“To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent’” (Revelation 2:1-5).
The Lord said the church in Ephesus had left its first love. While Revelation 2 does not give any details of their love, we can read in Acts many commendable things about Ephesus’ love in their beginning in the gospel. Let us consider those commendable things.
Obedience to the Gospel
Although little is said of Paul’s work in Ephesus at the end of his second journey, Luke records great reception of the gospel in Ephesus in Paul’s third journey. Twelve men who knew only the baptism of John, upon hearing of the baptism commanded by Jesus, responded by being baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 19:5). Paul taught boldly for three months in the synagogue and another two years in school of Tyrannus such that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord (Acts 19:9-10). In writing to the Corinthians, Paul describes a “great and effective door” having been opened to him in Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:9). There was great interest in the truth of the gospel in Ephesus, and “the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed” there (Acts 19:20). They demonstrated a love of the truth that they might be saved.
Fruits of Repentance
As a result of the preaching of the gospel of Christ in Ephesus, many magicians left the occult and turned to the Lord. They evidence of their repentance was astounding. “Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver” (Acts 19:19). Fifty thousand pieces of silver is estimated to be the equivalent of the enormous sum of 50,000 days wages. Their fruits of repentance were consistent with their love for the truth and for the Lord Jesus Christ.
On his journey to Jerusalem from Macedonia, when Paul met with the elders from Ephesus in Acts 20:17-38, the elders’ love of Paul is evident: “And when he [Paul] had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. Then they all wept freely, and fell on Paul’s neck and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke, that they would see his face no more. And they accompanied him to the ship” (Acts 20:36-38). Several years later he wrote to the church in Ephesus, commending them for their love of brethren: “Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers” (Ephesians 1:15).
Paul had taught the church in Ephesus much about love during his years there, and he reminded the elders of that during his meeting with them in Acts 20. Paul had taught them a love of the truth. To the elders he said, “I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you” and “I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:20, 27). And Paul commended them “to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (verse 32). He wanted them to continuing loving the truth. Paul had taught them about repentance, “testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (verse 21). And Paul taught the elders to love the flock, the children of God: “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood” (verse 28). He continued, saying “I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (verse 35).
The Ephesians’ obedient response to the gospel, including the repentance of the magicians, demonstrated a love of the truth and the Lord, a love that needed to continue. And brotherly love, as taught by Paul and demonstrated in the Acts 20 meeting, needed to continue. Furthermore, these loves needed to not only continue but to grow. Likewise, let us grow in our love of the truth, the Lord, and our brothers and sisters in Christ.