It seems appropriate, as we enter the season devoted to "love," that we look at the subject through God's eyes. Since I have been studying in Revelation recently, I would like to take a look at "love" through chapter 2, verses 116, and how God dealt with compromised love in His church at Ephesus.
First, let's remind ourselves that the "love" of Revelation 2:4 is the noun agape. It expresses the very nature of God (I John 4:8); it is the love that God the Father has toward His Son (John 17:26), and toward all human kind (John 3:16). It is also the love possessed by those of us who receive the Savior and demonstrate that love through knowing and obeying His commandments (John 14:15,21,23).
We note, in Revelation 2:2 and 3, that in the matter of obedience, the Church at Ephesus seems to have excelled. They had labored for Christ with patience and had exposed false teaching and teachers. Their faithfulness (love) toward God is further confirmed in verse 6, where He commends them for "hating the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate." It is important to note here that "Nicolaitanes" means "overcomers of the people." They were, at the very least, those who promoted doctrine that encouraged allegiance and loyalty toward themselves rather than toward Christ. The Ephesians had obviously done well in demonstrating their love by hating the Nicolaitanes' deeds, since Christ also hated their deeds.
Why, then, did He accuse that church of "losing its first love" and threaten to remove His presence from them unless they repented? (verses 5,6). Consider the thoughts of William MacDonald on the matter:
. . . the tragedy of Ephesus was that it had left its first love. The fire of its affection had died down [from the time when] their bridal love for Christ flowed warm, full, and free. They were still sound in doctrine and active in service, but the true motive of all worship and service was missing.
It seems, then, that their passion for the Lord and those He loves had become a passion for doctrinal purity without love—the love that God would otherwise have used to convict men of sin and draw them unto Himself. Harshness had rendered the Ephesian church unusable. To the extent that we in the Church today hold to doctrinal purity without the passion for the lost that drove Christ to the Cross, we will be rendered useless unless we, too, repent.