In His epistle to the first church, the church in Ephesus, in Rev. 2, the Lord appreciates some of the things she has, but He has one thing against her, that she has lost her first love; therefore, He recommends that she would remember where she fell from and repent and do the first works, or else the Lord will come and remove the lampstand out of its place, unless she repents.
In reading the Lord’s word to Ephesus here we may be quite impressed with the good things that this church had: she was active, productive, having many works, discerning those who were not of the Lord, laboring for the Lord, enduring, and suffering for His name; however, the Lord had against her that she lost her first love.
To us losing the first love for the Lord may not mean that much as long as we have many works for the Lord in the church, but to the Lord loving Him with the first love – resulting in doing the first works – means everything.
There are millions of believers in Christ on earth, but do we all love the Lord with the first love? There are so many works being done in God’s name, for His glory, and by the church and the believers, but are these done out of the first love for the Lord?
Truth be told, most of the so-called “Christian work” today is done “in the Lord’s name” but not by people who love the Lord with the first and best love.
It is a serious matter to forsake or leave our first love for the Lord; in His eyes this matter is so serious that He warns the church that, if they lose their first love and don’t repent and do the first works, the Lord will come and remove their lampstand from its place.
This means that the church may still have a lot of activities and endurance and suffering for the Lord, but that church is no longer bearing the Lord’s testimony on earth. If we look around us, especially in the degraded and fallen Christianity, there are many “state churches”, denominations, Christian groups, and independent churches, but who bears the Lord’s testimony in a genuine way?
We need to be warned by the Lord’s word and repent, return to our first love, do the first works, and be the Lord’s testimony.
Loving the Lord with the First Love and Not Losing the Capacity to Bear His Testimony
What a sobering word it is for the Lord to say that, if we do not repent, love Him with the first love, and do the first works, He will come and remove the church’s lampstand (Rev. 2:5-6)! This is even more serious than His dealing with us resulting in sickness or death; the removal of the lampstand means that our capacity to bear the Lord’s testimony is over.
Such a church who has the lampstand removed may be productive, diligent to labor for the Lord, have spiritual discernment, and have a lot of activities and meetings, but they no longer bear the Lord’s testimony.
What if the Lord would come to our church, the church in our locality, and tell us that the lampstand will be removed if we do not repent, love Him with the first love, and do the first works? This is a word of warning to us.
The unique matter that qualifies us to be a lampstand, that is, to be the Lord’s testimony as the church, is the first love for Him.
In the matter of loving the Lord we don’t need to be “balanced”, that is, we shouldn’t try “not to be too much” in our loving the Lord. God desires to have many people who are crazy in love with Him, many who are like Mary, pouring and “wasting” all they had on Him.
The Lord will not “balance us” in our love for Him: He loves to have us love Him with the first love! Our knowledge, our gift, and our work for the Lord need to be balanced, but our love for Him needs to be fresh, new, and the best.
If we leave the first love to the Lord and do not repent and do the first works, it is possible that we may still be standing on the ground of locality, but we have lost the reality and testimony of the Triune God as typified by the golden lampstand.
We love the ground of the church, the oneness of the Body of Christ and the ground of locality; we love to see more local churches all over the earth, but the most important thing is for these churches to have the testimony of Jesus.
The removal of the lampstand means that, before God, the church’s position is lost, and that she has lost her position and is disqualified from being the church of the Lord’s testimony anymore. What can be more sobering than this, realizing that we have lost the reality of the Lord’s testimony – in spite of all the activities, meetings, and services in the church!
If we are not faithful to remain in the first love, loving the Lord with the best love and doing the first works, the lampstand may be removed from us. If we look at the history of the church, in the first stage of its history the church was the expression of Christ, and Christ was the content of the church.
However, the church became degraded and lost the reality and presence of Christ (see Rev. 3:20); it became an empty vessel – an outward expression without the inward reality. Oh Lord Jesus!
Today the Lord in His recovery is working to restore the normal condition of our loving the Lord with the first love, doing the first works, and having Christ as our content and center in the proper church life.
Lord Jesus, save us from losing our first and best love for You. Oh Lord, we pray for the church in the locality we are in: may we shine bright as Your testimony in our locality! Recover us back to Yourself, back to Christ as our life and everything. Recover and rekindle our first love for You, so that all the works we do would be out of love for You. Lord Jesus, save us from losing the lampstand – save us from losing the capacity of bearing the Lord’s testimony! Keep us loving You with the first and best love!
