Our First Love - how do we keep it?

We love, because he first loved us.  1 John 4:19

Genesis 29:1-20

Instigating thought

Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Revelation 2:4

Focus Verse

And Jacob served seven years for Rachel. And they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.  Genesis 29:20

Bible Readings

Genesis 29:1-20

And Jacob served seven years for Rachel. And they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.  Genesis 29:20

Song of Solomon 2:1-5,16,17[1]


1        I am a rose of Sharon,
          a lily of the valleys.


2        Like a lily among thorns
          is my darling among the maidens.

Thoughts on your First Love[2]

The experience - do you remember?

  • The heart pounding on seeing your first love walk across the school yard, first thing in the morning.
  • You are totally silly with love - “It is looking at him across a room and feeling that if I don't spend the rest of my life with him, I'll have missed the boat.“[3]
  • They call it giddy with love - you are over the moon - someone actually says they love you and you cannot work out why
  • The serenity of just sitting beside her at lunch, or walking beside her to the car after work.
  • The air of excitement when you spoke, usually in elliptical terms of your first love
  • The Song of Solomon has some of these thoughts. These canticles[4] were written by King Solomon, but in the canticles, he is referred to as Shelomoh. The bride is a shepherdess called The Shulamite or Shulamith – the feminine form of Shelomoh. The could write of her lover:

3                 Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest
                   is my lover among the young men.
                   I delight to sit in his shade,
                   and his fruit is sweet to my taste.

4                 He has taken me to the banquet hall,
                   and his banner over me is love.

5                 Strengthen me with raisins,
                   refresh me with apples,
                   for I am faint with love. (Chapter 2)

What about (The experience of your first love)

  • The redness of your face when your mother asked who that girl was you were talking too
  • The teasing by your siblings
  • The fact you always had time to listen to her
  • You always wanted to please her, do anything for her, and even tried second guessing what she would have you do, doing things you would not ordinarily do.

And Jacob served seven years for Rachel. And they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.  Genesis 29:20[5]

What is this love?

Your first love probably falls between affection and passion

The Greeks have a number of words to indicate love.

φιλέω (phileo)

  • To have a special interest in someone or something, have affection for, like, consider someone a friend, like to do something.
  • To kiss, as an indication of affection (Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings. Romans 16:15-17)
  • It is friendship
  • >Brotherly love and sisterly love comes from this word the word phileo - philadelphia (φιλαδελφία

Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honour giving preference to one another; (Romans 12:10)

  • But we are never commanded to love God using this word:
  • Jesus differentiates between this and agapao (see next) when he speaks to Peter about loving his flock in John 21:15-17.

ἁγαπαω agapao (n) ἁγαπαη(v)

This is the most common form of the word love in the New Testament. It should however not be muddled with phileo.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. (1 Corinthians 13: 1-4)

This type of love can be known only from the action it prompts. It is not the love of complacency or affection. This type of love is not drawn out by any excellency in it objects[6]. Put another way, it is not the beauty of the object of our desire that leads us to love in this way. Jesus loved us, although we were ugly, un-holy, as filthy as rags[7] and separated from God[8].

This love is to have a regard for and interest in another, cherish, have affection for, love as found in 2 Corinthians 12:15:

And I [Paul] will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved.

It is to have a high esteem for or satisfaction with something, take pleasure in

But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love [ἁγάπησας] of God. Luke 11:42

To practice or express love, prove one's love John 13:1,24

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved [ἁγάπηνσας>] His own who were in the world, He loved [ἡγάπην] them to the end. (John 13:1)

Jesus differentiates phileo and agapao

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love [agapas] me more than these?“ He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love [phileo] you.“ He said to him, “Feed my lambs.“ 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love [agapas] me?“ He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love [phileo] you.“ He said to him, “Tend my sheep.“ 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love [phileis = have affection for] me?“ Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love [phileis] me?“ and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love [phileis] you.“ Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

ἑρος (eros)

  • We need to differentiate friendship, God's love for us and eros, from which the word erotic comes from.
  • This is not a “bad“ word; indeed, God has created humans as sexual beings, but since the 1960's it has often become the totality of love.
  • Eros is passionate love, with sensual desire and longing: it is clearly seen in the Song of Solomon. For this reason perhaps many churches do not either study this book of the Bible or preach from it; they get too hang up about the erotic part, but forget the longing, that we must develop in our love for our spouses and more importantly the Lord Jesus Christ.  This book, perhaps alone gives the best deep insight into the heart attitude of a bride for his bridegroom seen here as  the passionate love and the desire of Shelomoh for his bride.
  • Eros cannot stand alone - it must follow the other two, begins with phileo and moving towards agapao.

