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The church’s priority

“Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.”

One the most remarkable things about the Church is its diversity—and not only its ethnic diversity, but its functional diversity as well. Some churches fit in a house while others fill large auditoriums. Some churches have existed for over a hundred years, others are church plants still learning to walk. Some churches are in towns with a single streetlight, others are tucked in the midst of bustling cities. Within this functional diversity, the Church is still unified. This unification is held together by the priority of the Church.

In the next few weeks, we will read Revelation 2 and 3 which includes seven addresses to seven ancient churches. From these, we’ll learn much of what it means to be the Church. Jesus—speaking through John—starts by addressing the church in Ephesus. Here, He commended the Ephesians in several areas, then corrected them for forgetting the Church’s priority.

WHAT IS A PRIORITY?

Many things can be simultaneously important. For instance, it’s important to consistently eat in a healthy manner. However, occasionally indulging in a piece of cheesecake (or the sweet of your choice) is also valuable. Similarly, there are a number of simultaneously important aspects to the Church’s mission here on Earth. In Revelation 2:1–3 and 6, Jesus identified a few of these areas.

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this: ‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary… Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.”

In reading just these verses, it appears that the Ephesian church was doing really well! Jesus recognized their deeds, toil, and perseverance. This was a church that was busy and found it important to serve the Lord. In addition, they were a church that found purity important. Morally, the church in Ephesus could not tolerate evil and didn’t condone immorality. Doctrinally, they tested those who claimed to be apostles. Lastly, they were a church to which perseverance was important. Some of these Christians were likely arrested, imprisoned, or beaten for their faith in Christ, yet they stayed strong.

All of these aspects—service, purity, and perseverance—were and still are important for the Church. Yet none of them are the focus of this passage because none of them are the focus of the Church. In other words, none of them are the priority of the Church. While several things can be important at once, there can only be one ultimate priority. To see what the priority of the Church is, we need to go back to verse 4 which we skipped earlier and see what the Ephesian church lacked.

What is the Church’s Priority?

“But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”

Despite the service, purity, and perseverance of the Ephesian church, it was pointless because they had missed their priority—loving Jesus. To be more accurate, they didn’t just miss the priority of loving Christ, they left it. They neglected their walk with Him. The Ephesian church was so busy with what was important, they didn’t engage in what was ultimate.

And that ultimate priority for the Ephesians is still the ultimate priority of the Church today. As Pastor Steve said in his sermon, “The priority for every church and every Christian is to passionately love Jesus Christ.” As Christians, we have been invited into an intimate relationship with the Savior of the World and nothing will ever be more important than investing and growing in that. Good and important things will flow from that relationship with Jesus, but none of them will ever become our priority.

What is Commanded with this Priority?

We can’t stop with realizing that loving Jesus is the priority of the Church. We must also see what is commanded of the Church in relation to this priority, which we can see in verse 5.

“Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.”

The church was first commanded to remember what it was like when Jesus became their first love. They were then commanded to repent for leaving Him as their first love. Finally, they were commanded to again do the acts from the time of first love. All of which can apply to the Church today when we fail to make loving Jesus Christ our priority. Let us remember what it was like we were first saved, repent of leaving our first love, and return to what we did when we were first saved. And if loving Jesus is our priority, then we can find joy and hope in the promise given by God in verse 7.

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.”

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