“Do you love ME?” Jesus asks

The first entry in this series can be found here.
The previous entry can be found here.

Do you remember your first love? Or perhaps your first love was twenty significant others ago, to the point that the person to whom you are now married isn’t necessarily first numerically, but he/she is first in importance to you. Do you remember what it was like when you first met that person? As a single guy, i am much closer to the first love of the first question, but since i haven’t yet found the foremost love of my life when i speak of first love i think back a couple years to the first girl i dated as a believer.

Remember how all you wanted was to spend time with him/her? Remember how all you wanted was to get to know him/her? Remember how you wanted to know his/her deepest desires (so you could potentially help bring them to pass) and pet peeves (so you could avoid them at all costs)?
Our understanding of the first letter to the churches in Revelation is aided by these sorts of questions.

We now come to the first main section of Revelation. The letters to the churches. All seven of the letters (and thus the next seven posts) all follow the same outline. Jesus first names the church and describes Himself. Next, he shares the content of the message He has for that specific church. Finally, He concludes with a call to endure and receive salvation.

While all seven letters are addressed to literal, first-century churches, we must not miss that there are seven of them. It was said above, and it is repeated in 2:1 that Jesus walks amongst the seven churches. Jesus did not only walk among these seven churches. Instead, He walks amongst THE church. These seven churches represent the seven primary places in which the church as a whole, or any given local church, might find itself during its history.

With that, we turn to Revelation 2:1-7.

Write to the angel of the church in Ephesus: “The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand and who walks among the seven gold lampstands says:  I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate evil. You have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and you have found them to be liars.  You also possess endurance and have tolerated many things because of My name and have not grown weary.  But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first.  Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.  Yet you do have this: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. “Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. I will give the victor the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in God’s paradise.

The Author and the Addressee

Write to the angel of the church in Ephesus: “The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand and who walks among the seven gold lampstands says:

The church in Ephesus is very popular in the New Testament. Paul founded it in Acts 19. Then he preached to the pastors there, prophesying some things about them, in Acts 20. Then, Timothy had taken over the pastorship there by the time Paul wrote 1 Timothy, and that book is clear that the church had problems Timothy needed to fix. And then, by the time 1 John was written, John (the one who wrote Revelation) was pastoring there. In short, Ephesus had no shortage of godly, biblical pastors and apostles ministering to it.

Jesus reminds the church that He is the one speaking to them by telling them He is the one who walks amongst the churches. This will be seen as highly significant in the following section.

The Announcement

I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate evil. You have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and you have found them to be liars.  You also possess endurance and have tolerated many things because of My name and have not grown weary.  But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first.  Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.  Yet you do have this: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

Jesus begins by telling them He is delighted with their zeal for doctrinal purity, and for the purity of the church itself. He concludes the main section of this message by saying the same–in fact naming a specific heretical group that the Ephesus church had stood against. Therefore, Jesus does care about doctrine, and any pastor who claims, “doctrine divides,” needs to read his Bible a little more closely and consider stepping down from ministry. Jesus is extremely pleased with the church at Ephesus for their strong doctrinal stance.

However, He has a looming problem with their church as well. Verses 4-5 say, “I have this against you: You have abandoned the love ⌊you had⌋ at first.  Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.”

This is speaking about their love for Jesus. It’s why He introduces Himself as “the One who holds the seven stars in His right hand and who walks among the seven gold lampstands.” If it weren’t for Jesus, they wouldn’t have a church to protect from doctrinal error. If it weren’t for Jesus, their church would have been destroyed by persecution and false teaching. If it weren’t for Jesus, they wouldn’t have been redeemed and formed into the church. Jesus was supposed to be their first love, but they’d replaced Him with doctrine and personal preferences.

The church at Ephesus is a picture of what happens to a church when priorities get misplaced. Christ takes it very seriously. So seriously, in fact, He threatens to destroy their church–unless they repent! Do we need to repent of how we do church? Do we recognize Jesus as the only reason for why we do church, for why we are able to do church? Do we need to learn again how to love Him?

The good news is that He is waiting for us to repent! We must do so when we find we need to. Christ should be our focus even in our church services. That sentence sounds weird to say, but it’s true! Jesus must be the focus of our church services, or we just might have abandoned the love we had at first.

The Assurance

Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. I will give the victor the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in God’s paradise.

Jesus here tells us that if we understand what He is saying we are expected to act on it. To not act on it is to disobey the Spirit. To disobey the Spirit is to sin against God. Believers should desire to obey God. Therefore, the one who knows Christ will be the one who understands and obeys. To fail to put this into practice is a sign of potential heart trouble (read: in need of a new one).

And then He concludes by promising eternal life to the one who obeys. He promises eternal life to the one who makes it through this life faithful to Christ. He promises eternal life to the one who holds on to his/her first love, namely Jesus.

Will you overcome?
Do you love Christ?
Do you need to return to Christ?

You can know He loves you because He gave His life for you. Nothing should hold you back from loving Him! Repent today, and love Christ intentionally.

In this with you.

Soli Deo Gloria
Solus Christus
Pro Ecclesia

Thanks for reading.

The next entry can be found here.

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