When John was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, he heard a loud voice saying (Revelation 1:11): "'Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches; to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.'" Our text records John's letter to the church at Ephesus.
The speaker (verse1) describes Himself as: "'The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands.'" As 1:17-18 implies, the speaker is Jesus. He is the One who walks in the midst of the churches. He walks among them like a watchman. He calls them to account, but His main purpose is to encourage and lift them up. We learn several lessons from this passage.
One, keep serving the Lord diligently and with perseverance. Christ will reward you!
Jesus evaluates the church at Ephesus. He commends them for their toil and perseverance. He notes that they do not tolerate evil men and false apostles. They have endured much for the sake of Jesus and have not grown weary. In addition they hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans who probably practiced immorality and idolatry under the banner of spiritual liberty. The Nicolaitans had worked out a compromise with pagan society.
Serving God involves diligent toil, perseverance, and rejecting evil men and false apostles. Throughout the history of the church, false teachings have arisen. The church must be alert and not trapped into following these teachings. To avoid false teachings, we must be constantly immersed in the Word of God. When we serve the Lord diligently, and stay faithful to the truth, Christ will abundantly reward usl
Two, we must keep our first love! If we do not, Christ will judge us!
Jesus tells the Ephesians that they have left their first love. They must repent and do the deeds that they did at first. If they do not, Jesus will remove their lampstand out of its place. This will be an act of immediate judgment. Without love the congregation at Ephesus will cease to be a church.
When people come to Christ, they often are very excited and filled with enthusiasm for Him and His work. Then, over time, the excitement may wear off. Sometimes people get immersed in the routines of life and forget to keep alive their relationship with Christ. Those who have lost their first love must repent and enliven their experience with Christ.
Three, we must be overcomers! Overcomers will be rewarded with eternal life!
The church at Ephesus faced two major problems. One is that they were confronted with evil men and false teaching. Two, they had lost their first love. To be overcomers, they must deal with both problems. People who lose their first love are more susceptible to evil than those who remain ardent. Thus, the problems tend to be interrelated.
Christ and the Spirit say (verse 7), "'To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.'" Newport (p. 145) points out that "The 'tree of life' is first mentioned in Genesis 2:9 as one of the many trees given to Adam and Eve for food and was off limits to them after their fall into sin (Gen. 3:22, 24). It is last mentioned in Revelation 22:19." When we overcome, we participate in eternal life.
Four, we must hear what the Spirit is saying! The Spirit will lead us in all things!
Through John, Jesus directly addresses the seven churches in 2:1-3:22. Christ exhorts them all to hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The special word of Christ and the Spirit to the church at Ephesus was to restore their first love.
This message of keeping our first love is timeless and has eternal value. It is an important message for the churches of all ages. And we as individuals must give heed as well. Each person must keep alive his or her intensity of love for the Master.
Today, all churches need to listen carefully to the Spirit. He will regularly speak to us with relevant messages for us in our time. The Spirit speaks to our minds and hearts. Even more surely, He speaks through the Word which includes the recorded words of Christ. If we do not listen to the Spirit, we embark on a perilous journey.
As followers of Christ, we must serve with perseverance. We must keep our first love. We must be overcome all opposition, evil, and false teaching. And, we must hear what the Spirit is saying to us today. The message of keeping our first love especially stands out in this passage.