Christís Speaking to the Local Churches in Revelation
The first local church addressed by the Lord in Revelation 2 is Ephesus. Earlier in the New Testament, Paul concludes his Epistle to the local church in Ephesus by charging the believers to love the Lord in incorruptibility. Similarly, in Revelation the Lord Jesus exhorts this local church to return to her first love. Witness Lee echoes this charge through his ministry, repeatedly emphasizing the need to love the Lord supremely. Although this particular warning was directed to the local church in Ephesus, it is equally applicable to all believers personally and to all the local churches collectively.
In Revelation 2:1-7 the Lord Jesus speaks to the first of the seven local churches, Ephesus:
To the messenger of the church in Ephesus write: These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, He who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: I know your works and your labor and your endurance and that you cannot bear evil men; and you have tried those who call themselves apostles and are not, and have found them to be false; And you have endurance and have borne all things because of My name and have not grown weary. But I have one thing against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore where you have fallen from and repent and do the first works; but if not, I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place, unless you repent. But this you have, that 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 him who overcomes, to him I will give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God.
Commenting on this portion of Revelation,Witness Lee emphasizes the Lords charge to Ephesus, whose name means desirable, to recover her first, best love toward Him, to love Him above all:
In the first epistle, the one to Ephesus, the Lord requires in His recovery of the local churches the first love .The Lord tells this church they have the labor, the works, and many good things, but they left the first love. The word first in Greek means first not only in time or order, but also in quality or nature. The same word is translated as best in the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. The father ordered the best robe for him. That is the first robe, not only first in sequence, but also best in quality.
The Lord demands of His local churches not only the first love, but also the best love. He wants the love which is first in quality and nature. If when others come to our meetings, they only realize that we are doing many things for the Lord, but do not sense that we render the best love to the Lord, then we are a failure. What people must sense in our meetings is that we love the Lord first and best. We should not care too much for works or labor, or for any other thing. We must only care for the first and best love to the Lord. There must be a sense among us that the Lord Jesus is so lovable, so dear and so precious. Whenever we mention His name, our heart should feel so responsive.
This is the first requirement of the local churches in the Lords recovery. Do not think we need to do a multitude of things for Him. He does not require that. What He requires is the first and best love toward Him. Do we love the Lord with the first love and the best love?
As the years go by, we should love the Lord more dearly. Nothing should be more sweet to us than the Lord Jesus. We should love the church, but we should not love it as much as we love the Lord Jesus. He must be our first and best love.
It is by this love that we are the lampstand. If we lose this love, the Lord Jesus will remove the lampstand. This means that if we lose our love, we will lose the lampstand. So the more we love the Lord Jesus, the more we will be shining, and the more we will enjoy Him as the Tree of Life. To be the lampstand and to enjoy the Lord as the Tree of Life requires the best love toward the Lord, a love which surpasses all other things. We must have the first love, the best love, the most pure love toward the Lord Jesus. Then we will be the living lampstand, and we will be qualified to enjoy Him as the Tree of Life. Love, light, and life all go together. If we have the first love and the best love toward the Lord Jesus, we will be a shining lampstand, and we will enjoy the Lord Jesus as the Tree of Life. This is the first requirement.
(Witness Lee, Stream, 700-701)
Speaking further on the importance of our first love to the Lord, Witness Lee warns:
We must be careful and constantly on the alert to avoid this consequence [losing the Lords testimony]. Do not think that because we are the local churches as the lampstands and are the testimony of Jesus that we cannot lose our testimony. The day we lose our first love toward the Lord will be the day we lose the testimony. On that day, the lampstand will be removed.
(Witness Lee, LS of Revelation, 120-121)
Commenting on the works of the Nicolaitans, a mediatorial class of believers who viewed themselves as superior to the common believers, Witness Lee writes:
The Greek word is composed of two words, one meaning conquer or be victorious over and another meaning common people, secular people, or laity. Thus, it means conquering the common people, being victorious over the laity. Nicolaitans, then, must refer to a group of people who esteem themselves higher than common believers .The Lord hates the works, the behavior, of these Nicolaitans, and we must hate what the Lord hates.
God in His economy intended that all His people be priests serving Him directly. In Exo. 19:6, God ordained the children of Israel to be a kingdom of priests. This means that God wanted them all to be priests. However, because they worshipped the golden calf (Exo. 32:1-6), they lost the priesthood, and only the tribe of Levi, because of its faithfulness to God, was chosen to replace the whole nation of Israel as priests to God (Exo. 32:25-29; Deut. 33:8-10). Hence, there was a mediatorial class between God and the children of Israel. This became a strong system in Judaism. In the New Testament, God has returned to His original intention according to His economy, in that He has made all believers in Christ priests (1:6; 5:10; 1·Pet. 2:5, 9). But at the end of the initial church, even in the first century, the Nicolaitans intervened as the mediatorial class to spoil Gods economy.
(Witness Lee, Footnotes, 1242-1243)
The local church in Ephesus is the first church addressed by the Lord Jesus in the book of Revelation. Witness Lee underscores in his ministry the need for the believers in Ephesus to be recovered to their first love, that is, to love their Lord supremely in order to maintain His testimony within this local church. Although this word was written specifically to the local church in Ephesus, it is just as relevant to all the other local churches in Revelation and to all His believers today.
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