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Abandoning Our First Love for Jesus

We are abandoning our first love for Jesus if we do not heed what He commends, cautions, and counsels.


Revelation 2:1-7 - “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.


“‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’


For the last seventeen years, my wife, Sarah, and I have maintained this silly routine that I started called a monthiversary. What is a monthiversary? It is an anniversary of being together for a month. On every 16th of the month, we celebrate our monthiversary. We compete over who will say Happy 16th first. So far, I am winning, and Sarah is losing, but who’s counting?


Why am I telling you this? Just as our silly routine has invited us month after month for seventeen years to reflect on what it was like when we first met, all believers need to remember how we were first saved and reflect regularly on what it was like so that we never abandon our love for Jesus.


The problem is that people often start strong when they get saved but to stay strong, they need to reflect on how they were first saved or else they risk abandoning their love for Jesus.


In Revelation 2:1-7, Jesus rebuked the church in Ephesus for abandoning their first love for Jesus because they lost the zeal they had when they first believed.


The big idea here is that we must reflect regularly on what it was like when we were first saved— the love, the zeal, and the passion we had for Jesus so that we may never abandon our love for Jesus. Revelation 2:1-7 is an invitation for you to reflect on, and return to, your first love for Jesus by hearing three truths: what Jesus commends, cautions, and counsels.


Not Hearing What Jesus Commends


Verse 1 in ESV reads, “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write.” The church in Ephesus is the first of seven churches to whom Revelation was addressed as seen in Revelation 1. Chapters 2-3 describe the state of each church. They all uniquely expressed Jesus’s love yet shared similar struggles. The number one struggle then and now is how to never lose zeal for Jesus.


The church in Ephesus was a thriving church and Jesus had many positive things to say to them. Note that the letter is written to the angel of the church in Ephesus. “Angel” is not a translation but a transliteration. The Greek word for angel is aggelos. It is often translated in the New Testament as a messenger.


Most Bible scholars believe it refers to the pastor of the church. Where the pulpit goes, the church goes. If the pulpit is strong and preaches the complete gospel, the crucified, risen, and coming again Jesus, then the church remains. If the pulpit begins to compromise and accommodate popular social and political issues, no matter how urgent and timely they may seem, it is just a matter of time when commendations can turn in to condemnations.


Lift up your pastors before the Lord, covering them and their families with prayer daily.


The message was given to the pastor as an aggelos, a messenger, but it was for the congregation. Jesus did not address individuals but the church. God may use individuals, but He is always on a mission to gather people for Himself. Jesus died for the church and individuals are part of the church, therefore He died for them. He sent the church to be the light in the darkness but since the church is made up of individuals, every individual is responsible for being that light in the darkness. This is why Revelation 1 called all believers to be martyrs of Christ meaning witnesses of Jesus.


The first thing that John was told to write, in verse 1 says, “‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.” This is an example of Christophany, an appearance or non-physical manifestation of Christ, as seen in Revelation 1:20, Jesus says, “As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” So, the resurrected and exulted Christ identified Himself as the one from whom the letter was sent to the churches and that the pastors of the churches are in His hand, conveying the message on His behalf.


Although John saw Jesus in the midst of the churches in Revelation 1, in Revelation 2:1, Jesus says He walks among the seven churches which indicates Jesus’ active ministry among all local churches because all local churches are part of the church of Jesus. Since Jesus walks among the churches, He knows about every church and every individual in the church.


Note the triune rhythm in verse 3 regarding what He knows, “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary.”


In Greek, we see two different words for “know” in the New Testament: ginosko and edio. Ginosko is knowing something over time but edio is knowledge in its totality. Here, it is edio.


Works here is ergon which is to accomplish something and the word toil is kopos which is intense sorrowful labor.


And the phrase “patient endurance” is the word hupomone which we saw in Revelation 1:9-20 and concluded it is to sustain under pressure by remaining under Jesus.


