Our First Loveby A.D. Reese
"To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: 'I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary.
The church at Ephesus worked hard and was commended twice for constancy and cheerful endurance. They persisted in their work and did not grow weary in so doing. They tolerated no evil in their midst (a separated church) and were not deceived by false apostles, having tested the spirits. No one is sure about who the Nicolaitans were, but it is believed that Nicolaitanism was the ritualistic tendency of that day. Note God's assessment of ritualism!
All this and yet. . . they had abandoned their first love. "Yet you have deserted [Me], your first love" (Rev. 2:4b, AMP), Jesus said.
The word "deserted" ("left" in KJV) is aphiemi in the Greek, and comes from the root words apo (separation, departure, cessation, reversal) and hiemi (to go). Thus, the Ephesians had separated themselves, departed from, reversed their direction - away from their first love (Jesus). That love, as used here in reference to Jesus Himself, is agape. The same word in Hebrew means "to breathe after, dote, lover." Agape is the same word used in I John 4:8: "God is love...."
Jesus was, in essence, indicting the Ephesians for idolatry. They had turned from God and turned to their works.
It would appear from the following verse that true worship was not taking place in the Ephesian church. "Remember therefore from WHENCE thou art FALLEN" (Rev. 2:5a, KJV).
"Whence" in the Greek is pothen (place, origin, from which place, state, source, or cause) and comes from posis (the act of drinking).
The Greek for "fallen" is ekpipto (to lose, become inefficient) and comes from the root words ek (denoting origin, the point at which motion or action proceeds) and pipto (idea of alighting, to fall down, fail). Pipto is the same word in Luke 10:18 where Jesus says, "I beheld satan as lightning fall from heaven" (KJV), and has the same meaning as the Hebrew word for "fallen" in Isaiah 14:12, "How thou art fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!"
Jesus' call for the Ephesians to remember "from whence thou art fallen" indicates that at one time, they had been at the point from which action proceeds, drinking at this souce (implying water). There is only one place from which all action proceeds and where one may drink living water: at the throne of the Father and the Lamb. This indicates worship as a lifestyle, continuous fellowship with God, the means by which one drinks of the Living Water.
But the Ephesians chose to abandon this lifestyle and substitute works in place of worship, thus they "fell." In the context of verses 2 and 3, they apparently placed their works in first place, putting their agape relationship (which grows out of communion with God) in second place, at best. They stopped ministering to the Lord in spirit and truth.
This is exactly what Lucifer did when he said in his heart, "I will exalt my throne above the stars of God. . .I will be like the Most High" (Isaiah 14:13,14). He abandoned the highest calling in heaven, that of worship leader (see Ezekial 28), and purposed to set himself up as the object of worship by his own works.
Is this not what happens when our "works for the Lord" have a higher place than does the Lord of the works? When we work without having truly worshipped, we are practicing idolatry. This is the spirit of antichrist because at the core of it, when works take the place of, or precedence over, ministry to the Lord, we are walking in the flesh, seeking the praises of men, i.e., setting ourselves up as objects of worship. At best, we are spinning our wheels.
Repent and Return
In the Greek, this phrase implies that the Ephesians were told to abide in that which is foremost in time, place, order, and importance, e.g., to return worship to its proper place - their first works, the work which is the most important work. This work is performed habitually, repeatedly, continuously - not as a one time act - thus, we have the lifestyle of worship.
Then Jesus gives the Ephesians an or else. "...Or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of HIS place, except thou repent" (Rev. 2:5b, KJV).
Unless the Ephesians (1) repented, and (2) returned to the first priority (worship), Jesus would personally come and remove the Holy Spirit (candlestick), His very Presence, from among them.
These days we tend to preach a politically correct, watered down gospel that makes no demands upon us. But the truth is that God has commanded us to worship Him above and before everything, before any work is undertaken. To move out into works without having communed with God results in spoiled, ineffective, tainted fruit that has no eternal value and no eternal results.
God is serious when He says that He is to be worshipped above all else! If we refuse to obey, He says He will remove His Holy Spirit and leave us in utter darkness, without the Paraclete to walk and work beside us.
The Fruit of Repentance
"To him that overcometh I will give to eat of the Tree of Life, which is in the midst of the paradise [presence] of God" (Rev. 22:1-2, KJV).
We have a choice, just like the Israelites did before the tabernacle in the wilderness was ordained. We can choose to live intimately in the beautiful, glorious, loving Presence of the Living God, or we can choose to admire His beauty from afar (the real meaning of "laity," by the way). In essence, the Spirit is saying, "If you do not love God first and worship Him alone, you will have to worship Him from afar in the new Jerusalem." Living with the choices we make in the here and now is, indeed, an eternal matter.
The Here and Now
Behold! The Bridegroom Comes
O, that we would desire Jesus above all else, and yearn to know Him, to drink of Him, to abide in His glorious, radiant purity and power! It is then that the world will see Jesus.
Ann Reese is the director of Spirit Song Ministries, and edits and publishes the monthly newsletter, Spirit Song. This article was originally written as a paper for a seminary class entitled "Principles of Worship." Copyright 1987 by the author.