Revelation 2:4
Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
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(4) Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee.—Better, I have against thee that thou didst let go. This is the fault, and it is no trifle which is blamed, as the word “somewhat” (which is not to be found in the original) might be taken to imply; for the decay of love is the decay of that without which all other graces are as nothing (1Corinthians 13:1-3), since “all religion is summed up in one word, Love. God asks this; we cannot give more; He cannot take less” (Norman Macleod, Life, i., p. 324). Great as the fault is, it is the fault which Love alone would have detected. “Can any one more touchingly rebuke than by commencing, ‘Thou no longer lovest me enough?’” It is the regretful cry of the heavenly Bridegroom, recalling the early days of His Bride’s love, the kindness of her youth, the love of her espousals (Jeremiah 2:2. Comp. Hosea 2:15). It is impossible not to see some reference in this to the language of St. Paul (which must have been familiar to the Ephesian Christians) in Ephesians 5:23-33, where human love is made a type of the divine.

Revelation 2:4. Nevertheless, I have somewhat to allege against thee — Exemplary as thou art in many respects; or, as somewhat is not in the original, the verse may be properly read, I have against thee that thou hast left thy first love — Namely, the zeal and fervour of it, which thou didst manifest to me and my cause; that love for which the church at Ephesus was so eminent when St. Paul wrote his epistle to them. Neither they nor their pastors need to have left this; they might have retained it entire to the end. And they did retain it in part, otherwise there could not have remained so much of what is commendable in them. But they had not kept, as they might have done, the first tender, affectionate love in its vigour and warmth. Reader, has the love of God, of Christ, and of his people, been shed abroad in thy heart? And hast thou retained it in all its fervour and efficacy? If not, the following exhortation is addressed to thee. “It is very plain,” says Doddridge, “that these epistles, though inscribed to the angels or pastors of the churches, are directed to the churches themselves, as represented by them. Just as the Jewish Church was represented by Joshua their high-priest, Zechariah 3:1. But it is not improbable that where some of the churches are blamed, there might be in their ministers some faults correspondent to those charged on the society; and particularly that the zeal of this minister of Ephesus might be declining. There is, I think, no reason to be anxious with regard to Timothy’s character on this account; for it can never be proved that he was a stated pastor of the church of Ephesus, though such confident things have been said concerning it on very slender foundations.”

2:1-7 These churches were in such different states as to purity of doctrine and the power of godliness, that the words of Christ to them will always suit the cases of other churches, and professors. Christ knows and observes their state; though in heaven, yet he walks in the midst of his churches on earth, observing what is wrong in them, and what they want. The church of Ephesus is commended for diligence in duty. Christ keeps an account of every hour's work his servants do for him, and their labour shall not be in vain in the Lord. But it is not enough that we are diligent; there must be bearing patience, and there must be waiting patience. And though we must show all meekness to all men, yet we must show just zeal against their sins. The sin Christ charged this church with, is, not the having left and forsaken the object of love, but having lost the fervent degree of it that at first appeared. Christ is displeased with his people, when he sees them grow remiss and cold toward him. Surely this mention in Scripture, of Christians forsaking their first love, reproves those who speak of it with carelessness, and thus try to excuse indifference and sloth in themselves and others; our Saviour considers this indifference as sinful. They must repent: they must be grieved and ashamed for their sinful declining, and humbly confess it in the sight of God. They must endeavour to recover their first zeal, tenderness, and seriousness, and must pray as earnestly, and watch as diligently, as when they first set out in the ways of God. If the presence of Christ's grace and Spirit is slighted, we may expect the presence of his displeasure. Encouraging mention is made of what was good among them. Indifference as to truth and error, good and evil, may be called charity and meekness, but it is not so; and it is displeasing to Christ. The Christian life is a warfare against sin, Satan, the world, and the flesh. We must never yield to our spiritual enemies, and then we shall have a glorious triumph and reward. All who persevere, shall derive from Christ, as the Tree of life, perfection and confirmation in holiness and happiness, not in the earthly paradise, but in the heavenly. This is a figurative expression, taken from the account of the garden of Eden, denoting the pure, satisfactory, and eternal joys of heaven; and the looking forward to them in this world, by faith, communion with Christ, and the consolations of the Holy Spirit. Believers, take your wrestling life here, and expect and look for a quiet life hereafter; but not till then: the word of God never promises quietness and complete freedom from conflict here.Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee - Notwithstanding this general commendation, there are things which I cannot approve.

