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“Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”


Nevertheless I have this against you

Although Ephesus had many fine qualities as a church (Re 2:2, 3), it did have a fatal fault. Something amiss was in this church. Jesus now passes from commendation to condemnation. It is possible to have distinction and disrepute at the same time. Jesus notes both their strengths and weaknesses.

“I have” indicates that this charge is still outstanding against the Ephesian church. Nothing has changed it so far, and they have done nothing about it. It may be that they spent so much time under combat conditions that they suffered from combat fatigue spiritually. They took their eyes off the Lord. They became more task-oriented than person-oriented toward the Lord. 

The church at Ephesus faced two problems, one from without and one from within. We found the problem of without in verse two: false teachers. Now we come to the problem within: loss of love for the Lord. He no longer had pre-eminence in their lives. They gave their attention to other priorities. 

that you have left your first love

The word “left” means to leave, forsake, or neglect. The Ephesians distanced themselves from their “first love.” They no longer loved the Lord Jesus as they did when they first came to Christ. 

The phrase “your first love” precedes “you have left” (in Greek), making the first phrase very emphatic. They not only took their eyes off the Lord but also lost fellowship with Him. The principle is that regardless of how much the Bible you may know, irrespective of how much you serve Him and past victories, we cannot walk with the Lord without loving Him. 

What is our “first” love? It was our love for the Lord when we first became Christians. At that time, we had a great sense of gratitude for sins forgiven

Forty years after the establishment of the church in Ephesus, they still held to sound doctrine and worked ardently for the Lord, yet they did not love Him as much as they did at the beginning. This may be due to a second-generation problem. Most of the congregation were by now second-generation Christians. Sometimes, people who grow up in Christian families do not value their faith as much as those who came to Christ without faith in Him. 

The church’s problem at Ephesus was not their orthodoxy but their orthopraxy. They lost red-hot love for the Lord. This was so serious that He said in the next verse that He would remove the church from existence if they did not deal with it. This eventually happened when Islam invaded Turkey and wiped out Christianity in Ephesus.  


Orthodoxy and service do not displace love for the Lord.


Today, many churches are in danger of becoming churches without influence and impact. They will exist as orthodox but inconsequential churches. Few, if any, people will come to Christ through these churches, and they will not experience the reality of walking with the Lord. 

Our love for Christ tends to cool down if we take Him for granted. Has your heart grown cold toward the Lord? This has the same effect on the Lord as on your wife when your love grows cold toward her. 

Our Christianity can become merely an orthodox routine. It is possible to walk with the Lord in many wonderful areas yet have one fatal flaw. The church may run smoothly. People may serve willingly. No scandals destroy the church’s reputation, yet the inner dynamics imperceptibly run dry. Decline creeps in so gradually that we do not notice our hearts growing cold. 

The honeymoon of your Christian walk is long gone. Your love for the Lord has grown cold. You are orthodox, and your loyalty to truth is unquestionable, but your love for the Lord is cold. Your fellowship with the Lord dwindled to a low ebb. You no longer enjoy spiritual joy. Your Christian life is routine and apathetic. You are mechanical in your Christianity. You do not love other Christians as you once did. 

We lose the ability to assess objectively our spiritual life when we do not acknowledge the creeping pattern of losing our first love. Instead of dealing with our sins by confessing them, we justify them. We judge others instead of judging ourselves. We become critical and censorious. We are no longer passionate about evangelism. Compassion diminishes into something very feeble. 

In the following few verses, the Holy Spirit says to “remember” and “repent.” These actions are the solution to a cold heart. The church needs both work and worship. There is no tension between the two. Work grows out of worship. If work does not come out of worship, then our motive is not from love.