Saturday, January 13, 2007

Jesus' bold church (part 7)

The last two posts, I quoted from Revelation chapters 2 and 3 concerning two churches described therein who were following GOD’S will. Of the seven churches discussed in those two chapters, five were rebuked for their actions to some extent. Tonight, the first two of those churches.
“’These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’” Revelation 2: 1b-7 (NIV)      
Again as before, I am not going to analyze this passage but will point out the following:
1) The church at Ephesus has positive attributes which are commended by JESUS.
2) The church has positive deeds, hard work, and has persevered.  
3) The church does not tolerate wickedness. (Note that this is the opposite of what society calls for. Today, the call seems to be to tolerate almost anything and everything. That is not the call of the church from GOD. The church must not ever tolerate evil in whatever form it takes—from murdering unborn babies to homosexual immorality.
4) The church is to test those who claim to be proclaiming GOD’S WORD and be able to recognize and reject false teaching.
5) The church has withstood hardships and persevered in JESUS’ name.
6) The church has not grown weary.
7) The church hates the practices of the Nicolaitans which JESUS also hates. (As far as I know, the Bible does not specifically define who the Nicolaitans are or what the practices hated are. Men have speculated but it is just that—speculation. What seems obvious is that these practices were sins since GOD hates sin. The church also should and must hate all sin. The key point is to hate the sin while still loving (wanting the GOD designed good for others) the sinner. Again, that does not mean tolerating the sinful acts of others as many seem to want the church to do today.
8) The churches are to hear what the Spirit has to say to the churches and are to overcome based upon what they hear.
     However, with all these positive attributes the church at Ephesus had one major condemnation pronounced again it.
1) The church had forsaken its first love. That first love is not identified in any other manner. Again, man has speculated as to just what is mean by the church’s first love. Some have said it is JESUS. Some have said it is the service that churches are to be involved with. Some have said it is the community of believers within the church. What ever it specifically means, it was obviously a major fault. The church is rebuked for falling from the height it had reached. The church is commanded to REPENT and turn back to doing the practices as a church that it had done originally. (A church can and some individual churches do change from GOD’S will to the desires of the church. That change is a sin that must result in repentance and a return to the will of the SAVIOR.) If the church does not repent the dire warning is that the lampstand will be removed. In Revelation 1: 20b the lampstand is defined as the church itself. Consequently, it seems apparent that if repentance does not occur, the church will be removed! GOD does not tolerate sin ever. GOD especially does not tolerate sin among his own. What an awesome warning to the church. REPENT or PERISH!!! Be BOLD, be OBEDIENT, or PERISH!!!            
“’These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.
Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore! Otherwise I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.’” Revelation 2 12b-17 (NIV)       
Pointing out the following positive attributes:
1) The church at Pergamum has remained true to JESUS’ name
2) Even in persecution, the church did not renounce its faith in JESUS even while living amid sin.
3) The churches are to hear what the Spirit declares to the churches.
     This church also receives condemnation:
1) There are people within the church who are holding on to false teachings which specifically include eating food sacrifices to idols and committing sexual immorality (more on these in a later post).
2) The church has people within it that follow and practice the teachings of the Nicolaitans. Unlike the church at Ephesus which hated the practice of the Nicolaitans and was praised for it, the church at Pergamum actually had people who embraced these evil teachings. Would it be correct to say that the church at Pergamum tolerated the Nicolaitans while the church at Ephesus did not tolerate them? I think so. The result? JESUS does not allow for churches to tolerate sin!!! The world may teach toleration; GOD does not when it comes to sin!!!  
     The solution for the Pergamum church is the same as the solution for the Ephesus church in relation to sin: REPENT! If not, the church will be at war with JESUS. Any church or any person at war with JESUS without repentance loses!  


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