We’ve been considering the larger historical context to help us understand Acts 20:17-21:1.
The short letter addressing the Church of Ephesus found in Revelation 2:1-7 describes this church as still going strong. Jesus affirms the church, saying, “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.”
This church had endured many challenges for over forty years by this time. Organizationally and theologically they were effective and true to their calling. But Jesus went on in His evaluation to declare, “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”
The scent of their “first love” toward God, each other, and the pagan world had dissipated. Yet, that was what Jesus said is the first and second great commands. Without it, their light to the world would be snuffed out!
I have visited the magnificent ruins of Ephesus a number of times. Evidently the church didn’t repent and return to their first love. What Jesus predicted happened. How tragic. The church died. The city died. The magnificent remains are nothing more than the blackened wick of a doused candle. No, worse than that. The removal of the candle holder. How tragic.