“Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” (Revelation 2:4)
When people read Christ’s commendation to the Church in Ephesus in the Apostle John’s day, many wish that they would have Christ commend them on these eight things.
“I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:” (Revelation 2:2)
“And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.” (Revelation 2:3)
When a church is found having these eight things carried out; most would say, surely God will say, “…Well done, thou good and faithful servant…” (Matthew 25:21b).
However, the text verse (Revelation 2:4) reveals that their activity (or service) for Christ’s sake had something missing. What was missing was their “first love.” In verse 5, Christ calls it “the first works.”
Christ is not speaking so much of what activity they did first in chronological order, but what was in their heart first. I believe that Christ is speaking of the attitude of the saved man toward Christ. The first attitude toward Christ is not “Service,” but “Surrender.”
That is, a total surrender of self to Christ in his entire being (body, soul, and spirit); which means upon the point of birth from the womb of grace the sinner comes to confession (confessing Romans 10:9-10). This is not a requirement to get God to save him, but is the result of God regenerating him.
This Regeneration process includes quickening (John 6:63; Ephesian 2:1-5); working Godly sorrow in the face of the law (Romans 3:19-23; 7:1-14). Godly sorrow worketh repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10a); which means God has granted you the gift to change direction (Acts 5:31b). At the same time, God is drawing the quickened, awakened sinner to Himself through Christ (John 6:44-45, 65); whereby the sinner is taught. He learns of Christ and Who He is to him; his Substitute (2 Corinthians 5:21); his Sacrifice (Ephesians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:18-20; 2:24) and his Savior (Romans 3:24-25; 5:1-21; 6:1-23; 7:24-25; 8:1-16; etc.).
Then at the end of this process, the quickened, convicted, drawn, and taught sinner comes to confess Romans 10:9-10; not to get saved, but to prove he is saved in Christ. Remember Salvation is by Grace, not by the sinner’s believing (Ephesians 2:8-9). Yes, the quickened sinner will come to believe, as the Gospel is presented to him:
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16)
“For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:17)
At the very point of conversion (or birth, or confession of Romans 10:9-10), the sinner is filled with the Love of God (Romans 8:14-16; Galatians 4:5-6) to the point of overflow. All he knows at this point is, “Once I was blind and now I see. And I know it was Christ, my Substitute, my Sacrifice, and now my Savior” (Isaiah 53:1-12).
The converted sinner’s heart is filled, not with service at this point, but with praise and worship and honor to his Savior. He declares, “I know now that Christ paid my sin debt and I am free, set free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2). I know I have been forgiven and now I am His. I know I am a son of God, He is my Father.”
At the moment of conversion, the saved sinner is totally surrendered to God.
Then, after water baptism, the saved sinner begins to study God’s Word and starts down the path of Progressive Sanctification.
However, sometimes in a zeal to prove to Christ that we love Him, we major on our discipline and our duty. And we get caught up in our own works, forgetting to maintain a constant fellowship with Christ. The deception of activity, or service, for Christ sometimes replaces our first love, our first works; which is full surrender and submission to Christ as our Savior and our Lord and Master; not only Savior, but also our Head, our Authority, our Husband.
The Child of God is to grow in this love of God daily. Works (activity or service) is a product of love, but not a means of. You can serve God and not love God. You can afflict your body in His service and not love Him.
Therefore, before works (activity or service), comes love to Him and for Him.
Child of God, you must daily come before your Savior, confessing your sins daily (1 John 1:9). You must daily lay yourself bare before God to be examined by the all-seeing eye of God:
“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:” (Psalms 139:23)
“And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalms 139:24)
You, as a Child of God, must come daily before Him in praise and worship (Psalms 100:1-5; Hebrews 13:15); paying your vows in praise; thanking Him for Salvation (Ephesians 1:3-11), which includes:
- “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:” (1 Corinthians 1:30)
- Second, praising God for His Plan and Purpose in Christ; and for Security in Him (Romans 8:29-39);
- (Galatians 3:14-29), giving you the indwelling of the Holy Spirit; placing you in His Body, Regeneration (1 Corinthians 12:13; John 3:3-8); and causing you to know of His Resurrection Power living in you (Romans 6:4; 8:9-16; Philippians 4:13);
- (John 14:3; 7:21-24), bringing you to “Behold His Glory”; you were afore prepared unto His Glory (Romans 9:23-24);
- To know you are the Lamb’s Wife, His Church, His Body (Ephesians 5:22-33; Revelation 21:9d);
- To know that you are His Witness upon the earth (Acts 1:8; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21; etc.);
- To know that you will spend eternity with Him; (Matthew 25:21d), “…enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” (See 2 Corinthians 5:1-10; Ecclesiastes 12:7.)
Christ saved us to become One in Him (John 17:21-23); to be His Bride and to have full communion with Him. Service is second to Surrender and Submission.
Yes, we are His Servants; and yes, we will serve Him. But we can only serve Him in the right way if we serve Him through genuine love for Him. Many serve Him out of duty or for rewards. But no, we serve Him because we know (ginōsko) Him. (See Philippians 3:7-14; especially 8d-9-11.)
See Luke 17:6-10; this passage says that if we only do what is commanded of us, we are still unprofitable. God created us for Himself; for us to be His Bride (study Song of Solomon). He desires to have Complete Communion with us as heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. Yes, we are servants, but also friends (John 15:15-16).
Brethren, when we perceive our Position in Him, in His Glory; then we will be in our “first love.” Our “first works” are to love Him, to worship Him, to praise Him, to know Him. To never lose sight of Him; of His Glory, His Perfection, Perception, Preeminence, and His Power; which is our “inheritance”; which is “the end (or completion or maturity) of your faith, even the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:4-13); even a preserving in this life as we walk in His love, and have His Love perfected in us (1 John 2:4-6; 4:16, 17a).
Brethren, when we love Him; then our service will be filled with the fruit of the Sprit (Galatians 5:22-23). But we must:
“Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or (if not) else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” (Revelation 2:5)
When this happens, then the “salt” will have lost its “saltness” (which means you have no preserving power and no power to savor anything). Then you are worthless as the salt of the earth. (See Matthew 5:13; Mark 9:50; Luke 14:34-35.)
You have two choices, work your fingers to the bone and still be unprofitable. Or remember, repent, return to your first love and commune with Him above all things. But the latter Choice requires Concern, Conviction, Confession, and Communion.