As part of the book of Revelation John wrote seven letters to seven real local churches in Asia Minor. These churches would have been mostly inn what is now Turkey. Though not now a hotbed of Christianity at the beginning there we strong viable churches there and that is who John writes to.
There are several ideas about what the churches may represent. Some say they are descriptive of different kinds of churches in every generation. Some say they are pictures of the church through that ages and give us dates and descriptions to fit that idea.
I am not going to try and address that. I see these simply as real churches with real issues and real good things and real bad things. In other words I think they are churches like our churches today so I try to lessons from each of them.
We start with Ephesus. The Ephesians are praised because they work hard and labour for the Lord. They are patient. The don’t put up with ungodliness. They bear up through struggles. They patients and they do not lose heart.
What a great example they are!
But there is a problem. In all of their patiences and sticking and plodding and not losing heart they somehow managed to ‘lose their first love.’
I think there is a lesson there for us. I think it is possible for us to stick with it, stay at it, plug away, not be weary in well-doing, being steadfast, being unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing our labour is not in vain in the Lord, and not fainting – and still lose our first love.
We can serve without loving. We can serve out of pride or resolution or dogged determination or ambition or because we are too embarrassed to quit – and no longer do it out of love.
Perhaps this was the problem at Ephesus. No matter what there is one solution – repent and return to our first love. If we are serving with any other motive than love we need to go back and serve simply because we love Jesus.
Patience and perseverance are grand – but without the love of Christ we are doing it wrong and need to sort things out.