Where is the love? Rev 2:1-7

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If the Lord Jesus wrote a letter to your church what do you think he would write?
What things do you think he would commend you for? What things do you think he would rebuke you for?
Would the character of the latter be a happy one or would it show grief?
At the beginning of the book of Revelation the Lord Jesus sends a letter to the seven churches in the Roman province of Asia which is modern day Turkey. In each letter he addresses the church and speaks personally to them. He has some words of encouragement for some and words of rebuke for others.
The first of these letters is adressed to the Church which is in Ephesus. No doubt, this letter would have been very interesting to the Apostle John who penned the revelation as he lived in Ephesus before he was exiled to the Isle of Patmos. He was a leader in the Church and no doubt the church would have been very near to his heart.
As we look closely at what the Lord Jesus Christ says to this Church we will see that it is possible to have a Church that seems to be faithful in their doctrine and work for the Lord, but yet their love is cold.
These letters to the churches are open letters. They were adressed to them but they are for everyone to read. The obvious reason for this is so that we too might learn from them and examine ourselves in light of what is said.

I. Christ is with his church

The letter to the church at Ephesus begins by saying who it is adressed to;
“To the angel of the church of Ephesus write,
When you study this passage you soon realise that there are different opinions on who the angel of the church is. Is it an actual angel that is given charge over the church, is it referring to the church in a metaphorical way, or is it referring to the Pastor/ Overseer of the church?
My personal view is that it is refering to the pastor of the church, the rerason being that if it was an actual angel why would John need to write a letter and send it to him?
So this letter is written to the Pastor of the church, to be read to the church.
Thats who it is addressed to, next we see who the author is.
‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands:”
In ch 1:20 the Lord explains who the seven stars are and who the seven lampstands are;
The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.”
The Author is the Lord Jesus Christ and what we learn about him from these words is that he is the one who has control over the leaders of the church- He holds them in his right hand.
and he is peronally involved in the churches, and working among them- He walks in the midst of them.
This means that he is peronally aquainted with all that the church in Ephesus and every other church is doing, and experiencing.
This means that his commendation and critique of the church is accurate and cannot be questioned.
Knowing this should cause us as the church today to be encouraged but also vigilant. Encouraged because the Lord is with us and knows all we experience and he is working through us and in us. Yet, vigilant because he demands his church to be faithful and knows whether we are seeking to be or not.
So the Lord is in the best possible position to commend or rebuke the church, so lets continue and see what he has to say to the church in Ephesus.
We see that Christ is with his church, next we see that he knows their works.

II. Christ knows their works

Look with me at v.2-3, the Lord says to the church;
“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; 3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.
Here we see that there is quite a list of good things that can be said about this church at Ephesus.
The have laboured for the Lord. This probably included preaching the Gospel, doing good works, serving those in the church and those outside of it.
They cannot bear those who are evil, they have a desire for righteousness. In v.6 we read that they also hated the deeds of the Nicolaitins who were a heretical sect trying to emerege at that time.
They are zealous for sound doctrine, they had tested those who claim to be apostle and are not.
We could sum up this list by saying they were faithful in their life and in their doctrine. The contended for the faith once delivered to the saints and they sought to live out their faith by the grace of God.
The Apostle Paul in Acts 20 warned the Elders in Ephesus that false teachers would rise up among them, and that they were to take heed to all the flock. This they were obviously doing.
The fact that the Apostle John lived in Ephesus perhaps added to their ability and desire to route out false teachers. There is an account recorded by Iraneaus in the second century about John’s encounter with a heretic named Cerinthus. Iraneaus writes “John, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe at Ephesus, and perceiving Cerinthus within, rushed out of the bath-house without bathing, exclaiming, Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within.”
So the Church at Ephesus were valiant for the truth and laboured for the Lord. There is much that we can learn from their example. Are we as a body of believers valiant for the truth? Can it be said of yourselves that you cannot bear those who are evil. That you have tested false teachers and found them liars?
Are we passionate about sound doctrine?
Are we seeking to serve the Lord with the same kind of zeal and tirelessness that they displayed? Could the Lord say to us that we have laboured for his sake and not grown weary? Whether its preaching the Gospel, serving believers or acts of kindess to those outside the church?
If you saw a church like this you would probably assume that they are well pleasing to the Lord. But yet there was a great problem. They seemed to tick all the boxes on the outside but they had a heart problem.
Christ is with them, knows their works but he also sees their heart.

