A WORD PICTURE OF THE CHURCH
WHO LOST ITS FIRST LOVE
What does it mean to lose your first love? Most say this is their love for for God in Christ. I am not persuaded this is their loss. I tend to think it is a concern for the lost. I know a proper love for God produces a love for the lost and perhaps their loss is a combination of both. I do not see love for God as a work but as a response. Never the less I want to pant some word pictures about this church.
I. A PICTURE OF CITY. v. 1 a
This city had been a great seaport of approximately 250,000 people, but they neglected to be conservationists. The quest for timber, charcoal, and the destructiveness of the Mediterranean goat left the sea coast susceptible to erosion. Today a small town exits near the location of old Ephesus. The old shore line is judged to be seven miles out from the present shore.
God allowed this city to become a wasteland. They worshiped false gods.
God allowed the Mediterranean goat to eat away the foliage that held the
soil intact and eventually their seaport was gone. We can learn a lesson
about conservation from this city. However, we need to be sure we don't
make conservation our god.
II. A PICTURE OF CHRIST. v. 1 b
Jesus describes Himself to the church of Ephesus. He makes two statements about Himself. First, He calls Himself "The One who holds the seven stars in His right Hand." Secondly, He pictures Himself as "The One who walks among the seven golden lampstands." What does this mean? We must go back to Rev. 1-20 for part of this answer.
The seven stars are the seven angels of the seven churches. There are a variety of opinions offered as to who these angels are, but I believe the best definition is the senior pastor. 'Angel' means 'messenger of God' and that is what the pastor is supposed to deliver, a message from God and His Word. The message to the church at Ephesus is to be delivered by the pastor. Jesus tells us this person is held in His right hand. it should have been a very sobering and comforting thought to those 7 pastors. As it is applied today, it is also sobering and comforting.
The seven golden lampstands are the seven churches. Jesus walks in the midst of them. They have light to hold up that no one else is equipped to share. It is spiritual light that calls attention to the Father. As Jesus walks among these churches they should be reminded to hold high the gospel call to salvation. Jesus is among them, available to them all.
Lonely? No, not lonely
With Jesus standing by;
His presence always cheers me,
I know that He is nigh.
Friendless? No, not friendless
Since Jesus is my friend;
I change, but He remaineth
True, faithful to the end.
Sadden'd? No, not sadden'd
By scenes of deepest woe;
I should be if I knew not
That Jesus loves me so.
Tired? No, not tired;
While leaning on His breast
My soul has full enjoyment
Of His eternal rest.
We need to see our church as one who belongs to Jesus. It is not ours
but His. He will not allow it to go out of business if we faithfully proclaim
His Word and share the Gospel.
III. A PICTURE OF THE CHURCH AT WORK. vs 2, 3 & 6
The Lord tells this church "I know your deeds and your toil and your perseverance," They had good deeds and they were doing them as a matter of toil. That is, their deeds were done in a matter of sacrifice. This church was busy for the Lord and their business was not just what was easy for them to do. It took special and consistent effort. They were persevering in the midst of this toil. The KJV translates this word 'patience' but today that is too passive a translation. This is active and triumphant fortitude. They didn't quit because it wasn't easy.
Their deeds done with toil and perseverance are highlighted. First, they cannot endure evil men. This means they were sensitive to evil presented in any form in the church or out in the city. They had a Moral Minority that was very steadfast. Second, they test apostles. This has reference to checking the doctrine of traveling evangelists who came their way. Evangelists of false doctrine such as the Judizers and Gnostics. They had a doctrine test for leaders and the Lord commended them for it. Today we need the same emphasis in church college and seminary. Thirdly, they did this for the Lord. This is a significant statement because it proves their motive was right. They didn't do this work for ego or personal recognition, but for Jesus. Fourth, they have not grown weary. The Lord now makes a third statement about their work attitude.. They worked hard; stuck to it and didn't get weary. The Lord was proud of that and points it out to us. Last, they hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans (v 6). We don't know exactly who these folks are, but they seem to be men who were not able to win their own converts from the world, but would try to steal away members from the existing church. They are likened to the Balaamites of the Old Testament (vs 14 &15). They definitely had false doctrine and were evangelistic with it. The church at Ephesus was busy with a good work attitude.
I read of an evangelist who loved to hunt. He brought two new bird dogs and put them in his backyard. One morning, there came down the alley a mean, vicious-looking bulldog. The evangelist's first impulse was to put his setters in the basement that they might not tear up that bulldog. But he decided he would just let that bulldog learn a lesson.
