Problems? Email Us!
section 5


Fully five out of the seven churches in the first few chapters of Revelation were reproved or rebuked for some kind of apathy: Laodicea, Sardis, Thyatira, Pergamum, and Ephesus. Thyatira and Pergamum tolerated false teachings and doctrine that God hated; Sardis was dead to works and so was the virtual opposite of the church of Philadelphia, and the blind, naked and ‘rich’ (but poor) Laodiceans were the virtual opposite of the suffering church, Smyrna. But the only church that Jesus threatened to remove was the one in Ephesus, even though Ephesus did not tolerate evil. What was so seriously wrong with Ephesus that God would remove them?

Rev. 2: 4-5 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. Ephesus did not really love God anymore. Sure, they had a zeal for rooting out false apostles, and they did labour for Christ, but they had "fallen" from the heights of being in truly in love with God, and they were told to "remember," "repent," and "do the first works." This is a striking similarity to Christ’s instructions to the dead Sardis to "remember", "obey", and "repent".

How is it that we first fall in love with God?

1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us. God showed His love for us by sending us His Son to the world. He sent His Son to atone for us as a Lamb and to find us as a Shepherd. We were lost and did not know what real love was, until we knew God's love. Once we know His love we begin to know Him because He is the God of love (1 John 4:16) That means we can love because we are beginning to have a heart understanding of it, and that means we have the ability to love Him in return. So full of love should we be that we really cannot help but love others around us, just as we love Him, too. But if we do not remember His love, then surely we will lose our love for God because, just as Israel did, we forget Him. We forget that He first cared for us and is the source of all good things (Matt 5:45; James 1:17), and we are not thankful for what He has done for us, which is an expression of His love.

So the very first step out of the dangerous apathy in the church in Ephesus was to no longer be apathetic about God. We can take this step too by purposely reminding ourselves or "remembering" what He had done for us first even before we knew Him. In fact, Paul can be found reminding the church in Ephesus itself of this very thing in a letter to them:

Eph. 5:1-2 Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Could a "life of love," be part of the first works that Jesus charged Ephesus to return to, in His rebuke? I believe so, because while remembering God and worshipping Him and thanking Him all day long is certainly pleasing to God, it is not by any means the "first works" as defined by Scripture. Worshipping Him, in fact, can be an empty religious exercise when our hearts are far away (Isa. 29:13) Neither is our first work attaining our salvation, because we cannot attain our salvation by any work we've done.

Belief is paramount because no one can receive a gift without believing the Giver exists, the Giver wants to give, the Giver has the power to give, the gift exists, and it is a valuable gift that is wanted and needed. Furthermore, it is clear that God wants a relationship with us, and since you do not establish a relationship with someone through anonymous gifts, God has chosen not to be anonymous. Besides, if He had remained anonymous we would never know this Love that is bigger than ourselves, and we could never be transformed.

So, salvation is not a "work" on our part but it is something that requires a decision and that decision is the decision to believe. As such, it is not counted as "first works" and yet, it is a trust we are responsible for and as such, is a necessary step so that we may have the ability to produce these first works (or for that matter, a variety of good fruit- Matt 21:31-43).

Jesus said He was the Good Shepherd who laid his life down for the sheep (John 10:11), which He did out of love. He reminded His apostles of that when He said:

John 15:13-14 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command… Jesus had already defined what His "command" was is in the previous verses: John 15: 9-12 "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. There is that word, "complete" again. How do we complete Jesus’ joy in us, and complete the deeds in the sight of God (referring back to the church in Sardis Rev. 3:2-3)? How do we "remain in His love?" First, we connect with God’s love by receiving Jesus’ expression of love for us and secondly we do what Jesus commanded: John 15:17 This is my command: Love each other. Once we have started on this path of "completion", we can of course halt the process or even nullify it. That is why it is important that we "have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness" but instead expose them (Eph 5:11). By not separating ourselves from darkness and sin, we risk reversing our abiding in Christ by retreating back into it (1 John 1:5-10). We cannot have one foot in the light and the other in the dark, and expect that to fool anyone. This is like having a ball and chain on one foot and expecting to run like the wind. Bondages like that have a way of getting bigger and bigger, because darkness always has an endless appetite.

Jesus commended the church of Ephesus for being intolerant of lying false apostles, but this was not enough because they had neglected the more important things. That is, the "first works" that Jesus commanded them to do. Although "exposing" is definitely not apathetic, is commendable, and is an important action (otherwise, Thyatira and Pergamum would not have been rebuked for tolerating evil in their midst), "remembering" and completing the first works were what were the essential things.

Ephesus proves that you can leave God as your first love even while you doing some good works and even while zealously opposing false apostles. Thus, having zeal about some things does not ultimately please God, because He is more interested in whether we care about the more important things. After all, the Pharisees had zeal for certain activities and studies, yet they had also long ago lost their focus and commitment to what was really important. This eventually led them to become more like the devil in their character and actions than like the God they said they worshipped (Matt. 23; John 8:42-47) We can do "second works" all day long, but not remembering the "first works" makes us dead men inside, where it counts. It can even make us evil.

