Loss of Your First Love

Bible Book: Revelation  2 : 01-07
Subject: Love for Jesus
Series: Revelation

The letters to the seven churches of Asia Minor shine like seven precious stones in the golden setting that is the Book of Revelation. These are historical churches - real churches and a real place, at a real time. When the Lord promises a blessing to all who read the Revelation, He included the letters to the seven churches.

Let me state as clearly as I know how that I am not going to answer all your questions about Revelation. I cannot answer all my questions! I might also state, for the benefit of those who may wonder, that I hold a Pre-millennial, pre-tribulation position with reference to the return of our Lord and end-time events. I have friends who are A-millennialists and some who hold a Post-millennial view. As a matter of fact I heard Nigel Lee conclude a message with the words, "I thank God I am still a Post-millennialist." This man holds ten earned doctorates. I disagree with him, but I have the highest regards for him.

While my view of end-time events will influence what I preach and teach, my purpose in this series is not to sell my position or to try to prove my views. My purpose in this series is not to predict time, events, and players in the consummation of the ages, but to look at these seven letters and see what we can glean from them for the glory of our Lord right here, right now.

I like what Adrian Rodgers says in his recent book, UNVEILING THE END TIME IN OUR TIME. He also stated this in an interview with Marvin Sanders and Tim Wildmon on AFT Radio. He said, "I have moved from the program committee to the welcome committee. I agree with him completely. I am saying with John, "Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus."

Material may not used, whole or in-part, except for individual study, sermons or Bible Study. Further use is not permitted without express permission of author.

First of all, I would like to call your attention to the fact that there are seven letters and the number seven in the Bible represents that which is complete, mature, or even that which may be perfect. There were a lot more churches than these seven to which letters were addressed. The number seven represents all the churches. There is a message in each of these letters that will find application in local churches of any age and any place. The Lord intended the believers in Ephesus to benefit from this letter but it was not supposed to stop there. The entire Revelation would be read, copied, and then the original would be sent to the next church where it would be read, copied, and forwarded. Each letter would be read to each of the seven churches and then it would be sent on to other churches until it was known throughout the Christian world.

The Holy Spirit miraculously inspired the writing of this Scripture, He has miraculously preserved it, and now He miraculously illuminates the hearts and minds of believers so that we may understand the message and make an application of it in our daily lives. The letter to the Ephesian church has an application in countless churches in the Twenty-first Century.

These letters are not haphazardly written, but carefully constructed by the Lord Himself. Let me briefly run through the literary scheme of these letters, even though there will be some variation from letter to letter. There is:

1) A superscription to the church.

2) A description of the divine Author.

3) An account of the spiritual condition of the church.

4) Either a commendation or a condemnation for the church.

5) An exhortation in view of conditions in the church.

6) A promise to those who overcome.

7) A command to pay attention to the voice of the Spirit.

The only exception to this order is that in the first three letters the command precedes the promise and in the last four it follows it. Now, Let us see what message the Lord has for us in the letter to the church at Ephesus. And believe me, if you cannot find yourself in one or more of these letters you will deny yourself the blessing you are promised in the beginning of the Revelation to all who read it and to all who hear it.

Remember that Ephesus was the home of the Temple of Aritmis (Diana to the Romans), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was a pagan center to which Paul went on the third missionary journey and planted the church which became a powerful witness to the area for Jesus Christ. This church was the recipient of one of the key doctrinal epistles in the New Testament. It had had some problems along the way and after Paul was released from the first Roman imprisonment he visited Ephesus and left Timothy there to teach the people sound doctrine and to deal with some problems while he traveled to Macedonia. He wrote 1 Timothy from Macedonia to instruct his son-in-the-ministry to deal with some serious issues in this church.

Now, let us look at the Letter to the church at Ephesus (in the new HCSB):

"To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: "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 the paradise of God" Rev 2:1-7, HCSB].


