Study Notes: Ephesus: Losing Your First Love (Rev. 2:1-7)
Revelation 2:1-7 (ESV)
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.
“‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and 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. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
These seven letters are preceded by John’s vision of the exalted and glorified risen savior who walks among his churches (1:9-20). They are followed by the powerful images of God’s mercy, judgment and ultimate victory in chpts. 4-22. These letters help us to understand the place of the church against the sweeping panorama of human history.
The book was delivered as a whole and was meant to be read aloud in each of the churches (1:3). Therefore, each of the churches would have also heard what Christ had to say about the other six churches and called to heed the message.
Each of these letters follow a similar pattern with a few exceptions:
- Each letter is addressed to the angel of the particular church. It is possible that the angels are actual heavenly beings but it is more likely that it refers in some way to the leaders of the various churches. Whichever is correct, it is clear that the “angel” is representative of the entire congregation. The fact that Christ holds them in his hand denotes security and control.
- Jesus then describes some aspect of himself that had been revealed in John’s vision in 1:9-20.
- Jesus tells the church that he knows them and describes what he knows about them.
- In most of the churches, with the exception of Smyrna and Philadelphia, he mentions something that he has against them.
- He then calls the church to repentance.
- He lists the consequences of they fail to repent.
- They are then called to hear what the Spirit says to the churches and given a promise to those who overcome or conquer.
- Description of Jesus and the recipient (1) – In each of these letters Jesus uses some aspect of John’s description of the risen and glorified Jesus found in 1:9-20. In this case it is the one who holds the seven stars (angels of the seven churches, 1:20) and walks among the lampstands (the seven churches, 1:20)
- What Jesus knows about the church at Ephesus (2-3, 6) – He knows 9 commendable things about this church. He knows 1) their works, 2) their toil, 3) their patient endurance, 4) that they cannot bear with those who are evil, 5) that they had tested false apostles, 6) they were enduring patiently, 7) they were bearing up for his name’s sake, 8) they had not grown weary, and 9) they hated the work of the Nicolaitans (v.6).
- What Jesus has against this church (4) – That they had abandoned the love that they had at first.
- What this church was to do in response (5a) – There response was to be three-fold. They were to “remember” from where they had fallen; “repent”; and “do” the deeds they had done at first .
- The consequences of failure (5b) – Jesus would come to them and remove their lampstand.
- What this church needed to hear (7) – the one who conquers will be granted to eat of the tree of life in the paradise of God.
Theme / Main Idea:
Theme(s): Importance of the Great Commandment (Mt. 22:36-38), Repentance, Doctrine, Holiness, self-evaluation
Main idea: Jesus demands our affection not just our obedience and adherence to sound doctrine. Our love for Christ is so important that its absence can kill a church.
Aim / Complementary Ideas:
- To show that Christ is in control of his churches and that what he values and expects from us is sometimes at odds with what we value and expect. We must align our values and expectations with his if we want to be a faithful church.
- Christ’s control of his churches – Since he is the one who walks among the lampstands (v. 1), he will take away their lampstand if they do not repent (v. 5).
- The importance of periodic self-evaluation – this church was called to remember from where they had fallen. It is important for churches to stop and periodically reexamine what is really important to that congregation.
- Repentance– there is only one response when we fail our Lord.
- Discernment – This church evaluated the messaged of those who claimed that they had been sent to speak for God and rejected them as false apostles.
- Sound Doctrine – This was a church that rejected false and heretical teaching, which Jesus also hated.
- The importance of keeping love for Christ central in a church – out of everything this church did right one problem threatened their very existence.
Love for Christ is the heart of the Gospel. Since God has demonstrated the magnitude of his love for us by sending his Son to die for us while we were yet sinners (Rom. 5:8), we are called to let our love for him be the driving force behind all that we do. There are echoes of 1 Corinthians 13 in this text. There was so much that was commendable about this church but the fact that they had lost their first love threatened to undo it all.