Our First Love
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Revelation 2:1-7, “Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst bare them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: and hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. 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. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God”.
What an exhortation this was from God to the angel of the church at Ephesus! I trust that God would allow us to dig up a few treasures found in the preceding verses, that we may be made to see the glory and grace of his divine countenance. It is truly a message that that ought to encourage us to draw nearer to him, that we might praise the Most High with joyful lips.
OUR DEPENDENCY UPON CHRIST: (verse 1)
In the first verse it is not the pastor and preacher (the angel) to whom the subject belongs, but rather to Him (Christ) that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, and walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks. Christ, in the 20th verse of the 1st chapter of Revelation, makes known to us who the seven stars are and what the seven golden candlesticks represent. They are the preachers of the seven churches, respectively. But let us more closely notice their relationship to Christ. He is holding the stars! Here we see the living Word holding those that God has called to proclaim the preached word, the gospel. Mariners to discern direction and guidance over the vast expanse of sea have long since used stars to safely guide them on a steady course. It was a star that guided the wise men to Christ in Bethlehem. And when they saw the star they rejoiced with exceeding great joy, for it came and stood over where the young child was. Christ was the object of their rejoicing.
It is not the preached word that gives eternal life, but the living Word. 1Peter 1:23 states, “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever”. It is Christ the living word that gives life everlasting to his elect through regeneration. It is only then that a child of God can and may hear the gospel. The gospel (the preached word) brings life and immortality to light. Through the glorious gospel we are made to see the Salvation of ruined sinners by the bloodshed of Christ. Herein is the purpose of the seven stars in his hand. They guide God’s children to Christ. They guide us to Him who is without the camp. It was John the Baptist who said (while looking upon Jesus as he walked), Behold the Lamb of God! And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. Paul told the Corinthians, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ”. Paul had no desire for self-glory, but that they might be turned from their ungodly ways and be led to Christ, not for eternal salvation but for a deliverance from the judgment of God in this time.
It is with these thoughts that a God called man should always bear in mind his service to God, As well as his dependency on Him who holds him in his right hand. Christ said in John 15:5, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” Without Christ we are nothing and can do nothing that is pleasing to God. God calls a man to preach the gospel that He (God) might be glorified. When man seeks to receive glory for what God has enabled him to do (that is to preach Gods word) you can be sure of one thing, God will deal with that man. I speak from experience; it doesn’t take long to be reminded of our dependency upon Christ.
Note also that while He is holding the seven stars in his hand He walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks. As already mentioned, the seven golden candlesticks represent the whole of God’s church. What a comforting thought this is! Christ did not just leave to us a “spare tire” to pacify his children until He should return. Though Christ will return one day to take home his people, He is with his loved ones now as they come together around an open book to proclaim his Holy and Righteous name, “In the midst of the church will I sing praises unto thee”. A great type of his care for the church can be found in Exodus 30:7 where we read about the high priest Aaron. Aaron was a dresser of the lamps. At the same time Aaron was offering burnt incense upon the golden alter we read where he was to “make well” the lamps. In doing so, no doubt, he inspected each one to make sure they were performing properly. Surely he would add more Olive oil as needed to insure that they would continue to burn. I would imagine that from time to time the wicks needed trimming in order to optimize the flame, as well as cleaning the smudge that might result from the continued burning. Had it not been for Aaron’s constant care for the candles their life would surely be short lived. These golden candles that were in the Tabernacle were dependant upon Aaron’s care of them.
So too is the church dependant upon Christ today for their care and continued burning. He is our dresser of the lamps, the one who makes well the lamps. It is Christ walking in the midst that provides the oil of the Holy Spirit, that the light of the church may continue to burn bright. He is the dresser of the lamps who trims the wicks and prevents the smudge from forming, diminishing the luster of the gold. May we always see our dependency on Christ in the church for the preaching of the gospel, and for the many blessings that God provides for those who are obedient to his service. For without Him are no blessings found in or out of his great church.
