““To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. “ ‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.” (Revelation 2:1–5, ESV)
What is the love that the Ephesian church had at first that they have abandoned? Is it their Love for Jesus, or is it love for others, or could it be the love that we are to reflect from Christ to the world around us?
Jesus when asked the question, what is the greatest commandment, responded with Love God and love your neighbor. How does that look? What can we learn from the New Covenant writers, and the stern warning that is given to the churches at Ephesus?
In the book of John Jesus is teaching his apostles when Philip asks this question – “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”” (John 14:8, ESV)
It is from this point forward that Jesus unpacks some deep teaching on the coming of the Spirit and abiding in Him. Much of the language through this section is soaked in various forms of Love. Some of those ideas are – “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:21–23, ESV)
Continuing in chapter 15, John continues to unpack this genuine Love in the form of abiding in the vine. The Greek root used for abide is “meno” and has the sense of to await or to stay in, also having a sense of an eschatological promise already in possession. It is also of interest that a form of the Greek word for abide hypoménein is used in the Septuagint also with a sense of Waiting on or cleaving to God. The Theological dictionary of the New Testament abridged has this entry on the word…
… so that the idea is not that of standing against but waiting on. In this sense it is used for Hebrew terms expressing tense, steadfast, or patient expectation (cf. Job 3:9; Ps. 37:7; Job 32:4). The noun hypomonḗ similarly denotes either confidence or tense expectation. It is a mark of the righteous in the OT that they wait on God. In distress and opposition, they look to God for deliverance (cf. Ps. 37:9; Mic. 7:7). God is the almighty covenant God on whom they can rely (Is. 51:5; Zeph. 3:8). As the God of Israel (Jer. 14:8), he is also the God of Israelites (Ps. 39:7). Only the wicked abandon hope in him (Sir. 2:4). The final deliverance is eschatological (Hab 2:3). Those who endure to the end will be saved (Dan. 12:12). The focus here is neither on the hostile forces nor on inward strength but on the power and faithfulness of God. Yet this divinely oriented hypomonḗ confers courage (Ps. 27:14). This is the strength of cleaving to God or waiting for him (Is. 40:31). There need be no fear of weakening it by a link with hope. It focuses on hope and issues in it. What sustains the righteous is that God will establish justice (Ps. 140:12).
It is a wonderous journey where we are fully dependent on the power and faithfulness of God, clinging with expectations to the time when the bridegroom returns for His bride. But, in that tense, steadfast, patient expectation there is a movement forward with the works that Jesus has prepared beforehand that we are to walk in them (Eph 2:8).
Did you catch that? The works that Jesus has prepared that we are to walk in. But how are we to do that? Paul gives us some clues…
We must first start with prayer– “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:14–21, ESV)
In prayer and through faith we seek to be strengthened through His Spirit in our inner being, grounded in the Love that Christ has shown us, together with the body of Christ the assembly of believers all filled with the fullness of God who then works through us more abundantly than anything we can ask or think according to His power within us.
Soak ourselves in The word of God – “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2, ESV)
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:1–2, ESV)
Psalm 119 is the longest Psalm in the scriptures and a serious read through shows the many benefits of the Word in the people of God when they soak themselves in its richness.
The Lord asks the Ephesian church to repent and do the works they did at first. They had lost their first love. Were they no longer seeking His strength, seeking the things that are above or walking in the works that He had prepared for them?
Today, do we do similar things, racing ahead of the Spirit of God with our plans, then claiming they are from God? Prayer lives that barely give him a few minutes of their time in a single day then crash forward with their plans, maybe even feeling good about themselves for what they accomplished in their own strength.
Jesus took the time to seek the Father in prayer continuously. There are so many times we are given glimpses of this simple communion with God and yet it seems today seeking after God is lost in the busyness of life.
Jesus told the Ephesian church, most likely in a better place than many churches today, to repent and return to that first love – a passion for God that takes us deep into prayer, deep into His words, and moves us forward in His power to do the works that He has prepared that we should walk in them.
Why? Jesus gives us that simple answer…
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’” (Revelation 2:7, ESV)