(15th article on the “Seven Churches of Asia Minor” — Revelation 2-3)
Let’s consider the Lord’s response to some of the more foolish statements heard around church from time to time.
There are those who say….
One. “Love does not matter. Obedience is everything. Love is syrupy and weakness. Sentimentality! Show me your deeds.”
The letter to the church at Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7) proves them wrong. Without love, no amount of good works is enough. Reference the opening of I Corinthians 13.
“Love one another,” says our Lord to the Ephesian church, “or I will pull the plug on you. Cut off your life support. Cancel your franchise.” Remove the lampstand.
God is love.
Two. There are those who say “God will not let His faithful ones suffer. If there is pain or suffering, someone is being disobedient.”
The letter to the church at Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-11) proves them wrong. He knows, He sees, He cares–and still He allows it. God has His purposes.
Three. There are those who say “Tolerance is everything. Diversity is the ultimate good and requires us to relax our standards.”
The letter to the church at Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17) proves them wrong. There were some wonderful people doing good things in that church, but God called them to repent for allowing the hated doctrines of the Nicolatians and Balaamites to take hold and flourish there.
The Lord did not hate these false teachers, but He made it clear He hates their deeds (see 2:6 and 2:15).
Clean house, church.
Let the pastor and key leaders be people of courage t o stand up to false teachers and egotists who would impose their heresies on the church.
Four. There are those who say “Sexual indulgence is okay now that I’m saved. What we do in the body no longer matters.”
The letter to the church at Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29) proves them wrong. The lady whom the Lord brands as Jezebel was leading God’s people into sexual sin so they could experience ‘the depths of Satan” and thus appreciate more fully the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. She probably quoted Paul that “where sin did abound, grace did much more abound” (Romans 5:20), but if so, she should have gone on into the next chapter where he says, “So, shall we continue in sin so that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who are dead to sin live any longer therein?”
The teachings of Jezebel and her minions seem to have been an early form of Gnosticism which taught the material world is evil and the spiritual world is good, and what we do in the first is irrelevant. God has no patience for this foolishness.
Five. There are those who say “Your reputation is everything. It’s all we have, so do whatever you must to build a good one.”
The letter to the church at Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6) disproves that. Jesus told these people “You have a reputation that you are alive, but you’re actually dead” (vs. 1).
I suspect that the Catholic Church covered up a lot of wrong-doing over the decades out of the mistaken belief that “reputation is everything and we must protect it.” They’re paying a high price for that error.
Your reputation matters, make no mistake. The New Testament emphasizes that Christ-followers should so live that others will be drawn to Jesus. But the enemy can conduct a smear campaign against you and poison people’s minds. So, let us be faithful and not believe all the press reports about us.
Six. There are those who say “Man’s wisdom is what matters and human effort is everything. If it doesn’t satisfy good business sense, walk away from it.”
The letter to the church at Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13) answers that error. God opens a door or shuts it for His own purposes and by His own power. But that does not mean the carnal mind will agree. In I Corinthians 16:9 Paul said ‘A wide and effectual door has been opened for me, and there are many adversaries.” So, an open door from God may mean many things–that it’s time to act, that prayer time is over, etc–but it does not guarantee there will be no problems or no opponents.
Seven. There are those who say, “We should avoid all extremes. Go for the safe middle, the happy medium.”
The letter to the church at Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22) is God’s answer to this. “I wish this church were either hot or cold–one or the other!” says the Lord. “But because you are neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.”
We should be careful imposing our personal philosophies on Scripture. “This is how it seems to me” has led many a person astray.
“What does the Word say?” is a more reliable guideline. This does not guarantee we will like the answer or find it convenient. But God’s way is always best.