Because thou hast left thy first love - Thou hast "remitted" (ἀφῆκας aphēkas) 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; and, though they still maintained the doctrines of his religion, and opposed the advocates of error, they showed less ardor of affection toward him directly than they had formerly done. In regard to this we may remark:

(1) That what is here stated of the church at Ephesus is not uncommon:

(a) Individual Christians often lose much of their first love. It is true, indeed, that there is often an appearance of this which does not exist in reality. Not a little of the ardor of young converts is often nothing more than the excitement of animal feeling, which will soon die away of course, though their real love may not be diminished, or may be constantly growing stronger. When a son returns home after a long absence, and meets his parents and brothers and sisters, there is a glow, a warmth of feeling, a joyousness of emotion, which cannot be expected to continue always, and which he may never be able to recall again, though he may be ever growing in real attachment to his friends and to his home.

(b) Churches remit the ardor of their first love. They are often formed under the reviving influences of the Holy Spirit when many are converted, and are warm-hearted and zealous young converts. Or they are formed from other churches that have become cold and dead, from which the new organization, embodying the life of the church, was constrained to separate. Or they are formed under the influence of some strong and mighty truth that has taken possession of the mind, and that gives a special character to the church at first. Or they are formed with a distinct reference to promoting some one great object in the cause of the Redeemer. So the early Christian churches were formed. So the church in Germany, France, Switzerland, and England came out from the Roman communion under the influence of the doctrine of justification by faith. So the Nestorians in former ages, and the Moravians in modern times, were characterized by warm zeal in the cause of missions.

So the Puritans came out from the established church of England at one time, and the Methodists at another, warmed with a holier love to the cause of evangelical religion than existed in the body from which they separated. So many a church is formed now amidst the exciting scenes of a revival of religion, and in the early days of its history puts to shame the older and the slumbering churches around them. But it need scarcely be said that this early zeal may die away, and that the church, once so full of life and love, may become as cold as those that went before it, or as those from which it separated, and that there may be a necessity for the formation of new organizations that shall be fired with ardor and zeal. One has only to look at Germany, at Switzerland, at various portions of the reformed churches elsewhere; at the Nestorians, whose zeal for missions long since departed; or even at the Moravians, among whom it has so much declined; at various portions of the Puritan churches, and at many an individual church formed under the warm and exciting feelings of a revival of religion, to see that what occurred at Ephesus may occur elsewhere.

(2) the same thing that occurred there may be expected to follow in all similar cases. The Saviour governs the church always on essentially the same principles; and it is no uncommon thing that, when a church has lost the ardor of its first love, it is suffered more and more to decline, until "the candlestick is removed" - until either the church becomes wholly extinct, or until vital piety is wholly gone, and all that remains is the religion of forms.

4. somewhat … because—Translate, "I have against thee (this) that," &c. It is not a mere somewhat"; it is everything. How characteristic of our gracious Lord, that He puts foremost all He can find to approve, and only after this notes the shortcomings!

left thy first love—to Christ. Compare 1Ti 5:12, "cast off their first faith." See the Ephesians' first love, Eph 1:15. This epistle was written under Domitian, when thirty years had elapsed since Paul had written his Epistle to them. Their warmth of love had given place to a lifeless orthodoxy. Compare Paul's view of faith so called without love, 1Co 13:2.

Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee; something to accuse thee of, and blame thee for.

