It was probably a shock for the Christians in Ephesus to hear that Christ considered their love to be so weak. They were working hard for Christ; they suffered much because of him. Formerly, Paul had praised that church because of their love for each other (Ephesians 1:15). Now their love both for God and for each other had become so weak that it hardly still existed.
When Paul established the church at Ephesus, he was very aware of the importance of love. He was in Ephesus when he wrote the Bible’s great chapter about love, 1 Corinthians chapter 13. He warned there that it is possible to do all kinds of good works without love (1 Corinthians 13:2-3). Without love, he said, those good works achieved no worthwhile purpose.
Now in Ephesus, the place where Paul wrote those words, such things were happening.
We may ask why anyone would do sincere, good, and generous acts without love. The answer is that there are many possible reasons. People may do good works because they want to please other people, for example their church leaders. They may do these things because they are afraid not to do them. It may just be their custom, habit or tradition to do such things. They may think that they are teaching other people by their actions. They may be trying a give a good impression. They may imagine that they can save themselves by good works. They may think that they have to pay God back for his goodness.
It is possible that John also wrote the Book of 1 John to the church at Ephesus. In that book, John teaches much more about Christian love. Perhaps the Christians there thought that they loved God; but they hated each other (1 John 4:20). John explained that love for other people is always the result of genuine love for God.
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© 2016, Keith Simons.