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Bible verses about First Love
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Song of Solomon 1:1

We do not know for sure if the book is arranged chronologically or just in short, timeless vignettes. Some say that certain sections are dreams or flashbacks to previous scenes. However, a basic story can be seen in the flow of the text.

Song of Songs opens with the Shulamite in the blush of first love; it is so new to her that she must ask where her Beloved works (Song 1:7). The couple is separated, and each yearns to be reunited. The Beloved asks her to come away with him (Song 2:10), and the Shulamite seeks and finds him in the city (Song 3:2-4). Later, again separated, she looks for him again, only to be beaten by the city watchmen (Song 5:6-7). In the end, after praising each other's beauty and constancy, they are together again, and the Shulamite proclaims that "love is as strong as death" (Song 8:6).

However we arrange the various parts, the main story concerns the courtship of the Shulamite and the Beloved. In most of the book's verses, they vividly praise the other's excellence and express their deepest feelings. This human sexual imagery, rather than being erotic, simply pictures the depth of love and pleasure in a Christian's relationship with God. In a sense, the sexual union of man and wife is the closest human parallel to God's relationship with us.

Jesus Himself endorses this concept in John 17:3, "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." This knowledge of God is intimate, similar to the relationship between a man and his wife (see Genesis 4:1; Luke 1:34). The apostle Paul calls the church's relationship with Christ, likened to a marriage partnership, "a great mystery" (Ephesians 5:32). Later, John is shown that the church is indeed the Bride of Christ (Revelation 19:7-9).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Prophecy in Song


 

Jeremiah 2:2-3

Jeremiah speaks in detail about the relationship between God and Israel when Moses sprinkled the blood of animals to confirm the Old Covenant (see Exodus 24:8). In these verses, He speaks to a highly apostate, corrupt Judah some 850 years after the construction of the Tabernacle. The house of Israel was already in exile, and soon Nebuchadnezzar would carry the house of Judah captive into Babylon. Jeremiah quotes God as He fondly—almost wistfully—looks back in time, remembering Mount Sinai, remembering when the Old Covenant was confirmed.

God actually says that, "Israel was holiness" to Him! When they built the Tabernacle of meeting, physical Israel was probably closer to God than they ever were or would be in their history. In fact, they were in their first love! One of the fruits of their extremely close relationship with God was the properly finished Tabernacle. Israel submitted to its husband, Yahweh Jireh.

Charles Whitaker
God Our Provider


 

Jeremiah 2:2

The Revised Standard Version, in the middle of verse two, read, "I remember your early devotion, the love of your bridal days." God uses the bridegroom and bride analogies because they picture the kind of fervent relationship He desires with us. Fervency is warmth of spirit. It is an attitude.

Does a person desire a relationship with somebody who shows no interest in him? There is a possibility that something like that might occur because someone could be attracted to another, but the other is not paying any attention. So, unless the attracted person makes a move to build a relationship, the other will never notice him. He has to seek the other out.

Now, we need to put God into this scenario. He does not need us in any way, and we are not holy like He is. We do not have the mind He has or His character. In fact, we know almost nothing about Him at the time He begins to make the effort to have a relationship with us. He would like to have one with us because He can see where it can go.

But what kind of reaction will He get from us? He wants the reaction of two people in love. It is helpful to look at this from God's point of view in terms of the end of the relationship. If we were God, would we desire to have a relationship with one who is not showing any interest in us? We would not want to marry anybody who did not have as much interest in us as we have in them. Marriage should be made on the basis of equal, fervent, mutual interest. It occurs because of a desire to be together, to do things together, to accomplish things together, to build a family together, even a desire to mature and grow old together.

This is exactly the kind of relationship that God wants. In several places, He specifically says, "I remember what it was like in our bridal days," because there was heat in the relationship. Each was truly seeking the other out.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prayer and Seeking God


 

Malachi 3:4

Things shall be as when they had their first love. What happens when first love wanes? The blush of being thrilled to be in God's church seems to evaporate. We may approach obedience to God as a mere duty to perform and not give His instructions and commands much thought.

