The Lord’s word to the church in Ephesus in Rev. 2:1-7 is a warning to us all; after He acknowledged the many works, labor, endurance, and suffering that the church in Ephesus had, the Lord said He has one thing against her, that she has lost her first love, and therefore she had to repent, remember where she has fallen from, and do the first works.
Leaving our first love for the Lord is the source and the main reason for the failure of the church throughout the ages. There may be many works outwardly, there may be much endurance, there may be some level of spiritual maturity, and there may be even some suffering for the Lord’s name, but if there’s no first love, all these amount to nothing in His eyes.
The church in Ephesus was raised up by the Lord, shepherded by the apostle Paul, written to by him from prison one of the highest revelation concerning the church, and then shepherded by Timothy – as Paul asked him to go there.
But the church in Ephesus, as a leading church in Asia, has also taken the lead to fall into degradation not by doing anything outwardly evil but simply by leaving their first love. As believers in Christ we need to overcome the loss of the first love by giving the Lord the preeminence in all things.
When we consider the Lord Jesus as the first in everything, our first love for Him is recovered. We need to see and be impressed with His dying love: He died for us, He now cares for us as the Spirit, and He just loves us; furthermore, He is in us as love – He is our love with which we can love Him.
In ourselves we have no shred of love for the Lord; we may “love Him” when we feel good and happy, but most of the time we may either forget about Him or we may not even consider Him.
This is why we need to let the Lord’s love constrain us to live to Him; living to the Lord means that we’re determined to gain the honor of being well-pleasing to Him, thus being under His direction and control so that we may satisfy His desires, fulfill His requirements, and complete what He intends. We need to return to the Lord, repent, love Him with the first love, and do the first works.
Loving the Lord with the First Love and Doing the First Works which come out of the First Love
What are these “first works”, and how are they related to the “first love” for the Lord? The first works are the works that issue from the first love. The church in Ephesus already had plenty of works, labor, and endurance; they had many good works, and they were quite productive – but the Lord still told them to do the first works.
We need to go back to the first love for the Lord and do the first works. These first works may apparently be the same as the works we have been doing, but there’s a big difference in our motivation and goal.
When we first touched the Lord and He touched us with His love, our love was fervent for Him, and everything we did was motivated by our love for Him. But after many years, we may become “experienced in the Lord” and thus be able to do many works for God and in His name, but our motivation and goal may not be just our love for Him.
We may be motivated by having success, accomplishing a work, receiving some recognition, or the applause of others. The works outwardly may be good and for God, but the motivation inwardly is not love.
The Lord is the One who searches our inward parts and our heart; only He knows what is in our heart, and only He knows how much we do for Him not out of loving Him with the first and best love.
May the Lord save us from “knowing what to do” and from doing a work for God that doesn’t come out of our first love for Him! May He shine on us, show us where we are, and cause us to return to our first love for Him so that we may do the first works.
We need to remember where we fell from and repent, return to the first love and do the first works. The works may be the same outwardly, but there’s a fresh source and motivation, which is our love for the Lord.
John Nelson Darby, even in his old age, as he was serving the Lord and travelling, was one night alone in his hotel room when he knelt and told the Lord, Lord Jesus, I still love You! Every day this should be our fresh appreciation to the Lord; we need to be able to tell the Lord that we preach the gospel, care for the younger saints, and serve in the church simply because we love Him.
We have no other motive or agenda; we have no personal goal or intention to gain anything – we just love the Lord, and this is our unique motivation for us to do the first works.
Lord Jesus, search our inward parts and our heart. You know what is in us; You know our motivation, intention, and goal. Bring us back to the first love for You so that we may do the first works. Lord Jesus, we still love You. Because we love You, we want to do what You tell us to do, having no other goal, agenda, or intention but just to love You and do the first works out of love for You. Lord Jesus, loving You is our unique motivation in preaching the gospel, caring for the saints, and serving in the church!
Repenting and Doing the First Works – the Works Motivated by our Love for the Lord
I was really touched by the Lord’s word to the church in Ephesus in Rev. 2; this church was apparently so good and active – they had many activities, much zeal, diligence, and forbearance for sufferings, and yet they did all these without being motivated by their first love for the Lord.
