Revelation 2v4-7

SERMON TOPIC: Revelation 2v4-7

Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 13 August 2023


Sermon synopsis: 4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.
5 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.

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REVELATION – chapter 2



The letters to the 7 churches have a similar structure.

An address to a particular church.

An introduction of Jesus.

A statement regarding the condition of the church.

A verdict from Jesus regarding the church.

A command from Jesus to the church.

A general exhortation to all Christians with a promise of reward.

As to spiritual pedigree, Ephesus was a church of great privilege, with a rich heritage in teaching.

Paul ministered there for 3 years using the city as a base for his ministry into the Roman province of Asia.

Priscilla and Aquila served there.

So did the learned and eloquent Apollos.

Paul’s close companion and spiritual son Timothy ministered there and on Paul’s instruction had appointed the first leaders.

Evidence of their spiritual maturity, Paul wrote them what is considered by some to be his deepest epistle as it addresses some of the greatest themes and doctrines of Christianity.

Subsequent to these events the apostle John would spend the last years of his life ministering there.

This, in terms of doctrine, they were well grounded.

Jesus commends this church for their:

hard work


they cannot tolerate wicked people

they have tested and rejected false apostles.

they had endured hardship for the name of Jesus.

they have not grown weary

c) A statement regarding the condition of the church.

Revelation 2:4-5 (NKJV)

4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.

5 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.

d) A verdict from Jesus regarding the church.

v4a Nevertheless I have this against you …

Jesus used a sobering word – nevertheless, which means “despite all that.” Jesus took into full account all the good in the Ephesian church, yet despite all that, He had something against them. Nevertheless means that all the good in the Ephesian church did not cancel out the bad Jesus is about to describe. *

* Ibid.

v4b you have left your first love.

In Paul’s time, the Christians in Ephesus were known for loving each other well: “I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints” (Eph 1:15).

This early love, proof of the new life in Christ (1John 3:13f. ), had cooled off in spite of their doctrinal purity. They had remained orthodox, but had become unloving… [Word Pictures in the New Testament – A.T. Robertson]


This was a doctrinally pure church. While this is good and commended in Scripture, a focus on doctrine only can make a church overly suspicious, cold, unloving and intolerant of any difference of opinion.

“When love dies orthodox doctrine becomes a corpse, a powerless formalism. Adhesion to the truth sours into bigotry when the sweetness and light of love to Jesus depart.” (Spurgeon)


Despite all the good happening in the Ephesian church, something is wrong. We might conclude that the problem is not serious – after all they received so many compliments from Jesus and he had only one complaint. But the problem was serious because without love, all else is vain.

1 Cor 13:1-3 (NIV) If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.



Gal 5:6 (NIV) For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

Col 3:14 (NIV) And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

1 Cor 13:8-13 (NIV) And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.


“Love never fails” (1 Cor 13:8) so we must “do everything in love” (1 Cor 16:14).

Love must be pursued:

1 Tim 6:11 (NIV) But you, man of God … pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.

2 Tim 2:22 (NIV) … pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace ...

Love must be without limit:

Rom 13:8 (NIV) Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.


The Ephesians had a hard-working church. Sometimes we can put what we do for God before who we are in him. Our focus on working for God can overshadow our relationship with him.

Though they had left their first love, everything looked great on the outside. If you would have attended a service of the church at Ephesus, you might have thought, “This is a happening church. They are doing so much, and they really guard the truth.” *

* https:// bible-commentary/ revelation-2


John 13:35 (NIV) “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Let us note that our Lord does not name gifts or miracles or intellectual attainments as the evidence of discipleship, but love, the simple grace of love, a grace within reach of the poorest, lowliest believer, as the evidence of discipleship. If we have no love, we have no grace, no regeneration, no true Christianity! [J.C. Ryle]


1 John 3:14-19 (NIV) We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death … This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence:


In an engine-room it is impossible to look into the great boiler and see how much water it contains. But running up beside it is a tiny glass tube, which serves as a gauge … When the tube is half full, the boiler is half full; when the tube is empty, the boiler is empty. Do you ask, “How do I know I love God?...” Look at the gauge. Your love for your brother is the measure of your love for God. - S. S. Chronicle.


1 John 4:20 (NIV) If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.

1 John 4:21 (NIV) And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Our love for God is shown by how we treat his children:

John 21:15-16 (NIV) When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”


Loving one another is the sign of a true Christian:

1 John 2:9-11 (NIV) Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.

1 John 4:7-8 (NIV) Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

A true Christian will obey Jesus’ commands:

John 14:15 (NIV) “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” [cf. John 14:23-24, 1 John 5:3].

His command is to love others:

2 John 1:6 (NIV) I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.

Tertullian, in his defence of Christianity, noted how Christian love attracted pagan attention in the 2nd century AD:

It is our care for the helpless, our practice of lovingkindness, that brands us in the eyes of many of our opponents. “Only look,” they say, “look how they love one another” (they themselves being given over to mutual hatred).

