The Ephesians received a scolding note from God
the Father about the issue of their having forsaken their protos agape—their
first love. That letter is also meant to be a reprimand for us today because
God is admonishing us as well to take heed of that warning:
Revelation 2:4, 7 Nevertheless I have somewhat
against you, because you have left your first love… He that has an ear
let him hear what the Spirit says unto the Churches.
What is this “first love” of which God speaks?
We all remember the days when we earnestly awaited the postman – hoping that he
was bringing another of those small booklets that contained more of God’s
Truth. We could not wait to devour them and mark our Bibles.
Our first love then was a spiritual awakening to
the truth about the Commandments and the Feasts of the Lord: The Sabbath,
Passover, Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, Trumpets, Atonement and the Feast of
Tabernacles – picturing a foretaste of the coming Kingdom of God on earth – and
the Last Great Day. With prayer and Bible study our lives changed.
Remember when we came into contact with God’s
people for the first time? At our first Sabbath service we experienced an
excitement and zeal that was much more than we ever anticipated. We began to
learn about God, the Family of God, and the way of God. We learned about
repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. We were baptized, and with the laying on
of hands – we became Children of God – led by His Spirit. Along with our
brothers and sisters in Christ, we became a people – an assembly of Church
brethren. We loved everybody, and everybody loved us – it was an experience we
never expected – it was our first love – we could not get enough!
For most of us, it was a time when the local
congregations were rather large. We felt in awe being among people that already
knew the Truth of God. There were members at Sabbath services who had been
called and had heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ many years before we did. We
felt almost dwarfed being among “spiritual giants.” We know better now,
realizing that no matter how long ago someone was called, we all struggle
spiritually on a daily basis.
The first love of which God speaks is so
much more than the initial enthusiasm for the Truth, and being cordial and
helpful at Sabbath services. The genuine first love spoken of here in
Revelation 2:4 is the deep abiding love of God, and love of brethren.
God knows that we need to be willing to lay aside everything—even our life and
reputation—if need be, in order to help one another into His Family and
Kingdom. That is the nature of the first love of God. In this case,
protos does not mean first in time, but utmost and foremost in importance.
That is the First Love of which God
speaks: A love for God, and a love for one another. That is what the Ephesian
brethren left off doing and forsook. They stopped putting God first by
neglecting the love of their brothers and sisters in Christ. It is the same
today in God’s Church; we too have left our first love. Little by little, as
time has gone on, once zealous brethren have let down. It is revealed that this
first love is more than the excitement and enthusiasm of those newly
called to the faith. Jesus said our love for others must be like His love for
us – and He laid down His life for us:
John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give unto
you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also
love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples,
if ye have love one to another.
Looking into the Greek words we find
protos agape – first love. Though we could translate this as first love
– as in a first kiss – it is better translated with regard to its importance as
utmost love. At one time Paul had commended the Ephesians for their love
of the brethren.
Ephesians 1:15 Wherefore I also, after I heard
of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints…”
In God’s Church today there is virtually no love
for all the saints. Perhaps for some of the saints, but not for all of
the saints. The love that God has for us is the ultimate love – it is the
foremost love – it is the true first love. How did the Ephesian brethren leave
off and forsake this supreme gift of God? More importantly for us today, how
can the Church of God in these last days recapture this same precious and vital
gift that we and our forefathers in the Ephesian Church moved away from? This
is the question we will be considering in today’s sermon.