This letter is addressed "To the angel of the church in Ephesus" [NASB]. The Believer’s Study Bible Notes provide a little background for this letter:

The city of Ephesus is located a few miles inland from the Aegean Sea on the Cayster River. Its harbor has long since filled with silt. The city boasted one of the seven wonders of the world, the temple of Artemis. Pausanias and others considered it to be by far the most amazing of the seven. The excavations at ancient Ephesus are among the most extensive in the earth. Archaeologist J.T. Wood labored for six years before discovering the ruins of the great temple of Artemis (called Diana by the Romans). The magnificent 24,000-seat amphitheater has also been excavated. The worship of Artemis included shameless and vile practices, e.g., the use of prostitution and mutilation in the rituals. Heraclitus, the weeping philosopher of Ephesus, lamented the vileness of the city. In A.D. 252 the Goths reduced the temple and city to rubble [BSB].

The word translated angel here means messenger. The letter was addressed to the pastor who would read it before the congregation and then see that a scribe copied the entire book before forwarding it to the next church.


The Author is "The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands." The Author, Jesus, is the One who holds the ministers of the seven churches in His right hand, the hand of power, might, authority. Jesus is also the One who walks among the seven churches - representing all churches of all ages. He is the Head of the church, and the church is the body of Christ. Make no mistake about this, Jesus is the divine Author, and for that reason you had better take this message seriously.

Many critics of the Mel Gibson movie, THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, simply dismiss Jesus as anyone deserving of serious consideration. Be sure you do not make that mistake.


Let us read these two verses again:

"I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name's sake, and have not grown weary."

Jesus knows seven things about the church. That means He has perfect knowledge of the church. After all, He is the One standing in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks. He is the one with eyes like lasers, piercing the hearts and minds of every individual. Jesus says:

1) I know your works.

They had done good works in the past and apparently they were still doing a lot of good things. He has perfect knowledge of each and every church. He knows how to evaluate each church, including ours.

2) I know your toil (excessive labor).

Again, he has perfect knowledge of their toil. The word toil implies serious, relentless labor. These people worked to the point of exhaustion in serving their Lord. He was well aware of that.

3) I know your patient endurance.

The New Testament word for patience means a willingness to remain under, a commitment to endure whatever is necessary. It denotes a commitment to the Lord that is so strong that the individual, or the church will never give up, but keep on serving and keeping on being faithful, in spite of opposition or persecution.

4) I know your fidelity (no impurity in the church).

Jesus had perfect knowledge of their fidelity. The word here may well suggest that they abstained from idolatry (spiritual adultery), but it may also point to actual sexual purity, as in the case at Corinth. Ephesus was a major center of pagan worship, and both idolatry and immorality were widely practiced. Regardless of the sins of the pagan people of the city, these Christians at Ephesus remained pure and holy before their Lord.

5) I know your orthodoxy (sound doctrine).

Jesus said, "you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false." Like the new believers at Berea when Paul and his companions began preaching to them, they examined the Scripture to see if what they preached was true. Apparently, there were a lot of false teachers around in the first century. It makes you wonder what happened to all those false teachers. Is it not remarkable that Paul and John rooted them all out in the First Century!!! If we are well grounded in the Scripture we will be prepared to refute false doctrine and if we are filled with the Holy Spirit we will be empowered to expose false teachers.

Paul had taught them and Timothy had reinforced his teachings. They had learned sound doctrine and they had remained faithful to those teachings. They were orthodox in theology. I had a liberal professor who loved to rant and rave about the "heresy of orthodoxy." Jesus praises them for being loyal to sound doctrine.

6) I know your were pure in motive.

Jesus had perfect knowledge of their hearts. They served for the right reasons. Now, we must examine our own hearts to be sure that in everything we do our motives are pure. Be careful here! I seriously doubt that anyone always has pure motives. If you have any doubts about your motives, I will call on you to repent and ask the Lord to help you serve with a pure heart, never for any selfish motive.

