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… you to Revelation 2, as you’re turning there I want to begin a sermon that will build on last week. And we’re not going to finish this letter this morning, because as I’ve reflected on the Church at Thyatira I’ve been struck about the seriousness of sexual sin. And so next Sunday morning, within this letter, we’re going to take a little excursion into that thought, the seriousness of sexual sin. And so we will leave some of this letter for next Sunday morning, but we’re picking up where we left off, in a message entitled, “When Tolerance Becomes Intolerable.” Jesus’ words to the church at Thyatira, chapter 2 and verse 18 of the Book of Revelation. Under the angel of the church in Thyatira right, these things, says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and his feet like fine brass.
“I know your works love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first.” Nevertheless, I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce my servants to commit sexual immorality and eat meat sacrificed to idols.” And they give her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. “Indeed, I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. I will kill their children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works. Now, to you I say unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan as they say.
“I will put on you no other burden. But hold fast, what you have till I come, and he who overcomes, and keeps my works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations. He shall rule them with a rod of iron, they shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels. I also have received from my Father, and I will give Him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches.” The last time we were together, we reminded ourselves in a world that tolerates just about anything but truth, that the Christian must constantly and clearly remember that there are things that Christ finds intolerable. While a pluralistic society worries about the sin of intolerance, the church of Jesus Christ must worry about the sin of tolerance.
Tolerating that which Christ finds repugnant, that which Christ finds reprehensible. And this was the issue that Jesus addresses here in this letter to the church at Thyatira, this was the fourth of seven letters addressed to a church that lies on the road between Pergamos and Sardis, approximately 40 miles southeast of Pergamos. Unlike the other cities, it wasn’t a city of great power or prestige. But it was a commercial center, it was known for its trade, it was a city marked by trade guilds, labor unions, all sorts of metalworkers, and bronzesmiths, and leatherworkers, and slave traders, clothiers, it was known as a place for the textile industry, and the dying of cloth and wool. That’s why we read in act 16 of Lidia, the seller of purple who came from Thyatira.
And in that city there was a church, probably spawned by some of the work of Paul in Ephesus as those who had come under the influence of the Gospel reached out. So let’s begin to look at the letter this morning, and then we’ll finish it up next Sunday morning. There are three things you’ll see in your outline, the progression, the transgression, and the aggression. Let’s begin here in verse 18, “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: these things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire and his feet like fine brass. I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience. And as for your works, the last are more than the first.” There you have what I call the progression.
This letter begins like all the other letters, with the word of description and a note of commendation. The repeated nature of this form in each letter is a constant reminder of the immense dignity and significance of Christ in the life of the church. Each letter begins with focusing on the Lord Jesus Christ, the one who was revealed in chapter 1 as walking amidst the churches in radiant glory and government. There’s only one opinion counts when it comes to the success or the failure of an assembly of God’s people, and that’s the Lord Jesus. Christ is the supreme church consultant. Now, there are two things as we look at this progression. I want you to notice the judge, and then the judgment. Let’s look at the judge and His judgment on this church. The judge is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.
The one addressing this church is the Son of God. This is the only time that description is used in the whole of the Book of the Revelation, and it’s a departure from the earlier description. If you go back to that part of the vision of the risen and radiant Lord Jesus, you’ll find that He’s described there as the Son of Man, with eyes as a flame of fire and feet of fine bronze. But here there’s a departure, and He’s described as the Son of God. See, as the Son of Man we think of Him as the sympathetic high priest, and He is. But as the Son of God we think of Him as the divine judge, one with authority. And given the compromise and the corruption in this assembly, they needed to hear from the Son of God more than they needed to hear from the Son of Man.
In John 5:20, 24-30, that Jesus reveals that the Father has given into the hands of the son all judgment. Acknowledging His deity, the text goes on to acknowledge then that He possesses the divine attribute of omniscience. The Son of God who has eyes like a flame of fire, this is reminding them and reminding us that Jesus Christ sees and knows all things at all times. The Gospel tells us He knew what was in the heart of man. He’s omniscient, He knows all things at all times. God doesn’t access information about things like a computer retrieving a file, His knowledge is constantly streaming. He has immediate and direct knowledge about all things at all times, there is nothing hidden before His eyes, Hebrews 4:13.
