Preface to Simply Church: “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love”

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Simply Church: The Holy Union of Christ and His Local Church

Jerald Finney
January 11, 2023

Revelation 1-3, as well as other New Testament books, have many lessons for the churches. [1] One lesson has to do with the proper motivation for the relationship between Christ and the local church. Just as the relationship of husband wife can be profaned, so can the relationship between a church and Christ:

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27).

Just as a husband who does not uncompromisingly love his wife can be guilty of adultery, so can a church who does not love the Lord Jesus Christ with all her heart, soul, mind, and strength. A church can profane her love for the Lord by entering into unholy unions with other lovers, most notably with federal and/or state government.

Motive influences action. Love for Christ is the proper motivation for service, for preaching, teaching, contending for the faith, for good works, for all that the believer and church do.

Revelation 1-3 reveals that Christ is walking in the midst of every one of his churches, inspecting and judging them. He is observing their actions, attitudes, hearts, and motives. He sees their strengths and weaknesses. Every church should study Revelation 1-3 as well as other New Testament Scripture regarding the doctrine of the church so that she can measure, judge, and bring herself into line with the heart of God.

Many churches in America have “left their first love” (Revelation 2:4). Some, like the church at Ephesus, have hard workers who persevere for His name’s sake, work diligently even though weary, remain patient and steadfast, hate and condemn that which is morally wrong, remain moral in spite of surrounding immorality, abhor that which is wrong, hate false teachings, exercise spiritual discernment and keep themselves pure from doctrinal error. They stay in the battle even though it is wearisome to carry on.

Nonetheless, Christ has a solemn rebuke against many of these churches because they have left their first love. He knows their hearts. He knows that their motivation for service is not a love for Him.  The Church at Ephesus once had an unwavering love for Jesus Christ (Acts 19:17-21). However, within a generation, the church membership had an insensitive disregard for Christ and lacked a yieldedness to Him due to their waning love for Him.

Christ commanded the church at Ephesus to “remember.” They were to recall the joy of their salvation that they first experienced when they were abiding in Christ and feeling the peace of God in their hearts.

He then commanded them to repent and do the first works—that is, to return to Him, to a simple faith in, and genuine love for Him, and for what he had done for them on Calvary’s cross. History records the persecutions—burning at the state, beheading, drowning, extreme torture, imprisonment, banishment—of believers in Christ, members of churches who refused to prostitute their churches by remaining true to the Word of God.

The result of failing to heed Christ’s counsel are serious. Christ said that—if the church at Ephesus did not repent—He would cause her to lose her influence to the point that she would no longer exist as a light in the midst of darkness. Eventually, their light did burn out. Like the church at Ephesus, that of any church not motivated by love for the Savior and acting according to His Word is empty and futile. Their light is not shining, and many, because unrepentant, have ceased to exist.

The size of a church is not evidence of favor with God. The church at Philadelphia was small and insignificant compared to the church at Sardis, but God said that the large, “successful” church at Sardis was dead in his sight while this small, unpopular church at Philadelphia was spiritually thriving. (Revelation 3:1-6; 3:7-13). [2]


Endnotes

[1] Much insight for this preface gleaned from, Matt Costello,  “Christ Speaks to the Seven Churches” (Fresno, CA: Fundamentalist Evangelistic Association, http://www.feasite.org).

[2] The Appendix gives links to resources which explain why church incorporation, federal tax exempt status, and other statutory or legal status of churches betray the love relationship between Christ and His churches.

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