1 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.
2 “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. 3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. 6 Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:1–7 ESV)
Hate. That’s a hard word, especially one coming from the mouth of Jesus, the first and the last, the dead and the one who has risen and lives forever. Not something Jesus is supposed to do.
And yet here, he does. But note what he he hates. Not the Nicolaitans themselves — whoever they were and whatever they believed, for that specific information has been lost to history, and all we have is speculation — but their works. Their deeds. And whatever it is they confess. There is a difference, and Jesus knows that.
Jesus tells the church at Ephesus that he knows what they do, how they confess. He speaks of their works, their patience, their persistence, their determination to bear whatever burdens they bear. And all of this he commends. But they do so without love — αγαπε — and without that love, they are incapable of “the works they did at first.”
Repent, Jesus tells the church at Ephesus, and love. It is certainly good to hate “the works of the Nicolaitans,” but this is a church that has fallen because it does not love. It cannot do what it once was able to do because it does not love. Without repentance and love, this church will fail to be light, no matter how patient and persistent the Ephesians are.
Repent, Jesus says, and love.