That’s the picture, eyes like a flame of fire. We might update the analogy to eyes like laser beams. What does fire do? It burns through something. And we have here a picture of the penetrating gaze of Christ as he burrows down into the life of this church, from the outside in and from the inside out. Nothing they did, nothing they said escaped His notice. There are no private moments in the life of the Christian. Newsflash, what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas, okay? There’s nothing hidden before His eyes. And the one who is the Son of God, with this penetrating gaze focused upon the church at Thyatira, is described as having feet like fine, burnished brass. This speaks of judgment, this speaks of Christ’s discernment.
This speaks of the fact that Christ goes amidst the candlesticks, walks amidst the churches, weighing up motives and ministry. This speaks of Christ amidst the churches in judgment, trampling underfoot all impurity and all inequity. Remember what we said at the very beginning of this series, that the church will judge the world, and the church will judge angels? If the church is to judge the world, the church must itself be judged before it judges the world. 1 Peter 4:17, that judgment begins in the House of God. Before the world is judged in the Book of Revelation, the church is disciplined. Jesus Christ here is amidst the candlesticks, and he visits the church at Thyatira as one who has eyes like a flame of fire and feet like bronze.
What’s the takeaway, what’s the application this morning? Well the takeaway is this, in this depiction and in this description Christ is constantly coming against His church in penetrating judgment. He’s always weighing the church in the balances of His justice. And this was a sobering realization, was it not, for this church. And according to the New Testament, Christ’s review of His church is not only a continuous process, but it leads to a final event called the Judgment Seat of Christ. Where our works, interestingly, according to 1 Corinthians 3, will be judged as by fire. Our lives will be uncovered, our works for Jesus Christ will be weighed, our motives looked into. And so what’s going on here?
It’s a small picture of a larger reality. Christ is constantly weighing His church up, and it’s all moving towards that final judgment. We read about that judgment, called the Judgment Seat of Christ, in Romans 14. This maybe is a new doctrine for some of you who are young Christians, but according to Romans 14:10, here’s what we read. “But why do you judge your brother, or why do you show contempt for your brother, for we shall all stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ. ‘For it is written as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘Every nation will bow to me and every tongue shall confess to God.’ So then, each of us shall give account of himself, therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to be a stumbling block or a cause for our brother to fall.”
We read about this doctrine in 1 Corinthians 3 on that turner, but we also read about it in 2 Corinthians 5:9-10. “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well-pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body according to that which has been done, whether good or bad, profitable or unprofitable.” There’s coming a day when Christ will no longer stand amidst the church, this church will stand before Him, and the continual process of disciplining us, and weighing us, and judging us will come full circle at the bema, the Judgment Seat. The great word is bema, it was a raised platform that was used by judges to make judgments on athletic competitions, to adjudicate the race and the runners.
And from that raised platform, rewards would be dispensed and disqualifications announced. So there’s coming a day when you and I will stand before Christ, and we will be judged. But that raises a question, what will be judged? Do we not teach, pastor, that our sins are already judged in the cross?” Yes we do, there is therefore no condemnation to those that are in Christ. Our sins have been fully and forever judged in the Lord Jesus Christ. Our sins won’t be judged, but our works will. Our works will be judged, our service to Jesus Christ will be examined. The fact that when we are in Christ there is no condemnation for our sins does not lead to a thought that there is no examination of our works. We may be saved by grace, but we have been saved on the good works.
And those works will be weighed, and considered, and judged. If they are worthy of reward in the Millennial Kingdom or in the life to come, they will be rewarded, which is a whole sermon in itself. But just get this basic thought down, that you and I must live under the constant gaze of the Lord Jesus Christ, and we must have an eye to that reality, and to the reality that some day our life will be made manifest, according to 1 Corinthians 4:1-5. Manifest means to appear, our life will appear before Christ, and He will look at it to see the good and the bad, the profitable and the unprofitable. And if we take that doctrine to heart, it will do three things in the life of the Christian. It will make every day precious, it will make every day precious because we must give an account for every day, we must make every day count.
