FIRST LOVE
by James E. Farley
The Establishment Of and The History
Of The Church of Christ At Ephesus

The church at Ephesus was, in many ways, a strong church. The church had been established through the apostle Paulís efforts. (Acts chapter 19). We read of how Paul came there and found twelve men who had been baptized with the baptism of John. These were probably influenced by the eloquent Apollos before he had been taught "the way of God more perfectly" by Aquila and Priscilla. (Acts 18:24-28). Paul convinced these twelve men that they needed to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. (Acts 19:1-7). He then went to the synagogue of the Jews and "spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God." (Acts 19:8). Some believed the gospel, but others did not so Paul left there with the disciples of Christ, and began teaching and "disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus. And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks." (Acts 19:9-10).

As a result of Paulís bold preaching against the false religion of Diana, ". . . there arose no small stir about the Way." (Acts 19:23). In fact, it resulted in a riot. The silversmith, Demetrius, called together the other silversmiths of the city, and called on them to do away with this Paul who was so boldly persuading and turning away many from the false religion of Diana. When this tumult was ended, Paul called together the members of the church, embraced and exhorted them to faithfulness, and left for Macedonia.

While at Miletus, Paul sent for the elders of the church at Ephesus, and reminded them of how the church of Christ was established in that city. He spoke of the great hardships that he underwent there at Ephesus, and how he had kept nothing back from them, but that he had declared unto them "all the counsel of God." (Acts 20:17-27). He then exhorted and encouraged them to take care of and to feed the church of the Lord there in their city, warning them of the danger that was to come upon them when "grievous wolves" would enter in among them, and how some from among their own selves would arise to speak a perverted gospel. (Acts 20:28-31). The great apostle then commended them to God, and "to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified." (Acts 20:32). Paul admonished them to "remember the words of the Lord Jesus." They all prayed together, and wept with and for each other, sorrowing for the fact that they would not see each other again.

The Lordís church at Ephesus was established in the midst of great trial, persecution and turmoil. As a result, the members were well established in the faith and in love for God, for Jesus, for the Word, for one another as brethren, and for the souls of men and women everywhere. The apostle wrote to them at a later date saying, "Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers . . ." (Ephesians 1:15-16).

In this Ephesian letter Paul wrote reminding them of the time when they ". . . were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, have no hope, and without God in the world . . ." He told them that they, who had been "far off" had been made nigh by the blood of Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 2:11-22). He warned these Christians about being '. . . tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive . . ." (Ephesians 4:14). The great apostle also warned and admonished them to allow no man to deceive them with "vain words." (Ephesians 5:6). He wrote to them about having no fellowship with "the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them." (Ephesians 5:11). These Christians were "children of light" and they were to walk as such; alert and aware. (Ephesians 5:12-17). They were to put on the whole armor of God and fight the good fight of faith! (Ephesians 6:11-20).

Yes indeed, the Lordís church at Ephesus was initially made up of folks who were dedicated to standing for the right, and folks who truly loved God and His Word. They loved each other, and they loved Paul, Godís servant for their sakes. They had been admonished by the apostle to speak "the truth in love . . ." (Ephesians 4:15). Paul wrote to them about being ". . . kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christís sake hath forgiven you. Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us . . ." (Ephesians 4:32 Ė 5:2). Paul ended his letter to them with these words, "Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen." (Ephesians 6:23-24).

There seems to have been, from the start, a real balance among the Ephesus church of Christ. These loving people were dedicated to sound doctrine, and even to the point of looking for and watching for those who would teach false doctrines. They had been warned about them and were on guard! They loved Godís Will and hated every false way. (Psalm 119:104-105).

The Letter From Jesus To
The Church Of Christ At Ephesus
Revelation 2:1-7

In these verses we learn something more of the Lordís body at Ephesus. The letter we have before us in Revelation 2:1-7 comes from Jesus Christ Himself. He is the one who is in control. He has the seven stars in his right hand and walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks. The candlesticks are the seven churches of Asia, so Jesus is simply saying that he is there with them, and Revelation 2:2 expresses clearly His point . . . "I know thy works . . ."

The Lord KNOWS! "Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do." (Hebrews 4:13). He knows us . . . He knows our hearts . . . He knows our motives . . . HE KNOWS! What is it that the song expresses? "Thereís An All-Seeing Eye Watching You . . ."?

Yes, the Lord knew all about the brethren at Ephesus. He praises their toil, hard work, patience and steadfastness. He praises them because they did not condone evil, nor evil men. In fact, they tested some who had come to them claiming to be "apostles" and found them to be liars. These were people who hated false doctrine! They hated the works of the Nicolaitanes. As you and I read this wonderful commendation from the Lord we may say, "Now thatís a strong congregation!" We wonder if anything could be wrong with such a group of disciples. In the face of persecution and tribulation, they faced difficulties with patience, and rejected false teachers. But the Lord KNOWS! He sees with those eyes ". . . as a flame of fire." (Revelation 1:14). He looked and saw a great flaw among these brethren.

Revelation 2:4-5 reads, "Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou are fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent."

They had not lost their hate for false doctrine, but they had lost their first love! They were indeed carrying on the work of the church and were faithful in it, but their motive was no longer right. They were faithfully attending to business, but for a different reason than at the beginning of their faith.

