The text for the sermon today is Revelation 2:12-17. Our text can be found on page 1028. These are the words of God:
18 “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.
19 “ ‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. 20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. 22 Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, 23 and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. 24 But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. 25 Only hold fast what you have until I come. 26 The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, 27 and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. 28 And I will give him the morning star. 29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
We live in an age of tolerance. There are calls to be tolerant in our theology, our immigration policies, relationships, and just about every other area of life. And yet, the more our culture has embraced that word, tolerance, the less tolerant we have become. You might even say we now live in an age of intolerance.
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
So small, Thyatira was home to several strategic trade guilds, each worshipping their own pagan deity. Therefore, the only way to enjoy the rich commerce of the city was to pay homage to the guild deity. And Christ comes to them with piercing vision and irresistible judgment. (v. 18)
There is much for Christ to commend: works of love, faith in Christ, and service to others. And the church had matured since its founding. (v. 19)
However, much like Pergamum, they tolerate false teachers who have led them into compromise. The ring-leader was a woman Jesus calls Jezebel. (1 Kings 16:31; 21:25) (v. 20) Apparently, (v. 24) the church had drifted into a kind of pagan mysticism. In other words, the beliefs of the church we no longer being built on the objective Word of God, but on the subjective inner voice of man. And that inner voice always leads to immorality of some kind.
The door is open for the church to turn around, but if not, Christ’s judgments will come in the form of great tribulation, death, and sobriety among the churches. (v. 21-23)
A contingent of faithful Christians are called to hold fast until Christ, the judge, arrives. Then they will rule the nations with Christ (v. 25-27) Christ, the true Morning Star (Rev. 22:16) will give himself to them forever. (v. 28) And again, the churches are called to listen to the message of the Spirit (v. 29)
CHRIST, SUFFICIENT FOR EVERY NEED
You have likely noticed that Christ introduces himself differently to each of the 7 churches:
Ephesus: “The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.” (2:1)
Smyrna: “The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.” (2:8)
Pergamum: “The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.” (2:12)
Thyatira: “The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.” (2:18)
Because he is the divine Son of God, he is able to meet every individual need of the churches. The church in Thyatira tolerated false teaching in an effort to blend in. Christ’s flaming vision pierces through every façade. He explicitly refers to himself as the Son of God. As his church, we bear and represent his name.
A BUNDLE OF PARADOXES
In his assessment of the church, Christ sees qualities which seem contradictory. He sees a record of love and faithfulness, yet at the same time compromise and tolerance of false teaching. And you might ask, “How does that work?”
This month we celebrate the 506th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Many of you will know the 5 Solas of the Reformation: Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, etc. But there was another Latin phrase that Martin Luther made popular: Simul Justus et peccator, “At the same time, we are just sinners.”
In one sense, we are justified, or declared righteous by God through faith in Christ, and yet we still sin. In and of myself, I am not righteous, I’m a sinner. Yet, God has imputed or transferred to my account the righteous record of Christ by grace through faith (belief). And, he has transferred my sin to Jesus.
In this double imputation, God deals with our sin—he doesn’t compromise or negotiate with it. (2 Cor. 5:21) This is the heart of the gospel.
Christ’s two-word exhortation to Thyatira was to “hold fast.” Grab onto the true Jesus, the Scriptures, true doctrine, and don’t let go no matter how hard the world spins you. But how do you know if the Christianity you are holding will hold you?
- Does my Christianity serve only myself and my desires, or the honor and glory of God’s name?
- Is your Christianity cultivating a bigger view of God or yourself?
- Is God a means or an end?
- Do you desire holiness as much as you desire happiness?
You are not a Christian if these do not, in some way, describe you. You are not a Christian because you attend a church or put money in an offering plate. You are not a Christian because the music here makes you feel at peace.
Being a Christian is not a feeling at all. There are plenty of days when we don’t feel like Christians. To be a Christian means that God the Father has set his love upon you in Christ. That Christ has given himself for your sins at the cross. That the Holy Spirit has opened your eyes to this reality such that you belief and rest in it as your only hope in life and death. And we know this only because God’s Word is true and beneath our feet. Hold fast to that Word.