By Larry Ray Hafley
Think of all the advantages the Ephesian saints possessed. An apostle had founded the church and worked with them for three years (Acts 20:31). After that, Timothy worked with them (1 Tim. 1:3). Some of them “spake with tongues, and prophesied” after the apostle laid his hands upon them (Acts 19:6; cf. 8:18). They had “all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 13; 2:6). They had been “sealed with that holy Spirit of promise” (Eph. 1:13). Paul wrote a letter to them. Just imagine that all these things had occurred where you worship! What would your reaction be? How great would be your expectations? Then, suppose the church was active, alive aggressive and that the Lord himself knew of their tireless, tedious toil. What kind of church would it be? Great! Wonderful! Fantastic! Right?
Wrong. The Lord wrote a letter to he Ephesian church described above. With all of their positive aspects and glorious past history, with all of their diligent devotion, listen to what the Lord said to them:
I know thy works, and thy labor, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: and hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast labored, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art 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 (Rev. 2:2-5).
Kind of scary, is it not? Look at the compliments and the words of praise. They were real, sincere, genuine. What would we say of a church today that was equally enthusiastic and “on fire for the Lord”? Here was a church that was debating false teachers, especially false apostles, and “posed them as “liars.” Note the terms that show hard work; observe their steadfastness, their endurance. How would we describe such a church today? There are no words in our vocabulary sufficient to praise such a congregation! Back to the frightening part – see the words of rebuke. The Lord says, in effect, “I am ready to cease recognizing you as one of my churches” (Rev. 2:5; 1:20b).
It had only been a few years since Paul and Timothy walked and worked among them. They possessed zeal, but they were about to be extinguished. What happened? What was the problem? The Lord said, “Thou hast left thy first love.”
Have you left your first love? It is not enough to charge the church with having done so. Have you left your first love? Pointing fingers is easy. “If we only had a good preacher.” “If we only had elders.” “If we only had other elders.” “If our singing was better.” “If brother and sister Snobby would just leave.” “If only brother and sister Friendly worshiped here instead of across town.” “If only” will not build a strong church. Pointing fingers does not solve problems. Blaming others and hurling excuses only compounds the difficulty. Evidently, the church at Ephesus had all the “if onlys.” They had it all. But the Lord said, “Thou hast left thy first love.”
What Does That Mean?
What does it mean when it says they had left their first love? Consider a marriage. The couple is together. They have a comfortable life. “Things” are essentially good. He has a job. The house runs smoothly most of the time. Meals are on the table. The children are doing fairly well. So, what is the trouble? “I don’t know. I just feel listless, unhappy, unfulfilled. All is well. The same things are going on day after day. Nothing has really changed, but our marriage is dull, dead and boring. ” This imaginary couple is going through the motions. They have left their first love.
It can happen to Christians and to churches. What is the answer? What is the solution? It is not a small thing. It is a serious matter. The marriage partners must renew and rekindle their courtship. They must get back to the basics of love, duty and responsibility. Kindness, courtesy and consideration have ceased. As a result, the marriage is stale, dry and undesirable. So it is with faith. Disciples go through the motions of spirituality. They attend services; they give money; they perform token efforts of “good works.” They draw near the Lord with their mouth; they honor him with their lips, but their heart is far from him. Their worship is vain, empty, lifeless (Matt. 15:8,9). “Wherefore He saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light” (Eph. 5:14). The child of God is commanded to be “renewed in the spirit of (his) mind,” and to be “transformed by the renewing of (his) mind” (Eph. 4:23; Rom. 12:2).
You will search in vain for a “spiritual high. ” There is no cure to be found in a “Pentecostal Pep Pill.” There is no shot that some religious “Doctor” can inject that will give you a “boost” from your lethargy and apathy. You must seize the initiative, “and Christ shall give you light.” Quit blaming others. Repent. Pray fervently and frequently. Feed on God’s word. Seek to serve and save others. You will be better in no time.
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 22, pp. 675-676
November 16, 1989