Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. (Revelation 2:4)
The second chapter of Revelation begins with high commendation for the church at Ephesus. This church was organized by Paul at the end of his second missionary journey, and then Paul returned to Ephesus on the third journey spending more than two years teaching the people the Word of God. The strength of this church is noted by the difficult doctrine Paul addressed them with in the letter to the Ephesians. As we read about this church in Revelation, we notice the people were still committed to these good doctrines and were contending for the faith that had been taught by Paul. They were especially strong in refuting the theological errors of false teachers.
At the time of the Revelation, about 40 years had passed since this church was founded and about 30 years since Paul wrote his highly doctrinal epistle to them. In the first chapter of the epistle, Paul made this comment: “Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers…” Paul specifically mentions the “faith” of the church and also their “love.” A grounded faith made it possible for Paul to write the epistle which contains doctrines on which the best of theologians differ in interpretation. Evidently, this church was grounded enough to understand what Paul wrote and properly interpret and apply the instruction.
When Christ addressed the church in the Revelation, the faith was still there; the doctrines were still maintained, but love had become the missing ingredient. It seems a cold, dead orthodoxy had overtaken the church while a real heart for Christ and others was missing. They had left their first love which is Christ, and whenever this occurs love for others will be impossible to maintain. Our love for others flows out of our love for Christ. Joseph Parker wrote: “The head may be right while the heart is going in a wrong direction. I am indeed anxious that we should maintain a Scriptural theology, that we should ‘hold fast the form of sound words’; at the same time we must remember that a technical theology will never save a soul; and that a mere verbal creed will never protect and increase our love for the Lord Jesus Christ.”
As pastor of Berean, I too am anxious that we should “hold fast the form of sound words.” I am anxious that we should “earnestly contend for the faith.” But I am also anxious that our doctrine does not mask a cold heart that is never really as near to Christ as it should be. I believe if Jesus wrote a letter to our church we would be commended for the stand we take on His Word. We would be commended for teaching scripture and not giving in to the modern church growth movement that says we need something more personally appealing to captivate the senses of today’s church (or unchurched) crowd. However, I am concerned that He would not commend us for our love for Him. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). I encourage each of you to examine your lives for obedience to Christ. How do you live? If Jesus spoke to you today would he say, “Good job sticking to your doctrines, nevertheless I have somewhat against you?”
Pastor V. Mark Smith