Because thou hast left thy first love; of late thou hast not been so warm in the propagation of my gospel, and maintaining my truth. The love of many in this church, both toward God and their brethren, probably was cooled, though not wholly extinguished.

Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee,.... So the Jews represent God saying, concerning their fathers, "Abraham", &c. "I have something against them" (a). Christ has nothing against his people, his faithful ministers, and true churches, in a judicial way, or to their condemnation, for there is none to them that are in him; but he has often many things to complain of in them, and to rebuke and chastise them for, in a way of providence: and what he had against the church at Ephesus, and against the churches in the period which that represents, follows,

because thou hast left thy first love: by which is meant, not hospitality to strangers, or an affectionate care of the poor of the church, or a zealous concern to feed the flock, and maintain church discipline; but the love of the saints to God, and Christ, and one another, which appeared at the beginning of this church state, when they were all of one heart and one soul, as generally at first conversion love is the warmest; and so it was at the first planting of Gospel churches, and therefore here called first love. Now this, though it was not lost, for the true grace of love can never be lost, yet it was left; it abated in its heat and fervour; there was a remissness in the exercise of it; what our Lord had foretold should be before the destruction of Jerusalem was fulfilled in this period of time, the love of many waxed cold, Matthew 24:12; through the prevalence of corruption in some; and through an over love to the world, as in Demas, and others; and through a desire of ease and freedom from reproach and persecution; and through the introduction of errors, which damp the heat of love, and spirit of religion; and through the contentions and divisions among themselves, as at Corinth, Galatia, and elsewhere, which greatly weakened their love to one another, and to divine things; and which was very displeasing to Christ, who, for the restoring of them, gives the following advice. Compare with this 2 Timothy 1:15.

(a) Pesikta Rabbati apud Yalkut Simeoni, par. 2. fol. 60. 4.

Nevertheless I have somewhat {a} against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.

(a) To deal with you for.

Revelation 2:4-5. In sharp antithesis to the praise,[945] follows (ἀλλὰ) the declaration of what the Lord has against the church;[946] viz., that it has left, i.e., given up, its first love.[947] The ΠΡΏΤΗΝ is not to be taken as comparative, nor is it to be inferred in the sense in itself correct, that the Greek superlative has a comparative force;[948] rather, the love is regarded as actually the first, i.e., that which was actually present at the beginning of the life of faith.[949] This ἈΓΆΠΗ certainly is not “the sedulous care and vigilance with fervor and zeal for the purity of the divine word against false prophets,”[950] which is impossible already, because of Revelation 2:2 (ΔΎΝῌ pres.). Opposed to this, but just as inappropriate, is the explanation of Eichhorn: “You are restraining the wicked teachers too captiously and severely.” The reference appears specially to apply to the care of the poor;[951] it is altogether difficult to regard it alone of brotherly love,[952] but of that only so far as it is the manifestation of love to God and Christ, which the indefinite expression may suggest. Züllig and Hengstenb. have properly recalled Jeremiah 2:2. The lovely description of the fellowship of believers with God as that of a bridal or marriage relation[953] is particularly applicable to the foundation of the grace of God appearing in Christ,[954] and still to be hoped for from him.[955] Against this exposition an appeal cannot therefore be made[956] to Revelation 2:2-3; since even where the first love has vanished, and works springing only from the purest glow of this first love are no longer found (Revelation 2:5), the power of faith and love to the Lord is still sufficient for the works praised in Revelation 2:2-3.