So, Jesus commended the Ephesians for accomplishing so much for Jesus even to the point of fatigue under trials.


The second half of verse 2 outlines three commendations:


First, they were vigilant about false brothers. Verse 2 says, they could not bear those who were evil. This is the evil that sneaks into the church because of false brothers. We all are responsible for being vigilant about false believers among us. A Christian walk can be observed and tested.


Second, they were vigilant about false doctrines. Even though 30 years had passed since Paul established the church and appointed Timothy as the pastor, they held on to the truth of the gospel and doctrinal purity.


Third, they were vigilant about false teachers. Therefore, the verse says they were able to test the teaching of those who claimed to be apostles, but they were not.


Do you know the early motto of Harvard University was “Truth for Christ and the Church?” Many well-known churches and universities once held doctrinal orthodoxy but once they were no longer vigilant about false brothers, false doctrines, and false teachers, they abandoned their first love for Jesus.


The application is that every generation is responsible for guarding against false brothers, false doctrines, and false teachers. We and our children have been flushed into an ocean of all sorts of teachings. If we do not hold on to the truth of the gospel and doctrinal purity, it is just a matter of time before we would leave orthodoxy behind also.


Not Hearing What Jesus Cautions


We risk abandoning our first love for Jesus if we do not hear what Jesus cautions in verse 4, “ But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” This caution or critique shows that Jesus is for them, but He has something against them because they have abandoned their first love for Him. They did not lose or misplace it, they abandoned it.


The word that is translated from Greek as abandoned is aphiemi, which is to send away. It is used when a husband divorces his wife. That imagery is important because no divorce happens instantly. It is not that a person wakes up one day and decides I no longer love you. Love is an active verb that requires intense labor and attention to detail.


Every church, and every believer that speak the name of Jesus must labor in love. The Ephesians received commendation for their doctrinal orthodoxy, gospel truth, tireless work to obey the truth, and their deliberate choice to remain under Jesus’ authority. It was an active church, a missional church that was very involved and very engaged in the ministry, and yet, they had a problem big enough that nothing else mattered. They abandoned their first love for Jesus.


The application is that we need to be careful of becoming too theological, dogmatic, and religious. It may cause us to forget how we were saved in the first place and what drew us to Jesus.


In Ephesians 2:8-9, they were taught; “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”


Not Hearing What Jesus Counsels


We risk abandoning our first love for Jesus if we do not hear what Jesus counsels, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.”


First, the idea of falling. Verse 5 conveys the message of height and location. The Ephesians knew what it meant because Paul taught them in Ephesians 2:4-6, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Before that, all believers were in the pit of misery and the filth of sin. Jesus wanted the Ephesians to remember where He took them from, and how He placed them in heavenly places.


Second, the idea of repentance. The Greek word for repent is metanoeo which is to change one’s mind but not based on feeling but on logic. It is not from one feeling to another feeling, but from one logically derived conclusion to another one— from an inferior conclusion to a superior one.


Third, the idea of works. The Greek word for works, ergon, is the same as in verse 2 which is to accomplish something for Jesus not to gain salvation but because you are saved. The gospel is not to believe, obey, and be saved, but rather to believe, be saved, and obey. This means that when saved people obey, what they accomplish for Jesus is observable evidence of the work of salvation in us.


Next Jesus warns the Ephesians that if they do not take action, then Jesus will take action against them and remove their lampstand from its place. That means if the church has abandoned their first love for Jesus, He is going to remove His presence from them.


When I visited Europe, I saw many beautiful church buildings that have now been converted to something else or sit empty with a few people because Jesus removed His presence. It is happening in the United States as well. A church is a church, and a Christian is a Christian, only because of the presence of Jesus.


