Ephesus was the worldwide headquarters for the pagan goddess Artemis or Diana. Artemis was the goddess of love and reproduction. With those attributes she was regarded as a provider of life, therefore anything from any part of life was acceptable as a sacrifice to her. The temple of Diana, in Ephesus, was a shrine to the goddess who lived in all of nature–everywhere there was life. Shrines were built to this goddess all over the known world, but the temple shrine in Ephesus was the greatest. It was believed that Diana (Artemis) was born near there. Subsequently, a large industry of miniture shrine making developed. Craftsmen would build miniatures that devotees could buy and offer in the temple or take home with them. Shrines could be built from many different materials and of many different values. The poor could get a simple wooden shrine; the rich could get costly stone or silver shrines. Demetrius was the chief of the craftsmen in Ephesus when Paul came to their town and told them how the true God of love would save them.
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, by (grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-7)
Paul prayed that since they were grounded in the love of Christ, the Ephesians would come to know all the love of Christ.
That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19)
And he said that this would result in love for others:
With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; (Ephesians 4:2)
But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:15-16)
And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savor. (Ephesians 5:2)
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; (Ephesians 5:25)
Later the Apostle John came to minister in Ephesus. I assume that even though his writings were general in nature, the first recipients of his gospel and letters were likely the Christians in Ephesus. Think about the theme of love drawn from these verses.
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (John 13:34-35)
If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:10-13)
These things I command you, that ye love one another. (John 15:17)
And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked. (1 John 2:3-6)
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. (1 John 2:15-16)
In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous. Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you. We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us. (1 John 3:10-24)
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also. Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. (1 John 4:7-5:3)
And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it. (2 John 1:5-6)
Finally, John wrote to the Ephesian Christians,
Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. (Revelation 2:4)
This first love was a first in priority. For centuries, the Ephesians worshipped THE goddess of love, but they had been converted and now, their first love was God. They were to love God with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength. This is a love that comes from every aspect of life. No area of life is exempt from needing to be offered up to God. If the first love had been left, it is likely that the second had also.
Now, if you’ve read all the verses, you should have seen how the second love had been taught also–to love your neighbor as yourself.
We are to love our brothers tangibly–not only in word, but also in deed. A lot of fundamentalists talk about love, and talk about how they TRULY love others because they rebuke them, reprove them, correct them, etc. All of that is part of love. How many of you fundamentalists love in DEEDS?