The bulldog came over the fence and those two bird dogs and that bulldog went around and around, and the bulldog ran away. All the rest of that day he spent licking his sores. The evangelist thought that was the end of it. There would be no more bulldog around the yard. But the next day, over the fence jumped that bulldog and those two bird dogs beat the stuffing out of him. When the bulldog had enough, he went back home and spent the day licking his wounds. He said, "I thought that would be a sure lesson." But on the third morning, at the same time, down the alley came that bulldog. He jumped over the fence and the same thing happened. Those two bird dogs chewed him up. After the bulldog had all he could take, he jumped back over the fence and went back home to lick his wounds.
Then the evangelist had to leave for a revival meeting. When he came back, he asked his wife about that bulldog. She said, "I want you to know that at the same time every morning that bulldog came back and he had it out with those two setters and I want you to know that the time has come when those two setters, just looking at that bulldog, start whining and running into the basement. He jumps over the fence and just walks around-the Lord of every place he puts his foot on.:" Now that's perseverance.
The Lord Commended the Church for hanging in there and being the church
in troubled times.
4. THE PICTURE OF THE CHURCH FOUND WANTING. v. 4
In verse 4 the Lord gives His condemnation of the church. They have
left their first love. There are a variety of opinions as to what their
first love was. Some say 1) It was their love for God 2) It was love for
their brothers. 3) It was love for their work that expressed itself in
excitement and enthusiasm and
4) It was love for the Lost.
It is my opinion that it was love for the Lost. I reject #1 above because of verse 5 calling them back to their first deeds. (I don't believe love of God is a deed.) #2 above is more appealing but I think #4 is best. #3 doesn't seem to agree with the entire message to this church.
This church was very busy; they didn't mind begin busy. They enjoyed
their work but their business wasn't producing the evangelistic results
that it once did. They would eagerly spend hours testing false apostles,
but seemed to be satisfied in that activity. They loved the gospel message
but had lost the joy of sharing it with others.
The story has often been told concerning the little lady who was on tour from America to Great Britain. The tour group was being guided through the most famous and renowned cathedral of the Church of England. They were being shown the art work and the unique construction when the little lady asked the guide, "Anybody been saved here lately?" The tour guide didn't even know what she was talking about in the term, 'saved'.
Has anybody been saved here lately? Have any of us led someone to the
Lord recently? Are we guilty of being busy but losing our first love, the
love of winning others to Christ? I think we are guilty. Monday night visitation
should reverse that and we should be seeing folks walk the aisle acknowledging
Jesus as Lord.
V. A PICTURE OF REMEDY FOR THE CHURCH. v. 5
The Lord gives the church a remedy of three 'R's". First the church is told to Remember. They knew exactly what the Lord referred to as their first love. Secondly, they were told to Repent. This means, make a change; turn about face and go the other direction. The whole church is to repent. Thirdly, they are told, if they don't remedy the situation, the Lord will, for He will Remove their lampstand.
A man sat down with the pastor and said, "I'm considering joining your church. I want you to know I don't have time to attend regularly or do any work for the church. My talents are kept busy elsewhere, and I won't give any specific amount of money. The pastor said, "Sir, the church you want to join is down on the corner." The man said, "But there's no church on the corner." The pastor said, "Yes, there is. It's the old First Church." The man said, "But it's been closed for years." The pastor said, "That's the only kind of church that needs your kind of commitment."
The Lord expects us to Remember and Repent. If we won't He will allow
us to be closed down. Ephesus must have repented because history records
a council meeting of bishops in 431 A. D.
VI. A PICTURE OF COMMAND TO THE CHURCH. v 7 a.
The command is to those who have spiritual ears. They are to hear what
the Spirit says to the churches. The Spirit has spoken through John. He
has written and today the Spirit speaks through the Word. Do you have ears
to hear spiritual truth? Are you acting upon it?
VII. A PICTURE OF PROMISE TO THE CHURCH v. 7 b
The Lord promises to those who overcome that they will eat of the Tree
of Life. This probably has a relationship to worship related to date trees
and other pagan practices. They would refrain from eating certain fruit
from the tree of life. We might also take this promise all the way back
to the Garden of Eden. There the tree of life is forbidden here access
is granted to those who overcome. I John 5:4-5.
We sing a hymn of decision. We are inviting you to make your decision
for Christ. Do it today.
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And Beyond. Amen? Amen!