Some time ago, a friend of mine asked me a question: “What does the Bible mean when it says, ÔYou have forsaken your first love’?” I gave him a rather flimsy answer, but when I went home, I began to research this phrase. I was convicted with the message of this text from Revelation 2.
Ephesus had a beautiful harbor and people came to this port from all over the world. Along with the positive gifts this diverse people brought, they also brought influences that went contrary to the Word St. Paul had communicated when he began the Christian church in Ephesus. The Ephesians became known for the beautiful temple to the goddess, Artemis. This strong emphasis on polytheism was the culture in which the disciples had to work. St. Paul ministered in Ephesus for three years, and he warned the Christians that false teachers would try to draw people away from the faith. These false teachers did indeed cause problems in the Ephesian church, but the church resisted them, as we can see from Paul’s letter.
John also spent much of his ministry in this city, and he knew the Ephesian church had resisted false teaching. The Holy Spirit prompted him to write this revelation from God, he says, “I know your works, Your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear evil men but have tested those who call themselves apostles but 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.” In many other places, people who claimed to be Christian just walked away from the church and did not want to be identified with the Christian faith at all; the Ephesian church did not. They were active and won many for Christ with their polemic attitude.
The problem was something much more subtle. The Christians lived among wicked men in Ephesus and often made their living by doing business with them. They did not want to offend them so the Christians began to compromise their own faith. The attitude began to be more like “our religion is just one of many. We all have a right to believe what we want to believe. It is all good.”
However, God’s call to truth was mightily at work in the Ephesian church. He did not want the people shaping their faith according to their own fashion. So St. John writes to the congregation: “Yet I hold this against you: You have abandoned your first love. Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.” God is saying, Take my Word as it is or bear the consequences.
So the people in Ephesus received this stern message: “You have forgotten your first love.” This is a warning for all of us as Christians. Let us consider our local church body. A person may become restless and weary of working with the same group of people, even though they share their foundation in Christ. They travel to a different area of the country and visit a church. Everything in that church seems fresh and energetic. They tell a friend, “I loved this church! My home church does not begin to have what you have! When we get home, we are going to search for a new church home where things will be better.” The music, the preaching, the love for each other in their home congregation wasn’t what it had once been. They had forgotten their first love – the excitement of serving Christ without all the complications of humans trying to work together.
Love for Jesus Christ will bring about a love for His church. If you see your love for the church is not growing, look around and see if your love for Jesus Christ is also hindered in some way.
Another relationship where first love is sometimes forgotten is in a marriage. When a marriage is new, the couple is very much in love and would do anything for each other. Soon the children come along, and life becomes quite hectic. The years fly by, and life suddenly seems dull and routine; the wife gets weary, the husband spends more time at work. The man becomes an important person at the office and the wife has to keep dinner warm until he gets home at night. They began to drift apart. Then the wife’s coworker notices she is feeling blue and asks her about it. She explains her home situation, and he offers to take her out to dinner so they can talk more about it. She tells her husband she will be home late from work the next night because she has a meeting.
The next night, she sits down with the coworker, who has all the time in the world to listen. When she gets home, it is much later than she planned. So her husband asks about her meeting, but she explains that it was very serious and confidential, so she can’t talk about it. He lets it go by, never thinking her meeting was dinner with her unmarried boss.
A few nights later, she goes to dinner with her boss again, but this time her husband is a bit suspicious. So when she comes home, he asks her about it. “Where were you tonight?’ She replies, “Things are not the same as they used to be. I might as well tell you Ð I don’t love you like I used to. I think we should get a divorce.”
“Well,” he says, “I don’t want one. We have two lovely children. I wonder if the real problem is we have forgotten our first love in the faith. We have ceased having our devotions together. We no longer talk about the will of God in our lives. It’s all what we want and us going our own way. I, for one, am ready to make a real change and go back and capture my first love.” But she is not and so they divorce. They had lost their first love. Every couple should make very sure they do not lose their first love.
As Christians, we should heed this warning also. Live in the Word and ask for forgiveness. Paul and John are echoing Jesus’ words: He will give us enough endurance so we will not forget our First Love. We can then say, “That which I did yesterday was wrong. Jesus. Help me to correct it.’ When you do those two things, you will not lose your first love. Life will never be the same if Jesus is your First Love.
Your church home, your marriage, your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ Ð He is there to help you with these relationships every single day. Turn to Him. Find your way into a good Bible class at your church.
Remember, John was writing to an established church. Yet Jesus told him through divine revelation that they had forgotten their first love. That was His message to the believers at Ephesus, and it is His message to the Believers of Christ today.