7) I know you have not grown weary.

They had not given up in their service for the Lord. Their labor not defeated them. They were not quitters. They were faithful. Yet:


"But I have this against you, that you have left your first love."

1) Jesus has a complaint.

Jesus is the Head of the church. He has perfect knowledge of each and every church. I have a confession. I have misjudged people and I have misjudged churches. Some churches have done better than I expected, some worse. The point is, my judgment is very limited because there are so many things I do not know and because there are so many things that I know that I do not know how to process. My predictions have often been wrong. Not always, but there have been times. I have also heard other preachers make statements about churches when I knew the church better than they, and believe me, they did not know that church! Jesus has perfect knowledge of each church and when He says, "I have this against you," you had better pay attention. As one of my Old Testament professors used to say, "Hear with a mind to obey."

2) You have lost your first love.

This is the church Paul planted. This is the church Timothy served. This is the church the Apostle John served for many years before being exiled to the Isle of Patmos to try to silence him. He was exiled as punishment for preaching the Gospel. Furthermore, this church was orthodox in theology, loyal in attendance, faithful in ministering to those in need, patiently enduring persecution.

How could a church like that lose their first love. It may be far more common than you think. In face, I believer we should ask ourselves if that has ever happened to us. Are you willing to be honest with yourself today? Are you willing to be honest before the Lord? I will be honest with you: I would be ashamed to admit it if I did not love you as God love me, and as He loves you. I will not ask you to confess that to one another, or to me, but is this something you need to confess to the Lord right now?

I have often said that by the time some of our young people graduate from high school, they would say that some of the meanest people they have ever been associated with have been church members. I wonder how many people there are who are out of church today because of harsh words spoken by some church member. I wonder how many pastors’ children have dropped out of church and cannot be persuaded to return because they keep remember how some church member treated them. One little girl went to school and announced to her teacher, "The people in that church hate us."

There are people who are courteous to people at school, at work, even at the little league park, but they are harsh and mean spirited at church. There are people who seem to think a part of their personal righteousness is putting everyone else in his place.

I have had a few people to sit in services and stare at me - or stare just beyond me - with such hate in their eyes that others sensed it. Some came to me and told me they were convinced they were watching people under the influence of demons. I did not say it, they did. Whatever it was, it was ugly and it was uncomfortable, not only to me, but to others.

If there is a greater area of failure in the church today than this I do not know what it is. What may make it worse is that there are people who do not love one another, and they have no concept of sound doctrine, and they never do anything for anyone else. So before you criticize the Ephesians, examine your own heart.

Let me emphasis this, it is not enough to hate what Jesus hates, we must love what He loves. We must love as He loves.


"Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first."

1) Remember where you were.

This had once been a great church. They had not only worshiped, ministered, and taught sound doctrine, they had loved one another and they had loved their Lord.

2) Repent.

Repentance is a change of mind that is manifested in a change in behavior. Repentance is not an emotion, though the emotions will almost certainly be effected by genuine repentance. You cannot repent until the Holy Spirit convicts you of sin. You can, however, come under conviction without repenting. As a matter of fact, you can confess sin without repenting. Some do it over and over. God demands genuine repentance. You may need to repent today.

3) Return to your first work (and love).

They obviously understood what He meant. They had been faithful in every area of their life as a church. They must return to their first work and to their first love. They must love God with al their heart, soul, mind, and strength. And they must love their neighbor as themselves.


"Else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place--unless you repent."

1) If you do not repent I will remove your lampstand.

The church at Ephesus was one of the seven lampstands - a light to the world. What right has a church to call itself a church if it’s light has been removed. Sadly, there may be many churches in the world today whose lampstand has been removed and they do not even know it. When a church licenses, marries, or ordains homosexuals I am afraid their lampstand has been removed. When a church condones sin and fails to preach the complete Gospel, the light is out! When a church loves what God hates and hates what God loves their lampstand may well have been removed.

