In Revelation, chapters 2-3, the Lord Jesus describes the spiritual conditions of seven churches in Asia. He begins each letter with the good that He sees and then He addresses any area of concern. The first church was in the city of Ephesus. After commending them for their faithful labors and patience, He then wrote the following in Revelation 2:4-5, “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent” (NASB).

Outwardly the church at Ephesus looked exemplary. If we had visited that church we would have seen untiring service being done for the Lord. They were also faithful in keeping the church pure doctrinally, for verse 2 says, “…thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars.” But underneath their show of zeal and devotion was a most serious condition, which only the Lord could see. He saw their true, inward spiritual state, and had to proclaim, “…you have left your first love.” What does it mean to “leave first love?” I believe it means to no longer give Christ “first place” in your heart. When one is first saved the heart is so occupied with Christ, that He is the center of one’s entire life. To “leave first love” is to leave that occupation with Christ and to become focused on other things or persons. The saints at Ephesus were still serving Christ, but He didn’t have that central place in their hearts that He once did.

In verse 5 the Lord exhorts them to “remember from where you have fallen.” He would have them recall the days when Christ was everything to them, when their service was done, first and foremost, out of love to Him and for His glory. Then He tells them to “repent, and do the deeds you did at first.” What did they need to repent of? Had they committed some grievous sin? Not outwardly, but their failure in “leaving first love” is the root of all spiritual declension, and thus they needed to judge this failure in their hearts, confess it, and then, and only then, would they be able to “do the deeds you did at first.” Then their service would be marked by a zeal and devotion that was truly energized by having Christ as the object of their heart’s affections.

The Lord warned them that if they failed to REMEMBER and REPENT, He would “remove your lampstand out of its place.” How sad to consider that in time, the testimony of Christianity was completely erased from Ephesus and the surrounding area in Asia Minor. Perhaps there was a temporary recovery, but eventually the “leaving of first love,” and the failure to repent, led to the “light of Christianity” going out in that region. Today the Islamic religion has replaced Christianity and it all began with Christians losing sight of the preciousness of Christ, of not giving Him “first place in their heart.” Does He have first place in your heart? (160.10) (DO)