Letter to Ephesus 2
The Lord Jesus had warmly commended the Ephesian church for their orthodoxy (meaning 'straight-teaching'), their hard work in proclaiming the gospel, their endurance under persecution, and for their diligence in discerning the false teachers who were trying to infiltrate the church (Revelation 2:2-3). Up to that point in the message, they seemed an ideal fellowship of believers. However, there was a major problem.
Jesus, who knew everything about the church, said that they had 'lost their first love'. What does that mean, who was their first love? Clearly, it was the love of Jesus that first drew them to Him (Hosea 11:4), but their initial loving response had become cold legalism (Matthew 24:12). It seemed that they loved working for Him, battling for Him and even suffering for Him, but their gospel work had become more important than their relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. It was as though they were convinced that the gospel way was the right and only way; but like a dryly dutiful marriage they had forgotten that their relationship with Him, receiving and giving love, mattered more than their service.
Christ's response was to rebuke them sternly, with the threat of closing their church (removing their lampstand) – because it no longer emitted the love and grace of Jesus. He was not finished with them, but was determined to wake them up (Ephesians 5:14), making them realise that their living faith had become lifeless religion. For their sakes and for the dark world around them, Jesus needed to challenge them to learn to love Him again with that first passion, and to serve Him in love (John 21:15-17). He did not want them to abandon their true theological convictions, or to welcome self-indulgent and licentious teaching (possibly what the Nicolaitans taught), but He could not bear to see truth divorced from grace (John 1:14, 17). To those who did repent and come back to Himself, the source of life (Genesis 2:9), He promised paradise: those who rejected His rebuke are not mentioned, but clearly that promise did not apply to them.
This is a contemporary issue for many churches world-wide. Some churches which stand by orthodox Bible teaching can become legalistic and loveless, like the Pharisees (Luke 11:42). Some other churches value loving human relationships but do not love God's Word, and so change Bible doctrine to make it fit with whatever will make people happy (2 Timothy 4:3-4), and their leaders more popular. Never abandon truth, even if it is unpopular. But also, never do what is true without receiving love from God and expressing love to others in ways which will please Him (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). Never choose either truth or love, because both will be distorted without the other. The Spirit is still speaking to today's churches: repent and return to your first love, to Jesus, and then do the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15-16). Often the workplace is the best place to practice. Let His light of truth and love, grace and mercy, shine through you today.
© Dr Paul Adams