Your First Love (Revelation 2:1-7)
The True Light (verse 1)
Christ is the One who holds the stars and the lamps in His hands. The stars and lamps give off light only because they derive their light from Him, the only source upon which all other lights are dependent. And not only is He the only true light, but He is also present among His church, holding not just the stars but the lampstands that are right in the midst of the believers. He holds His own and dwells with His people.
“I Know Your Deeds” (verses 2-3)
This Christ, who is the source of everything and who is present with the church, begins the letter by assuring them that He knows them. He has a keen awareness and a full understanding of all that goes on in the church, as He does in all things. First, He knows their deeds, that they work hard and are active in their service to God and others. Surely, they were intent on caring for the sick, teaching the young, visiting the elderly, etc. Second, He knows their perseverance, that they have not grown weary. Though they were surrounded by magicians and cult worship, and though they had been exposed to fierce opposition for their faith, still they had endured and had not denied Christ. Third, He knows their doctrinal acuteness, that they stood strong against heretical influences and did not tolerate the false teachers that had come to Ephesus. In all of these things, Christ commended them, and this appears to be a model church: (1) busy in service, (2) patient in suffering, (3) biblical in doctrine.
“I Have This Against You” (verse 4)
But, a serious flaw was found in this hard-working, tireless, enduring, discerning, truth-loving congregation: “You have left your first love.” To be a church full of experts in doctrinal precision with no capacity to love Christ or one another is to be a church that is all image and no reality. The question for a church is not merely, “What are you doing?” or, “What do you believe.” The greater, more foundational issue is, “Why? Why are you doing good deeds? Why do you fight for truth? Why do you hate sin?”
The question of “why?” is the driving force of our soul. It’s not as if Christ is weighing the pros and cons here, and saying that the good things they have outnumber and outweigh the one thing they lack. Instead, lacking this one thing far outweighs any number of pros the church might have. Doctrinal purity cannot substitute for love.
“Remember” and “Repent” (verse 5-7)
If the Ephesian church does not remember, repent, and return, in judgment Christ will come to remove the lampstand from their midst. Without a lampstand (i.e. His presence among us) there is no light, no heat; there is just a gathering of people going through the motions without the reality.
So how do we avoid this? First, by remembering Christ. Remember Him who loves you, who has redeemed you, who has made you His own. Remember who you are apart from him, your sure destruction without Him, your eternal misery apart from Him. Recall the remarkable kindness of Christ to our soul and remember the new affections you once had for Him. Second, by repenting. A mere glance to the past is not enough, but rather an accurate appraisal of our declension that then leads to genuine repentance. As you acknowledge your utter failure and feel sorrow for forsaking Christ, return to Him again in full dependence on His mercy.
And the promise for those who remember, repent, and return is that they will have Christ’s presence. He will not remove His lampstand from them now, nor will He remove His presence from them in the life to come. The promise is not to the one who overcomes in his own strength, but to the one who depends on God in Christ Jesus, who enables us to love, work, and endure to the end.
– What makes Christ so lovely? What about Him makes you love Him?
– Why is love for Christ so important in the Christian life? What makes it the most important thing?
– What is your motive for doing the things you do? Is it love for Christ that lies at the foundation of your service to Him and others? What keeps you from loving Him? How could you grow in your love for Him?