With these wonderful truths set before us may we take the more earnest heed to the exhortation that has been given to the church at Ephesus in the verses to follow. For it applies to God’s church today. “These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks”!
OUR WORKS AND LABOURS: (verses 2 and 3)
In the second verse Jesus starts off with “I know”, demonstrating the power of a God who knows all things whatsoever we do. His knowing is the direct result of a God who walketh in the midst of his church. Jesus first begins by commending the church for their works, labour, and patience in Christ. How necessary these are in our service to God. Such was not the case with the church in Sardis. Christ said, “I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead” (Rev. 3:1). Though the church in Sardis was thought to be a lively church Christ said they were dead. My friends we can become dead in today’s church as well. I have known churches that have continued to meet long after God had removed the light. What a cold and desolate place that is, for if the Spirit of God abides not with us in His church then our meeting is in vain, it profiteth nothing.
We must continue to work and labour in God’s house. If we don’t look to God in our works and labors then all is for naught. The psalmist said, “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it”. It makes no matter what we do to maintain God’s church, or to establish God’s church, if Christ is not the builder of the church then all our efforts are as the chaff that blows away with the first wind. Many of today’s worldly denominations have all the right programs to bring in crowds of people. To often the number of people that attend (in worldly churches) is used as a measure of that church’s success. It is not the spirit of God that moves them to attend, but rather mans devices (i.e.-bible camps, sports leagues, Sunday schools, etc). Such devices need not be in God’s true church, for where He is there is contentment, peace and rest. A true measure of a churches success is based solely on the presence of God in her midst. It is only when the presence of God is missing that man begins to invent new reasons for coming together to worship.
I believe the works and labour that Christ is here commending the church of Ephesus for is relating to their great love towards one another. The church of Ephesus was not idle in their service to God. They had a desire to follow the commandments of God and to have charity among the saints. Christ stated in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” This is speaking of a love “to” one another and not just “for” one another. It is a love in action. It is one thing to have love for one another, but quite a bit different to show that love to one another. Christ tells us of the necessity of this love when the Pharisees asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law” He answers in Matthew 22:37-40, “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. And the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets”. How needful it is that we come together in charity towards one another, forgiving one another, as Christ himself hath forgiven us. And how shall we not forgive one another with love and charity seeing that God commended his love for us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us! This, my friends, is the greatest charity of all: God’s sovereign and free grace towards such an undeserving sinner as I.
God’s church ought not be a place of contention and strife towards one another but a place of mercy and forgiveness. It is a place where all the saints of God can come together in love and charity. If this be the case then it can only build up Gods church and serve to glorify God. Matthew 5:16 states, “Let your light so shine before man, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” I am afraid that so many times we enter into God’s service with the wrong spirit. Perhaps we are a bit contentious because someone did not speak to us at the last meeting. Perhaps we are envious of others that are there. Whatever the case, this spirit of contention and strife ought not be in God’s church. The Apostle makes it clear as to our frame of mind when coming together to worship God. In 1Peter 2:1-3 he states, “Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.”
If we are to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior we must lay aside those works of the flesh and come with an earnest heart, yearning for the presence of God Almighty. Christ stated in Matthew 18:3, “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.” My friends, has the Lord been gracious to you? Has he given all that you have need of and then more? Has He brought you into His church and given you a home among the saints? Has He revealed the gospel to your wanting ears? Have the tears flowed down your cheek at the sound of Amazing grace that saved a wretch like me? If so, come seeking the sincere milk of the word that we may grow in knowledge and love towards Him!
In the remainder of verse 2 and verse 3 Christ continues to commend the church of Ephesus. He states, “…And how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.” This church had a strong foundation for Gods truth and had their senses exercised knowing both good and evil. They could discern a false prophet and one who would desire to lead God’s children away from the truth. They had remembered Paul’s word of exhortation when he said, “Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.” Paul knew that grievous wolves would enter in among them, not sparing the flock. He also warned them that there would be some that would rise up from among them seeking to draw away disciples after them. But Paul’s work was not in vain. Christ commended the church for standing fast and not fainting.
