesus in the mix, and without a heart dedicated to Him, their efforts were slowly becoming mere vanity. This needed to be correct before they completely departed from any real relationship with the Lord of the church.
Life application: Getting notes of approval and encouragement is always exciting and uplifting. Here comes the boss, telling you in front of everyone else that you’ve been doing great things for the company while you brim with pride and confidence. And just then he stops and says, “Nevertheless…”
The Ephesians must have read the first few sentences and thought they were in tight with the Lord – “Look at our works, our labor, our patience, our doctrine, and our perseverance. We’ve dotted every ‘I’ and crossed every ‘t!’” But Jesus says that with this type of discipline and stamina, they had let something far more valuable slip to the wayside, love for Him.”
The church was so heartily into doing good deeds, helping others, taking care of needs, checking the visitor’s doctrine, and moving forward in self-confident assurance, that they’d forgotten the very heart and purpose of all of their labors – Jesus Christ. As you think on this, don’t say to yourself, “That will never happen to me.” If you look back and carefully analyze your situation, it may have already happened.
Bible study is meant to reveal Christ to us, not to become a match where we out-study, out-learn, and out-do everyone else. Church outreach isn’t intended to make the church look better; it’s to demonstrate Jesus to the surrounding area. Church services (get ready for this one) aren’t meant to be uplifting to us or to lead us to some higher point of emotion; they are intended to worship Jesus Christ. There can be far more heartfelt love and worship of Jesus in a church with no instruments at all than in a church with an orchestra or band. The purpose of worship isn’t to uplift us; it is to … worship.
Worship means honoring the Lord as divine and showing Him respect by engaging in acts of prayer and devotion to Him. This is an upward-directed action. The church in Ephesus was doing many good deeds, but their hearts, thoughts, and eyes had become misdirected from their first Love. They began to only engage in horizontally directed actions. Let us constantly evaluate ourselves, keeping Christ Jesus at the center of all we do.
Lord Jesus, remind us again today and every day that our service, our devotion, our heart, and our love belong first and always to You. Please keep our hearts from being misdirected into deeds that are cold and without love. Instead, rejuvenate us each day with Your Holy Spirit, filling us with the desire to bring You the worship You are due. Amen.