If we have the First Love for the Lord, we will Hate the Works of the Nicolaitans
What are these “Nicolaitans” and what are their works? The history doesn’t tell us anything in specific concerning this, but based on the word “Nicolaitan”, the greek work is composed of “nikos” – meaning to conquer or be victorious over, and “laos” – meaning common people, secular people, or laity.
In other words, Nicolaitans must refer to a group of people in the church who esteem themselves higher than the common believers; this was undoubtedly the hierarchy adopted and established by Catholicism and Protestantism.
The Lord hates the works, the behavior, of these Nicolaitans, and we must hate what the Lord hates. If we love the Lord with the first love, we will hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which the Lord also hates.
In His economy, God intends that all His people would be priests to serve Him and speak for Him as prophets; He called the entire people of Israel to be a kingdom of priests (Exo. 19:6). However, because the people of Israel failed and worshipped the golden calf (Exo. 32:1-6), they lost the priesthood, and only the tribe of Levi was chosen to replace the whole nation of Israel to be priests to God, because of their faithfulness to God (see Exo. 32:25-29; Deut. 33:8-10).
Instead of all of God’s people being His priests, now there was a mediatorial class between God and His people, and this became a strong system in Judaism.
In the New Testament, God has returned to His original intention according to His economy in that He has made all believers in Christ priests (Rev. 1:6; 5:10; 1 Pet. 2:5, 9). But at the end of the initial church, even in the first century, the Nicolaitans intervened as the mediatorial class to spoil God’s economy. According to church history, this became a system adopted by the Roman Catholic Church and was also retained by the Protestant churches. Today in the Roman Catholic Church there is the priestly system, in the state churches there is the clerical system, and in the independent churches there is the pastoral system. All these are a mediatorial class, spoiling the universal priesthood of all believers….But in the proper church life there should be neither clergy nor laity; all believers should be the priests of God. Because the mediatorial class destroys the universal priesthood in God’s economy, the Lord hates it. (Witness Lee, Life-study of Revelation, pp. 117-118)
The losing of the first love causes us to be disconnected from Christ, the Head, and the works of the Nicolaitans annul the function of the members of the Body of Christ; this is part of the enemy’s attack on Christ and His Body.
May we see what it means to do the works of the Nicolaitans, and may we be those who never presume that we are “higher than others” because of our knowledge or experience of Christ. We are members in the Body of Christ, and we all can function!
This was the attitude that Moses also had when he heard that some in the camp were also prophesying: may all of God’s people prophesy! Amen!
In the proper church life today there shouldn’t be any clergy-laity system; the elders are not higher or better than the saints, and the ones serving full-time are not on a higher level than all the saints. We all are priests of God (Rev. 1:6; 5:10; 1 Pet. 2:5, 9).
Because a mediatorial class destroys the universal priesthood in God’s economy, the Lord hates it; He wants that all His people would function by prophesying to speak His word and ministering to Him and to His people as priests.
Lord Jesus, we love You and we hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which You also hate! We hate seeing any clergy-laity system in the church. We love to prophesy and function as priests in the church for the building up of the Body of Christ. Amen, Lord, recover us back to Your original intention that all Your children would be priests who function in the church life! Recover the function of all the members of the Body of Christ so that the Body may be built up and You may have a shining testimony!
References and Hymns on this Topic
- Inspiration: the Word of God, my enjoyment in the ministry, the message by brother James L. for this week, and, Life-study of Revelation, msg. 10 (by Witness Lee), as quoted in the Holy Word for Morning Revival on, Returning to the Orthodoxy of the Church (2016 fall ITERO), msg. 1 (week 1), The Church in Ephesus.
- Hymns on this topic:
# Amid the darkness of this age / The light of life divine doth beam / In many centers of mankind / Where Jesus’ testimony’s seen. / To be this testimony pure / ”First love” to Christ the Church must keep; / Then from the “tree of life” she may / The overcomer’s portion reap. (Hymns #822)
# Lord Jesus, we are Your increase, / The church, the kingdom, now we see; / Lord, may we in Your kingdom live, / For Your economy. / May Your recovery, / Forward march, spread far and wide. / Your lampstands shining forth / In every city bright. / Nor ill nor hardship do we fear, / For Lord, You stand beside. (Song on the church)
# All the saints must serve as priests, / That the living stones they be; / Each must priestly work perform, / Then their functions we will see. (Hymns #849)
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