The Church in Ephesus

1 "To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this: 'I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name's sake, and have not grown weary. 4 'But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place―unless you repent. Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.'"

The Deeds of First Love

The Lord praised the church in Ephesus for several good points, some nine of them. These points are good deeds of saints edifying churches and Christian communities.

But the Lord said that He had something against the church that they had left their first love. "Therefore remember from whee you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first." It is said that they must have fallen from somewhere since they had left their first love, or they are now disconnected from what they were connected.

"Or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place―unless you repent." The church was demanded to do the deeds which they had done at first. The deeds of their first love are seen here to connect the church in Ephesus while they became disconnected when they left the deeds. Also it is seen here that their lampstand gives light in the world while they have the connection whereas the lampstand will fail to give light when it is disconnected from the power that enables the lampstand to give light.

The deeds of first love work on the lampstand to perform its task of shining in the world, and the lampstand will cease to give light in the world when the deeds of first love are abandoned. This is referred to as "your lampstand will be removed out of its place." Again, the deeds of first love connects the lampstand to the power to give light in the world, while forsaking the deeds of first love cuts the lampstand off the power to shine in the world.

What is meant by the deeds of first love? It is important for the church in Ephesus, which is recorded first of seven churches in the Revelation not following a random order nor external church sizes. The church in Ephesus was written first because the issue of the deeds of first love is the most important.

Again the deeds of first love means the connection to the power to give light in the world, and to leave the deeds means to be severed from the power, to be disabled to give light in the world. The power that enables one to shine in the world is power of the Holy Spirit and the power of the truth through the merits of redemptive works of Jesus Christ.

In the parable of ten virgins, five virgins had their lamps lighted to receive the bridegroom, and it was the oil that kept the lamp shining and the lamp could not give light when the oil failed. The oil in the parable signifies the power of the Holy Spirit; man can give light only through the power of God―the power of the blood of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the truth. It is then clearer that to do the deeds of first love will secure a means to be connected to the original power to give light, and that to abandon the deeds of first love will forfeit the means.

We should be connected to receive the power to give and live the light in the world. It is said in Matthew 5:14 and thereafter, "You are the light of the world." It is our own task that we receive the power of God to give light in the world. also it is said, "You are the salt of the earth." We, the Church, cannot perform our own task unless we sacrifice ourselves, and we will be worthless without our sacrifice. The salt means sacrifice, and the light means all the works to let the creation see all things right, know all things right, and realize all things right.

It was of utmost importance for the church in Ephesus whether they could continue to do the deeds of first love; either they were connected to the power to give light to the world if they could perform the first love, or they were severed from the power if they fail to give light to the world.

The Meaning of the Deeds of First Love

What are the deeds of first love? The deeds of first love are the three kinds of love that Jesus first bestowed upon us. The first of the three kinds is that Jesus suffered for us the punishment for the price of numerous iniquities that destroy us, to free us from sin to make us have nothing to do with sin.

The second is that Jesus devoted all His life to performing for us what we were unable to fulfill before God and the creation, so as to justify us. Now we have been righteous.

The third is that Jesus paid the price and suffered the punishment of enmity on behalf of us as a sacrifice of peace offering to turn our enmity toward God and the creation into a peaceful relationship. This is God's love, and we were saved through this love.

What are the deeds of first love? The deeds are what Jesus did for us. What should we do to do what Jesus did for us? We should remit others' offences by our suffering a punishment for them to realize the wishes of the Lord for His sake. We should undertake others' sin and its punishment that they are suffering to their destruction, and suffer the punishment ourselves for them as much as we can to eliminate the sin from them and to make them free form and unrelated to sin. This is the deed of love of remission.

The deed of justification is the sacrifice of vicarious performance; we should assume a deed of others through which they should practice the tasks of duty and responsibility of love but have so far failed to perform to their destruction, so as to save them and to make them competent to carry out their mission.