“Look how they are prepared to die for one another” (they themselves being readier to kill each other).

Thus had this saying become a fact, “Hereby shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another.” - Apology 39


The Four Loves is a book by C. S. Lewis which takes its name from the four Koine Greek words for love which roughly equate to the following in English: romance, affection, charity and friendship.

Eros (erōs) is romantic or erotic love based on a physical sexual attraction.

Storge (storgē) is fondness through familiarity especially between family members or people who have found themselves together by chance e.g. the type of love between a parent and child.


Charity (agápē) is love which expects nothing in return. It cares regardless of the circumstance and is the greatest of loves as it is the love that God himself demonstrates to sinful man.

Philia (philía) is the ‘friendship’ love that exists between people who share common interests and is epitomised in the Biblical characters David and Jonathan. In the form ‘philadelphia’ it refers to brotherly love.


Some feel that we should just ‘tolerate’ other Christians. In other words, we should love with the unconditional ‘agape’ love, but we don’t have to be friends (i.e. actually like other Christians).

Other professing Christians even use this as an excuse to not fellowship. They say they love God, but don’t like his children.

But we are instructed to have both kinds of love for our Christian brothers and sisters:

1 Thess 4:9 (ESV) Now concerning brotherly love (philadelphias) you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love (agapan) one another


1 Pet 1:22 (ESV) Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love (philadelphian), love (agapēsate) one another earnestly from a pure heart

Heb 13:1 (NIV) Keep on loving each other as brothers (philadelphia).

1 Pet 3:8-9 (NIV) Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers (philadelphoi), be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.


Do you want to be effective and productive for God?

2 Pet 1:5-9 (NIV) For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness (philadelphian); and to brotherly kindness (philadelphia), love (agapēn). For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.


The Greek word ‘storge’ is the love and affection that naturally occurs between parents and children and between siblings. It occurs once in Romans 12:10 in the compound word ‘philostorgoi’ (comprised of philos and storge).

Rom 12:10 (NASB) Be devoted (philostorgoi) to one another in brotherly love (philadelphia); give preference to one another in honour.

Rom 12:10 (Holman Christian Standard Bible) Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honour.

So Christians are instructed to love one another with agape, philadelphia and storge love. We don’t just ‘tolerate’ each other out of a higher sense of Godlike love – we should have a genuine brotherly friendship and affection.

We see a similar thought expressed here:

1 Tim 5:1-2 (NIV) Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.

Back to the church at Ephesus:

There is a definite, sure difference in their relationship with Jesus. Things aren’t as they used to be. It isn’t that we expect that we should have the exact same excitement we had when everything was brand new in the Christian life, but the newness should transition into a depth that makes the first love even stronger. ~ David Guzik, Calvary Chapel, known for his popular online, verse by verse commentary on the entire Bible.


They once had a love that they don’t have anymore.

What love did they leave? As Christians, we are told to love God and to love one another. Did they leave their love for God? Did they leave their love for one another? Probably both are in mind, because the two loves go together. You can’t say you love God and not love His family, and you can’t really love His family without loving Him first. *

* https:// bible-commentary/ revelation-2


The Ephesians have left – not lost – their first love. The distinction between leaving and losing is important.

Something can be lost quite by accident, but leaving is a deliberate act, though it may not happen suddenly. *

As well, when we lose something we don’t know where to find it; but when we leave something, we know where to find it. *

* Ibid.



e) A command from Jesus to the church.

What does Jesus want the church at Ephesus to do?

Consider how far you have fallen!

Repent and do the things you did at first.

Do the first works

Remember therefore from where you have fallen: The first step in restoration for the Ephesian church is for them to remember. They need to remember from where you have fallen. This means remembering where they used to be in their love for the Lord and for one another. *

When the Prodigal Son was in the pigpen, the first step in restoration was remembering what life was like back in his father’s home (Luke 15:17-19). This is always the first step in getting back to where we should be with the Lord. *

* https:// bible-commentary/ revelation-2.

Repent: This is not a command to feel sorry, or really to feel anything. It means to change your direction, to go a different way. It is an “urgent appeal for instant change of attitude and conduct, before it is too late.” (A.T. Robertson)

Do the first works: This means that they must go back to the basics, to the very first things they did when you first fell in love with Jesus. These are the things that we never grow beyond. (D. Guzik)

What are the first works?

Remember how you used to spend time studying the Bible?

Remember how you used to pray?

Remember how you enjoyed fellowshipping with other Christians?

Remember how excited you were about sharing your faith with others?

What will Jesus do if they ignore his call to repent?

v5c If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

Jesus gives them a strong warning. If they refuse to repent, he would remove their light source.