Yesterday is a canceled cheque, tomorrow a promissory note, today is cash in hand, therefore redeem it and walk wisely, Ephesians 5:15-17. It will not only make every day precious, it will make every failure serious. Every failure serious, every day we’re either winning or losing in our walk with Jesus Christ. That’s why Paul uses a repeated word in his letters when he’s writing to those he has brought to birth in Jesus Christ, “I’m hearing that you’re going forward, and that’s good. Because I don’t want my ministry to be in vain, I don’t want it to count for nothing.” And sometimes he was frightened that some of the work he had done there in their lives had come to naught, as they had fallen into a state of spiritual complacency.
He doesn’t want to run as one who beats the air. Every day was precious to Paul, every failure serious, and every ministry momentous. If you really grasp the reality of the review of the church at the bema seat, every day ought to be precious, every failure ought to be serious, because we will suffer loss, and every ministry momentous. You’re going to be judged for that which God has given you, God wants to see what you’ve done with what He gave, your time, your treasure, your talent. And so that’s one of the things that’s going to be judged, the gifts that God has given us and what we did with them. Were we good stewards of our time, were we good stewards of our talents, were we good stewards of our treasure?
And we’re going to be judged for what God gave us, not for what He gave someone else. Remember that scene in John 21? It was John learns about Peter, and he kind of starts to ask questions, and Jesus said, “What’s that to you? Follow me. You run in your lane, you’ll give an account for your life.” Challenging, isn’t it? I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie Groundhog Day. This movie involves Bill Murray, he plays a character who’s forced to live February the 2nd, Groundhog Day, over and over again. Every morning the alarm goes off at the same time, he hears that annoying song, “I Got You, Babe.” And it blares over the radio, and the snowstorm blows in, and he’s kept from escaping this small town where he feels trapped.
Initially, he concludes in this repetition that life is meaningless and has little consequences to it. And so he pursues a course of moral abandonment, nothing matters, it really doesn’t matter what you say, what you do. But as the movie progresses, in the end he comes to a deep awareness that the choices you make in time can become meaningful, can affect the trajectory of your life. And so he determines to seize this one, solitary day, and he starts experimenting with the choices he makes until he ultimately shapes the life-defining moments of that day, and creates a life he longs for. He finds that making the right choices at the right times, even within a 24-hour span, can alter the course of his life and the life of everyone around us.
Every day is a Groundhog Day for the believer. We don’t get to live that day over and over again like Bill Murray, that’s why every day must be precious, and every failure serious, and every ministry momentous, and every choice critical, because there stands amidst the churches one who has eyes as a flame of fire, and He’s got feet as burnished brass. That’s the judge, what about the judgment? Well, Jesus is not blind to their virtues, and Jesus is not blind to their victories. And as we have found in all these other letters, Jesus always begins by commending the church before he censors the church. And their report card was a mixed bag, there was good and there was bad. Which reminds us as one writer, Charles Brown, says, “Everything in these letters forbids us from taking a one-sided view of our Christian life, which we are continually prone to do.”
I think if you look at your life there will be good and there will be bad, there will be things you’re happy with, but there’ll be things you know you need to change, such is life. And we must not exaggerate the good we are doing, or ignore the bad that we have done. The one will invite us to despair, and the other will create a certain complacency. Now, I think we can understand John Newton when he said, “Thank God I’m not what I was, and I’m certainly not what I should be. But I am what I am by the grace of God, and that we live between those two poles.” An old pastor struck that middle note, on the right note when he was asked how he was doing, he said, “Well, I have enough encouragements to keep me on my feet, and enough discouragements to keep me on my knees.”
