Rev.2:4 – But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.
For John this was the dividing line, the love of God. John remembered well the words of Jesus in his gospel, John 13:34,35 – “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Jesus had taught that the world would see a distinct difference that would clearly mark His followers, they would walk in love. What was this love? It was supernatural in nature. It was born in the hearts of His followers. It was a love that came from God first, and was aimed back at God. It’s tendency was to spill over and effect everyone else in our world. Our love for God and our love for others would be the mark. That brings us back to this church in Ephesus. What had gone wrong? Everything! They had lost the passion of their first love. Here is how Gordon Fee describes it.
“The significance of this failure in terms of Johannine Christianity is to be found in the admonition, consider how far you have fallen!, which is followed by a warning that at the same time keeps the imagery intact: If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. This particular warning has created no end of trouble for later believers, who for the most part perceive the punishment to far exceed the crime. But that says more about us than it does about the author of the Johannine literature, since he perceived the whole of the Christian faith to be a matter of experiencing God’s love for us through Christ and then returning that love to him by loving others. From his perspective, to fail at this point is to fail exceedingly—if not altogether—which is why for him the “punishment” is precisely in keeping with the “crime.” And “love” for John is not simply a matter of attitude toward others; the only love worthy of the name from his perspective lies in their doing the things you did at first. Thus the only correct response to their current failure is to “repent.”
So just having correct doctrines or Christian ethics is not what marks us as followers of Jesus. We are marked by His love. This is the love that won us, satisfies us, and keeps us.