To the Church in Ephesus
2 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. 6 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
7 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
We begin the letters to the seven churches spread throughout Asia Minor. The pattern is that The Lord gives the church an area for where they deserve praise, and then there is an exhortation regarding where they are lacking. In this case, the Ephesians were working hard and not tolerating the practices of the false teachers. Specifically, he mentions the "Nicolaitans", who followed the teachings of Nicolas. They were allowing the practice of immorality, and using grace as a excuse for Sinful behavior.
While the church at Ephesus has these commendations, the text says that they have, "forgotten their first love". Meaning the church was doing a lot of things for God, but they their motivation had gone from pleasing God because of their love of him, to something else. And then he says they need to relent of this, meaning it is sinful. And he gives them a warning that if they do not repent their lampstand will be removed.
Now this phrase could be confusing as to what exactly this this means. One respected commentator says this which I think is helpful,
"Now we can see that this is a church in serious trouble. Despite all the commendable things, there is something seriously wrong. Our Lord puts it in one brief phrase, "You have abandoned your first love." That is the problem. So serious is that that he says, "If you do not correct it, I will remove your lampstand." This indicates this is a very serious matter. The removal of the lampstand does not mean that the individual members of the church would be lost or condemned to hell. What it means is the church would lose its ability to shed the light of truth. The light from this church would stop shining. They would become a church with no influence or impact spiritually upon the community around. They would be busy doing religious, but entirely irrelevant, things. They would still be working, still orthodox , but inconsequential, with no light, no impact."
I think this is a good warning to all churches. And by application I think this has relevance to individuals as well. The problem I believe is where the power to do God's work comes from. Is it a work of God, or a work of man? Clearly without the power of the Holy Spirit, we can do nothing. When we start relying on the flesh, even if on the outward we are doing good things, it is human engineered. Succinctly in John 15:5 the Jesus says to his disciples, "Apart from me you can do nothing!"
So the question for us is how are we like the church of Ephesus? Have we forgotten our first love. Have we lost the passion for doing things out of our deep love of Jesus? This is a good question to pray about and ask others for specific feedback. We also should remember the warning, "If you do not repent I will remove your lampstand from you."