WISDOM FOR LIVING DAILY DEVOTIONAL
NOVEMBER 7, 2023
TOPIC: HAVE YOU LEFT YOUR FIRST LOVE?
BY T. O. BANSO
“Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 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” (Revelation 2:4-5 New King James Version).
The Apostle Paul founded the church in Ephesus during his second missionary journey (Acts 18:19). He returned to Ephesus during his third missionary journey when he spent three years ministering to the people (Acts 19:1-20). He later sent for and held a meeting with the Ephesian elders at Miletus, and among other things, warned them that after his departure, savage wolves would come in among them, not sparing the flock. He also said from among them men would rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves (Acts 20:17-38).
In the letter to the Ephesian church, Jesus commended the church for some things she did. “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” (Revelation 2:2-3 New King James Version). In verse 6, Jesus also said that the church hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which He also hated. It appears this church paid attention to Paul’s warning about false teachers and did very well not following them. The church didn’t tolerate evil people and false apostles.
Some people suppose that the Nicolaitans or Nicolaitanes were the followers of Nicolas, one of the seven deacons (Acts 6:5). This heretical group also troubled the Pergamos church (Revelation 2:15). “The Nicolaitanes taught the community of wives, that adultery and fornication were things indifferent, that eating meats offered to idols was quite lawful; and mixed several pagan rites with the Christian ceremonies” (Adam Clarke’s Commentary). While Jesus commended the church in Ephesus for hating the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which He also hated, the church in Pergamos had those who followed the teachings of the Nicolaitans.
However, despite the commendation the Ephesian church received, Jesus was not pleased with her. He indicted her for leaving, abandoning, or departing from her first love. “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 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” (Revelation 2:4-5 New King James Version). Note the phrase “You have left your first love.” But love for whom? Most translations do not answer this question.
However, the Living Bible puts the phrase this way: “Yet there is one thing wrong; you don’t love me as at first!” Note the phrase “You don’t love me as at first!” The Good News Translation says a similar thing: “But this is what I have against you: you do not love me now as you did at first.” These two translations make it clear that the Ephesian church departed from their first love for Jesus.
But the New Living Translation expresses this phrase in another way, expanding the scope of love the church in Ephesus abandoned. It says, “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!” (Revelation 2:4). The phrase “You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!” shows that this church left her first love both for Jesus and each other. In other words, they didn’t love Jesus and each other as they first did.
If the phrase “You have left your first love” means this church did not love Jesus and each other as before, as the New Living Translation puts it, it is not surprising because there is a relationship between love for Jesus (God) and fellow human beings. 1 John 4:20 says that if someone says that he loves God and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? You cannot claim you love God when you do not love fellow believers.
Jesus is looking for love in His church. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35 New King James Version). How are believers supposed to love one another? Jesus says that as He has loved them. This is the standard. Jesus loved us and laid down His life for us. What a love!
The church in Ephesus failed in the area of love. In Ephesians 1:15-16, Paul spoke of the Ephesian church thus, “Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers” (New King James Version). But the love for the saints had diminished in the book of Revelation, going by the New Living Translation presentation of Revelation 2:4.
A life without love is a bankrupt life, no matter the good qualities one possesses or the good works one does. Paul said, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 New King James Version).
Jesus thought that the greatest commandment is love both towards God and men. There is no law greater than this. “Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets’” (Matthew 22:37-40 New King James Version). Mark 12:29-31 says a similar thing.
What does it mean to love God? Jesus says, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me” (John 14:23-24 New King James Version). Loving God means obeying His Word; it is not just being busy with activities.
Jesus told the church in Ephesus, “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” (Revelation 2:5 New King James Version). What does the removal of the lampstand from its place mean? There was usually, in the tabernacle, a gold lampstand, with six branches and a shaft in the middle, which bore seven lamps that provided light for the holy place (Exodus 25:31-40; 37:17-23). There were also ten gold lampstands in the temple (1 Kings 7:49, 50; 2 Chronicles 4:7). In Revelation 2:1, Jesus said He walked amid the seven golden lampstands. This refers to the seven churches. It means His presence was in the churches.
To remove the lampstand of the Ephesian church from its place has been interpreted in different ways. Some believe it means that the light of the church would be put out or it would cease being a light in her community. In other words, the church would die or go into extinction, as it eventually did. The city was destroyed, and it is in ruins today. Others believe that taking away the lampstand from its place means that the church would be taken away to another place. They say that this scripture talks of removal, not extinction. Yet, some also believe that it refers to the removal of the pastor of the church if the church did not repent while others believe that it means that Jesus will remove His presence in the church.
Human beings could be carried away by the things Jesus commended the church in Ephesus for but not Jesus. He did not overlook her falling from her love for Him and for each other as it did at first, which was more important to Him than other things the church did.
There are churches today that are doing every commendable thing except love for Jesus and each other. They used to love Him and each other but they have left their first love – they don’t love Jesus and each other the way they did before. Jesus is calling such churches to repent lest their lampstands be removed.
The letter to the Ephesian church and, indeed, the letters to all the churches in the book of Revelation are to all churches today. Do you still love Jesus and fellow believers as you first did? Has your love waxed cold? (Matthew 24:12). Revelation 2:5 says three things you must do: remember from where you have fallen, repent, and do the first works. To love, you must take action, not just talk about love. Don’t just be busy with activities but be motivated by love. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches!
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit that you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto You today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and God raised Him on the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank You, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like a palm tree and grow like a cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The Lord be with you.
PRAYER POINTS: Holy Spirit, help me and let my love for Jesus and other believers increase, not decrease. Let me not leave my first love but let it continue to glow. Let all my activities in the Kingdom of God be motivated by love for Jesus and fellow believers.
(For over 900 in-depth and powerful messages by T. O. Banso, visit www.cedarministry.org).
T. O. Banso is the President of Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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