Phil Cox


(Bible quotations are from the NIV unless otherwise stated)

Home page
Recent Columns
Previous Series
Phil's background
Preaching engagements
Creation and science
Contact Phil

Stubbington Baptist Church
Acorn Christian Healing Foundation
Evangelical Alliance Basis of Faith

First Love

18th April 2010

In Revelation chapters 2 and 3, the ascended Jesus Christ dictates letters to seven churches in what is now western Turkey. In the first of these, his letter to Ephesus, he writes:

Revelation 2v2-4
I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.

First Jesus says what is good about the church:

  • They work hard for the Kingdom of God
  • They persevere, giving their energy over the long haul
  • They refuse to accept wickedness in the church
  • They test church hierarchies and reject those that are not true to scripture
  • They don't give up when the going gets tough or they encounter opposition

How do we stand up to this list? Do we work hard for Christ’s kingdom? Do we persevere? Do we keep speaking the truth when people want us to be quiet? Do we refuse to compromise with wickedness? Do we test our denominational leaders? Do we endure hardship for Jesus's sake?

Then Jesus says what is not good about the church in Ephesus, I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.

Some people think that this “first love” is love for each other, and that Paul is saying the members of the Ephesian church don’t love each other as they used to.

Some think that this “first love” refers to witnessing. This is because of the context of the verse; the churches are described as “lampstands”. A church's purpose is to let God’s light shine. A church exists so it can shine light to others:

Mark 4:21-25
He [Jesus] said to them, "Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear."
Consider carefully what you hear," he continued. "With the measure you use, it will be measured to you — and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him."

Still others, including me, think that or “first love” is love for Jesus. And this "first love" will result in love for the church and our neighbours. If we come back to this first love, then we will love each other, and we will love the lost, so we will witness to the power and forgiveness of God in Jesus Christ.

Have we lost our first love? Do we still worship Him from the heart, as we used to? Do we hate sin, because we don’t want to let Him down? Do we seek to delight our Lord every day as we once did? Are we still amazed at His sacrifice in the cross? Or have we begun to take Jesus for granted? Do we find worship a bit boring? Do we happy compromise with sin? Do we let opportunities to tell others about Him slip away?

Jesus' letter to the Ephesian church continues:

Revelation 2v5
Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

We must return to genuine love for Jesus. We must once again put worship and prayer at the top of our daily to-do list. We must get to know Jesus again, spend time just with Him. Sing our songs of worship to Him, not just into the air. Let Him fill us again with His Holy Spirit. Tell others about Jesus. Allow God to get us excited about His church, and its mission to the lost.

And if we don’t, Jesus will come to us. He’ll remove the lampstand. Our Church will cease to exist. One of the saddest sights the world has to offer is a building that used to be a church building, but Jesus removed the lampstand, and now it’s a restaurant, or a carpet warehouse, or a nightclub.

We know if we love Jesus because, if we love Jesus, we will keep His commands, and we will love each other, and we will love the lost enough to try to keep them from Hell and point them to Heaven.

If we love Jesus, we will keep His commands. In John 14:15, Jesus says “If you love me, you will obey what I command”.

If we love Jesus, we will love each other (In 1 John 4:20, John says “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar”).

If we love Jesus, we will love the lost enough to try to keep them from hell and point them to heaven. In Matthew 28:19, Jesus says “go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.

And if we don’t, then we will cease to exist as a church.