LEFT THY FIRST LOVE!
William Andrew Dillard
Parson to Person
The church of the Living God at Ephesus played a prominent part in the initial spread of Christianity as well as in the makeup of the New Testament. The book that bears its name features some of the best loved verses in the Bible.
The church was born in an idol worshipping city, creating significant, violent protests, yet it was a tremendous work of the Apostle Paul, who went out of his way to pay it one last visit near the end of his free ministry. It was also home to the ministry of Aquila and Priscilla, and a preaching station of glib Apollos.
It was this writer’s delight to visit the ruins of the ancient city which still bears ample evidence of its early prominence, including remains of winding streets, shops, libraries, homes, and huge storage facilities of grain. There are also remains of city laws engraved in stone in prominent places. Indeed the ancient amphitheater that hosted a protest crowd of some 50,000 in the days of Paul is there together with remains of an ancient church house and deep water baptistery. There are also prominent brothels, speaking to the sensuality of the idol worship so prominent, water cooled houses, epicurean regurgitation stations, and other indicators of material excesses of the day.
Again, the church is directly addressed in Revelation chapter two. The underscored criticism of it is that they had left their first love. Commentators, and other theologians have conjectured just what that means, and often skewed it to their own thinking more than to contextual evidence.
It is abundantly clear that the church, and indeed the entire city suffered from devastation of disease and earthquakes, yet the ruins of what once was remains. Evidence abounds that what happened to the church at Ephesus is what continues to happen to churches throughout the age: they left their first love, and their candlestick was removed, even though they may have continued to operate religiously for a time. What is that first love? The same that we all have. It is love for the God of the Word, of whom we want to know more from our spiritual birth onward. Carnality often deals that a mortal blow. Do you love the Word more than this material world? How much time do you spend with it?