You have ravished my heart,
My sister, my spouse;
You have ravished my heart
With one look of your eyes,
With one link of your necklace.

How fair is your love,
My sister, my spouse!
How much better than wine is your love,
And the scent of your perfumes
Than all spices!

Your lips, O my spouse,
Drip as the honeycomb;
Honey and milk are under your tongue;
And the fragrance of your garments
Is like the fragrance of Lebanon.

(The Hebrew language has a rich vocabulary for love, for which English has difficulty expressing - has up to 11 words that mean love)

The fullness of the word eros is taken up in the Old Testament by the enigmatic word “to know“. It is not merely a euphemism to have a sexual relationship, but can denote a fullness of love in-expressible in English.

Consider the following:

 Then they [Hannah and Elkanah] rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord, and returned and came to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. 1 Samuel 1:19

  • A man and woman on the night of their wedding stand before each other naked. This is not purely a physical nakedness, but should be a transparency right to the heart, where each can penetrate the heart of the other.
  • Elkanah knew the hurt of his wife's heart, the pain and emptiness because she was unable to have a child. He knew her feelings, her longings, and the long vigils she had at the temple where she beseeched God to give her a son.
  • Elkanah also fully trusted Hannah - to know someone is to trust them - take note of this because it has a bearing on what is spoken of, a little later.
  • Secrets are not kept in a marriage; we need to see our partners through and through, and this requires us to remove the coverings - open up, something men often have difficulty doing.
  • The “to know“ here is truly beautiful and can only occur when eros is melded with agapao.

As love matures

  • As love matures, your first love grows as you get to know what pleases her, what displeases her, what tickles her fancy and what annoys her. You avoid the later but carry out the former.
  • The fondness has moved to true friendship, where there is total consideration of each other
  • Loyalty reigns: you would never embarrass her, or disrespect her.
  • You understand her moods and feelings and can respond to them
  • You communicate your own thoughts and feelings without embarrassment, because you trust her with these thoughts.
  • You accept her, you emotionally support her, and she you.
  • You have a sense of calmness

4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13)

The essence of love

I think the most beautiful in depth example of love is given by the Lord Jesus Christ. What is the depth of his love?

Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25)

Can you remember your first love for Christ

·         the love that filled your heart when you knew Jesus fully pardoned you, accepted you and loved you unconditionally

·         because you were forgiven, you were able to forgive everyone

·         you wanted everyone to be saved - even those who hated you

·         you wanted to read the Bible, to know more about Jesus

·         you earnestly sought know how Jesus would have you live

·         you wanted to be part of his body, the Church, you wanted to be involved - to speak often with others about Jesus

First love gives up self.

  • Paul's remark that he dies daily is in essence the method to put aside self - this is a conscience decision, which needs to be renewed every morning.
  • True love is always outward looking

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1,2 ESV

  • True love - agapao is worship - it is presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice.
  • True love is holy - as holiness is perfection
  • Diligence in prayer is the secret of eminent holiness - prayer must form a part of love
    • Do you pray[9]?
    • Do you and your partner pray?
    • Do and your business partners pray?
    • Does the Church pray?

I ask a question - have you lost this first love, or is it fading?

You need to answer this in the privacy of your own room.

How do we prevent losing our first love?

Remember that we love because God first loved us

We must note that true sacrificial Christian love comes from God himself

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. - 1 John 4:7 ESV

If you really want to understand love, examine the life of Jesus Christ.

[W]e know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers 1 John 3:16 ESV

He, a King and High Priest became a servant, and died a traitor's death (a death of a curse[10]) because we sinned. It was in this that we know love:

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. - 1 John 4:9 ESV

Know that it is commanded by God

We love because:

          God first loved us: We love because he first loved us 1 John 4:19 ESV, AND

          God commands us to do so.

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.'  "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, Mat 5:43, 44 NKJV

The entire commandment system or ordinance of the God hangs on Love. The rules that should govern our entire life is based on what love is and what it does. Jesus states emphatically, in answer to a question on this matter:

"Teacher, which [is] the great commandment in the law?" Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' "This is [the] first and great commandment. "And [the] second [is] like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself. "On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." - Matthew 22:36-40 NKJV

This is most instructive: love is not merely a feeling, nor just an action of pleasure, as the movies portray it. Love is the essence of the Law - the way we relate to God and the way we relate to and interact with each other. Why? You might ask.

In essence the law deals with relationships and in particular the greatest foil of that relationship, which is “I“. Paul needed to die daily, because he knew that the greatest antagonist of his relationship with God, of his relationship with his friends and colleagues and his relationship with those he was attempting to bring the gospel to, was “I“.

