"Oh, How I Loved Jesus" — Are We Much Different Than the Church of Ephesus?

Sermon Series in Revelation # 03 Revelation 2:1-7 

1    “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.

2     “ ‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false.

3    I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.

4    But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.

5    Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

6    Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

7    He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.[1]


Yesterday my wife told me she was in love with me, and my response was, “I love you too.” A few minutes later she asked me about my response. She pointed out that she loves her brothers, but she isn’t in love with her brothers.

She wanted to know if I was still in love with her. Jesus begins his conversation with the Church on this personal level.

It’s a love conversation. Awkward. Peter denied three times on the night of Jesus’ crucifixion that he even knew Jesus. So after the resurrection, Jesus asked if Peter loved Him. Peter said he was only fond of Jesus. So Jesus asked again.

Now Jesus is having the same conversation with us.

I remember when a girl told me she loved me, yet I didn’t respond with the same level of commitment and enthusiasm. Eight hours later we ended a two year dating relationship.

That’s the way Jesus starts His conversation with His Bride. Jesus says, “You’re not in love with your husband anymore.”

Jesus is wise enough to know not to just blurt out a statement like that. Jesus gives genuine compliments before He says what’s hard to hear.

Ephesus wasn’t an easy city for a Christian to live. Ephesus was 3 miles from the sea and the  Cayster River flowed right through the city. The greatest harbor in Asia Minor was in Ephesus. The four greatest trade routes went right through Ephesus. The city was known as the gateway to Asia.

Every vice and evil came right into their community.

Ephesus was the center of worship for Diana whose temple was one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. The gross immorality that happened at the temple would only embarrass us if it was described.

It was a sanctuary city for criminals on the run. Organized crime was headquartered in Ephesus.

So Jesus commends the church for doing good in this evil place.

It is believed that the Apostle John and the mother of Jesus, Mary, settled in Ephesus and were leaders in these good works within the community.

Jesus takes notice of our good deeds. A cup of cold water is received by the poor, but Jesus takes the kind deed personally and thanks us for it. Jesus is interested. He is watching.

And he tells them that they are tireless in their church work. Everyone should serve the Lord through the church. Some people commit to the work even when it makes them suffer. That’s the word toil. And a portion of those people who toil persevere in that toil through the years.

Verse 2+3 I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance.

Jesus commends the church for not allowing evil people to influence them. This church practiced church discipline. False teachers are always trying to get into churches. Leaders who want the glory and are not motivated by a servant spirit try to infiltrate every church.

The church of Ephesus could not bear with those who were evil, but tested those who call themselves apostles and were not, and found them to be false.

The Apostle Paul started this church and told Timothy, who also pastored there for a while, to reprove, rebuke, and exhort – with great patience and careful instruction 2 Timothy 4:2.

The church was fighting the good fight. They were on the front lines for Jesus sake and they were choosing to suffer in service for the Lord.

John the Apostle was in Ephesus when he was arrested by the Roman Emperor Domitian and exiled 50 miles away on Patmos. He was not the only one imprisoned for the Gospel.

Jesus says, I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.

But, their doctrinal convictions, their moral purity in spite of the social pressures to live immoral, their undiminished zeal for the truth, and their disciplined service were no substitute for the more important topic that Jesus desires to talk about.

Jesus says that He has something against them. The KJV inserts the word somewhat which lessens the blow. Don’t cushion these words. They are forceful and direct.

4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.

This rebuke doesn’t diminish the compliments, but it weighs more on the other side of the scale. It’s more weighty an issue between two people. Love is always the issue.

What does “first” love for God look like? It’s what Paul prayed the church wouldn’t lose.

Ephesians 3:16-19 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Jesus isn’t asking us to be in “puppy dog, romantic and sappy love” all our lives. That’s weird. Our “first love” is a matter or importance. Our love for Jesus should be first.

Philippians 3:10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. Or are we content to know about Him, to know about the resurrection power to overcome sin, to hear about His sufferings but not be willing to suffer ourselves and definitely not willing to die to ourselves that we might live for God.

What do we love? Philippians 3:8 consider everything in this life a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ?

Can we agree with Paul and say, Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Do we live by his love? Does our life reflect the power of His love? Are we in love with God!?

Said more traditionally, our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy His forever. Are we glorifying Him. Are we enjoying God every day in prayer and Bible reading?

Or have we cast God out of our personal life? Are we religious and orthodox and hard workers, but living in a cold marriage? Should we sing, “Oh, How I Loved Jesus.”

This is what Jesus wants to talk to us about first. Seven churches, and the first conversation He wants to broach is our passion for our heavenly relationship with our Lord.

I can’t imagine a more fitting topic for most old line ARP churches.

We need to 5 Remember therefore from where we have fallen.

Remember what your life was like when you loved Matthew 22:37 the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. There was freedom in your soul. Peace, love joy and satisfaction with your life. Your love for God was FIRST.

John 14:23 Jesus said If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Remember that level of fellowship with God that you once shared?

Salvation makes us right with God, and it connects us to God in a relationship. You can’t claim to be right with God and then not want daily fellowship with God.

How is that relationship? Jesus says that lots of religious people have let the relationship grow cold. They stayed hot for good doctrine and good works, but let their love for God rust.

Our love for God is a transforming power. It’s the enabling for a holy life. John 14:21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.

We need to remember from where we have fallen.

Peter remembered his love for Jesus. He wrote in 1 Peter 1:8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.

How do we restore our love for the Lord?

We Repent. We change our attitudes and our affections. We fix our eyes back on the glory of Jesus described in the previous chapter. As we gaze at this lofty image of Christ our soul is softened and kneels. If we will lift Him up our hearts will be drawn to Him.

We do the works you did at first. We invest time in our relationship with God. Don’t miss Sunday worship if you can help it. Don’t miss your daily Bible reading. Don’t miss your prayers. Don’t miss connecting with other believers in some form of discipleship and accountability.

Engage your best life resources working to reach the goals Christ has for your life. The more your appetites and affections change, the more God’s love will be your motivation.

If not Jesus says. There’s a timer on our opportunity. There’s a deadline. Jesus will not be an enabler for your loveless Christianity. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

God does not promise to sustain an assembled community of believers who are not connected by their love for Jesus.

We may be connected by ARP loyalty, but Jesus won’t send His Spirit and hold us together because we are ARP. We may be connected by our love for the Reformed faith, but it’s not worthy of His blood and sacrifice. We may be connected by our Presbyterianism, but God will not move into action to protect and sustain our church because we are Presbyterian.

If we have all these great characteristics and more, but we have no passionate love for the Lord that transforms our life into witnesses of God’s love to the world, then Jesus will come to remove our church from the community and keep us from profaning the name of Christ.

Love is the music of life that makes your feet want to dance. It’s so hard to dance without music. And working to live like a Christian, without the music of God’s love moving your feet into action, is a hard and toilsome task. Our love for Jesus brings us into His arms for the dance of a holy life.

We must repent. We must get the love of God back into our smile and demeanor. We need our love for God to be evident in our worship and evident in our love for others.

This is the conversation Jesus wants to have with His people. Awkward, but oh so important.

Jesus doesn’t end with a downer. He ends the conversation with one more compliment. 6 Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

It is very commendable to hate false teachers. Jesus hates false teachers, but our diligence to expose false teaching is not enough of a motivation for Jesus to keep our doors open.

7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

Faith is the victory that overcomes the world. We need to have faith. We need a purifying hope in His Second coming. But more than both of those, we need love. The greatest is love.

Jesus says He loves us. May we be ready to say the same back to Him.


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.


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