To there proof (Revelation 2:4) is added the call to repentance, and, in case this do not occur,[957] the threatening of judgment. The remembrance[958] of the first better condition, whence as from a moral elevation the church had fallen,[959] should cause a penitential return and the doing of the first works, as they formerly gave testimony to that first love (Revelation 2:4). In this line of thought, the πόθεν πέπτωκας cannot mean “the loss of salvation you have experienced.”[960] The threat (ΚΙΝ. Τ. ΛΥΧΝ., Κ.Τ.Λ.) is expressed, not only in accordance with the designation of the speaking Lord, Revelation 2:1, but also (ἘΡΧ. ΣΟΙ) in connection with the prophetic fundamental thoughts of the entire book, as both are inwardly combined with one another, as Christ is the one who is to come, according to his relation described in Revelation 2:1[961] to his church (and the world). But since John states the particular judgment upon an individual congregation as a coming of the Lord, which yet is not identical with his final coming, the peculiar goal of all prophecy, the prophet himself shows how he associates the individual preliminary revelations of judgment with the full conclusion in the final judgment, as well as distinguishes them from one another.[962] But the distinction dare not be urged in such a way that the eschatological reference of the ἜΡΧΟΜΑΙ vanishes.[963]

Concerning the dat. incomm. ΣΟΊ,[964] cf. Winer, p. 147.

κ. κινήσω τ. λυχνίαν σου, κ.τ.λ., designates, according to the rule underlying the whole representation,[965] nothing else than: “I will cause thee to cease to be the church.”[966] Ewald, unsatisfactorily: “I will withdraw my grace and kindness from thee.” Grotius, incorrectly: “I will cause thy people to flee another way; viz., to those places where there will be greater care for the poor.”[967] Zeger, and many others who regard the angel as the bishop of the church, incorrectly: “I will take the church from thee, that thou no longer preside over it.”

[945] Revelation 2:2-3.

[946] Cf. Matthew 5:23.

[947] De Wette. Cf. Romans 1:27; Mark 7:8; Proverbs 4:13, where is the contrary φυλάσσειν

[948] Ew., Winer, p. 229.

[949] Cf. N. de Lyra, Areth., De Wette, Hengstenb., Ebrard, Ew. ii., etc.

[950] Calov. Cf. also Vitr.

[951] Grot., Ewald. Cf. also Heinr. on Revelation 2:5.

[952] Heinr., De Wette, Ebrard.

[953] Cf. Hosea 2:15 sqq.

[954] Ephesians 5:25; Ephesians 5:32.

[955] Revelation 19:9; Revelation 22:17.

[956] Ebrard.

[957] εί δὲ μὴ. Cf. Winer, p. 508: ἐὰν μὴ μετανοήσης, as once more made expressly prominent at the close. Cf. Winer, p. 568.

[958] μνημον., Revelation 3:3.

[959] Cf. also Romans 11:11; Romans 11:22; Romans 14:4; 1 Corinthians 10:12; Hebrews 4:11. N. de Lyra, Pric., Eichh., Stern, De Wette, Hengstenb., etc.

[960] Kypke, Bretschneider, Lex. on this word, by presupposing the false reading ἐκπέπτ., which, according to linguistic usage, more readily offers the conception of something lost.

[961] Cf. Revelation 1:12 sqq.

[962] Cf. also De Wette, etc.

[963] Against Klief.

[964] Revelation 2:16. Cf. Revelation 3:3, ἐπὶ σὲ.

[965] Revelation 1:12 sqq., 20. Cf. to κιν., Revelation 6:14.

[966] Aretius. Cf. Heinr., De Wette, Stern, Hengstenb., etc.

[967] Cf. on Revelation 2:4.