In that case, they might continue as an organization, but no longer as a true church of Jesus. It would be the Church of Ichabod, i.e. the glory has departed (1 Sam 4:21).


On retiring to Ephesus, after his bout on Patmos, John would continually remind them of Jesus’ instruction to love.

Jerome tells a famous story of John in his extreme old age at Ephesus. He eventually had to be carried into the congregation by his disciples and would say nothing except, “Little children, love one another.” At last, wearied that he always spoke the same words, they asked: “Master, why do you always say this?” He replied, “Because it is the Lord’s command, and if this only is done, it is enough.”

The Ephesians appear to have heeded this warning of Jesus. Not long after this was written, in the early 2nd century, Ignatius praised both their love of God and their obedience to Christ.

You, therefore … are … adorned in all respects with the commandments of Jesus Christ, … with respect to your Christian life you love nothing but God only. [Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians, Ch. 9]

From this we gather that the Ephesians returned to their first love without compromising doctrinal purity.


Revelation 2:6 (NIV)

6 But you have this in your favour: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

Possibly to prevent the Ephesians from becoming discouraged, Jesus pays them another compliment.

But who were the Nicolaitans condemned here and in Rev 2:15?



Some have noted that the root meanings of the words that make up the name Nicolaitans is “to conquer the people” and believe this points to those who believe in church hierarchies and the separation of the “clergy” from the “laity.”

But it seems unlikely as it is not in line with the writings of Irenaeus (2nd generation disciple of John) and Hippolytus (3rd generation disciple of John).

In addition, the development of church hierarchies in form of governance appears to have been a later development.

Irenaeus (2nd century) identified the Nicolaitans with a heretical group that had been founded by “Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism” (Acts 6:5). Nicolas was one of the first 7 deacons – and it seems the Nicolaitans’ name was derived from his. Irenaeus writes:

The Nicolaitans are the followers of that Nicolas who was one of the seven first ordained to the diaconate by the apostles. They lead lives of unrestrained indulgence. The character of these men is plainly pointed out in the Apocalypse of John, as teaching that it is a matter of indifference to practice adultery, and to eat things sacrificed to idols. [Against Heresies, Bk. 1, Ch. 26.]


Hippolytus of Rome (3rd century), a student of Irenaeus associated the Nicolaitans with the Gnostics and also (like Irenaeus) linked them to Nikolas the deacon, and affirms that they believed in unrestrained indulgence:

There are, however, among the Gnostics diversities of opinion… But Nicolaus has been a cause of the wide-spread combination of these wicked men. [He] departed from correct doctrine, and was in the habit of inculcating indifferency of both life and food. [Refutation of all Heresies, Bk. 7, Ch. 24]

Due to the influence of Greek philosophy, the various Gnostic groups had contempt for the flesh - resulting in 2 extremes:

Asceticism: Some tried to subdue the body and its desires by a severe asceticism, which involved celibacy and fasting, or even deliberate ill-treatment of the body.

License: The other extreme was license, believing that because the body was evil, it did not matter what they did with their bodies, so its appetites could be indulged and gratified without any limit. The Nicolaitans were in this category.

v6b You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans which I also hate.

Jesus has a low opinion of the Nicolaitans and hates their practices - unrestrained indulgence of the bodily appetites.

Revelation 2:7 (NASB)

f) A general exhortation to all Christians with a promise of reward.

7 The one who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who overcomes, I will grant to eat from the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God.’

7a The one who has an ear …

This includes everyone who is willing to listen. This letter was not only written to the church at Ephesus in the Apostle John’s day. It is written to us, and to all Christians throughout the centuries.

7b … let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Every one of these seven letters may apply in varying degrees to all churches of all ages. Thus, we must pay attention to what the Spirit says to all the churches – not just to one church.

“There were not seven books written, but one book in which these seven epistles were, out of which each church, or the church in it several periods, might learn what concerned it.” ~ Matthew Poole (1624-79), an English Non-conformist theologian)

“The churches of the land are sprinkled all over with bald-headed old sinners whose hair has been worn off by the constant friction of countless sermons that have been aimed at them and glanced off and hit the man in the pew behind.” ~ H.W. Beecher (1813–87), an American Congregationalist clergyman

v7b To the one who overcomes…

This promise is made to overcomers. But what exactly do they overcome?

In context, Jesus is talking about overcoming their coldness of heart and lack of love.

The promise for these overcomers was a return to Eden, a restoration, and eternal life. This was meant first in the eternal sense of making it to heaven, which was no small promise to a church threatened with the removal of Jesus’ presence. It is also meant in the sense of seeing the effects of the curse rolled back in our own lives though walking in Jesus’ redeeming love. *

* Ibid.

v7c … I will grant to eat from the tree of life …

v7d … which is in the Paradise of God.

Originally, the word Paradise meant “a garden of delight.” Eventually, it came to mean “the place where God lives.” Where God is, that is Paradise! *