Life is often like that, it’s a mixed bag. And in this judgment Jesus focuses on the good, and we have a series of praiseworthy qualities, the triad of Christian virtues. Their works and their service was marked by faith, look at verse 19, by faith, and by love, and by perseverance or hope. Those are three qualities that are certainly worth noting and commending. Thyatira had not only rivaled Ephesus in busy Christian service, but they had the love that Ephesus lacked. They preserved the faith that was imperiled at Pergamum, and they shared with Smyrna the virtue of patient endurance in the face of tribulation. This was something to be commended, their love, their faith, and their hope. And the crowning in this commendation was that they were enjoying some spiritual momentum.
Look at the end of verse 19, “As for your works, these works that are underwritten and undergirded by love, and faith, and hope, as for these works the last is more than the first.” This was a church on the move, they were pressing on the upward way, new heights, gaining every day. Their love for God and man was swelling, their service for Jesus Christ and the Gospel multiplying, and their resolve to stay the course in a rebellious society was hardening like cement. They were for Christ more than they had been. They were more for Christ than they once were, and that’s challenging. Write that down, reflect on that. They were more for Christ than they once were, that’s a challenge.
They were overcoming the threat of spiritual inertia, being born again was but the beginning, not the end. They understood that the conversion of a soul is but a brief moment, a miracle of a moment. But the manufacture of a saint is the work of a lifetime, and so they were diligently adding to their faith. Isn’t that what we’re encouraged to do over in 2 Peter, 1:5? Peter says, “Also for this very reason, given all diligence, add to your faith virtue to virtue, knowledge to knowledge, self-control to self-control, perseverance to perseverance, godliness to godliness, kindness, so that you don’t become unfruitful, unprofitable in the things of God. They were growing ferociously in grace, and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus.”
2 Peter 3:18, we read about growing in grace. They were for Christ more than they once were, the status quo had to go in the life of the church at Thyatira. Listen to me this morning as I speak to myself as well as you, God always expects more from His children. I don’t care how far you’ve come, I don’t care where you are, it really doesn’t matter what service has accumulated up to this moment, right at this moment in time, in your life and the life of this church, God wants more from us. More from us, in fact you’ll find those words many times in the Bible, in Matthew 5:46-47 Jesus tells us to love our enemies. Because if we don’t love our enemies, He says to us, “What do you more than others?”
Okay, the world can love its friends, but only the church can love its enemies. God wants more from you and from me, He wants us to excel, He wants us to stretch ourselves, to get out of our comfort zone. In John 15:1-8 we read of the branch being in the vine, and bearing fruit. And then the vine-dresser comes along and clips it, purges it, disciplines it, trains it, so that it might produce more fruit, more. We read in 1 Thessalonians 4:4, where Paul encourages this church to keep on the move and on the march for the Lord Jesus. And in 1 Thessalonians 4:1, sorry, “Finally then brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ that you should abound more and more. Just as you receive from us now, you ought to walk and to please God.”
God always expects more from His children. And you know, here’s the encouraging thing, and more can be done for there’s more grace to be had. More can be done, because there’s more grace to be had. Listen to what we read in James 4:6, “He gives more grace.” Therefore, as he says, “God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.” Whatever there is yet to happen in your Christian walk, service you’ve yet to render, deeds you’ve yet to do, doctrine you’ve yet to understand, things you’ve yet to accomplish, there is more grace. God expects more from His children, and more can be done for there’s more grace to be had. What a sorry sight then, isn’t it, when Christians grow colder as they grow older.
What a tragedy to see young Christians rise and fall like a shooting star, they get into the blocks, and they’re enthusiastic for Jesus Christ. But a year or two into it, they’re nowhere to be found. What a crime, to watch pastors grow bitter and disillusioned about the ministry with the passing of years. What a horror picture to witness, a church speak of its past with greater enthusiasm than its future. Your works, Jesus said, “The last is more than the first.” The Christian life is one of constant development, constant growth, constant development and progress, no early retirement. Let me speak to the senior citizens of our church here, are you involved, are you engaged, are you growing colder as you grow older, you kind of feel it’s your time to coast?