Brother Nee has a very good portion on this, expounding it and applying it to our situation today,
The Lord wants us to ask ourselves for whom the works are. It is a pity that we would work out of our habit or out of an intention to retain our fame, rather than out of the prompting of the Lord’s love! In that day, when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ, we will surely not be praised for the greatness or volume of our work. His flaming eyes will not be after those things. What He will investigate is how much of what we do is out of our love to Him. Only those works that are motivated by love are the gold, the silver, and the precious stones. No matter how great and numerous are the other works, and no matter how zealously and diligently one applies himself to them, they are but the wood, hay, and stubble. They have no use except to be burned. May all our works be done as if they were done before the judgment seat. May the degree of the Lord’s judgment on us shine brighter day by day, and may it expose our intention. (Collected Works of Watchman Nee, vol. 4, pp. 293-294)
We need to be filled with the first love for the Lord, and everything we do will originate from it; our love for the Lord must be forever fresh and new. The Lord doesn’t want us to love Him with the first love only when He first saved us; He wants us to love Him all the time with the first and best love so that we may be in a continual and eternal honeymoon with Him.
If we do something for the Lord without being solely motivated by our love for Him, He will not approve these works. We need to repent, return to the Lord, and do the first works, the works motivated by our love for the Lord.
We need to remember where we have fallen from – remember our first love for the Lord and the first works that resulted from it; repentance will bring in a self-condemning heart, a heart that is searched and exposed by the Lord to be brought back to the first love for Him.
When we are repenting and doing the first works – the works motivated by our love for the Lord, these works will be pleasing to the Lord and will be for the building up of the church.
Anything we do for the Lord without the motivating power of our first love for Him can be considered as wood, grass, and stubble, and anything we do for Him – whether small or great – out of our first love for Him will be as gold, silver, and precious stones in His eyes (1 Cor. 3:12).
Outwardly the works may look the same: the first works may seem to be the same as the works done for the Lord not of our love for Him, but the Lord looks at the heart, to our motivation.
When we stand before the judgement seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10), we will sure not be praised for the greatness or volume of our work; what the Lord will investigate is how much of what we do is out of our love to Him. Many works today are being prepared to be part of and consummating in the Great Babylon, which will be burned at the end of this age; what the Lord desires is not a great work but the Holy City, New Jerusalem.
Only those works that are motivated by love are the gold, the silver, and the precious stones; when we are filled with the first love for the Lord, everything we do originates from our love for Him and is thus a labor of love – the first works (1 Thes. 1:3).
However, it is possible that we, like the children of Israel in Ma. 3:14, may worship God and serve Him but do it mournfully, not at all happy that we are required to do these things. Oh Lord Jesus!
May we be those who hold to truth in love so that we may grow up into Him in all things, who is the Head, Christ, out from whom all the Body, being joined together and being knit together through every joint of the rich supply and through the operation in the measure of each one part, to cause the growth of the Body unto the building up of itself in love (Eph. 4:15-16).
The first works coming out of our first love are not what man praises or sees but works done in secret, like the works the joints of rich supply do. May we do the works considered precious by the Lord by holding to Him in love and functioning in our measure for the building up of the Body in love.
Lord Jesus, we repent and return to You to love You with the first love and do the first works, the works motivated by our love for You. Lord Jesus, we love You. Save us from leaving or forsaking our first love for You. Constrain us with Your love, infuse us with Yourself as love, and increase our love for You, so that everything we do would be out of the first love to be the first works for the building up of the church as the Body of Christ. We want to hold to truth in love, be joined together, function in our measure in the Body, and build up the Body in love!
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, Collected Works of Watchman Nee, vol. 4, pp. 262, 289-307, 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:
# I repent and now return, / Grant my heart for You to burn. / Flame in me this zeal. / Lord, be in me so real! / Jesus, my first Love! Oh Jesus, my best Love, / I now return to You. (Song on repenting to the Lord)
# I treasure my time alone with You, / Just to gain the best love You long for. / My dearest Husband, draw me with Yourself / Into Your chambers right now. / Be the first in all my work and life, / Be the first in all my service too. / In relationships, You must be the first; / Have preeminence in me. (Song on loving the Lord)
# But holding to truth in love / We may grow up in all things / Into Him who is the Head / Christ is the Head / Out from Whom all the Body / Being joined together and / Being knit together through / Ev’ry joint of the rich supply / And through the operation / In the measure of each one part / of each one part / Causes the growth of the Body unto the / building up of itself in love, / in love, in love. (Scripture song)
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