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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.

  5. He ends His rebuke with a promise and encouragement.


Key Cultural Issues

One of the most significant critical cultural issues, according to Act 19:35, is Paul had to emphasize and challenge the men to stand up and behave like men. There was so much teaching on the issue of masculinity in men because the men within the city of Ephesus were primarily dominated and run by women. The women’s rights thing has always been there; the whole female goddess thing has always been there, and now the Christian men during that time were defaulting to their ladies, so this is why Paul puts such an emphasis on getting men back in line with what they were called to do by God – being heads of their households. A doctrine today that has been deduced to egalitarianism

The Apostle John lived in Asia Minor. After Patmos, he died in Ephesus at a grand old age. We must always remember that God did not allow John to be martyred like the other disciples. He was set aside for something extraordinary. It does not mean he did not have trials and tribulations, but he certainly was set aside to be a particular cut from the Lord’s garment for a specific purpose. Therefore he was not allowed to be harmed in any way.

There is so much that can be revealed about the movement of the enemy and female gods, and female leadership. One of the classic ones that most people are aware of is that the house of Mary is in Ephesus. The Roman Catholics seized the home of Mary at a very early time in church history, and most believe that it was during the first generation. They turned it into a worship center, where we get our ideologies from the Roman Catholic Church—Mary being the mother of God, the holy mother, the mother of God that is given special privileges, and who didn’t have sin in her mortal body because she birthed Jesus. All of these false teachings that have come with Mary started in Ephesus. However, the house of Mary still exists because it parallels all of the teachings and religious bondage that took place between Ephesus and the power of women—an interesting note to remember. The other thing I like to remember as a church historian is that this is the exact place the Third Ecumenical Council of the Universal “church” took place in 431 AD.

Ephesus has a lot of rich history, and many issues surrounding maleness and femaleness were ignited during this time. If we step back and look at some of the problems we struggle with today with Christian feminism—boys wanting to be women—much of it started in this community.

The result of these Christians moving away from their first love to whatever the culture was saying is essential - threatened them in their relationship with Jesus Christ, saying, “Because you’ve lost your first love,” and their first love was Jesus. Since they defaulted to many gods or goddesses, Jesus was obligated to come & address this.

Jesus also happens to give them a compliment of hating the Nicolaitan beliefs.

Deacon Nicholas graduated from the school of Alexander. Alexander was known for their training and education to be based on paganism. He brought doctrines into the Ephesus church, pushing and emphasizing that there needed to be a priest between the people and God/Christ. He became the father of each gathering that supported the Nicolaitan beliefs. This is where Roman Catholicism was born. Deacon Nicholas also became the first official Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, and the “why” Jesus was serious when He said, “For I hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans.”

After John’s death, the city was taken by the Goths—the Arians. But after John’s death, Ephesus goes through this horrific period of turning Arian. While Arians are classically associated with a Christian presbyter from Alexandria & Egypt and advancing the theology that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, it was not the view that the indwelt Christians of that day believed. It was the view of paganism mixed in the doctrines of “Christians.” Thus, much of the practices within the Roman Catholic Church are closely aligned with paganistic traditions.

God is supportive of churches and their shepherds. God’s design is to establish shepherds to care for the sheep (body of Christ), not leaders to Lord over them, and act as mediators between them and the Living God. Deacon Nicholas was whacked. I don’t care if you are insulted that this is the Roman forefather of the Roman Catholic church or not. It doesn’t change the fact that Jesus said He hates the deeds of deacon Nicholas; it became a religious system that fronts God to this day. God makes it clear that the Christians who do NOT “buy into” this illusion, this deception, will eat from the Tree of Life.

The full message & warnings Jesus gave to the Ephesus church was directly related to the church fading into the beliefs of the Nicolaitans. That is a fact. He appealed to them to repent and return to their love life with Him.

Cast your eyes into the church today. What do you see? Are the Christian masses focused on a love life with Jesus or in ideas OF Jesus? Carefully evaluate yourself, and this is not a doctrinal point you should take lightly.

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