Left Thy First Love

Rev. 2:4, 5 “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.”

John was directed of the Lord to write letters to the angels (messengers) of the seven churches of Asia.  These letters laid out the conditions that were present in the seven churches.  The first letter was sent to the angel of the church of Ephesus.  In this letter the Lord told the church of Ephesus to repent or he would remove the candlestick out of his place.  In Revelation chapter 1 the candlestick was defined as the church.  Thus the church of Ephesus was commanded to repent or lose the church.  The charge the Lord made against the church of Ephesus was that she had left her first love.  Many have speculated as to what that “first love” is.  However, the scriptures aren’t couched in speculation.

It is clear that the church of Ephesus loved the Lord and loved his service, for she was commended of the Lord for several good things she was doing.  The Lord commended her for the fact that she could not bear them that are evil.  Thus it is plain that the church of Ephesus was “keeping house” and administering proper church discipline and government.  Second she was commended for “trying them that said they were apostles, and were not, and found them liars.”  The churches of today would do well to take heed to try those who say they are gospel ministers, but whose actions prove otherwise, and remove them from the ministry.  Third, she was commended for having borne her responsibilities as a church and the individual members having borne their responsibilities in their lives and as church members.  Fourth, she was commended for her patience.  Thus in those times of great trial and conflict she had waited upon the counsel and direction and deliverance of the Lord.  Fifth, she was commended for laboring for the Lord’s name sake.  What she did, she did for the honor and glory of the Lord, for she did for “his name’s sake!”  Sixth, she was commended for not having fainted.  So often when great trials and troubles come upon us either as individuals or as a church body, it seems easy to just give up.  But the church of Ephesus did not give up but continued on in her love and service for the Lord even through the times of trials and tribulations.  In many ways the church of Ephesus seemed to be in good shape.

However, the Lord said the church had left her first love.  While the things the church was doing were good things and needful things and commendable things and the churches of today would do well to follow her example in those things, yet there was something lacking in the church of Ephesus that, if not corrected, would result in her losing her identity as a church.  One of the meanings of the word, “first,” is “priority.”  She had left her “first love” by leaving the “first works.”  The way the Lord prescribed for her to repent was to remember and do the first works.

There is a first or priority work for churches.  This first work isn’t the only work, but it is the work that is to have priority.  To leave off the first or priority work will result in the church losing the candlestick.  In my lifetime I would estimate that 50% or more of the Primitive Baptist churches in existence at my birth are no longer in existence today.  While there have been a few new churches constituted, yet not nearly as many that have shut the doors.  Is there not a cause for the closure of so many of the Lord’s churches?  Surely there is and I would submit that the major cause is that the vast majority of those churches that died out was that they left their first love.  I reiterate, it wasn’t because those people ceased loving the Lord or that they ceased keeping good church discipline or ceased laboring for his name’s sake, etc.  It wasn’t because they ceased loving to hear the gospel preached.  The main cause was because they left off the first or priority works.

To understand what the first work is we need only follow the examples set forth in the new testament.  When God sent forth John the Baptist, he went forth preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God and many were baptized and pressed into the kingdom.  Moreover, the Lord called twelve, then seventy and sent them to preach the gospel of the kingdom calling upon God’s people to repent and enter into the church kingdom.  Before the Lord ascended back to heaven he sent forth the eleven to teach, baptize, and teach some more, and to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature , which they fulfilled.  On the day of Pentecost there were about 3,000 who gladly heard the gospel and were baptized and were added to the church.  Throughout the book of Acts we see men who were called of God and ordained and under the leadership and direction of the Holy Spirit going forth and preaching the gospel and subsequently many being baptized and pressing into God’s church.  This wasn’t a mission system whereby money was raised and the church sending forth missionaries for such a system is no where supported in the word of God.  Rather God called men to preach the gospel.  They were ordained in the church and the Holy Spirit empowered them to preach the gospel and directed their places of service.  When people heard the gospel it was because the Lord was both working in the preacher and working in the hearer to bring forth fruit unto His name’s honor and glory.

The Lord must open these doors of utterance for the gospel to go forth unto a people prepared to receive it.  Man cannot open those doors.  Paul said in 1 Cor. 16:8, 9 “But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost.  For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.”  Again Paul stated in 2 Cor. 2:12, “Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened to me of the Lord.”  So we see it is the Lord who opens doors of utterance which is further illustrated in Acts 14:27, “And when they had come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.”

Someone might mistakenly draw the conclusion that the opening of the door of faith is between the Lord and the gospel minister and that the rest of the church has little to do with this.  Contrariwise, Paul instructed the church of Colosse in Col. 4:3, “Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance to speak the mystery of Christ...”  Similarly, Paul told the church of Thessalonica in II Thes. 3:1, “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you.”

Jerusalem is a long way from Denton, Texas.  Yet the gospel has gone forth from its beginnings in Jerusalem until today there is a church at Denton and at many other locations in this country.  This gospel went forth because the Lord called men to preach and opened doors of utterance for them that the gospel would go forth to a waiting people.

When a church loses the burden for the gospel to go forth beyond their current membership then they have left their first love and left off the first works.  In Rom. 10 Paul said that it was his heart’s desire and prayer to God that Israel might be saved.  He wanted them to be saved from their ignorance and false works system and to be saved to worship God in Spirit and in truth.  Likewise, it should be our heart’s desire and prayer to God that God’s elect may be saved from ignorance and a false works system unto a belief of the truth and to worship God in Spirit and in truth in his church kingdom.  I ask the reader to join with me in prayer that God would give us such a desire of heart and spirit of prayer and that He would open doors of utterance that the gospel would go forth to his waiting people.

 Elder Vernon Johnson