John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Tithing


 

Malachi 3:7

He wants us to find out where we went wrong and get back on the right path. In other words, we need to regain our first love. To do this, we must fast, pray, and meditate on it.

John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Tithing


 

Matthew 24:12

This is a warning to us—that the iniquity that is in the world will cause a loss of love in the church. If we understand the progression of events in Matthew 24, then verse 12 speaks of the time of the Tribulation. We are leading up to that, living in a period in which the stresses against the church—from the world—are increasing. As they increase, it can have the psychological effect—because we begin to get weary of dealing with it—of becoming apathetic, that is, without feeling for what we formerly loved so dearly.

So the iniquity is in the world, but resisting it is a constant stress because it exerts tremendous pressure through an appealing façade—to give in and go along with it. As we live with it and everybody else is doing it, the world's behavior gradually becomes acceptable to us, thus giving evidence that apathy is taking over.

We need to look at every aspect, even in areas we may consider "minor things." How do they dress? What kind of music do they listen to? What are the world's movies like? What are their attitudes in dealing with each other—in stores, on the street, in communities? In many places, we can hardly get anybody on the street to greet us! There are many little behaviors like this. The iniquity is in the world, but it pressures us into doing things as it does—and then it becomes our behavior.

This is just hypothetical, but what if we evaluated ourselves against the world ten years ago and judged that we were 50% more righteous than the world. Then today, we did exactly the same thing, and figured that we are at least 50% more righteous than the world. However, if the world had become more unrighteous during that same period, then, even though we may be 50% more righteous than the world now, we have actually gone backwards in those ten years—right along with the world!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Hebrews: A Message for Today


 

Colossians 3:1-5

In broader generalities, Christ told the Ephesian church to do the same (Revelation 2:1-7). Here we see it in Paul's epistle to the Colossians, in a more specific way.

Because of what Christ said, we can understand that it is not impossible for us to redirect our energies and feelings. If we tie Galatians 6:7-10 to Colossians 3:1-4 and Revelation 2:1-7, we can see that Paul was saying that the rewards are in the doing—in the works. As Christ said, "I know your works." The solution is, "You need to redirect your energies, go back to your former devotion. And, if you have the right devotion, if you show real love, then the right works will come, and you will overcome."

God's way is such that it begins producing the good soon, not late. The apostle is saying that, if we begin sowing the right seed, we will soon begin to reap the fruit of the harvest to come because God's Word always produces results. God says that His Word will not go forth and return empty. We can be assured that fruit will be produced if we sow the right things, if we turn our energies to the way they should be.

The harvest, then, begins to be reaped—soon, in the sense of well-being, a sense that things are well between us and God. John 3:21 and the next several verses tie in here so well. So in the Ephesian church, as well as the whole church era, the members' lack of love was showing in what they were doing. Ignorance was not motivating them, but a loss of affection for Christ (Revelation 2:4-5). This is serious business. If there is no love for Christ, there is no salvation (I Corinthians 16:22).

John W. Ritenbaugh
How to Know We Love Christ


 

Hebrews 2:1

We have all heard of couples, supposedly in love, who have drifted apart. It is not that either one or the other intended to drift away, but it happened because maybe one or both were not paying attention to the relationship. Something else had grabbed the interest of one or the other, or both, so they began to drift apart.

John W. Ritenbaugh
How to Know We Love Christ


 

Hebrews 10:32

This was written to the Ephesian era of the church (Revelation 2:1-7), which lost its first love. But when the people were in the bloom of their first love, were they enthusiastic! They put everything into the relationship. They yielded themselves to God. They were obedient and submissive. They were in no way neglecting the relationship.

Yet, even though these people made such a great start, it was possible for their relationship with God to deteriorate. The evidence is in Revelation 2 and in the book of Hebrews. They allowed the relationship to degenerate through neglect.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Conviction and Moses


 

Revelation 2:1-7

After identifying Himself to the Ephesians, Jesus begins His letter by informing the church that He knew their works, both collectively and individually (Revelation 2:2-3). He knew their attitudes, thoughts, desires, goals - everything about them! He knew their hearts better than they did, just as He knows ours today.