There’s only one direction you’ll be able to coast in, and that’s downward. God wants more from every one of us, no early retirement, no sabbaticals, no sitting on the sidelines. If we’re not growing, we’re backsliding. If we’re not giving more we’re giving less, and we’re robbing God of His glory, and we’re failing to take of grace which will enable us to do more. I remember a great message by Warren Wiersbe in Belfast, in the Crescent Church there. As a young Christian I heard him preaching a message entitled, “Pilgrim’s Progress,” and he took us to three or four texts in the Bible, to Psalm 84:7, to Romans 1:17, to John 1:16, to 2 Corinthians 3:18, in Psalm 84 we read, “And the children of Israel went from strength to strength.”
We read in John 1:16 that we can enjoy grace upon grace. We read in Romans 1:17 that the early Christians went from faith to faith, and we read in 2 Corinthians 3:18 that all the church is moving from glory to glory, from faith to faith, from grace to grace, from strength to strength, from glory to glory. That’s the path of the Christian. We read in Proverbs 4:18 that the path of the just is like a light that grows brighter and brighter, until that perfect day. Are you growing? If you’re not growing in grace, you’re living in disgrace. I think that’s the implication, don’t you, of this letter. In 1952 Edmund Hillary attempted to climb Mount Everest, the highest mountain then known to humans, 29,000 feet straight up. A few weeks after he failed in his first attempt, he was asked to address a group of students in England.
Hillary walked onto the edge of the stage, made a fist, and pointed at a picture of Mount Everest, and he said this in a loud voice, “Mount Everest, you beat me the first time, but I’ll beat you the next time because you’ve grown all you’re going to grow, but I’m still growing.” And next May, within the year, he scaled straight up 29,000 feet, was the first mountaineer and climber to reach the summit of Mount Everest. “I’m still growing,” should be the testimony of every Christian. Let’s move on to look at the transgression. We’ve looked at the progression, we’ve looked at the judge and the judgment, now let’s look at the transgression. The text here in verse 20 pivots from commendation to censorship, verse 20, “Nevertheless, I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce my students to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.”
There were two sides to the coin of this church’s story and state. On the one hand they were progressing, but on the other hand they were regressing and transgressing. According to Jesus here they were putting up with something that should never have been put up with, they were tolerating the intolerable, suffering the insufferable. They were allowing a woman who had all the characteristics of the Jezebel of the Old Testament to teach and seduce the servants of God to commit sexual immorality and spiritual adultery. They had given sanctuary to the devil in a dress in their assembly, they had committed the sin of tolerance. Remember what we said? The pluralistic society worries about the sin of intolerance, the church needs to worry about the sin of tolerance, tolerating that which Christ finds intolerable.
And that’s what was going on here. A point to be made by way of introduction here then, this church had failed to strike a balance. In fact if you compare this church with the church at Ephesus, you have the extremes of the imbalance between truth and love. The church at Ephesus excelled in truth, failed in love. The church at Thyatira excelled in love, failed in truth. But there must be a balance, according to Ephesians 4:15, “You and I need to speak the truth in love.” But that’s what wasn’t happening in Ephesus, or they were on their guard, they tested those who said they were apostles and found them out to be liars. But Jesus said, “I have this against you, you’ve left your first love.” The church at Thyatira was excelling in love, but falling down on the job of guarding against false doctrine.
[NEW_PARAGRAPH]”I know your works, love, but you allow this woman, Jezebel, to corrupt my servants.” Listen to these words by a friend of mine, Steve Lawson, who has written a good book on the seven churches entitled, The Final Call. He says this, “Doctrine and love are like the two chemical ingredients of salt.” Interestingly, salt is composed of two poisons, did you know that? Sodium and chloride. If we ingest one without the other, we would die. But if we combine them together properly we have sodium chloride, which is common table salt, that gives flavor to food, and life and health to our bodies. So must doctrine and love be inseparably bound together, one without the other leads to a deadly imbalance.
