Truth On Fire

Site Search:

P.O. Box 432    |    Spring Hill, TN  37174    l    (904) 200-1671

Home  |  Gospel  |  Pastor's Pen  |  Doctrinal  |  Calvinism  |  About

Dealing with the 'Somewhat'

The church at Ephesus, according to the Lord Jesus, was a pretty good church (Revelation 2:1-7). It had many positive attributes that would attract any modern-day believer toward membership. They were hard working in kingdom matters, patient in their labors, disposed toward holiness of life, in possession of spiritual discernment and a candlestick of influence. Yet Jesus, who told all his churches “I know thy works,” said the following to arguably one of the best churches of the seven he personally addressed:

“Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent” (Revelation 2:4-5).

The Greek of our Lord's critique is: αλλ εχω κατα σου. Expanded translation: “However [in spite of all you have going for you] I have [as an ongoing concern] somewhat against you.” The reader will notice there's no word in the Greek text corresponding to “somewhat” in the KJV text. It is italicized for smoothness of translation. Contrast this to the Greek in 2:14 and 2:20 to the churches of Pergamos and Thyatira respectively: αλλ εχω κατα σου ολιγα. You'll notice there is a Greek word (ολιγα) corresponding to “a few things” in the KJV text. The word oligos refers to a “small quantity” of things. The fact Jesus uses this word with Pergamos and Thyatira but omits it with Ephesus signifies there is just ONE point of contention between him and the Ephesian church. But it's enough to require repentance and jeopardize their candlestick of influence EXCEPT they get right on this ONE thing. 

So what exactly is this 'somewhat' Jesus said was the single point of contention between him and the Ephesian church? According to Jesus, it was a departure from their first love. Jesus uses the word “first” to describe both the LOVE they left and the WORKS to which they are to return. It's no stretch then to understand their first love and the first works to be one and the same. Some believe the first love to be evangelism. But I believe the context has a deeper meaning that, if rectified, would fix any shortcomings in evangelism.  

My understanding of “first works” to which Jesus urged them to return is the SAME works they were currently doing, but done in a DIFFERENT manner. That manner would be works done WITH Jesus rather than merely works done FOR him. We can illustrate the difference by considering the biblical record of Jesus having dinner with Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42). While Martha was “cumbered about much serving” (10:40), preparing a feast FOR Jesus, her sister Mary had chosen to spend time WITH Jesus, feasting on his words. She shared an intimacy with the Lord, that “good part” (10:42) Jesus said he would NOT take away from her. 

In my mind, the church at Ephesus was busy doing good things FOR him, but had lost the close intimacy they had once enjoyed doing things WITH him in fulness of power! Ask any God-called preacher who's lost his anointing what it means to preach WITH Jesus in power and preach FOR Jesus as a matter of obligation. He will be quick to tell you there's a BIG difference! Keep in mind Timothy had pastored this church for decades and John, the apostle of love, was (per tradition) a member before and after his banishment to Patmos. In other words, the church at Ephesus had role models for the love they had left. 

Jesus issues three imperatives to the church: “” The phrase “from when thou art fallen” is instructive. We'll make two points. First, it's the same verb (ἐκπίπτω, “to fall out”) Paul used when he told the Galatians they had “fallen from grace” (5:4) if they equated true righteousness to compliance with Mosaic Law. In such lives, grace ceases to operate effectively as God intended. Both the Galatians and Ephesians had fallen from the same spiritual footing—loss of intimacy with Christ. Secondly, the verb is perfect tense, which conveys a past action with settled results. Jesus clearly was NOT telling this church their condition was permanent and irreversible. But he did tell them there was NO WAY AROUND repentance to remedy their fallen condition and restore intimacy lost. 

Much has been written and said about repentance—the word Jesus inserted between remembering and doing the will of God. The Greek μετανοέω (metanoeō) means “to change the mind.” In terms a layman can understand, it means to come around to God's way of thinking. Whether or not it involves a degree of emotion, the bottom line is it changes the conduct of one whose mind is changed. Remembering, calling to mind, how things used to be at Ephesus, was meant to elicit this response: “Brethren, Jesus is right about that first love thing. We used to enjoy the presence of Christ in doing things WITH him. We still do plenty of things FOR him, but it's not the same. We need to humble ourselves, seek his face and get back the intimacy of our first love!”

Jesus concludes his admonition with these words: “Except thou repent.” It's the translation of the Greek εαν μη μετανοησης. The conditional εαν used with the subjunctive makes this a third class condition. In other words, Jesus placed their repentance in doubt. The church at Ephesus might choose to repent of the 'somewhat' and do the first works, or they might choose to continue in the 'somewhat' of a first love left. The same choice presents itself to every child of God when Jesus makes them aware of a 'somewhat' that has come between him and them. 

Repentance is not automatic. It is a deliberate decision to come around to God's way of thinking and take the action he recommends. That's how you deal with the 'somewhat.' While it's good to do things FOR the Lord, as Martha did, it's far better to walk in intimate fellowship and do things WITH him, as Mary did! In my mind, the church at Ephesus was living with a Martha mindset.


Copyright and Contact Statement