Donald R. Taylor, in his THE APOCALYPSE: A REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST, writes, "Like a doctor who continues his practice because thatís his job, or the married couple who no longer feel the deep tenderness one for the other, the Ephesians were plodding on, faithfully discharging their duties, abiding by the apostlesí teachings, but the love was no longer there."

It seems we can sum up their problem by saying that they had forgotten the words of the Lord when He said, "The first of all the commandments is , Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love thy God with all thy heart, and with all they soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:29-31 - Emphasis mine, JEF).

When one forgets these nothing works out the way it can and should. The Ephesians seem to have forgotten the words of the Lord, even though they were admonished not to forget but to remember. (Acts 20:35). When one stops preaching and teaching the truth in love . . . defending the truth with love . . . loving God and one another . . . they become as ". . . sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal . . ." (Compare I Corinthians 13:1-13).

In his APOLOGY 39 Tertullian wrote of the heathenís observation of Christians, "See, they say, how they love one another." This is certainly an outward sign that one is a follower of the meek and lowly One. The Lord said, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one for another." (John 13:35).

Some Practical Applications Of These Things For Us

First of all, when we say "us" this implies a self-examination. 2 Corinthians 13:5 commands such! We must make sure that we are where we should be; that we are growing ". . . in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 3:18). It is as possible for us to leave our "first love" as it was for the Ephesians to leave theirs!

It is right and proper for us to stand firm and defend the gospel of Christ. (Philippians 1:17; Jude 3). We are soldiers of Christ and we must fight the good fight of faith. (I timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 2:3; 4:7; 2 Corinthians 3:3-6; Ephesians 6:11-20; etc.) However, we do not fight because we love to fight! Physical soldiers must never get to the point where they fight for the love of fighting. That is detrimental to their work as soldiers. They fight for love of country and for the love of freedom and the principles that their country stands for. We must contend for the faith (Jude 3), but we must never develop a contentious spirit. Debating has proven to be very worthwhile in the Cause of Christ as long as proper spirits and attitudes are maintained. Have you noticed some, even among us, who have developed a "debating spirit" and how this seems to wither them spiritually? Some have developed a "witch-hunt" attitude in the name of "doctrinal accuracy" and "orthodoxy". Let us determine to be doctrinally sound, but let us also resolve to have a spirit of true love for God, for Jesus who is Christ, for the church of the Lord, for the Word of God, for each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, and for the souls of men and women everywhere . . . even for our enemies! If our motivation for doing what we do and for saying what we say is not love, then we have drifted; we have left our "first love."

And let us also resolve to never leave our original fervor for the Lord. Say to yourself, daily if need be, that you are not going to quit . . . you are not going to "burn out". The world is filled with trials and it is possible for people to grow weary of fighting against sin and evil. (James 1:1-2; Romans 12:21; Galatians 6:9). The world is filled with alluring and tempting things, but we must not give in to the temptations. (I John 2:15-17). We must not allow the cares nor the pleasures of the world to "choke" our Christianity out. (Luke 8:14).

There are some signs of leaving ones "first love" in this fashion. When things of the church begin to become unimportant and take second place to the things of the world, you are drifting. The assemblies of the church are forsaken by those who leave their "first love". (Hebrews 10:25). The work of the church in evangelism, helping the poor, and building up the saints is looked upon as insignificant by those who leave their "first love". Worship is viewed as only a "duty"; a yoke to be borne rather than a privilege to be enjoyed. You hear some say, "I just donít get anything out of the worship service." That has always amazed me. How can anyone in their proper spiritual mind come before the very presence of Jehovah God, the Creator of the Universe and all it contains, and say, "I didnít get anything out of that." They have lost their zeal, and fellowship with others of like precious faith is not enjoyable nor exciting to them anymore. Those who are loosing or who have lost their "first love" find fellowship with those of the world more enjoyable than fellowship with Christians.

How Can We Correct The Problem?

First REMEMBER - (Revelation 2:5). There is great power in memory. The writer of the Hebrew letter used memory to help his readers to come home. "But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions . . ." (Hebrews 10:32).

Secondly REPENT - Here is the hard part for our stubborn wills often get in the way of the Will of God! Repentance means a change of mind that leads to a change of action or change of life. Remember how it was and decide to change and go back to that good time. The Lord says that unless people are prepared to repent they will perish (Luke 13:3, 5). However, He is not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9). Therefore, He commands all men, everywhere, to repent looking toward the day of Judgment (Acts 17:30-31).

Thirdly DO THE FIRST WORKS - If you want to be saved there is something for you to DO. (Matthew 7:21; James 1:21-25). We must love again as we did in the beginning. Pray often to God. (Luke 18;1). Read and meditate upon His Word (Psalm 1). Enjoy worship with other Christians (Colossians 3:16-17; Ephesians 5:19). Take the gospel to all the world (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16). Reach out to your brothers and sisters in error (Galatians 6:1-2; James 5:19-20). Be faithful unto death. (Revelation 2:10).

If you have questions or comments contact me at:
James E. Farley
P.O. Box 285
Crum, WV 25669
or Email me by clicking here

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