The deed of reconciliation is the vicarious endeavor to make peace between man and God and the creation. as Jesus paid a price for our inimical relationships to God and all mankind and the creation, we should sacrifice and work to suffer for others' enmity to God and mankind and the creation to our destruction and loss, and to make them at peace with God and mankind and the creation.

Now we are saved through His three kinds of redemption before the Lord, and we are bought at a price for the merits of this redemption, then it is our task to suffer vicariously, perform vicariously, and reconcile vicariously―these are what we should do as servants of the Lord, how we should live as His possessions, and what He committed to us as the deeds of love.

This may seem to be vain like throwing a stone into the sea, and to be empty like concluding a matter undone in the middle, but it is possible to realize this. How can we confirm when this is realized? It is called the light when this is realized, and everybody perceives it.

It seems to be impossible for us―man with limitations―to work the three deeds of love of the redemption even though we have been saved and we have already become the Lord's, and we ourselves judge that we are unable to do them. But the deeds are the means to connect to the triune God who win this victory, to the merits of vicarious redemption, and to the truth; when we do the deeds, we are connected to the three kinds of power and we are working the deeds of omnipotence, perfection, and infinity, filling all the creation to the full with the remainder abiding forever. When we do not do the deeds, we are disconnected from the three kinds of power.

How to Do the First Love

The three redemptive works are deeds of love, and we are connected to the perfection when we work the redemptive deeds, and we are severed from the original power when we forsake the redemptive deeds. Now we should do the deeds of love, or the redemptive works, and I would like to testify about how to actually do the deeds step by step briefly.

It is said in 1 Corinthians 15:46, "The spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual." Christianity started from the first Adam of the flesh to grow to Christ who belongs to heaven. Christianity starts from blood and flesh, or material things, step by step to transcend. This is how the Church grows indicated in verses preceding 1 Corinthians 15:46 and Colossians 2:19. We Christians might be discontinuously transcendental, which proves to be erroneous; we should grow from the base step by step but we might abruptly transcend to become a heretic. Some would not grow to transcend toward God circling around creatures, while some would deal with God only to become of imaginary faith to become discontinuously transcendental like a house without foundation, which ends up as evil and futile. So I will talk about how we should grow step by step.

Remission in the Three Relationships

First, it is the redemptive love the Lord to rid of sin. To rid of sin means to rid of crookedness. To remit someone means to save someone to make the person free of sin so that there is no crookedness in the person. Next, to justify means to raise righteousness in a person who has no righteousness so that there is righteousness established in the person. Finally, to reconcile someone with God means to make the person obtain life, clearing the hostility between God and the creation, man and man, and all creation and creation making both sides one, and restoring intimate relationships each.

We should practice first making sinless and straightening crookedness in material things. We should try to eliminate what is crooked in our dealing with material things, and we should try to make right what is perverted in our relationships to material things. The occupations of plastering and carpentry may be indistinguishable in that they are a means of making a living, but they are different each other; a faulty measurement easily betrays the carpenter's slip whereas a poor trowl touch can be easily covered with another daubing, which means that it is less likely to encounter a mistake and consequently to discover what is crooked and to feel it strongly.

How do we straighten what is crooked in our relationships to material things? I have been to the flower garden in the fourth floor [of the Seobu Church building]. We should try to avoid crookedness even in growing flower; we can see the inner person of one growing flowers in a garden or a flower on a table in a room.

We should grow endeavoring cautiously to rid of anything crooked in our dealing with not only the flowers in the garden but also all the plants in a mountain which we may go to. There has a saintess in the Gaemyoung Church called deaconess A. Dozens of church members used to go together when I went to a neighboring church to lead a service at evenings. The deaconess walked in the front of the group to shed the dew drops on the grass on the paths of fields.

I used to hear her muttering to herself, "I am sorry," and snub her, saying, "Why should be sorry? Blades of grass are subject human treatment―they could be trodden down, cut off, pulled out sometimes." Still her behavior was food for me as a grace.

