Good works. Perseverance. Sound doctrine. Those are good things. But are they enough?
This past week I started a new Bible study on the book of Ephesians, team-teaching with two wonderful women. For the introductory class, we discussed the author and the audience—Paul and the church in Ephesus. The city of Ephesus was a major metropolis of 250,000 in the first century, and became the home of a large, vibrant, and influential church.
Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians in approximately A.D. 60. He had no words of rebuke for the church. Indeed, they had a reputation for love, zeal, and sound doctrine.
However, thirty years later, John received the vision recorded in the book of Revelation. Jesus gave John seven messages for seven churches, and the first message was for the church in Ephesus. Jesus commends them for their hard work, perseverance, and refusal to tolerate false teachings. Yes, those are good things.
But Jesus had something against them: “‘You have forsaken your first love’” (Revelation 2:4). He says if they don’t repent, He would remove their church. A stiff and sobering warning.
This is the danger for the mature church and the mature Christian. We start off with love and zeal. As we grow and learn, we add sound doctrine and good works, as we should. But if we’re not careful, our love can cool.
“If I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor…but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2-3). Without love, all our good works become busywork. Without love, all our perseverance becomes grumbling stubbornness. Without love, our sound doctrine becomes smug self-righteousness.
What can you do today to keep your love strong?