An imbalance we find here in the church at Thyatira. In fact, when I was preaching at Master’s College a week or so ago with Mark Devren, Ligon Duncan, Ligon Duncan said that one biographer of John Stott said that he was Mr. Rogers with a backbone of steel. An interesting combination, Mr. Rogers with a backbone of steel, that’s the balance. In fact, one of my favorite stories John MacArthur told us at the seminary was that although he has doctrinal differences with Jack Hayford on spiritual gifts and charismatic phenomena, they were nevertheless friends, and they would often meet each other for a lunch or a breakfast. And on one particular occasion, Dr. MacArthur was in the company of Jack Hayford at a national conference for radio broadcasters, and some of Jack Hayford’s friends came down towards the both of them.
[NEW_PARAGRAPH]And they were men, leaders in the assemblies of God. And they kind of looked at MacArthur as their nemesis, because he was always kind of criticizing charismatics and the chaos that that movement has brought to the church. And so, they didn’t know what to do with John. As they walked up you could tell there was a frostiness in the atmosphere, and John told us that Jack Hayford stopped, and he said, “This is John MacArthur, my friend, who’s much nicer in-person than he is in his books.” There’s a balance there, isn’t there? You can be nice and still doctrinally strong, dotting your theological Is and crossing your theological Ts. We need to be Mr. Rogers with the backbone of steel.
But this church had got an imbalance, and they had allowed false doctrine and spurious profits to infect the church. Which leads to a number of things, I don’t know how many will get the cover this morning. Leads to the deception, the disloyalty, the delay in the discipline. What’s the deception? Well, deception is what we read about here in verse 20, that this woman, Jezebel, calls herself a prophetess, that’s, she’s a self-appointed prophetess, God didn’t send her, God didn’t sanction her, “Who calls herself a prophetess to teach and seduce my servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.” Jesus’ complaint centers upon this deception, this seduction perpetrated by this woman and her wicked work, her spurious prophecies, her false teachings.
The church had been had by a she-devil by the name of Jezebel. But this is probably not her real name, this is a symbolic name. Jezebel was proverbial for wickedness, it’s unlikely that any Jew would have called their daughter Jezebel, any more than you and I would call our son Judas. This is a symbolic name, proverbial for the wickedness of a woman in the Old Testament who was the daughter of the King of Sidon, the Canaanite who married into Israel’s royal house, married King Ahab. The marriage was a compromising, corrupting, costly alliance based on political expediency, read about it in 1 Kings and 2 Kings. And the sin and the saga of Jezebel was, she brought the worship of Baal and Ashtaroth into the worship of Israel.
And there was this merging, this marrying, this corruption of the true worship of the one God. And her excuse of a husband stood on the sidelines as this woman spread her teaching, and idolatry, and immorality throughout Israel. The god of Baal and the god of Ashtera, or Ashteroth, were fertility gods, this was worship associated with sexual debauchery, and it infected the people of Israel of old, and now it was infecting the new covenant community of the church. And just as the Nicolaitans had been compared to Balaam of old, what was going on in Thyatira was compared to what Jezebel did of old. And taking a page from the playbook of the earlier Jezebel, this woman argued and advocated that it was fine for Christians in Thyatira to engage in the elicit sexual acts that took place at the pagan temples.
As the trade guilds met to do business there would be great feasting, and you could gorge yourself on food sacrificed to idols. And some welcomed this, because it got them off the hook. Because if you’re going to get anywhere in this city, you needed to be part of that trade union, that trade guild. A trade guild was a kind of a mix of a labor union and a masonic lodge, very exclusive. If you wanted to get anywhere in this city, you had to belong. And so at this intersection between the church and the culture, between Christ and Caesar, this woman taught that you could have one foot in and one foot out. That’s exactly where Israel was, right? Remember when Elijah confronts the people of Israel?
