The Loveless Church

Dr. Stephen Phinney



“To the angel of the Church in Ephesus write: But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.” Revelation 2:1-7

Have you lost your first love?


The key indicator we as counselors watch for shortly before a divorce – did the couple lose the initial love that drew them together? As soon as this happens, divorce will begin knocking at their door. The same ideology applies to all relationships, friendships, business partnerships, and, yes, even with Jesus.


We live in a culture where the word “love” is used fluidly. It can roll off our tongue on a first date, to using it to express our emotions toward our dog. Ironically, these expressions are not “love” at all. Organically, their hormones activating something that empowers their flesh or a mental connection to something they care deeply about.


In 1 John, it communicates that “God is Love.” The most practical aspect of this phrase is that when we say we love someone, we impart God to them. To say you love your dog would translate out as I give God to my dog. How ridiculous is that? When we say that we love God, we are literally returning glory unto the Father. It is the same with Jesus. However, since love in our culture means an expression of intimacy between humans, animals, cars, food, or whatever, the covert confession reveals itself – this object brings pleasure to one’s desires.


Love has nothing to do with desires. It is a doctrinal statement of an exchange of giving one’s life to another in exchange for theirs. True LOVE with Jesus is an exchange of lives. He takes our life, crucifies it, and gives a new life in exchange – His Life. The age-old adage of He accepts you as you are, is a misnomer. He doesn’t accept your Adamic nature, nor the condition this nature manifested in you.

Furthermore, He loves the new you HE has readied Himself for the great exchange – new Life in Christ. Basic theology reveals that to be accepted into the family of God; each must be willing to have their old life brought to death (Rom. 6). It is the perfect process of inheriting pure love, acceptance & forgiveness. After each goes through this death unto life experience, the benefits of a mutual love-life between God/Jesus and man begin to manifest.



In the case of our passage, many members within the Church of Ephesus had lost this perspective in their daily living. I have always stated that deeds/behavior is the evidence of who your “god” truly is. With these members within the Ephesus church, they either lost sight of the great exchange the Lord took them through or didn’t make the exchange to start with.


Was Jesus too harsh when He said…”

…or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.”


Probably not! He’s God & we are not.


The fact that Jesus said He would remove their candlestick from the altar of God is significant. That means it was there to start with, resulting in the removal if they did not repent. If you are a product of the ideology that Christians don’t need to repent, well then, you will need to explain what Jesus meant by what He said. Be careful, though; this is one doctrine that a depraved mind should not interpret.


A quick review of the Church is supposed to be according to the Hebrew pictures. The original definition of the Church was a fire signal. Now, a church in Greek means to call out. The common term we use today is to “bring the cream to the top.” The concept here is to call a group of unified believers to go public, as a body of free citizens, freely proclaiming the free gospel of Jesus Christ. It is this that is revealed throughout Revelation’s book—the Revelation of Jesus Christ. The word church is always associated with Israel—it’s critical we don’t forget that, which is why the Church is still referenced as she. God is referenced as He. Jesus is referenced as He. The Bride of Christ is referenced as she, and we are the Church. That is why Israel is referred to as she.


Some of you may have watched the movie The Lord of the Rings, and if you remember, one of the scenes within that series is a young lad working his way to the top of the fire tower and igniting the fire. Another fire tower would see that fire on another mountain, and they would then light their fire, and so on until they had the interest of the entire world, who would later come to battle against their enemy. That is how the Church was painted in a definition for us to remember. We are a fire signal—a light for all ages.


When you look at a map of the seven churches, Ephesus is toward the bottom portion of Turkey, very close to the sea, and it carries an abundant amount of history.


Let’s look at the five points that Jesus was addressing in His letter to the Church of Ephesus.


  1. It was a portrait of Jesus according to the spiritual state of the Church as a whole. It was supposed to communicate to the people what love is—that Jesus is love and that everything starts with Him. He is the portrait of love, and now Ephesus was supposed to be the portrait introducing people to God’s love through the person of Jesus.

  2. He praised the people for their acknowledgments with a handful of positive points—everything from their deeds to the toils they were suffering and persevering through all of those trials. They didn’t tolerate evil people, and they even tested people to make sure they were of the original, sincere in Christ. Well, something went wrong.

  3. Jesus condemns and identifies their negative points, particularly that some lost their first love in Christ.

  4. He corrected, counseled, and warned them to restore or severe consequences would result in being removed from God’s throne.