Matt. 22: 36-39 "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Therefore, we must remember God first loved us, and unlike faithless Israel, we must not forget Him and turn aside to idolatry and wickedness. And we must LOVE OUR NEIGHBOR. If we do not remember and obey the first and second commandments, which according to the whole of Scripture are virtually inseparable, we are tasteless salt ready to be thrown out and trampled upon and a candlestick ready to be removed. We must first believe in God’s Love and His Expression of the greatness of His love, which is found in Jesus, we must then abide in His love, and also love others as ourselves. All of these are interdependent and cannot be taken apart from one another. None of these involve apathy.


In their zeal to preach justification by faith and faith alone (Rom. 5:1) Protestants can neglect the preaching of works and by doing so, essentially become anti-action or anti-works. They can even end up with what the Lutheran minister Deitrich Bonhoeffer faced just before Hitler easily took over Germany’s churches: cheap grace. "Cheap grace" as Bonhoeffer called it, produces nominal Christians who believe that they can live just about any kind of life without fear of God, because they can attain instant grace from Him at any time. They are saved and always will be saved, without fear of God's wrath or displeasure.

Cheap grace promotes spiritual laziness, which leads to apathy. In Bonhoeffer’s time, this was expressed by doctrines that essentially promoted no involvement in 'worldly' concerns (such as government), and a submission to "authority" regardless of the evil one submitted to and regardless of the consequences to their fellow man. Their religious excuses for apathy helped pave the way for an unholy alliance between Hitler and the churches there, which resulting in unchecked wickedness throughout Germany and eventually, throughout almost the entire world. (Although little known, the churches there did not just remain silent while people suffered and died, they also participated in public blasphemy as required by Hitler, or just in order to please him).

Christians who have no fear of God are like the wicked servant who behaves in any manner he wishes to, because God has not yet arrived to call him into accounting. His judgment comes unaware on purpose, so that he has no chance to superficially clean up his act at the last minute in order to 'squeak by' (Matt. 24:48-51) All the "Hail Mary, Mother of God" prayers or the "Jesus- I- accept- you- as- my- Savior- and- please- forgive- me- of- my- of- all- my- sins" mantras are not enough to stay the Judgment, for God knows the heart, and God knows the heart demonstrates itself by the life that was led. This includes the hidden life too, under the cover of darkness or secrecy.

The Law was proven inadequate for justification (Acts 13:38-39) and insufficient for teaching man the true source of righteousness (Romans 10:1-4). In fact, rules and regulations seemed to arouse sinful passions instead of subdue them (Romans 7:5). The Law was then consigned as a former ‘tutor’ to help man to become aware of sin, but the thought that it could create righteousness was summarily discarded by the sacrifice of Jesus as Lamb. Or at least it was supposed to be. Furthermore, the keeping of the Law too easily shut people out - the very people that Jesus was most especially sent to give hope to and save. Over and over, Jesus stated that 'righteousness' through man's eyes because of his works or the keeping of the Law, was not necessarily the type of righteousness man was meant to attain. This was all men could attain without a relationship with Him, and it was a poor 'righteousness' indeed. Now, a miracle could happen for both the 'righteous' and the unrighteous--they could have Life in Christ. Now, through Christ, all were invited to the wedding feast whether they were good or bad.

Matt. 22:8-10 "Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.' So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. Yet, the open invitation does not guarantee the stay: Matt. 22:11-14 "But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 'Friend,' he asked, 'how did you get in here without wedding clothes?' The man was speechless. "Then the king told the attendants, 'Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' "For many are invited, but few are chosen." We are powerless to achieve righteousness for ourselves by our own means or through the Law, so Christ provided it for us (Romans 3:20-22; 1 Cor. 1:28-30). He gave us redemption as a gift (Eph. 2:8-9), and peace of being indeed reconciled and justified by faith in His works (Romans 5:1-10).

However, we should not devalue this grace God gave us by returning to wickedness (Romans 6:8-15). We are instead to put off our corrupted "old self" (Eph. 4:22) and put on our new self, which is like God in character (Eph. 4:24). This clearly includes actively discarding and shunning old ways of the flesh or devil in favor of new, Christ-like or God-like ways. We are to "clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience," (Colossians 3:8-12) and many other attributes. By this, we are clothed properly for the wedding feast.

So, if we do not value this grace and gift of righteousness, we can refuse to put it in the first place or keep it in the second place:

2 Cor. 5:21-6:1 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. As God's fellow workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain. Notice the word, might in those verses above. The Lord gave us Life so that we may "live a new life" (Romans 6:4) We still have free will though, because God's plan for our transformation of us does include turning us into mindless automatons. God respects us too much to just run rough-shod over our wills and decisions. Therefore, we are still afforded the ability to reverse the process, grieve the Spirit, and become dead again (Romans 8:11-14). In fact, we can so oppose God that we become accursed: 6:1-8 Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God,

instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so. It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.

I can’t think of a more apathetic person than a dead one, and a more worthless person than one who has partaken of the God's of love and power, yet purposely chooses evil instead. But if we have faith and appropriate action, or good deeds, together, our faith is completed: James 2:14 –24 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder. You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

Jump to Section
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

To HarvestNET Articles page To HarvestNET Christian walk page

JavaScript Menu, DHTML Menu Powered By Milonic