III. Christ sees their heart

After listing the positive points about the church the Lord Jesus says in v.4 these cutting words;
“Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”
I’m sure when the church at Ephesus heard these words their heart probably sank. They probably felt quite good about themselves until they heard this.
But what did the Lord mean? How had they left their first love?
There are a few opinions about the meaning of the Lord’s words here. The Lord could be referring to their love for one another, their brotherly love. He could be referring to their love for the lost, or he could be referring to their love and devotion for him. Or he could mean all of the above. We arent actually told.
But the point is there is a love that they once had that they do not have now. Perhaps the Lord is referring to all of the above. Maybe they have grown loveless in everyway.
Maybe they didn’t love oneanother like they used to, maybe there are divisons among them, envy, strife, gossip. There isn’t the brotherly love that they had at first.
They would of had a great emphasis on brotherly love while John was there. There are records of him when he was an old man, they would ask him for a sermon and he would sit up and say “little children, love one another.”
Maybe now this love was lacking, the Lord new all about it, he was grieved by it.
Maybe they didn’t love the lost like they once did, sure they still laboured for the Lord but maybe the motive wasn’t love anymore but habbit, or becasue it was the right thing to do.
Perhaps the worst of all, they did not love the Lord like they once did. They were zealous for sound doctrine, fervent in good works, but it wasn’t out of love for their Lord, this love had grown cold, the flame that once burned bright was beginning to dim.
It is a sad state of affairs when the church is loveless. When their love has grown cold. Usually if they are loveless in one area, then they tend to be in others as well.
The challenge that this verse brings to every believer individually is could this be said about me? Is my love as fervant as it was in the past? Am I doing the things I do for the Lord out of love for him, his people and the lost?
We know the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Cor 13 which say “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 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. 3 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.”
What can be asked about individuals must also be asked about the church corporately. Are we as a church displaying the same love we once did? Do we have the love for one another that we used to? Do we love the lost? Do we love the Lord like we once did?
As we see from this letter an indicator isn’t neccaserily your activity but rather your motive? You cannot answer these questions by saying yes, look at our sound doctrine, or look at our labour for the Lord, becasue as we see from this letter, things can be done without love. The question that must be asked is what is the motive for the things we do?
Yes we love sound doctrine, but is it because we love the Lord and his people or is it because, we love division, or we want to sniff out heresy so that we can flex our theological muscles and be seen by others to be sound in the faith.
Yes we labour for the Lord but is it to be seen by men, is it bring glory to ourselves or is it because we love the Lord and love the lost?
Its challenging isn’t it. Well, this was the problem that the church at Ephesus had. They had left their first love and this was very serious.
Thankfully, there was a way back for them.
Christ is with his church, he knows their works, he sees their heart. Next he shows them the way back.

IV. Christ shows the way back

look with me at v.5;
“5 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.
The Lord Jesus in this verse shows the church at Ephesus the way back to where they should be. However, he also gives them a serious warning about what will happen if they do not take it.
The way back to where they should be was repentace.
THey were to repent. The Lord lays this process out for them in three steps.
First they were to remember where they had fallen from. They were to remember what they used to be like, they were to think about the love that they once had.
Second they were to repent, this means to have a change of mind. They were to change their minds about what they had been doing. Repentance is a change of mind that leads to a change of action.
Third they were to do the first works. They were to do what they did before.
Remember what you did at first, repent of what you are doing now, and do what you first did.
This was what the Lord called them to do, this was the way back to right standing with him.
What would happen if they did not do this?
The Lord said that he would remove their lampstand. To put it simply he would destroy them as a church. He would end their witness. They would cease to exist. There would no longer be a church at Ephesus.
The Lord Jesus Christ takes love very seriously. If a church is loveless soon the place where they are will be churchless, unless they repent.
So the warning is harsh, but we must see in this the grace of the Lord Jesus, the Lord Jesus in the next chapter says to the Church of Laeodecia, as many as I love I rebuke and chasten, be zealous therefore and repent.
The Lord loves the church and for this reason he calls them to repent of their lovelessness.
With a stern warning he also adds a wonderful promise. V.7 says;
““He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”
To put it simply the one who overcomes by faith in Christ and his shed blood on the cross, to them he will give the gift of eternal life.
Just as there was a way back for them. So there is a way back for every church who is not where they should be. The way back to right standing with the Lord is repentance.
If we know we are guilty of being loveless, we see here that the love of the Lord Jesus calls us to repentance. Remeber, repent, do what you did at first.


We started off with the question; “If the Lord Jesus wrote a letter to your church what do you think he would say?”
What good things would he write? What would he rebuke you for?
This church in Ephesus had many great things about it, but their problem was greater. They were zealous for sound doctrine, they laboured for the Lord without becoming weary. However, they had left their first love.
The Lord Jesus gave them the stern warning. A place with a church that is loveless will soon be a place that is churchless, unless they repent.
How is the love in your church? Do you love one another, do you love the lost? do you love the Lord? Is the motivation of your faith and practice love?
Maybe love is not an issue for yourselves. Maybe it is something else, maybe there is nothing at the minute. Some of these churches didn’t receive any rebuke from the Lord.
The point of these letters to the churches is to show them the love of the Lord Jesus for them, he wants them to repent if they have problems and he wants them to perservere in doing good if they don’t
The Lord Jesus is the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand, and who walks in the midst of the seven lampstands. He is with his chruch and he loves them.
What would the Lord Jesus say to your church? I’m sure he would have much good to say. Would he have anything bad to say?
If you think so, then the loving message of Jesus is remember what you were like, repent and do what you did at first.
Let us pray
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