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October - December 2011 Fall Series At Jackson Drive.
"MIRACLES OF JESUS"
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August 21, 2011
Seven Churches Part 4
Revelation Chapters 2–3
What was different among these churches in Asia?
Their locations were obviously different. Though all were in the province of Asia, some were on or near the coast, while others were inland; some were toward the north and some toward the south.
Their economies were also different. Some of the churches were in cities that were wealthy because of government, religious guilds, trade, and banking, while others were more “normal” in their economic circumstance and others were a bit lacking.
Their political positions were vastly different. Some had some political significance to Rome—Pergamum was even the provincial capitol. Some churches were in cities that were not as ancient and well established.
Their sizes in area and population were unquestionably different. Ephesus, for instance, was one of the largest cities in the world. While the other cities certainly were large enough to be “cities,” only a couple of them really were coming close to the largest in size.
What made the “real” difference within each church?
The “personalities” of each of the churches were not the same. In this case, when you think of “personality,” think of “attitude.” Their personality was the expression of their attitude toward the things they were experiencing along with their attitude toward God’s word. No matter what their circumstance, size, or ability, the thing that really counted was understanding their proper place in their relationship with God.
Attitude makes all of the difference today, too. There are churches that are in small, rural areas, just as there congregations of God’s people in large metropolitan areas. There are groups that are financially able to do more than others can manage. As in the first century, no matter what our circumstance, size, or ability, the thing that really counts is understanding our proper place in our relationship with God.
It is alright for congregations to “look” different—some might have Bible classes before a general assembly on Sunday mornings, while others may have Bible classes after a general assembly or even in the afternoon. Some may not have classes at all on a Sunday. Some groups may assemble only one time on the first day, but others may gather two or three times. Some may have the financial means to assist preachers in the spread of the gospel in other locations while some may not.
However we may “look,” we must absolutely understand that all that we do MUST come within the scope of God’s instruction. These seven churches of Asia help us to understand this concept. We can see it because of what was the same among these groups.
What was the same among these churches?
The letter writer was the same—the One among the lampstands (Revelation 1). The Christ is over and among the lampstands (churches)—He has the authority to inspect, instruct, admonish, and even remove any lampstand.
Christ is the Head of the church, so each of these congregations (and any group today) belongs to Him: “giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light … He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.” (Colossians 1:12-18).
This letter writer, Christ, is not only the Head of the body, but He is the Saviour, too. “and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ … Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body … Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless … for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body.” (Ephesians 5:21-30).
Looking at the above references, what is Christ’s attitude toward the church? He loves the church, of course. Then, what attitude and action does Christ expect from His disciples? He tells us Himself: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15).
What are the requirements for maintaining the lampstand?
Upon looking at the “big picture” of the seven churches of Asia, it is clear that there are things that must be done by any church to maintain a place with the Lord. Hear—“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” This is said to all. To “hear” is to listen, to pay attention. Attitude is key here, too: “He who has an ear …”
Paying attention to His word is just the beginning; repentance, sincere obedience, and continued faithfulness are also requirements. There is a pattern here—the right attitude also directly affects repentance, obedience, and faithfulness. These are choices we make from our heart. We cannot accidentally repent or accidentally obey or accidentally remain faithful. Nor can we do these things superficially. The Lord “knows our deeds.”
What is the promise of reward?
Various terms are used to describe the reward for each of these churches: tree of life (2:7); crown of life (2:10); hidden manna; white stone; new name (2:17); authority (2:26–27); white garments; name confessed (3:5); pillar; new name (3:12); sit at the throne (3:21). These are simply individual parts or descriptions of the eternal reward promised by God. Only God can make these promises. Only God can keep these promises. Only God can grant the reward.
Who is the recipient of the reward?
Although these letters are addressed to churches, it is notable that within these letters individuals are also addressed. It is individuals who make up these local groups. Each person is responsible for his actions. For instance, even though the church in Thyatira was rebuked for tolerating false teaching, there were some “who do not hold this teaching, who have not known the deep things of Satan” and in Sardis, there were a few “who have not soiled their garments.”
Notice the singular personal pronouns in all of the statements dealing with the recipients of the promised reward: him who overcomes (2:7); he who overcomes (2:11); him who overcomes (2:17); he who overcomes (2:26); he who overcomes (3:5); he who overcomes (3:12); he who overcomes (3:21).
How important was an individual Christian within each of these seven churches? How wonderful would it have been for an individual in Sardis to stand up and say, “We must repent and complete our work for God!” How thrilling it must have been in Philadelphia to hear a brother or sister speak up and say, “We can do it because God gave us an open door!”
Now, mentally move these churches from the first century in the Roman province of Asia to right now and to where you live. Will you overcome? Are you an influence for good? Do you realize your importance?
—S. Scott Richardson Sr.