THY FIRST LOVE: (verses 4 and 5)
The church at Ephesus was sound in their faith; no doubt they had charity one for another and had all the marks of a growing and prospering church. But man has only to make observations from the outward appearance; it is God who looks within. He knows our hearts intent. He knows what motivates us to come to His house. And though the church at Ephesus seemed to be growing and prospering they lacked but one thing. It is one thing to drive down the road in an automobile missing some small part such as a hubcap, but if you are running low on fuel you won’t get far no matter how complete your car is. It is the fuel (if I may use this analogy) that drives God’s church. That being your first love for Him.
He states, “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love”. And how important is this first love? He goes on to state, “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”. This first love is so important that if we as God’s church leave it, no matter how strong our foundation or how sound in the doctrine and truth we may be, or how much charity we have towards one another, we are in danger of loosing the very manifested presence of God! For if the candlestick be gone so too is the light. And if so, then we will cease to be God’s church. This is not to imply that God’s church will cease to exist everywhere, for Christ told Peter, “And upon this rock I will build by church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”. God’s church will continue until the day of Christ’s appearing, He has seen to that. But, as with the case of Ephesus, it may be somewhere else if they don’t repent.
What then is this first love? It is that first love we have for Christ and what He has accomplished for us. We first began to feel this love when we see our hopeless case and then hear the gospel of a risen Savior who, by His great love and mercy, hath redeemed us by His blood on Calvary. One who hath saved us from the wrath to come and has preserved us unto everlasting life with Him in paradise. Not because of our merits but because of Christ’s. Dear Saints of God, has this news become tarnished in your mind? Has it lost its freshness in your life? Do you still rejoice at these words, “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses: Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross”.
O’ dear friend! How I need to go back to my first love, to the time that my heart swelled at the sound of Salvation for a ruined sinner. I need to go back to the time that God began to deal with me, when I could do nothing but bow my head and fall to the ground weeping as a child. I need to go back to the time when my tears would no longer allow me to see the road I was driving and having found some quiet place to pull over, meet with God. What a wonderful glorious Savior is He! Dear needy sinner, have these been some of your experiences? Can you remember a time when the cares of this world were far behind you? Can you remember when God was your all in all? Do you recall a peace that passeth all understanding; a contentment with whatsoever state you were in? Do you yet desire this again? Are you in need of His saving grace now? The good news is that Christ says we can repent and do our first works.
The Song of Solomon tells of a great love affair between Christ and His church. She is said to be sick of love (sick with love). Here in the Song of Solomon chapter 2:10 we see the “honeymoon love” that she has for her beloved- “My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone: The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land!” What a time of joy when we are in great love over the Bridegroom. Notice in chapter 3:1 that she sought him and found him not, and being very concerned over where he might be, rose up to seek him. It was the watchmen (the man of God) that told her where she might find him. But when we continue to read we see that her desire for His presence begins to diminish. In chapter 5:1 we see a bride more content with the comforts of the world and not as anxious to open the door to her beloved. It is only when he leaves that she rises from her bed and begins to be sick of love again. Verse 7 tells us that the watchmen were not as helpful as before but rather smote her and wounded her. This tells of the repentance needed that she might find him once again. Had she only remembered, she would know where to find him, chapter 1:7-8, “Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon: for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions? If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds’ tents”.
How soon we forget the mercies and grace of God. We must needs remember our salvation. Go back to Calvary, look upon Him who is without the camp. See the blood flowing from Emmanuel’s veins. Have we forgotten Him! Have we become so entangled with the snares and cares of this world that our mind no longer dwells on the dying Lamb of God, the one who bought and paid for OUR salvation? Remember therefore from whence thou aren’t fallen! Man of his own nature does not obtain within himself the desire or ability to remember He who became sin for us. We must go back. It is indeed progress in mans eye to move forward but to progress towards God is to go back. He told his disciples in the 11th chapter of 1st Corinthians, “this do in remembrance of me”. This is of course speaking of communion. It is the bread that we eat, signifying His broken body and the wine signifying His blood that God has given unto us as a way of remembrance for what He has done. The psalmist said in chapter 63:5-6, “My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips: When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches”. My dear friend, when all hope seems gone meditate on the righteousness of Christ, for it is with His strips that we are healed. What He has done for us ought to ease the mind of any troubled soul.