I saw her deal with even a blade of grass which has no human character with caution not to offend it as if it had its own character of independency and self-rule. She had not been educated much, but she was far superior in understanding spiritual aspects. I had hoped to write her biography. I see the same edification in biographies of St. Francis.

We should endeavor not to commit sin but eliminate sin in dealing with material things. I saw one who was working in the field carrying manure of burden on his back; he got a prick on one of his eyes with a twig, and immediately was going to grasp it to cut it off, but he repented, saying that he was abusive, and apologized to the tree, and he went his way.

We should have a right relationship with nothing crooked with material things, even with a tree in the field: a branch under pressure of something heavy should make us feel uncomfortable as if we ourselves were under pressure so that we clear the seemingly minor difficulty as far as we can. This is a beginning of clearing harm of crookedness of sin.

Second, any affair or thing will already imply a human relationship. In an affair which we judge that it is wrong we should try to correct it and the one involved to free the person from the wrong. We should correct others as Jesus who was not wrong corrected us who were wrong as long as it does not go beyond our bounds. We should eliminate and make right wrong affairs, and this is the deed of remission. Further this deed should be extended to save those in human relationships with us, who are suffering for the wrong of their own. We ought to save others from what they are in the wrong, and our hearts and ideas of remission will have been practicing the sacrifice of the deeds of love.

Our logic starts from the connection through which we can receive the power of omniscient and omnipotent Perfect One to give light in the world, and without which we will fail to give light when we ignore the power; we begin to grow from this, step by step, up to God. Then we will come to strive to cure what is perverted in relationships between God and us and in relationships between God and others. We should correct others in all their wrong-doings and crookedness in speech, deeds, mind, and thoughts―"The wages of sin is death," means that the consequence of crookedness is death and destruction. We should release what is crooked of ourselves and others to restore normal relationships to God, to men, to material things, and affairs.

Justification in the Three Relationships

Also we should have our relationships to material things in justice, and try to have others have a righteous relationships with materials. Even a tree mischievously bent by someone should cause us discomfort so much as to make us try to clear the obstacle. This is the heart, disposition, and element of the justification; this is the deed of first love; this is the deed of justification.

I know someone whom trees like him wherever he goes. He save, or cares for, trees and grass, or any other thing in nature. He puts things in safe locations when he sees that they are placed dangerously; he does it as much possible even though they are not his property. We should replace what is crooked to its correct position as much as we are allowed and al song as we are not prohibited. Also we should make straight a relationship of material things to someone as far as we can, and this is the way to grow elements of our justification in uses, dealings, and keeping of material relationships.

In early days in Yangsan-dong, my place of prayer, it was impossible to see beautiful flowers as they were picked out by visitors the moment they were sighted. These days people are more civilized that on one picking flowers are observed; rather I watched many people taking care of some flowers hidden underneath to make them easier to look at; this is all to give material things the love of justification.

The same applies to affairs; we should do right in our own affairs and in our affairs related to others, and we should wish in our heart the affairs of others to be done right, even though those who are doing pervertedly will deem us to be obstructing in their way like an enemy. Still we must not give the person, saying, "Destroy yourself if you want." We should pray when we fail to help the person do right, saying, "God, he is not doing it right; give him grace to do it right." We should give the love of justification in affairs, ours own or others', and in human relationships. We should not rejoice in others or our adversaries going perverted, saying, "That person is sure to fall," and we should be cautious not fail into such temptation.

Even though a person would not listen right word in ungodliness but go perverted, and would not obey a right instruction but commit what is worthy of considerable punishment, we should only establish and talk righteousness encouraging him to please God and receive the grace and blessing of God. He may show hostility to resist a right word, still we should at least say our prayer for him and conclude the matter, and this is our deed of love righteousness.

