The Church of Ephesus and the Importance of Love
“…I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people…”
Welcome to week 2 of our study through the churches in Revelation. Today, we’ll look at the first church Jesus addressed, the church in Ephesus. Now, this isn’t the first time the church of Ephesus was mentioned in the Bible. It was also mentioned in Acts, 1 Corinthians, 1 & 2 Timothy, and the book of Ephesians was written specifically to this church.
Let’s start by reading what Jesus had to say to the Ephesians:
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”
If we flip back to the book of Ephesians, we will see that the church of Ephesus was commended for their love. Yet, as I was reading through the letter Paul wrote to them, I got a sense that even in the beginning they were proud of their work for Christ. Paul reminded them that they were chosen by God, saved by grace, and once Gentiles separated from Christ.
The church in Ephesus worked hard for God. We see it in both the book of Ephesians and again in the words Jesus spoke to them in Revelation. They held to His teaching, stood up for what they believed in, and were basically super Christians. But – and it’s a big but – they weren’t doing it for the right reasons. Jesus said they had left their first love (vs. 4). When you contrast that to Ephesians 1:15, you see a drastic change.
Proverbs 16:2 says, “All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord.” I think that was the root of the Ephesians problem. They were working hard for Christ, doing what they knew was right – but they were doing it for the wrong reasons.
It’s like Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 8 (vs 1), “We know that ‘We all possess knowledge.’ But knowledge puffs up while love builds up.” They had all the knowledge, but they were lacking in love.
Do you remember what John wrote about love in his first epistle? He said, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8). It doesn’t matter how hard we work for God if we are doing it for the wrong reasons. If it doesn’t stem out of love for Christ, all of our work is meaningless.
In verse 5 of the letter to the Ephesians, Jesus calls the Ephesians to repent. To remember the love they had at first, or He said He would remove their lampstand. Last week we talked about how lampstands are just stands. They are made to display light. If churches are lampstands meant to display the light of Christ, and God is love, then a church that doesn’t love, isn’t doing a very good job.
It’s easy to get caught up in Christian living, and forget the love that started it all.
But that love is huge.
Brennan Manning coined what is known as the Ragamuffin Gospel. He believed that God would only ask us one question when we get to heaven. And that question would be, “Did you believe that I loved you?” Moreover, he believed there were only two responses to that question:
- “Yes, Lord. I did believe that and I tried to shape my life around that belief.”
- “No, God, I didn’t. Because ______” (you fill in the blank).
Jesus wrote to the church in Ephesus that those who were victorious would be granted the right to eat from the tree of life (Revelation 2:7). Those who love Jesus are the ones who get to spend eternity with Him. God commands us to love one another (John 13:34-35), and Jesus said that if we love Him, we will obey His commands (John 14:15).
Love leads to love.
If we love God, we will love others.
Jesus also issued a warning to people who served Him without love. He said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23) That’s pretty serious stuff.
John reiterated that when he wrote, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:7-12)
The bottom line is that love matters. Without love, we are without God.
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
~ 1 Corinthians 13:13
Summarize this letter in your own words. What would you say God wanted us to understand from reading it?
Are you motivated by love or do you act more out of habit or knowledge than out of love for Christ?
What is the reward for those who keep Christ as their first love? What does that mean for those who don’t?
Take it Further:
- Read 1 Corinthians 13 and the book of Ephesians
- Click here to download the group study guide.
- Leave a comment below.
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