In the letter to the church in Ephesus in Revelation 2, Jesus is speaking to a church that in many ways is quite impressive. First, Jesus praises the believers in Ephesus for their hard work. This is not a church that is lazy or passive; quite the opposite. They likely were active in learning, diligent in living out their faith, and eager to help and serve.
Second, Jesus commends the Ephesian believers for their stand for God’s truth. This is a church that knows the Word of God well, and they are strong in doctrine and in biblical teaching. That is why they are not able to bear with those who are evil and why Jesus says to them in Revelation 2:2, “You . . . have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false.” In our time, when many churches in the Western world are no longer boldly standing up for God’s truth, we rejoice in reading about a church that treasured God’s truth and that believed the words of Jesus in John 8:31–32: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Third, Jesus praises the believers in Ephesus for their endurance and for how they are bearing up for His name’s sake. At the time that the book of Revelation was written—at the end of the first century—Christians were facing brutal and systematic persecution. It is indeed praiseworthy that under such difficult circumstances, the Christians in Ephesus were patiently enduring and continuing to confess the name of Jesus Christ. These are all good reasons why one can be rightly impressed with the church in Ephesus.
But then Jesus says in Revelation 2:4–5:
But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 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.
It is great to serve the Lord and to stand up for God’s Word, but what the Lord desires even before all of that is that we deeply love God. We must strive to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to repent when we fall short. In Deuteronomy 4:24, God’s Word says: “For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” And in Exodus 20:5, we read, “You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God.”
Have you ever thought about the fact that God is in a holy way jealous for your love for Him? Because of who God is and because of what He has done for us through Christ’s work on the cross and in His sinless life, He deserves our very first and highest love. In Matthew 22:37, Jesus says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”