But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first. But if not, I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place, unless you repent. Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God. (Revelation 2:4-7)
What does “first love” mean?
It means the flaming love that you had for Christ the day you were delivered from the kingdom of darkness. It means the burning heart that you had like those on the road to Emmaus when the truth dawned on you and you saw the significance of His death and resurrection. It means those early days of hot hearts and passionate labor.
For the Ephesians, devotion to Christ was becoming replaced by a kind of dutiful, doctrinal coldness. The heat of that first love was gone.
This is very dangerous, because the cooling of love for Christ is the forerunner of spiritual apathy. And apathy is the forerunner of love for something else. Love for something else means compromise with evil, and that means corruption, and that means death, and that means judgment.
When the heart grows cold, you’re in danger. How serious is this? The Lord says, “Therefore, remember from where you have fallen.”
What about you? Can you take or leave coming to church? Take or leave reading Scripture? You believe the right things, but are they as precious to you as they once were? Or have you grown cold?
Start by remembering. Go back and remember how it was when you were truly converted. Remember from where you have fallen. Go back and remember the glorious experience that was yours when you came to Christ, and then repent.
You know how you restore the love? By going back and doing what you did at the beginning. Remember, repent of your lack of love, and then go back and do the deeds that you did at the very start. Go back and start again.
You say, “Well, this is kind of a minor defect, isn’t it?” But if you look at verse 5, Jesus says, “I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place, unless you repent.” In other words, “I’m going to shut the church down. You either remember and return to the things you did at the beginning, with the love of Christ burning in your heart, or I will put you out of business.”
There is some final counsel in verse 7 for all of us: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” It’s another way of saying: “Are you listening? Everybody listen to what I just said.”
This message transcends that church in Ephesus to all who hear this. All Christians in all churches must understand the danger of leaving your first love and finding your exhilarating passion in something other than Christ and His kingdom.
As we’ll see when we go through the other letters, this is where the slide starts: with leaving that first love.
This post is based on a sermon Dr. MacArthur preached in 2015, titled “The Lord’s Word to His Church: Ephesus.” In addition to serving as the pastor of Grace Community Church and the voice of Grace to You, Dr. MacArthur is the chancellor of The Master’s University in Santa Clarita, Calif. You can learn more about TMU at masters.edu.
The Master’s University and Seminary admit students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin in the administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.
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