When others are doing right, we should rejoice from our deep heart to give thanks to God. If we approve only our righteousness, our righteousness would be private as our own and it is the same as iniquity, the righteousness belonging to iniquity. When we deal with men, we should endeavor to do the deeds of love to build righteousness; we should try to do right to God and to understand that God does right to us and instruct us right; God is faultless and He does right to us, and we should not complain, nor grumble, nor despair, nor be disappointed, not be dejected, nor be dissatisfied, but we should try hard to understand what God does to us right and instruct us right, and we ourselves should try to do right to God; we should wish that others also do righteously and right, and we should be ready to do what is needed to realize it. This is to do the first love, and this is the deeds of love.

Reconciliation in the Three Relationships

Finally about peace, it holds true regarding material things. Once we have done wrong to a material thing, say, a tree, we are to regret having done harm to the tree. Need we feel apologetic for the tree? Probably not; still we should feel hesitant when we do something hard for the tree―"There is no other creature here but you to do this, and this may have you malformed and I am sorry for that. Please endure what I am doing to you accepting as your task." When we feel no sorry and do not consider peace for the tree, and do something wrong, inevitably though, there will be enmity between the tree and us.

We will feel sorry and anxious for the creature for sure. We should treat the tree such that it will welcome us when it meets us again later. There is an empty lot on top of the hill at this camp site, and there is no tree there, so I tole deacon B to plant three pine trees. there cannot be much moisture for the trees to grow since it is the top of hill. The deacon watered them more often than not, and I thought that it was not practical enough to water them frequently. I thought about the trees, "Now that we have planted the three pine trees which had been growing well at their original places. We would be sorry if the trees should not survive in this transplanted location," and it occurred to me what to do on the trees.

I had the pine trees covered with vinyl veils such that rain will be collected to drop on the soil beneath them only and no vapor will escape the vinyl covering, and I was relieved that there will be enough water for the trees. Later I found that the trees were most exuberant among trees there. I thought that the trees will welcome me and that I will not feel sorry and awkward when I meet them again.

We should have a peaceful relationship with material things before we have any better relationships with men, and we do the deeds of love of peace so that in the judgment of the creation any creature familiar to us will not charge us for our unfair and regrettable treatments to it. We should start practicing the love of peace from the relationships in material things first, and the same on the relationships in affairs. We will become hostile to men through affairs involving us and them; we should try to resolve the inimical relationships until our conscience harbors no compunction, and the affairs themselves will not repel us in grumble and complaint but meet us gladly. We should start from these two relationships, in material things and in affairs.

Then we are to endeavor to attain peaceful relationships with men. It is said, "Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord." I said the other day, "Holiness without peace, sanctification without peace, justice without peace, and righteousness without peace, these are like dead snakes, odious, repulsive, and repugnant. Rather, I would choose peace even though it lacks justice, righteousness, or sanctification." This is also death. Just as it is said, "Pursue peace and sanctification," we are to pursue both peace and sanctification; either one of the two only is not enough.

From the Earthly to the Spiritual

We should grow starting from in material things, then in affairs, and in the men to attain to the peaceful relationship with God, or "to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ." The same is written in 1 Corinthians 15:46, "The spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual." Before this verse it is said every order started from those belonging to the earth, or earthly bodies.

We should grow in faith transcendentally, not discontinuously but continuously, from the bottom up to the level of maturity of God, or to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. Our faith should be cultured from the elementary level of material things, and then the relationships between God and us, and this is how we should grow and transcend. Ignoring these intermediate steps if we would deal with God only, we will be only discontinuously transcendental to corrupt, causing errors.

I always warn those coming to our place of prayer in Yangsan-dong to be aware of the men with problems of affairs or accidents. Everybody is encouraged to come to the place of fresh and salubrious air and of peaceful ease; still it would be wrong if one should come to the place to pray to deal with God only, ignoring his tasks and duty and responsibility concerning material things, affairs and men, to transcend from material things to affairs, to human relationships, and to God. We can find such worthless people in Mt. Samgak whose faith is abnormally erratic. We should be cautious not to be associated with such people lest we should fail in faith.

Let us remember that we should grow from base up, that the deeds of first love are the only means to connect us to the Almighty and to the original power that can give light in the world. It is the only way to make the original power go with us that we work the deeds of first love.