Return to Your First Love Sermon by Paul Cannings
General Overview of the Passage
Christ speaks to the seven churches through an angel. The identity of the angel is not completely clear. Jesus’ message shows Jesus as holding, with a determined grip, seven stars, which represents the seven pastors in these churches (1:20). These pastors serve as lights to the world.
They can also be presented as a single cluster of stars that shine as one with one unified message. He holds these stars in His right hand demonstrating a position of honor and equality (the church represents His headship and body).
Christ walks among the churches. His walking demonstrates that the Lord continually patrols the churches and is always on the spot when He is needed; His presence is not localized but coextensive with the church. His walking also implies that He provides constant and vigilant supervision.
His holding of the stars and His continual walking among the churches also demonstrates His power and authority. We see that He walks with this kind of authority among the seven churches. “As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lamp-stands are the seven churches” (Rev. 1:20 nasb).
Christ, after affirming that He lives among the churches, lets them know about their accomplishments. He compliments them for their hard work that is filled with sweat and fatigue, their endurance, steadfast behavior that is consistent due to their hope in God. He commended them because they did not tolerate evil men, but tested their hearts to see if this was good or evil.
Many were proven false, and their longsuffering was not just because of life issues. It was based on their commitment to live for Christ’s sake. They did this consistently without tiring of being faithful or giving up because these various tasks were strenuous and exhausting.
Christ knows the details of this church because He said that He was walking among them. He found them lacking a very important element (Rev. 2:4):
“Thou hast ‘remitted’ or let down thy early love; that is, it is less glowing and ardent than it was at first. The love here referred to is evidently love to the Saviour and the idea is that, as a church, they had less of this than formerly characterized them. In this respect they were in a state of declension.”
Christ challenges the church to return to their first love and partake of the “tree of life” so that He does not take away their lampstand.
God’s very nature is love, so being busy doing many great things in ministry without the manifestation of love means nothing.
Sermon Outline (Rev. 2:1–7 nasb)
A. The Way It Was (v. 1)
1. Holds—The churches are in Christ’s grasp and they will remain there continuously. This is a present active participle.
2. Right hand—This is a place of honor and equal dignity.
3. Walks—Christ is persistently, vigilantly, and continuously walking among the seven churches. The churches are continuously monitored by Christ.
4. Says—This is a message they must pay attention to always. Said in the present tense indicative, meaning what is being said is a continuous act that is habitual.
B. The Issues to Resolve (vv. 2–3)
1. I know—Christ has a full divine knowledge and experience that provides Him a comprehensive understanding of what is taking place in the church. This is a perfect active, which means that Christ’s knowledge is complete and is a set condition.
2. Labored/perseverance—The members of the church were diligent in service to the point of fatigue, straining with all their might and never fainting. This is an accusative, which means that Christ’s knowledge directly relates to recognizing the service in the church.
3. Did not tolerate evil men—They stood up against false apostles who did not demonstrate a godly character. These men continuously and habitually called themselves apostles (present active indicative).
4. They desired a pure and sound church and were faithful to it.
5. Hated the Nicolaitans—They did not support those who preached spiritual liberty, ate foods sacrificed to idols, practiced idolatry and immorality.
6. Perseverance/endured—It did not matter what trials or tribulation they experienced; they remained steady in their godly character. “Have” is in the present active indicative, meaning they continuously and habitually endured all that was against them.
7. Did not grow weary—They were in a set condition of not becoming so weak that they faint (perfect active indicative).
8. Christ loved them—He was among them, but He would not lower His standard.
C. We Must Refresh Our Ways (vv. 4–5)
1. Left—There is a movement which was continuously away from truly loving Christ.
2. Their first love—Compared to Acts 20 and Ephesians—even though they were trying to do the right things to keep the church sound—they had lost their love for Christ and their unselfish desire to do His complete will (Matt. 22:36–40; John 14:15).
3. Left their first love—The Jews were committed to laws of Moses and all that Judaism became, but they still crucified Christ. A person can become deeply committed to all the traditions they believe should be a part of the church and neglect the Word of God working in and through their lives.
4. Remember—(present active indicative)—This is a continuous act of making sure they do not forget.
5. Fallen—They were in a state of decline even though it was a theologically sound church. The perfect active means that their state of decline remains this way.
6. Repent—This is a one-time decision to change, to go in a completely different direction, to make a decisive break from present actions.
7. Consequence—The taking of the lampstand. Unless they repent, Christ will remove His presence from the church.
D. Live as Overcomers (vv. 6–7)
1. Who has ears—This is a believer who continuously wants to hear what Christ has to say.
2. Let him—Christ commands them to allow each person the opportunity to make a one-time decision to repent.
3. Hear—Must have a mind willing to change.
4. Tree of life—The person who repents to Christ experiences all that eternal life provides.
5. Paradise—This person experiences rest and eternal bliss, a life of peace.