When many people read Revelation, they are looking for keys to the future and hints about the end times. However, we need to remember that Revelation was originally sent to seven real churches. Those letters to the seven churches are important and should be read carefully.
I’m starting a seven part series looking at each of the seven letters in Revelation 2-3 and reading them as an apologist. What do these letters say to those involved in apologetics? Let us take a look.
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.
“‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’” (Revelation 2:1-7)
The first part of this letter is something that could get an apologist excited. The church at Ephesus was taking a stand for orthodox doctrine. It was not a matter of blind heretic hunting but rather a process of testing. We should not immediately shun every Christian who has a slightly different emphasis than we have. But when teachers, even if they claim to be apostles, are tested and found to be false, the church must do something. We do not know the exact nature of the Nicolaitians, but it is clear that they promoted false teaching. The Ephesians hated what the Lord hated and that was good.
But there was another side to the Ephesians. In their noble quest for sound doctrine, they had lost their first love. Some mistakenly believe that a focus on truth must lead to a loss of passion. This is not true. Paul was a first rate theologian and yet had a deep love for Jesus. The problem was not that the Ephesians traded love for doctrine, it was that they did not work toward both.
It is easy for apologists to be so focused on the work of Christian apologetics that they forget why it is important. We should be apologists because we love Jesus and we want others to know Jesus and be confident in that relationship. Passion for Jesus will not come by accident. It is something that we need to build into our Christian life, in addition to our intellectual endeavours.
If Jesus wrote a letter to you, what would he say about your love?
What practices have you implemented in your life to keep your first love?