Love suffers long and is kind; .. love.. bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

This cannot happen if love is inward looking

Love is an action that is always outward looking

Love is always outward looking. The notion of loving oneself is a worldly concept; it arises from the work of Freud, whose work has wrecked havoc in the minds of many Christians, as it assumes that love always depletes oneself, and takes the notion that this is not a good thing. That is, one needs to love oneself in order to love.  This is a lie.

We love another, not because of self, but because Christ first loved us, and still loves us, what ever state we may be in. 1 John 5 has the following elliptical verse:

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.

This indicates that the reason we love each other in this room is not because of our selves, but because the Father loves. It's emphatic - everyone who loves the Father loves those others who are bone of the Father.

This flies in the face of Freud - John, who is a witness of Jesus Christ's great love for us writes that we love because God, himself, loves us. And it is this action, alone, that allows us to love other Christians to the full depth that Christ loved the church - agapao.

Out ability to continue loving others, is not of ourselves, and in this Freud is right - love must come from somewhere - but he was wrong to make love's fountain sexual rather than divine, of our selves rather than of the Father. Out love flows from the fountain of love He has for us. Never forget this - Freud teaches to love oneself in order to love - God teaches that we can love because he loves us.

Note that this does not mean you should not have a regard for one's self[11].

Tim Challies, a Christian blogger, highlights the issue when we make ourselves God, because when we do so, we actually become an anti-god. He writes:

When God is God, love is directed outward. Love for another is simply a means of expressing love to God; it is loving much as one who has been loved much. Love is not asking “What do I need?“ but “What does God desire?“ Greater love has no man than this–that he lay down his life for a friend, just as Jesus Christ, the friend of sinners, has done for me.[12]

Love must grow - we must work at it

Writing to the Corinthians, Paul states

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things…

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Jacob after 7 years had not lost his first love

And Jacob served seven years for Rachel. And they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.  Genesis 29:20

When the First Love is Lost


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. (Revelation 2:5)

Turn from the way you were going - this is what repentance is - its not merely praying the sinners pray to our Lord. One must physically and mentally turn from the way we were going.

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. - Romans 10:9 KJV

Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God. Your sins have been your downfall! - Hosea 14:1

Repentance requires three things when love is lost

1. Stop doing what you are doing

  • Sin cannot abound;
  • We must confess our sin to Jesus Christ, who will be faithful and forgive us.

2. Turn around and face the other way

  • We must move in the opposite direction. Placing us into the position where we will have our love for Christ torn asunder is stupidity.
  • Repentance means to move in the opposite direction

3. We must change our mind - for this is what the Greek literally means. In the case of a lost love for Christ, we must put self aside self, as it is self that gets in the way.

Self has pride - not God's attitude to pride:

And the haughtiness of man shall be humbled, and the lofty pride of men shall be brought low, and the LORD alone will be exalted in that day.Isaiah 2:16-18

  • Paul's remark was no idle throwaway line “I die daily“
  • Begin your day with prayer
  • Mediate in the word of God
  • Listen to the word of God being preached.
  • Put aside thoughts of yourself by thinking about how you can please someone else
  • Ponder what the Lord Jesus Christ would do in the same position you are now in.

We must put our faith into action, walk the talk - “do the works you did at first“

Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:18 ESV

  • The exhortation to the Church at Ephesus was to “do the works you did at first“
  • The congregation needs to be part of this - note that the letter in Revelation was not to an individual, but to a group of individuals.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, - Hebrews 10:24 ESV

  • We as a congregation have a responsibility to ensure we have not lost our first love
  • We must pray for each other - loving is hard work - it does not accept rewards, it must be patient, and it needs to be encouraged. This Paul always did:

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus [and your love] toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, (Epehesians 1:15)

  • We must pray

We must also turn what we should not love

The world dreams up hundreds of ways to turn our love from God - the advertising industry is central to today's methods.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 1John 2:15


For all that is in the world– the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life–is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1John 2:16,17

These things are but dross - they will pass away. You only need to examine the latest iPad - the last was on the market for how long, before the new replaced it. Man always has something better - Jesus completed his work and rested - there is nothing better.

We must re-examine the love of the Father - in this we will see what true love really is.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 1 John 3:1 ESV

  • We need to understand that there is no fear in love. There is no need to fret, we can trust Jesus Christ with our lives.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 1 John 4:18 ESV



WHAT was it blessed God: by A. Taylor (Mrs. Gilbert), (1782-1866)

1 WHAT was it blessed God,
Led Thee to give Thy Son,
To yield Thy well-beloved
For us by sin undone?
'Twas love unbounded led Thee thus
To give Thy well-beloved for us.

2 What led Thy Son, O God,
To leave Thy throne on high,
To shed His precious blood,
To suffer and to die?
'Twas love, unbounded love to us,
Led Him to die and suffer thus.

