Acts 19 records Paul’s first visit to Ephesus. There were disciples there who had not heard about the Holy Spirit even though they had responded to John (the baptist’s) message (v3). They heard Paul’s message about Jesus, believed, were baptized and received the Holy Spirit (v4-6). He spent about 2 years there (v10).
He doesn’t return to Ephesus but in chapter 20, about 3 years later, he sends for the elders (v17) and gives his final message to them. It was very emotional for them all because they knew they would not see him again this side of Glory (v36-38). In chapter 20 he reminds them he “did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable” and gives strong exhortation to be on guard and on the alert (v28, 31). What for? “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock;and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.” He warns them that from even among the elders there will be some who try to mislead the believers.
Maybe another 3 years later, from prison in Rome, Paul writes a letter to the church at Ephesus, reminding them of many wonderful things like “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (2:8,9). He says he prays for them “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.” (1:17-19)
Another 20 to 30 years later, Jesus writes to the church through John (Revelation 2:1-7). He commends them for their perseverance and hard work. But “I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (v4). Without love for Christ all that hard work is useless (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 also talks about the problem of doing things without love).
What happened in that 30 years? Jesus warned them that He would “remove your lampstand out of its place” if they didn’t repent. This is what Ephesus looks like now.
How can we encourage each other to not lose our first love, to know God better, to persevere?