The history of the church at Ephesus is both interesting and sobering. Toward the end of his second missionary journey, the apostle Paul came to Ephesus and spent a brief time there, reasoning with the Jews in the synagogue. Acts 18:19-21. Later, on his third journey, as recorded in Acts 19, Paul came, again, to Ephesus and found about twelve men who had been baptized by Apollos unto John's baptism. After Paul taught them more perfectly, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul spent about three years in Ephesus, preaching, teaching, disputing, warning, crying, healing, and persuading publicly and from house-to-house. When Paul left, the church was well established. Then, as he ended his third journey, Paul stopped at Miletus and called for the elders of the church at Ephesus to come to him. Acts 20:17-38. He called them to record that he had not shunned to declare unto them all the counsel of God. He charged them to faithfully shepherd - feed - the flock and to take heed unto themselves. He warned them that grievous wolves would enter among them would even arise from among their own selves speaking perverse things and drawing away disciples after them! Paul commended them to God and to the word of His grace. He said the word was able to build them up and to give them an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. He left them with hugs, prayers, kisses, and tears.
A few years later, Paul wrote a letter to the faithful saints at Ephesus. We often refer to it as the book of Ephesians. Paul wrote this letter while "in bonds." (6:20) He reminded them that they, in the past, had "walked according to the course of this world." He wrote, "That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world." They had been dead in sins. (2:1-5) But, by the grace of God through the preaching of the gospel of peace and their obedience to that gospel, they had been quickened - made alive; they had been raised up and brought back to God by the blood of Christ!
Paul had evidently received an encouraging report of their "faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints," and he ceased not to give thanks for them in his prayers. (1:15-16). He wrote encouraging words to them - that they not faint but be strengthened with might by the Holy Spirit of God in the inner man. (3:13, 16). He begged them to walk worthy of the vocation by which they had been called. (4:1) He urged them not to walk in the vanity of their minds, but to walk in love as Christ has loved us. (4:17,5:2). He admonished them to walk as children of light; circumspectly not as fools. (5:8, 15)
About thirty years later, when Jesus Christ gave His Revelation to John on the isle of Patmos, we find another picture of the church of Ephesus. (Revelation 2:1-7) Something basic to their hope had changed. They had maintained their labor and patience. They would not tolerate evil people, exposed false apostles, and hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans; they had not fainted. Nevertheless, Christ had one thing against them they had left their first love. (4-5) This one thing was so serious that, if they would not repent of it and do the first works, the Lord threatened to come and remove their candlestick out of his place. They would cease, in the eyes of God, to be the church of Christ!
What a sobering warning to the Lord's church in every locality today. Through years of defending the faith, they had evidently allowed their on-going labor against false teachers and false doctrine to separate themselves from their first love the fresh, innocent, motivating love of saving the lost and faithfully caring for the church that had so dominated the early days of their Christian service. Christ pleaded with them to remember how it was in the beginning, to repent, and to do these first works.
We would do well to examine our own congregations. Have we left our first love? -Rt. 5 Box 1468, Salem, WV 26426.