4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. 6 But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. ~ Revelation 2:4-6
As we have considered, the Lord Jesus addressed seven different churches in Revelation 1-2 with a message for each. The first church He addressed was the church at Ephesus which had a terrific start to their walk with the Lord Jesus. In fact, the Lord Jesus commends them for their works, labor, patience, and that they could not bear those who were evil. At this point, though, they are about forty years removed from all of their revival-like beginnings.
In v.4 of today's text we read, "Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love."
The Church in Ephesus was one of the best churches, if not the best church in history. Yet their hearts had become cold. The honeymoon had ended. They were like the young man who courted his girl until he married her and then he stopped courting her. The Church in Ephesus had become numb to God and spiritually indifferent.
In v.5 we read, "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent."
The first generation Christians in Ephesus were, for the most part, gone. The church there still had strong traditions but not the intense love for the Lord Jesus. If we are going to stay vital in our love for Christ, we must do three things in order to avoid the spiritual blahs.
First, we must always remember why we were drawn to Him in the first place. He rescued us out of our miserable need and He paid the penalty which had separated us from all that is truly substantive. This, in turn, made us very grateful. Losing sight of all of this causes our hearts to get blah. Perhaps, this is one of the many reasons He gave us the Lord's Supper.
It is when we remember His intense love for us that we are poised to do the second thing to keep us abiding with the Lord. We must repent from self and turn back to Him. The Greek word for “repentance” is metanoia, which literally means to “change one’s mind.” This is not a fickle thing, the way we might change our mind about just anything, then change it back again. This is a transformation of mind and posture, providing an entirely new way of viewing the Lord, self and the world.
Biblically speaking, true repentance can only come about as a result of the inner work of the Holy Spirit. It is a must to understand that repentance is not the cause of our justification before God, it is the fruit of it. When the Holy Spirit brought us to faith in Christ, He convicted us of our sin, and the fruit of that conviction is repentance.
Now, repentance, reveals that our faith in Christ is genuine. We do not repent just because we hate our sin, but also because we love the Lord. At the same time, as we turn away from our sin in disgust, we’re turning toward Him in worship and love. And, repentance isn’t just a one-time thing. It’s not something we do once at the beginning of our Christian lives and then move on from it. It’s a daily discipline; a way of life. We will never be so free of sin that we can be free of repentance.
The third step in regaining our heart for the Lord Jesus is to repeat the deeds that we did when our relationship with Him began. When we became believers in the Lord Jesus, we could not read the Bible enough. We experienced an insatiable appetite for the Word of God. That appetite was for none other than the Lord Jesus Himself. When the day comes that this desire for Him and His word wains, watch out because we may be in danger of leaving our first love.
This loss of first love became widespread in the early church after the apostles passed away. During that time the churches drifted away from heart-felt ministry to the world and became involved in doctrinal controversies and theological discussions, pounding out the teaching of the church on the anvil of controversy. They were moral, but increasingly losing the heart of the Lord Jesus for them.
I have found that when I am at this point, the Lord is faithful to cause or allows things to happen which shock my heart back into beating for Him. It is a subtle thing but it can happen to any of us. And, He is gracious to keep our hearts from wandering too far from Him. If we are wise, we will recognize what is happening and we will turn back to Him.
In v.6 we read, "But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate."
After the correction in v.4-5, the Lord Jesus now comes back to commending the Ephesians again. He does this both as an encouragement and also as a challenge to not just hate sin in others. Before we get to hating the sin in others, we must hate sin in us enough to turn away from it or it will destroy us.
The Nicolaitans were false teachers who led the people into destructive sin. They taught that our freedom in Christ gave us license to sin. They taught that through sexual activity and superior knowledge one could ascend to a state of deity. Of course, this is false teaching. And, it is obvious that the history in the city of Ephesus and the Ephesians' worship of Diana had infiltrated the teachings within the church. For Diana was the Roman goddess and protector of childbirth.
Finally, we are at our best and most spiritual when we are most dependent upon the Lord God. Andrew Murray once said, "Strength is definitely required to live the Christian life. However, not the strength that comes through self-exertion; but the power that comes from yielding to God, who strengthens those who acknowledge their weakness and dependence on Him."