TO HIM THAT OVERCOMES
“To the angel of the church of Ephesus write…
Nevertheless I have this against you,
that you have left your first love”
This portion of scripture (written in approximately in 90AD) is the last recorded message from Jesus to HIS Church in the Bible. Paul had been martyred around 69 – 70AD. The Church had been infiltrated from without and within; she had become compromised and was beginning to fall into the way of man. These seven letters to the Church located in Asia Minor contain strong exhortations to overcome the corruption WITHIN the Church. The overcomers were those who overcame the false teachings, the separation of the “clergy” from the laity, the acceptance of false prophets; and in one city the rise of a religious atmosphere in which Jesus was on the outside and not even in it. We need to grasp the tenor in which Jesus addressed HIS Church in order for us to understand how HE SEES and how HE SPEAKS to the Church in this hour. It does not require much reading of these seven letters to see that the “overcoming” spoken of to the Church in every location was written concerning the corruption of the Church; not the world without but the Church within! May the Lord open our eyes and our ears to HIS WORD that we may have hearts that will re-evaluate the state of things today. Just as these seven letters were written to the Church of that day, the warnings, promises and the exhortation to give ear to the voice of the Spirit is equally valid to the Church of our day and “even more so as we see the day approaching”.
Of all the letters written to the Church the assembly located at Ephesus had more positive things written to it than any of the others. It was an assembly that had received the grand epistle of Ephesians; in many respects the most profound unveiling concerning the truths of the unity, the glory and the purpose of the local church. Several times Paul is so overcome with emotion that he stops to pray for them as he is caught up in the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Even in a casual reading of that Epistle one can touch the fervor and glory of its sacredness. The Epistle was written around 60-62AD while Paul was imprisoned in Rome.
The letter written to the Church at Ephesus starts off with a list of noble qualities for which Jesus commends them. They obviously had discernment; their labor, patience and hatred of evil were all acknowledged by Jesus. We tend to have a very slack view of HIS IDEA of HIS CHURCH. Within the midst of all these good and commendable things we read a word that changes the flow of the message to the Ephesian Christians; “NEVERTHELESS I have this against you”! Somehow we think that if we are doing a few things right that we can neglect the issues that God has with us individually or corporately. Because we do not know HIM as HE IS, we excuse and shrug off the notion that HE is HOLY. We console ourselves with a few good things and we become lax in our desire to please HIM in all things. In the Old Testament, if the priest’s garments were worn in such a way that the bells did not ring when he was in God’s presence, he was warned that God would strike him dead (Exodus 28:33). God has not changed. The one thing that God had against the Church at Ephesus was of such significance that left unresolved, it would result in the Lampstand being removed. The removal of the lampstand signified the removal of HIS HOLY SPIRIT from their midst; a judgment of such proportions that it is staggering in light of the present day condition of His Church! When men lose their purpose in God they are no longer contending for the faith and they allow ungodliness and worldliness to permeate the local assembly. The most terrifying of all God’s judgments is that HE simply removes HIS presence and the Guidance of the Holy Spirit to such an extent that they are left to themselves and HIS church, in reality, becomes their church. They decide what is preached, what the “agenda” and focus will be, instead of following the Lordship of the Holy Spirit.
What was the one thing of such consequence that it would bring such a harsh response from Him? What was it that would negate all the good things found in them? They had LEFT their first love. Men do not LOSE their first LOVE, they LEAVE it. They let it drift and slowly fade within the sanctuary of their own hearts. Without this Love for HIM everything is just religion; we are no longer concerned about HIS thoughts and HIS desires in the things we do. When the church becomes the center and the reason for the things we do, or they are done out of a sense of duty rather than Love, we are in a place of great danger.
“Nevertheless I have this against you,
that you have left your FIRST love.
Remember therefore from where you have fallen;
repent and do the FIRST works,
or else I will come to you quickly
and remove your lampstand from its place—
unless you repent”
Only FIRST LOVE can produce the FIRST WORKS. The Greek Word translated FIRST here means PRIMARY or PRINCIPLE. It speaks of a love that overrides all other loves, of a singular passion that seeks to please the ONE upon whom it is focused. Only those who know of this FIRST LOVE can produce FIRST WORKS for LOVE is the fountain from which the life is lived. God has ONE WORD for those who have left that FIRST LOVE…REPENT from the place where we have fallen. It is the critical and essential work within the heart of every believer is to keep the heart aflame for HIM (see Jude 20-21). When our hearts begin to grow cold, and our lives become lukewarm and tepid in our desire to worship and please HIM, it is time to repent from the things that have drawn our hearts away from HIM.
The WORD OF PROMISE
FROM THE LORD
To the OVERCOMERS
Who live in the
Assembly of the Church at EPHESUS* is…
“He who has an ear,
let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life,
which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”
APATHY AND NEGLECT
are the fruits of the life
in whom the flames of love
have grown cold in the grave of religion
“Mourn not the dead that in the cool earth lie
But rather mourn the apathetic throng
The cowed and the meek
Who see the world’s great anguish and its wrong
And dare not speak”
Ralph Chaplin (1887–1961)
*NOTE: The Church at Ephesus represents people who have had much teaching, who understand the deeper things of God, who to all appearances have a good walk and are consistent and stable; yet for all their knowing there is a complete lack of doing, caring and seeking the welfare of the people of God. They are isolated from the issues in the church as a whole. They are separated and have pride in the things they know. Their knowledge has become their confidence. His answer for such a people is repentance.
“Repentance is not a fatal day when tears are shed,
but a natal day when, as a result of tears,
a new life begins”
Ilion T. Jones