He says, “Why do you halt between two opinions? Either God is God, or Baal is god,” and he throws down the gauntlet, and you know the battle of the gods, they’re on top of Mount Carmel. But that’s the point, instead of the boat being in the water where it needs to be, as a witness for Jesus Christ, you have water in the boat, the church is leaking. It is now compromised with the world. Let me spend a couple of moments here, because I think you and I would ask ourselves, “How is this possible?” Because in fact Jesus says to them, when he corrects them and tells them to repent, that He’s not going to lay any other burden on them than this, that they need to repent of their sexual immorality. And many commentators argue that this is a throwback to Acts 15:28-29, you have the growth through the gospel, the early church had a Jewish makeup to it, starting in Jerusalem.
But as Peter preaches to the Jew, Paul and Silas and Bartimaeus preached to the Gentiles, the Gospel spreads like wildfire, Gentiles start to get saved, and some within the church, some Jewish illegalists within the church are arguing that these Gentiles have to become more like Moses, they need to be circumcised, and so forth, and so on. And the Apostles meet, right, in the council of Jerusalem. And they put down this edict, “No, here’s all we’re asking of the Gentile churches. This is the only burden we’re putting on them, no sexual immorality, no meat sacrificed to idols, and don’t eat blood.” And many believed that’s what Jesus is saying, “Hey guys, I’m not adding anything to what’s already been said. Just abstain from sexual immorality and abstain from meat sacrificed to idols.”
And so you ask yourself, “How did this woman, this she-devil in the church, how did she pull the wool over their eyes?” Some argue it might have been an exaggerated view of grace, saved by grace and not by works, therefore what you do counted on doing the effects of grace. There’s always more grace for increasing sin. And so she may have argued something like, “I know guys, this is tough. But given the situation in Thyatira, I think Jesus’ll turn a blind eye to what you’re about to do. You’ve got to feed your family, and your business has got to stay afloat, so go ahead, go to the temple, eat the meat, and do you know what? If you fall prey to that temptation, well, there’s always more grace for increasing sin.”
But what does Paul say, right? “Grace doesn’t abound so that sin might abound,” that’s turning the whole thing on its head. The Christian doesn’t sin to experience more grace, quite the opposite’s true. The more grace we experience, the less sin we do. In fact, according to Titus 2:11-12, “The grace of God that appeared to all men bringing salvation, Jesus Christ, that grace did what? It taught us to deny ungodliness, grace pursues holiness.” Some argue it might have been the doctrine of dualism, this was a Greek and then later a Gnostic view that argued that the soulish, the spiritual part of us, is more important than the material, the flesh, the body, it’s really just a suit of clothes. And someday, salvation is taking off the body, throwing away the suit of clothes, and freedom in the spirit.
And the implication of that doctrine is what? That the body’s unimportant, and therefore what you do with your body, incidental. We know that’s wrong, right? Jesus came to redeem both the body and the soul, and we trust that He preserves it blameless until His coming, 1 Thessalonians 5. But there may be one other view too, a form of spiritual elitism. She was a self-appointed prophetess, she argued she was speaking for God and from God. Jesus refers to the deep things of Satan, that may be a play on the fact that this woman argued, “Hey, I know things you don’t know. I know the deep things, and Jesus’ sin. Now, what you know is the deep things of Satan, that’s what you know.” But the point is, as a prophetess people probably felt very intimidated.
We know from the New Testament that there were prophets and prophetesses operating in the early stage of church history. They are not in the foundations of the church, according to Ephesians 2:20. We have a complete scripture, we have closed canon, all that God wants to say, directly He has said. And the spirit of God now will lead us into all truth, as He leads us to understand the Bible. But then there were people actually receiving, they were like spiritual satellites receiving messages from God. And it’s pretty intimidating if you’re standing before somebody that claims to be that, “Hey, I have a word from the Lord for you. This is a deep thing, you wouldn’t get it by yourself. I’ve become a receptacle for divine revelation, and I’m here to tell you that it’s okay to do what you’re thinking of doing.”
