This fall, I’ve been tag-team-teaching an adult Sunday School class titled “Reclaiming Your First Love.” The title comes from Revelation 2:1-6 where Jesus is speaking to the church at Ephesus, which is largely positive, until he comes to the meat of the matter “But I have this against you: that you have abandoned the love you had at first.”
Jesus then outlines three things the church should do in order to return to love:
“Remember then from what you have fallen, repent and do the works you did at first.”
What does this statement refer to? “The love you had at first” is the object of this statement. Jesus isn’t telling the Ephesians to remember the wretched things he saved them from—he’s asking them to remember the amazing love they were gifted with when they first became believers!
Let’s take a minute & recalibrate here. When you read the statement “remember from what you have fallen,” what pops immediately into your mind? I bet it’s a bunch of negative stuff, right? Unfortunately for us, just talking about falling from something immediately brings to mind what we’ve fallen into—sin, suffering, death. But that’s not what Jesus is saying. He’s referring to what the way they responded, who they became when they first heard the Gospel. Fortunately for us, we have an account of this:
While Apol′los was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. 2 And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.7 There were about twelve of them in all.
8 And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, arguing and pleading about the kingdom of God; 9 but when some were stubborn and disbelieved, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them, taking the disciples with him, and argued daily in the hall of Tyran′nus. 10 This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.—Acts 19:1-10
From this passage we find a few characteristics of the love in which the Ephesians responded to the Gospel. First, there was an immediate recognition of the truth of the Gospel, this recognition was followed by an immediate action on their part—being baptized. This, in turn, was followed by the gifts of the Holy Spirit—in this case, speaking in tongues. Finally, we see that they continued to preach the Gospel, even after being thrown out of the synagogue, to the degree that “all the residents of Asia heard the word.” It’s amazing that in this account, we have each of the three instructions Christ gives them—remember these events, repent just as they had to initially, and to act, to do the works they did in the beginning, namely, proclaim the Gospel.
So what they needed to do in order to return to their first love was to simply do again what they had done in the beginning. Rinse, wash, repeat.
In my next few blogposts, I’m going to look at each of these three instructions individually, in greater depth. Up first: “remember.”