In verse 6, Jesus reminds them that their stand for Jesus is not for nothing; they, like him, have a mutual hatred toward the false teachings of the Nicolaitans. Jesus closes His letter to the church in Ephesus in verse by giving a promise, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’


The phrase “the spirit says to the churches” means this message was for all churches, even though it was addressed to the Ephesians. The good news is that we do not need to conquer in our own strength but in His strength. Just as He loved us and saved us in the first place, He is able to present us blameless before the throne of God.


The application is to take the counsel Jesus: reflect on what it was like when we were first saved, repent of what has become of us, and repeat the works that we used to do as a result of our salvation when we were first saved.


Have you ever been pulled over by a cop, who rather than giving you a ticket, gave you a warning instead? This is what is happening here: Jesus gave them a warning because just as He knows their works, toil, patient endurance, and doctrinal orthodoxy, He also knows that something began to rot the very foundation of all foe which Jesus commended them.


They abandoned their first love and Jesus laid out clearly that if they didn’t repent and return to their first love, He would remove their lampstand. We risk the same if we do not heed what Jesus commends, what Jesus cautions, and what Jesus counsels.


What steps can we take today to not abandon our first love for Jesus? Just like love, repenting is also an action that you take. Just as love produces observable fruit and changes one’s life, repenting does also.


If you feel that you need your love, zeal, and passion for Jesus rekindled, take action. Sit down and come up with a plan for spiritual formation. Put down in writing what steps you will take to grow in Jesus over the next three to six months.


Whatever you do, do not let another six months pass. Surround yourself with other believers. You need a community that can hold you accountable to what you commit to for your spiritual formation. There is no better place for that than a small group where believers come together to pray and care for each other, study the word, and encourage and challenge each other to love Jesus and follow Jesus.


Study Questions


1. What do you know about the church in Ephesus?

  • Revelation 2:1-7

  • Acts 19

  • Ephesians


2. What specific commendation, caution, and counsel do you see in Revelation 2:1-7?


3. Revelation 2:5 talks about works. What does that mean? What deeds did they do at first?

  • Revelation 2:5

  • Ephesians 3:17-19, 5:2

  • Galatians 5:22-23


Deeper Study Questions


1. In Revelation 2:2, the Ephesians put those who called themselves apostles to the test. Discuss how we may be able to put to the test those who call themselves teachers, apostles, and prophets today.

  • Revelation 2:2

  • Acts 17:11

  • 1 Thessalonians 5:21

  • 1 John 4:1


2. In Revelation 2:3, the Ephesians did not grow weary. In what way are you persevering and enduring hardships in Jesus’s name? Do you grow weary because you are laboring hard for the kingdom? Discuss a few ideas that might help you not to grow weary.

  • Colossians 1:23

  • 2 Thessalonians 1:4

  • Hebrews 3:6


3. The criticism in Revelation 2:4 against the Ephesians is that they have abandoned their “first love.” What does that mean? Is there anything that you think Jesus might have against you? What safeguards do you think you need to protect against abandoning your first love for Jesus?


Personal Study


1. If Jesus shows up today, what commendation, caution, and counsel do you believe Jesus will have for you?


2. Jesus’ address to all seven churches in Revelation 2-3 has a specific pattern. To better learn to how to make observations in Scripture, spend a few minutes seeing the pattern by inserting the correct verse against the statement below, focusing only on Revelation 2:1-7.


  • Specific church addressed

  • Description of Jesus

  • Jesus commends the church

  • Jesus rebukes the church

  • Jesus gives a solution for the rebuke

  • Jesus gives a high-stakes warning

  • Jesus’ promise for those who conquer


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Kenneth Donhauser
Kenneth Donhauser
20 жовт. 2023 р.

From above: A church is a church, and a Christian is a Christian, only because of the presence of Jesus. --- Yes thank you Pastor for reminding us of our only hope and the true love we had when we asked to have our sins covered by the blood of Jesus. Dear Lord help this stumbling sinner here follow you and love you and then obeying will follow. For as Peter? said, "Where else can we go, only you have the words of life". -Ken

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