LESSONS FROM HIS LETTERS (Part 8 - Conclusions)
As I mentioned in Part One of this series (Ephesus), I hope you have observed the format Christ used to dictate for John to write to the believers. As review, in each letter -
- Christ introduces Himself by way of declaring one or more of His many titles to the individual, to the congregation and/or church era which each church knows personally in some way.
- In many of the letters He mentions the church's successes.
- Jesus addresses the faults with each church.
- Christ provides the solution.
- He grants rewards for following through on learning the lesson and applying the solution.
- Then Jesus, toward the end of each letter, repeats a phrase that is noticeably not seen again in the book of Revelation - "Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches."
Reading Christ's words to John about showing him "what must take place after this", with "this" being the conditions of the letters and in particular, the last letter Laodicea - the conclusion is that Jesus is indeed speaking down through the ages to different church eras who will embody these traits.
Therefore, the challenge is for today's church to cast off all issues of every church era, but especially Laodicea and seek the Godly counsel in each letter, especially that of Philadelphia.
Dispensationalists could debate when they believe the Golden Age of the church was, but unfortunately that era, the church of Philadelphia, is in the past. Philadelphia and its characteristics are a church to model after. However, for all the greatness Philadelphia was noted and rewarded for - they lacked strength and that threatened the loss of their crown for services rendered down the road. The remedy mirrors Thyatira's solution, "Hold on to what you have."
Among other observations I might magnify, there are two that I wish to call to your attention. Throughout the letters there were two common threads -
- Falsehood was and is taught, tolerated or displayed by church members.
- God observes and calls for a balance of proper, deeds/works for His kingdom beginning in the statement "I know your deeds...". This appears in five out of the seven letters - Ephesus, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.
Authenticity, genuine representation of Christ and His Word and honest accountability to Christ and each other are gone from these churches. Sadly, these characteristics describe the majority of the issues that have plagued the history of the church. Fear not! Christ loves us so much that He supplies us counsel with the solution. Christians just have to set aside our prideful stubborn ways and follow through with the instructions of Jesus.
This statement from Christ, in five of these letters - "I know your deeds..." - not only supports God's omnipresence and all-knowingness, but displays Father God's heart through caring enough to mention He knows them and then proceeds to instruct on how to improve upon them. The Lord not only gives the churches a spiritual report card, but attaches the solution and benefits/rewards to the report also. Said another way - Each letter about their deeds is not only a confirmation of what James 2:17 says about the faith/works relationship, but is also a map of how to properly conduct our works. James 2:17 - "In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." -
My research and observations of these letters have led me to conclude that many of the churches, if not all, had the right foundation - Christ Jesus - but battled greatly with infiltrations of falsehood that incredibly influenced their deeds. Possible impacts upon the churches that led to each of their conditions might be -
- the location the churches were planted,
- the polytheistic environment the churches had to contend with and
- different, challenging, philosophical viewpoints.
When the normal operation procedure for the Christian church is to gravitate away from the teachings of its Master and Founder - Christ Jesus, then the church has become a worldly, appeasement popularity club displayed through its richest members and those who are best at double-speaking.
Another phrase that is repeated in these letters by Christ is "To the one who is victorious...". This phrase assumes the Christian has obeyed the counsel outlined in each letter for each church. The Lord has dictated a Love Letter to the whole church, it's just divided into seven eras for the church and any periods like this for the individual. The two-part question is will we hear and capitalize on "what the Spirit says to the churches"?