He tells them He was aware of everything they had gone through - how they had endured much persecution, suffering, and agony because of apostasy and intolerance. He knew of their fortitude in standing for the truth and what a labor it was to persevere, though they never gave in to weariness.

He then mentions how they had rejected false leaders and their subversions. They would not listen to those who tried to pervert the truth and change doctrine, and they stood fast in opposing them once they found such to be liars. He knew how hard they tried to keep the laws and principles of the truth the true apostles had taught them.

In this description, as well as from the history of the first-century church from the book of Acts and the epistles of the apostles, we see a church that had fallen apart despite the strenuous efforts of some members to hang on to the truth. It was a church that had let something vital slip out of its grasp amidst the mounting trials and persecutions of the times.

Christ brings to their attention that they had lost their first love, the ardent desire to please God (verse 4). Their focus had shifted from where it should have been to the problems and the events happening around them. The strife generated by angry words, bad attitudes, friends and family leaving their fellowship, and teachings being changed took its toll on everyone. The byproducts that such turmoil produced were mistrust and suspicion.

As Matthew 24:12 says prophetically, "And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold."

Humanly, we might think that God would consider the Ephesians' efforts to hang on to the truth against the apostasy as sufficient, but it is obvious that He does not. For our eternal good, He expects more of us. However, He does not leave us without guidance about how to recapture what we have lost.

Why is first love so important to God? First love is the purest kind of spiritual love we as humans can demonstrate. It is a love that truly shows one's heart is completely given to God. What does first love produce? Paul answers in II Thessalonians 1:3:

We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other.

He also writes in Hebrews 6:10,

For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.

True love of God always promotes love of the brethren and love toward fellow man.

John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Recapture Your First Love!


 

Revelation 2:1-7

With Ephesus, we are looking at a people who had not so much drifted from the doctrines but had changed in the way that they respected and applied them. The book of Hebrews was written to the Hebrew people in the first century who were drifting. The Ephesus letter applies directly to them.

Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip away. (Hebrews 2:1)

The letter to Ephesus shows that they had let them slip or were in the process of doing so.

For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him. (Hebrews 2:2-3)

The Ephesians had become neglectful losing their devotion to this way of life. This is a very stern warning: "I will remove your candlestick." He advises them, "Repent. Go back."

One cannot go back to something that he did not previously have. This is a key to our separation from God. It will be a major key in re-unifying us-going back to what we had before: repenting, turning, going back. We must never forget that we are involved in a relationship with a real live Being, and He is not just any being but the One that we are to marry.

Would we want to marry someone who could take us or leave us? That is what happened to these people: They had lost their devotion to the relationship. They still had the doctrines, but their devotion was gone. They did not cherish Him anymore. They did not cherish the relationship, even though they had not walked away from the doctrines. So He says, "Turn. Go back."

It is good to recognize a hopeful sign-that it does not say that they had "lost" their first love but that they had "left" it. The power to love was still residing in them, but they would have to stir themselves up and use it. Love is what one does out of consideration for making the relationship better than it had ever been before. They needed to stir up the Spirit within them and return to the same zeal and devotion that they had shown at the beginning of their conversion.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 4)


 

Revelation 2:4-5

To paraphrase Christ's advice to the Ephesian church in Revelation 2, He says, "Renew your devotion to Me. Go back to the first works. You have left your first love. Renew your earlier devotion to Me."

Devotion is the sense in which the word "love" (agape) is being used. Devotion literally means "to vow completely." Baptism is the outward show that one has vowed to give his life to God, and so "devotion" implies complete dedication, total surrender. This hints at the Ephesians' problem: Their devotion—their complete dedication—was slipping away.

Devotion is a deep and ardent affection, a feeling. Its synonym are "attentiveness," "dedication," "commitment," "earnestness," but all with a feeling of affection. Devotion is not given out of a sense of obligation only, but with a warm feeling or a passionate desire. Jesus' charge to the Ephesians to return to their earlier devotion is not something that He is asking to be done merely as a duty. Some antonyms of "devotion" can help us see it from another angle: indifference, negligent, unconcerned, disregard, infidelity, and faithlessness.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Loving Christ and Revelation 2:1-7


 

Revelation 2:4-5

If we love a person, we are glad to be able to consult with him, to seek his tastes and opinions. Why? So we can please him. We act on his advice; we do the things that he approves of. In fact, we will even deny ourselves to meet his wishes and abstain from the things that we know that he dislikes.