We need to be wary of anybody who claims to have insight or information. If it’s new it’s not true, and if it’s true it’s not new, right? There’s no appendix. But all of that said, whatever the form, the outcome was undisputed. We draw to a close with this thought, she craftily seduced the church to lie down and go to bed with the world. She divorced religion from morality, belief from behavior, creed from conduct. She taught that you could be one thing on a Sunday, and then another thing on a Monday. That you can have a prosthetic faith, like a prosthetic limb. When you need it put it on, when you don’t need it and it doesn’t serve your purposes, at school, or at business, or in the community, take it off.
And that’s exactly what was going on at the church at Thyatira. They began to compromise with the culture, they began to go into places of clear and spiritual danger. She erected a wall of separation between the church and the state, she argued in a dualistic split between the sacred and the secular. This is what we talked today about private faith, a faith that stays at home, a faith that informs you but doesn’t inform anybody else or anything else. It’s a faith that doesn’t venture into the world of politics, or economics, or entertainment, it’s the idea voiced by political candidates today who try to dodge the abortion question. Quote, “I am a person of deep faith, but I don’t allow my personal faith convictions to influence my political agenda.”
How impossible and incredulous is that? I’ll tell you what that does, that turns Jesus into a genie in the bottle, not the Lord of Life. And so when you need Jesus, you don’t pop the cork, and he pops out, and you talk to Him, “Fix this, give me this,” back into the bottle. But don’t tell me to end that relationship, don’t tell me to stop watching that movie, don’t tell me to clean up my tongue and my language, don’t tell me to stop wearing these provocative clothes I’m wearing. You stay in your bottle Jesus, when I need you I’ll tell you. It’s the kind of stuff that was going on in Thyatira, this dualistic split between secular and sacred, the wall of partition between the church and the state.
Now, the Christian lives by faith, faith in God that informs and transforms everything they do. What does Paul say, Galatians 2:20? “I’m crucified with Christ,” what? “And the life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Paul’s faith transformed, and informed, and formed everything he did, “I live by faith in the Son of God,” that was the cry of the Reformation. “The just shall live by faith.” Not a private faith, a public faith. Let me close with this as the time comes up. Have you ever watched those gangster movies? I must say, I have a perverse like for gangster movies, and I think if you’ve watched enough of them you’ll know that somewhere in the movie there’s that time comes when a member of the mob, usually the godfather, is forced to order the killing of someone he had been previously close to.
Maybe a family member, or a business associate, or one of his inner circle. Before he sends them to sleep with the fishes he always says this, “It’s not personal, it’s business.” You go, “Wow, how can you do that? This is your brother, this is your uncle.” And somehow they live in this kind of parallel universe, this, “It’s not personal, it’s business.” As Christians, we know that’s ridiculous. It’s all personal to Jesus Christ and it’s all God’s business, and you and I need to fight this bifurcation of our faith. We need to say no, and we need to put our hands up against that which comes into our lives and says, “You know what? You can play fast and loose with the Commandments of God, and God’ll look kindly upon your sin.
“And you can compromise here, and you can compromise there, there’s grace for increasing sin.” Let’s not buy into that. The pluralistic society worries about the sin of intolerance, the church of Jesus Christ worries about the sin of tolerance. Tolerating in our life that which Christ finds intolerable. And we need to judge it, or He will come and judge us. We’re going to look at that next week. Let’s pray. Lord, we thank you for our study this morning. This has been a good Word, and a challenging Word. We thank you for the reminder, Lord, that indeed you take note of that which we do for your glory. Help us not to have a one-sided view of our life, help us not to become so discouraged we despair about ever-changing.
Help us not to be so encouraged that we’ll become complacent, give us a holy discontentment. We thank you for what has happened, we repent of what shouldn’t have happened, and we go onto that which has yet to take place. O God, help us to be aware of a Jezebel world, and Jezebels within the church that seek, indeed, to make us worldly. Seek to, indeed, create this Jekyll and Hyde kind of Christian, who’s one thing and another thing. O God, help us to give all of ourselves to you, to realize, Lord, that it’s all personal to you. You’ve bought us, we’re not our own. Help us, therefore, to live our lives in purity and passion toward you, for we ask and pray these things in Jesus’ name, amen.