Keeping Our “First Love”

ALTHOUGH ONE MAY HAVE started out in their Christian life with enthusiasm and zeal, a drowsiness may adversely affect their progress along the narrow way. Even one’s love for the Lord and his Word and his will, or love for one another in the faith, might become cool. What the Scriptures refer to as our “first love” (Rev. 2:4), should be maintained at all costs.

In Matthew 24:12, apparently pointing particularly to our day, Jesus declares: “Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” Iniquity includes inequity, injustice, unrighteousness. Therefore this verse might properly read: ‘Because unrighteousness shall abound, the love of many shall grow cold.’ The church of Christ is now living in a time of particular testing when we should be especially on guard. Our love—our ‘first love’—must not be allowed to grow cold despite the fact that ‘unrighteousness’ abounds.

There is a solemn warning addressed to the church at Ephesus, which reads: “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent.”—Rev. 2:2-5

As stated, the brethren in the church at Ephesus labored and were patient, and could not bear evil. There appeared to be faithfulness and firmness in discipline; cheerfulness in bearing any burden; and a just hatred of deeds and practices which Christ also hates. Can it be possible to possess all these qualities and yet be lacking an essential quality? ‘Thou hast left thy first love.’ As God’s consecrated children, surely we can each vividly call to mind incidents concerning our ‘first love,’ and how eager we were to carry out the Heavenly Father’s will respecting holy matters.

The question arises: Is our ‘first love’ for the Lord—for his holy Word and will—being retained? Are we complying with I Peter 1:22 respecting our sincere “love of the brethren,” and loving “one another with a pure heart fervently”? Is our earnest desire in harmony with I Thessalonians 3:12: “to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all”?

The warning message of the Revelator to the Ephesians is very grave. By way of contrast it can be noted that the Apostle Paul, when writing to the Thessalonians, spoke words of commendation to the brethren of that congregation: “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers: Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”—I Thess. 1:2,3

It is important to note that in the message of the Revelator to Ephesus, their ‘works,’ ‘labour,’ and ‘patience,’ are mentioned, but nothing is said regarding their ‘faith,’ ‘love,’ or ‘hope.’ Evidently these qualities were not in connection with their works. In contrast, the church at Thessalonica was commended for these attributes, because the brethren there were actively engaged in their works as a result of their faith and love and hope.

There were ‘works, and … labour’ in Ephesus (Rev. 2:2), but the Revelator does not say ‘works of faith!’ He continues, “For my [Christ’s] name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted;” but again, the Revelator does not say, ‘Your labour of love!’ How very tragic! If love is lacking, mere increased labor, even for Christ’s name’s sake, cannot make up for that deficiency.

Patience was evident in Ephesus, but the Revelator does not say, ‘patience of hope!’ Instead we read, “Thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent.” (vss. 4,5) Unfaithfulness of heart is very serious. The church is to be absorbed in her Lord, and his mission; living in him; living for him; bound to him by an increasing bond of love.

‘Thou hast left thy first love.’ What a dishonor to our Heavenly Father and to his beloved Son! It is as if—after acquaintance with our gracious Father and his Son, and the stupendous, sublime, Divine, eternal purpose of God in Christ Jesus, and the Divine will concerning them—brethren were finding these revelations less important in their hearts and lives than earthly things.

Our ‘first love,’ which is to be maintained, is indeed a love which is active—it labors in harmony with our faith. Faith, of course, we must have, for it is vital. According to II Peter 1:5-7, love is that supreme quality which must be added to our faith. And I Corinthians 13:2 reads: “Though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity [love], I am nothing.” We are to be lovingly obedient to God and his holy Word and will, in which our faith is centered. Ours is to be a living faith, energized by love.

In the case of faithful Abraham, his loving obedience to God was in harmony with his faith. Actions were added—indeed, there was cooperation between his faith and his works. We read “Thou seest that the faith cooperated with his works; and that the faith was made complete by the works… As the body without breath is dead, so also the faith, without works, is dead.”—James 2:22,26, Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott

In Galations 5:6 (WED), we see that what avails us in Christ Jesus is “faith operating in us by love.” It is very important indeed that we “consider one another to provoke [arouse, incite, stimulate] unto love.” (Heb. 10:24) We are not to be reckless regarding one another’s interests, but at all times to consider [“perceive thoughtfully, with the mind,” Young’s Analytical Concordance] what would be helps, and what would be hindrances—what would be encouragements, and what would be stumblingblocks—to our brethren. We are to do all in our power to assist one another to “run with patience the race that is set before us.” (Heb. 12:1) If truly consecrated to the Lord, we should do nothing to discourage the brethren in the truth, but every effort must be for encouragement in the truth.—II Cor. 13:8

Every Christian should be a burning and shining light; and his every word and act considered and shaped for the benefit of those with whom he comes into contact! What a blessing this would be in the home and in the ecclesia! This brotherly consideration is what the Lord is urging upon us through his Word; we should, so far as possible, avoid every word and act that might incite to hatred, envy, strife, bitterness, and works corresponding to these feelings—all of which are of the flesh and of the devil.—James 3:15

Associated with the exhortation to incite ‘unto love and to good works,’ is the instruction to forsake not “the assembling” of ourselves “together.” (Heb. 10:25) None of us is so strong in the new spiritual nature that we can forego the fellowship of kindred minds. But even if we did feel sufficiently strong by the Lord’s grace, the spirit of love in us should be in such control that we would delight to meet with the brethren for their sakes.

We, as Christians walking in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus, are like coals of fire which, if separated, will tend to cool rapidly; but which, if brought together, the entire mass will tend to increase in glowing fervency.

Thus, like the glowing coals, we will be helped to maintain the fervency of our ‘first love.’

Dawn Bible Students Association
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