2) You will no longer be a light to the world.

The church is to be a light to the world, but when its lampstand has been removed there is no light. Too many churches today are no longer a light to the world or the salt of the earth. When this happens the church may be little more than a social club. As a matter of fact there are church members who treat their church like some kind of social club. In many larger churches some members are not concerned with anyone outside of their Sunday School class. They go out to eat together. They schedule fish fries and Christmas parties, and attend weddings and funerals within their group, but they do not interact with others, minister to the needy, or witness to lost people.


"Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate."

1) They hate the works of the Nicolaitans.

The Nicolaitans may have been:

Followers of Nicolas (see Acts 6:5), according to early church Fathers. These were apparently a sect that advocated license in matters of Christian conduct, including free love, though some understand from the meaning of the name ("conquering of the people") that they were a group that promoted a clerical hierarchy (see v. 15 also) [RSB].

Or possibly, the:

Nicolaitanism probably represents a movement present in the churches at Ephesus and at Pergamos to subject the people of God to one or more powerful leaders. The term is derived from nikao (Gk.), "to conquer," and laos (Gk.), "people," hence, "people conquerors." Very plausibly, the Nicolaitan movement marks the beginning of a form of priesthood in the church. On the other hand, this group has also been viewed as representing those who have compromised with the world through the practices of immorality and idolatry. Though some tradition has identified them as followers of the Nicolas of Acts 6:5, one of the first seven deacons in the early church at Jerusalem, evidence for this identification is not extensive [BSB].

2) They do not love what He loves.

We must understand that it is possible to hate what Jesus hates without loving what He loves. It is not enough to hate homosexuality, pornography, and abortion, we must love one another. Hating sin is good, but if we hate evil without loving as Jesus loves, we are living in sin ourselves.


"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."

1) Jesus appeals to all who have ears.

We must hear Him with a mind to obey Him. The one who "has an ear" is a born again believer whose heart is open to every impression from the Holy Spirit. If you are a Christian, and if you are in submission to the Holy Spirit, you have an ear. Pay attention to the Lord.

2) Be sure you get the meaning.

He intends for us to really pay attention. I well remember when I discovered that my older son, who was always respectful, was not always listening with his ears. If you looked at him you thought he was listening. He focused his eyes on yours, he smiled at the right time, said Yes Sir, and nodded at the appropriate time. But when you finished the lecture and asked, "Now, John, what did I say?", you would know whether or not he was really listening. The person in the pew behind you may think you are listening. Jesus knows for sure!


"To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God."

1) The promise is to all who overcome.

John defines an "overcomer" in 1 John 5:4, 5 as "one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God." Those who overcome are those who remain faithful to Jesus Christ, those who patiently endure the trials of life, and remain focused on the things of the Lord. There is victory in Jesus for all those who are faithful, and the faithful are the ones who overcome.

2) You will eat of the tree of life which is in Paradise.

We will enjoy the fullness of eternal life in Heaven forever. We will never die, we will never grow hungry, we will never grow tired, we will never become ill, we will never grow old, and we will never die.


Our church may well have gone through some of the same stages as the church at Ephesus. We do know that sound doctrine had been taught. We do know that some who began as faithful members have dropped out along the way. There is also the grave danger that we may have lost our first love. My appeal to you right now is to examine your heart to see if you love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Then I would like to ask you if you know in you heart and mind that you love other church members as God loves them. Do you love lost people enough to reach out to the with the Gospel of salvation? Do you love the Lord enough to obey his Great Commission?


I appeal to you today to call upon the Lord to fill your heart and mind with His love and His Spirit so that you will love God and others as you should. If you are being convicted right now of the fact that you have lost your first love, let me urge you to remember, repent, and return - right now. No matter how much you would defend sound doctrine, if you have lost your first love, you are living in sin and you need to repent. Today.