THE NICOLAITANS: (verse 6)
It is my most sincere desire that the reader will consider these following views as coming from one who has the utmost love and respect for Gods people. It is truly out of love that these thoughts are brought forward.
Christ once again, after having warned the church at Ephesus in the 4th and 5th verse, commends the church for their works and labour. It is indeed a testimony to the love of God that he should sandwich his message to the church at Ephesus. First he commends, then warns, and then commends again. It is evident that Christ has a great love for this church, not desiring that they should loose their love for him. But rather He encourages by also letting them know of the good that they are doing. Christ states, “But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” Notice, Christ didn’t say he hated them, but that he hated their deeds.
To better understand this verse I think it necessary to look more closely at the word “Nicolaitans”. If we break it down in Greek we get this: Nikao: means to conquer or overcome, to rule or to dictate. Laos (or Laity): Implies “The people”. So what we have is “those who prevail over the people”. Or more directly: “A dictator over God’s people”.
It is a dictator over God’s people that Christ was referring to.
There will always be those who desire a dictatorship over God’s people. Unfortunately this is sometimes seen amongst the Old Baptist. But Paul tells us that Christ is the head of the church. And the church is only answerable to Christ. God’s church is not in need of a headquarters or a board of Deacons to “steer” all of God’s churches in unison with one another. That is our Saviors job. He is the great Shepherd and He will do as HE pleases. Dear friend, what have we become when we let some association or other ruling body to dictate or govern what is right or not? Have we overstepped our bounds? Though I may have great concern for what is going on down the road in another one of God’s churches, it is not my place to step in and “straighten things out”. It is my place, however, to pray for them, that they may turn once again to God. I do not imply my opinions to mean that we can do as we want. But rather to say, let God deal with those who are in error. The preacher’s job, I believe, is to feed the flock of God.
I have been told that the Old Baptist could someday split in two groups and that if I didn’t choose “sides” I would be placed in one or the other. So be it. Is it man we are to please or God? I’ll take the side of God! People who know nothing of the Old Baptist have already put us on the “other side”, but does that bother you? I have heard the Old Baptist defined as snake handlers, to being some sort of cult. But that bothers me not. My friends, may we enter into His service in love and charity, only to desire that sincere milk of the word. I pray that we would draw close together in love and fellowship and that we would be commended for the same thing that the church of Ephesus was commended for, that we would “hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans”. I thank God for the Old Baptist and I wouldn’t change it if I could.
THE HEALING LEAVES: (verse 7)
Christ said, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God”. What a salvation God has provided for those who will hear! It is only for those who, by the irresistible grace of God have an ear to hear. We know that the salvation and paradise that is under consideration is found in God’s church today, not eternal heaven. Christ says, “to him that overcometh”. We did not have to overcome anything to be housed with God one glorious day, but rather Christ overcame death, hell, and the grave for us. But if we overcome now He will give to eat of the tree of life. To feed on this tree we must remember our first love, for in doing so are the blessings from God given. Ezekiel 47:12 states, “And by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed: it shall bring forth new fruit according to his months, because their waters they issued out of the sanctuary: and the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine”. The gospel leaves are for the healing of God’s nations, and can mend the broken hearted. Many are the times I have been blessed in God’s worship service to receive medicine for my aliment. I have left feeling refreshed and at full health. Isn’t it a wonderful thing that God would allow such blessings to fall on His people? If we overcome, if we go back to Calvary we shall receive the healing leaves of the spirit. We shall feast on the fruit that is found in the midst of paradise.
Could there be anything greater!