Anybody who has gone through a courtship understands this. If we find that the object of our affection does not like the way we do certain things, the colors that we wear in our clothing, the style of our dress, the car we drive, or the same foods we like, what will we do? We will try to conform to him or her as long as it is lawful. If we love that person, we will try to please him or her in any way that we possibly can. But, if we are indifferent to the person, who cares what he or she thinks?

It is easy to see why this love is so important, for love is the mainspring of the right kind of works.

The people who do not love Christ are working, active, expending their energies on things that they love, but what they love is not Christ. And because it is not Christ, they do the wrong works.

When we are in love, we will even learn things that we are not naturally inclined toward because we think it will give the other person pleasure. Some guys are nuts over baseball, golf, or whatever sport—perhaps hunting or fishing—and the poor girl will put herself through agony to watch a boring baseball game with him or go golfing, hunting, or fishing with him just to please him because she loves him.

Are we that way with Christ? Do we do what we can, everything we can, denying ourselves or learning new things because we want to please Him? We want to please Him because we love Him. These are areas that we must evaluate ourselves on.

John W. Ritenbaugh
How to Know We Love Christ


 

Revelation 2:5

Revelation 2:5 instructs us to remember from where we have fallen, to repent, and to do the works we did when we had our first love. We have three commands here: remember, repent, and do. If we fail to follow through on these, God says very bluntly, "I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place." This is serious!

Individually, then, we must compare our present attitudes, efforts, zeal, and love to what they were when we were first converted. We should have no trouble doing this because, for most of us, our first months or years in the church are still vivid in our minds. We probably all had similar experiences.

We expressed our first love by diligently obeying all we learned. We took great pains to study, fast, pray, and meditate regularly, giving up valuable time we had once used for our recreation or entertainment. We stood up for the Sabbath and argued with the school system and our employers over Christmas, Easter, and Halloween. We tithed carefully, and the holy days, especially the Feast of Tabernacles, were such a thrill!

We hungered for God's Word and could never get enough of the Bible and the church's literature. We had faith in the ministers God sent to us, seeing them as helpers of our joy. We really worked to overcome every little sin we found, not wanting to disappoint God in the least matter. We had supreme faith in God's purpose, both for mankind as a whole and for us as individuals. We were very serious about our calling.

We would have done none of these things before being called. Our first love was a wonderful thing to behold—true devotion and dedication to God, manifested by zealously bending every effort to conform to His will. We outwardly loved God and trusted Him. He was always in our thoughts.

Some people in this world get a kind of first love for a political party, a team, or a cause. But our first love came upon us because God opened our minds and revealed Himself to us, and what we saw we recognized as truly awesome and wondrous. When we learned that such a magnificent Being wanted us to be members of His Family forever, we caught the vision! This opened our minds to new thoughts, new ideas, new horizons—and so we were filled with first love.

Years may have passed. The "newness" of God's way has worn off. Friends, family, and ministers have let us down. So much has changed in our lives and in the church that those heady days seem impossible to recapture. But God commands us that we must remember what it was like and return to them in spirit, in attitude, and in works because God has not let us down nor has His purpose changed.

Paul tells Timothy to "stir up the gift of God which is in you" (II Timothy 1:6), and in a sense, this is what Christ reminds us to do in His brief message to the Ephesian church. We have to stir ourselves to rekindle our love for God and the brethren and serve them in humility and kindness.

Once we regain this godly love, we will probably notice that it is somewhat different from what we had just after conversion. Most of us have had many years of experience and growth in the meantime. This will tend to produce a more seasoned, mature "first love," which is exactly what God wants. We will be able to pursue godliness with the zeal of youth and the wisdom of maturity.

John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Recapture Your First Love!


 

 




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