The church at Ephesus was a hardworking, doctrinally-sound, uncompromising body. However, it was the only church which Jesus threatened to decommission or disown (Rev 2:1-5). In chapter one, he said that the lampstands were the churches (v.20). In threatening to remove their candlestick, he was saying that they would no longer be his church. They might continue to exist and perhaps even flourish outwardly; however, they would not be a Spirit indwelt church, but a hollow shell, a worshipping society.
If the church at Ephesus was a hardworking, doctrinally-sound, uncompromising body, why threaten to remove their candlestick? They had left their first love (2:4). Some have identified their first love as evangelism. It is certainly true that many churches of Christ have been sidetracked from taking the gospel to the world to in-fighting and self-service, but is this what Jesus means?
When Paul wrote to this same church. He told them to speak the truth in love (4:15) and to walk in love (5:1-2). A church can hold and preach the right doctrine without love either for the one who commissioned them or for the ones to whom they preach.
We still have not answered the question “What was their first love?” The church is the bride of Christ for whom he died. A bride’s first love is her husband. We may strongly avow our love for Christ, but what is the acid test? A wife may perform her expected role with great skill—have the cleanest house, serve the best meals, have exemplary children, and yet freeze her husband to death. She loves her role, but not her husband. Every church loudly proclaims its love for Christ, especially in sermon and song, but John would ask, “How can you love Christ if you do not love those whom he loves?”
Here is what he said: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him” (1 John 4:20-5:1, ESV).
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every individual and every group of individuals claiming to be a church of Christ were known as “those people who love Jesus, one another, and all for whom he died”
Written by Don Campbell