Jesus reproved the church of Ephesus for having left their first love

After commending them for their works, patience and labour, Jesus delivered a stern and serious reproof to the Church of Ephesus:

Nevertheless I have [somewhat] against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.

Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent

Exploring Agape, the Greek word for love in the text

Agape (G 26) is the Greek word used in the text to denote “love”.  I evaluated the usage of “agape” in order to fully understand its meaning.   Additionally, I restricted interpretation to the love that a believer should have for God since this was the context in which Jesus spoke.

  • Beginning from the time that He set apart a people called Israel unto Himself, God commanded them to “love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” (Deut 6: 5; Matt 22: 37)
  • To love God means to “…keep his charge, and his statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments, alway.” (Deut 11: 1)
  • Jesus told the disciples that those who love Him would keep His commandments (John 14: 15 & 23; 15: 10)

Agapaō (G25) is the root word for agape. It also speaks of the unlimited, unsurpassed, boundless love of God and the reciprocal love that the believer should have for Him:

And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love [his] neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices (Mark 12: 23).

Agapaō is the love:

  • that caused God to give His Only Son as a sacrifice for our sins (John 3: 16)
  • that caused Jesus to obey everything the Father had commanded Him to do – even to the point of death (John 14: 31)
  • that God had for Christ as a result of His willingness to die on our behalf (John 10 :17)
  • that would cause the believer to keep God’s words (John 14: 15, 21, 23 & 24)

The MAIN element of the believer’s love for God is the willingness to give up one’s life for His sake.

One can argue that the church at Ephesus had indeed kept His commandments. On the surface it seemed that all was well.  However, the Lord knows the heart and saw that they had left off loving Him.

I tried to understand the reason why the church could have left their first love. The only immediate example that came to mind was that of the rich young man who wanted to follow Jesus.The rich young man had kept all the external points of the law. However, Jesus told him that he must give all that he had to the poor and  follow him in order to be fully pleasing to God. The young man went away sorrowful, because he did not want to give up his possessions. As he walked away, Jesus mused to His disciples:

…Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.

And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.(Matthew 19: 23)

The disciples were astounded at Jesus’ commentary on rich men and their unwillingness to inherit the kingdom of heaven.  They exclaimed that they were among the few rich men who had left all to follow Jesus. Our Lord had taught them prior about the  danger of wealth choking the word and killing the believer spiritually.

Had the Ephesian believers become distracted by the deceitfulness of riches? Did their wealth and the cares of life choke the love of Christ? The church at Ephesus appeared to be very accomplished, yet Jesus diagnosed the inner state of their spiritual health and passed the sentence – REPENT.

In the upcoming post, we will deal with the instruction given by our Lord –  “remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works…” (Revelation 2: 5).