Revelation 2:4. Brotherly love, an early and authentic proof of the faith; as in Revelation 2:19, 2 John 1:5-6, 3 John 1:6, and the striking parallel of Matthew 24:12 (see 10) where, as at Corinth (see also Did. xvi. 3) party-spirit and immorality threatened its existence. Jealous regard for moral or doctrinal purity, and unwavering loyalty in trial, so far from necessarily sustaining the spirit of charity, may exist side by side, as here, with censoriousness, suspicion, and quarrelling. Hence the neglect of brotherly love, which formed a cardinal fault in contemporary gnosticism (i.e., 1 John 2:9; 1 Timothy 1:5 f.), may penetrate the very opposition to such error. During any prolonged strain put upon human nature, especially in a small society driven jealously to maintain its purity, temper is prone to make inroads on affection and forbearance; it was inevitable also that opportunities for this should be given in early Christianity, where party-leaders tended to exaggerate either the liberal or the puritan element in the gospel. When Apollonius of Tyana visited Ephesus, one of the first topics he raised was the duty of unselfish charity (Vit. Apoll. iv. 3). The historical reference here is probably to the temporary decline of the Ephesian çhurch after Paul’s departure (see Acts 20:29 f., etc.) Its revival took place under the ministry of the Johannine circle, who—carrying on the spirit of Paulinism with independent vigour—made it the most prominent centre of Christianity in the East. With Revelation 2:2-4, compare Pliny, H. N. ii. 18: “deus est mortali iuuare mortalem, et haec ad aeter-nam gloriam uia”; also Pirke Aboth, ii. 15, where R. Jehoshua, a contemporary Jewish sage, says: “an evil eye [i.e., envy, stubbornness], and the evil nature, and hatred of mankind put a man out of the world” (cf. 1 John 3:15). This emphasis upon brotherly love as the dominant characteristic of the church and the supreme test of genuine faith, is early Christian, however, rather than specifically Johannine (see the account ol the young aristocratic martyr Vettius Epagathus, Ep. Lugd.). The purity which is not peaceable cannot be adequate to the demands of Jesus, and nowhere did this need reinforcement more than in the townships of Asia Minor, where factiousness and division constantly spoiled their guilds and mutual relations.

4. thy first love] It is to be remembered that these words have not in ecclesiastical (or indeed in any) Greek the same sentimental associations as in English; nevertheless it is not unlikely that conjugal love is meant: cf. Jeremiah 2:2. Some understand the word of love to the brethren, because we have “the first works” in the next verse: but the argument is a bad one. Of course those good words (whether of “charity” in the narrower sense or not) proceeded from love to Christ.

Verse 4. - But I have (this) against thee, that thou didst leave thy first love. The Authorized Version unwarrantably softens the censure by inserting "somewhat;" the Greek means rather, "I have (this grave thing) against thee." In "hath aught against thee" (Matthew 5:23) and "have aught against any" (Mark 11:25), the "aught" (τι) is expressed in the Greek; here nothing is expressed. "Thy first love" is expressed very emphatically with the article repeated; "thy love, thy first one." The meaning of it is much disputed. It cannot mean "thy former gentleness towards evil men and false apostles." It may mean "thy love of the brethren," so much insisted upon in St. John's First Epistle. More probably it means "thy first love for me." Christ is here speaking as the Bridegroom, and addresses the Church of Ephesus as his bride (comp. Jeremiah 2:2-13). This thought would be familiar to the Ephesians from St. Paul's teaching (Ephesians 5:23-33). It shows strange ignorance of human frailty and of history to argue that "a generation at least must have passed away, and the thirty years from Nero to Domitian must have elapsed, ere the change here noted could come to pass." Does this writer forget the Epistle to the Galatians? In a very few years the Churches of Galatia had left their first love. The frequent and rapid lapses of Israel into idolatry show the same thing from the time when Aaron made the calf down to the Captivity. This verse is certainly no obstacle to the theory that the Apocalypse was written about A.D. . Revelation 2:4Somewhat

Not in the text, and unnecessary. The following clause is the object of I have. "I have against thee that thou hast left," etc. "It is indeed a somewhat which the Lord has against the Ephesian Church; it threatens to grow to be an everything; for see the verse following" (Trench). For the phrase have against, see Matthew 5:23; Mark 11:25; Colossians 3:13.

Hast left (ἀφῆκας)

Rev., more correctly, rendering the aorist, didst leave. The verb originally means to send, away or dismiss. See on John 4:3.

First love

Compare Jeremiah 2:2. The first enthusiastic devotion of the Church to her Lord, under the figure of conjugal love.

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