Updated: Nov 27, 2020
I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” Revelation 2:2-4. NKJV
The church at Ephesus would be a model church by today's standards. It was known for its religious zeal and perseverance in the face of apparent opposition. Moreover, God complimented the church for its commitment to defending the truth of the gospel and opposing false teachers. However, the church had allowed its ministry for the Lord to replace its devotion to him. They were doing the right things, but somewhere along the way, they had lost their heart for God.
God wants more than our service. he wants our undivided love. We are to love him completely and give him first place in our hearts. (Matt. 22:37). Loving God with all of our heart, mind, and soul leaves little room for divided emotions, perfunctory service, and halfhearted devotion. Either we are all in or we are not in it at all by God's standards. This truth is illustrated further when God rebukes the church of the Laodiceans. (Rev. 3:14-16). The church had become comfortable in their relationship with God. They allowed their material blessings to dull their passion. Further, they mistakenly believed that their possessions were proof that their actions were pleasing to God.
God asked the Ephesus church to consider how far they had fallen and to repent. (v. 5). Today, the Ephesus church is remembered as the loveless church. Sadly, the Ephesus problem exists in many churches today where programs and activities take precedence over authentic worship and genuine devotion. When love for God becomes secondary to our service to him, we are in danger of leaving our first love. It is easy to fall into the trap of doing ministry for the sake of doing ministry. God’s admonition to the church at Ephesus should serve as a warning for us today. Labor without love is meaningless in God's economy. Although he praised them for their works, God strictly warned the church of the consequences of continuing on its current path.
This Scripture should also remind us that love for God is the most important aspect of our relationship with him. God is calling us to return to him, to rekindle our passion for him, and to give him first place in our lives. During this time when many churches are unable to gather for corporate worship, it is imperative that we remain engaged and spiritually connected to God. We cannot allow our hearts to grow cold toward him. There are many things to distract us from spending quality time in prayer and fellowship with God. However, we must intentionally focus on deepening our relationship by replacing our usual church activity with personal devotion. As we do this, we will find that worship takes on a new dimension. As we meditate on God’s goodness, our hearts will overflow with love and our works will be energized by our passion for him.