Analyzing Rev. 2:1-7 using Robbin’s socio-rhetorical categories reveals the interplay of several social and cultural classifications. The social system of the first century was “the group-oriented, honor-shame” Mediterranean thinking dominated by the Greco-Roman political system. Revelation 2:1-7 was speaking directly to the Christian believers at Ephesus, a counterculture to the dominant culture and an apparent subculture within the Christian culture. Exhorting them to “return to their first love” was a call to return to their previously held views within Christian mainstream thinking (which their deeds had shown as listed in Rev. 2:2-3). The Ephesians had opposed the contra cultural views of the Nicolaitans, yet were still outside the dominant Christian beliefs (2:5-6).
Christ, the highest patron in the position of highest honor, called his clients to “remember” where they were, “repent,” and “do” the deeds they used to do (2:5). This public announcement of the Ephesians’ failings would have brought shame to the church, while motivating them to return to their previous position of honor based on their former love. John’s immediate motivation was for the Ephesians’ repentance and return to strong Christian beliefs to withstand the coming persecution and trials of the end times (Rev. 4- 22). His goal was that the Ephesians would “overcome” (2:7) that they might live with Christ in the New Jerusalem (4:21-22).