3 What moved Thee to impart
Thy Spirit from above,
Therewith to fill our heart
With heavenly peace and love?
'Twas love, unbounded love to us,
Moved Thee to give Thy Spirit thus.

4 What love to Thee we owe,
Our God, for all Thy grace!
Our hearts may well o'erflow
In everlasting praise:
Make us, O God, to praise Thee thus
For all Thy boundless love to us.


Notes for sermon - A4 (was reduced to A5)


Song of Solomon 2:1-17[13]


1        I am a rose of Sharon,
          a lily of the valleys.


2        Like a lily among thorns
          is my darling among the maidens.


3        Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest
          is my lover among the young men.
          I delight to sit in his shade,
          and his fruit is sweet to my taste.

4        He has taken me to the banquet hall,
          and his banner over me is love.

5        Strengthen me with raisins,
          refresh me with apples,
          for I am faint with love.

16      My lover is mine and I am his;
          he browses among the lilies.
17      Until the day breaks
          and the shadows flee,
          turn, my lover,
          and be like a gazelle
          or like a young stag
          on the rugged hills.

Genesis 29:1-20

1 Then Jacob continued on his journey and came to the land of the eastern peoples. 2 There he saw a well in the field, with three flocks of sheep lying near it because the flocks were watered from that well. The stone over the mouth of the well was large. 3 When all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would roll the stone away from the well's mouth and water the sheep. Then they would return the stone to its place over the mouth of the well.

4 Jacob asked the shepherds, “My brothers, where are you from?“

“We're from Haran,“ they replied.

5 He said to them, “Do you know Laban, Nahor's grandson?“>

“Yes, we know him,“ they answered.

6 Then Jacob asked them, “Is he well?“

“Yes, he is,“ they said, “and here comes his daughter Rachel with the sheep.“

7“Look,“ he said, “the sun is still high; it is not time for the flocks to be gathered. Water the sheep and take them back to pasture.“

8 “We can't,“ they replied, “until all the flocks are gathered and the stone has been rolled away from the mouth of the well. Then we will water the sheep.“

9 While he was still talking with them, Rachel came with her father's sheep, for she was a shepherdess. 10When Jacob saw Rachel daughter of Laban, his mother's brother, and Laban's sheep, he went over and rolled the stone away from the mouth of the well and watered his uncle's sheep. 11Then Jacob kissed Rachel and began to weep aloud. 12He had told Rachel that he was a relative of her father and a son of Rebekah. So she ran and told her father.

13 As soon as Laban heard the news about Jacob, his sister's son, he hurried to meet him. He embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his home, and there Jacob told him all these things. 14 Then Laban said to him, “You are my own flesh and blood.“

After Jacob had stayed with him for a whole month, 15 Laban said to him, “Just because you are a relative of mine, should you work for me for nothing? Tell me what your wages should be.“>

16 Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17Leah had weak£ eyes, but Rachel was lovely in form, and beautiful. 18 Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, “I'll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.“

19 Laban said, “It's better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me.“ 20So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.

[1] Matthew Henry: She is like a lily, but he is the lily, white and beautiful (There is a conformity and resembles between the lover and the beloved - Christ and his followers).

[2] Note this is “first love“ not first lover, as the first lover in the 21st century western world can be just sex without any love (agapao) present at all.

[3] Liz Carpenter (1987) Getting Better All the Time, Simon & Schuster.

[4] A canticle is a song or chant that is in a non-metric form - that is - there is not the same number of beats in each stanza. Sometimes the Song of Solomon is referred to as the Canticles.

[5] Note that Jacob's initial love for Rachel was based solely on her appearance - Genesis 29:17: “Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance. Jacob loved Rachel“

[6] Vine's Expository Dictionary, Hendiskson, Massachusetts

[7] But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags [literally used menstrual cloths]; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away. Isaiah 64:5-7

[8] Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. Ephesians 2:11-13

[9] J.C. Ryle A call to Prayer

[10] Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree“ Galatians 3:12-14

[11] Many have misconstrued the verse: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself“. This is a metaphoric comparison - it does not mean that the love for our neighbour is much as we should love ourselves because it destroys the grammar of the sentence - being comparative, where there is a standard or no norm. The same grammar exists in the following: Jesus' face “shone like the sun.“ It is a comparative metaphor.

[12] Tim Challies Blog “When I Am God“ < > Accessed 25 March 2012

[13] Matthew Henry: She is like a lily, but he is the lily, white and beautiful (There is a conformity and resembles between the lover and the beloved - Christ and his followers).

25 March 2012 GBC; 2015
ChristianLiving\Our First Love - how do we keep it.
See also Notes < Our First Love - NOTES.php >