Formerly located on the western shore of modern-day Turkey, this city was considered the most important trading hub in the Mediterranean Sea area, with a bustling harbor well-equipped to accommodate the finest of seaworthy vessels, along with a complex highway system that radiated throughout Asia Minor and beyond. Ephesus would be second only to Rome as a cosmopolitan center of culture and commerce. But this port city would gain a spiritual notoriety also, for she would play a vital role in the early spread of Christianity, becoming a hot bed of evangelistic outreach that would extend far beyond her borders.
The apostle Paul would labor within that commercial hub for more than two years, ministering to and fighting fierce battles on behalf of the young church established there. Years later, while in a Roman prison awaiting certain death, Paul would pen a letter to his cherished children in the faith, concluding his epistle with this emotional farewell: “Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.” Amen…so be it!
“Love…our Lord…in sincerity.” Love is the deepest of human emotions, that profoundly tender and passionate affection for another person, that feeling of warm, personal attachment and concern for another, a term of endearment. Paul had deep love for this growing body of believers, and he would use his final words to encourage them to love the Lord Jesus with unrelenting fervor and enthusiasm, in sincerity.
So what happened? Thirty years later, John would be exhorted by “the Alpha and the Omega” to contact this same church once again. Yes, they were active, for John noted their “works, and…labour;” they were “patient” in the midst of heavy trials, not fainting under the heavy hand of adversity and opposition; they were steadfast in truth, trying “them which say they are apostles, and are not.” Those are noble qualities for any church. But they had a problem, a love problem. They had, in all their busyness and activity, left “their first love.”
John encourages them to “remember” the wonder and joy of their salvation and “repent,” or make a change in direction. Those beloved believers were then prompted to repeat those “first works,” those faithful steps of obedience they took on as newly-saved, enthusiastic believers, the first works of discipleship and devotion that kept the flames of love burning brightly in their souls. But did those believers heed John’s warning? Did they remember what they had in Christ and recover that passionate love for the Lamb of glory? The history of Ephesus holds a solemn lesson for us, for Ephesus was eventually left in ruins, with no viable church remaining. That great “candlestick” had been removed.
We inhabit a world where we can easily be caught up in causes, commitments, activities, entertainments, and distractions that crowd out our first Love, the One Who offered the ultimate sacrifice for us. The lesson of the church at Ephesus is that I need to examine myself daily. Am I cooler toward God, less zealous concerning spiritual things than I was when I began my journey with Him so many years ago? Have I abandoned the “first works” of prayer, worship, Bible study, and dependence upon Him? Is He foremost in order of importance in my life, or are my priorities skewed and in desperate need of adjustment? Does He bask in my praises throughout the course of my day, or does my Friend battle for a few leftover moments of attention?
When I find myself wading in lukewarm waters, I need to return to the joy of my salvation experience, ponder His great love and sacrifice for me, and fall in love with the Author of my salvation all over again.
Revelation 2:4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
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