To the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things said he that holds the seven stars in his right hand…
These are words of complaint; some would call it fault-finding; and, as such, might have repelled us from the complainer. But such is the nature and tone of the complaint, that we feel attracted, not repelled; humbled, but not hurt. The reproof is keen, yet it casts no shadow on the grace of the reprover. But the preface to the complaint claims special notice; for that complaint does not stand alone. And what strikes us most in it, is the minute enumeration of services performed by this Church, ere He speak the words of censure. "I know thy works," etc. He was no austere man, no hard master, no censorious fault-finder, but loving and generous, possessed to the uttermost of that "charity which suffereth long," etc. But it is not the mere recital of His servant's good deeds that strikes us; it is His manifest appreciation of these, His delight in them, His grateful sense of the service rendered. Faults there would be in these labours, but He sees none; imperfections in the endurances of trial, but He makes mention of none. He speaks as one full of gratitude for favours conferred. He names His servant's name, and is not ashamed to confess him. What a dignity, what a value, is thus affixed to every act, even of the simplest, commonest service for Him! But our text goes beyond all this. It teaches us His desire for our love, and His disappointment at losing it, or any part of it. It is not so much our labour as our love that He asks. The star had grown dim, the flower faded, warm love had cooled, and the Ephesus of the second generation was not the Ephesus of the first. Over this lost first love He mourns, as the gem which of all others He prized the most. It is not of slothful service, or waning zeal, or failing liberality, or slackening warfare that He complains. This is the substance of the complaint, the burden of the disappointment — the loss of half a heart! What true hearted man but must be humbled and melted down beneath it! Why should He love so much and I so little? But let us follow out a little further this Divine rebuke, this touching remonstrance. "Thou hast left thy first love!" And for what reason? Did the coldness begin on My side or on thine? Have I become less lovable, less loving? "Thou hast left thy first love!" And what or whom hast thou substituted? Hast thy power of loving ceased, and thy heart contracted? Or is there some second love that has usurped the place of the first? Is it the world that has thus come in? Is it pleasure? Is it literature or science? Is it business? Is it politics? Is it the creature in some of its various forms, and with the seductive glitter of its many-sided beauty? "Thou hast left thy first love!" And what hast thou gained by the leaving? What has this strange turn of capricious affection done for you? Has it made you a happier, holier, truer, stronger, more noble, more earnest man? Ah! ask your hearts what has been your gain? A few indulgences which once you did not dare to venture on. A few gay smiles of worldly companionship. A few pleasures, for which, till your first love had gone, you had no relish. These are some of the things for which thou hast exchanged thy first love! For these thou hast sold thy Lord! Oh, heartless Ephesian, retrace thy steps at once! Thou didst run well: who hath hindered thee? Begin once more at the beginning. Go back to the fountain head of love — I mean thy Lord's love to thee, the sinner — there refill thy empty vessel. Go back to the blessed Sun, whose light is still as free and brilliant as ever; there rekindle thy dying torch; there warm thy cold heart, and learn to love again as thou didst love at first.
(H. Bonar, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;