Moving on through the letters to the churches in Revelation 2&3 to the concerns. Ouch! This is where Jesus tells them and us we’re not exactly getting it. I will note that the churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia have no concerns listed – that parallels the fact that there were two with whom He had nothing good to say, Sardis and Laodicea. Let’s look at the concerns and see how they might apply to us today.
Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
Are we like Ephesus and have left our first love. We know Christ, we are active in our churches, we’re great at works but we do them for our own glory not God’s. We serve because it makes us feel good about ourselves, like we’re great people. We don’t serve because we love God and want to bring honor and glory to him! We don’t put Him first in our lives, we don’t have the zeal for Him we once possessed. We’ve left our first love.
But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
The concern for the church at Pergamum is a little harder to understand but is no less important. It involves Balaam and his donkey, his talking donkey, Balak and a curse on Israel! People we serve an amazing, glorious, powerful God. He shuts the mouths of lions and opens the mouths of donkeys! To understand this fully it would behoove you to read Numbers 22 – 24, it’s a little lengthy but is full of valuable insight into why Jesus is concerned because Pergamum has among them those who follow Balaam. That curse led to Israel straying from God and living for HIm, instead worshipping idols and fornicating. Now if the whole Balaam thing is enough for God to frown upon then just consider what the Nicolatians doctrine is that God hates it! We must at all costs avoid falling into the church at Pergamum. Let’s look at what Matthew Henry has to say about it in his Commentary on the Whole Bible:
He reproves them for their sinful failures (Rev_2:14): But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there those that hold the doctrine of Balaam, etc., and those that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. There were some who taught that it was lawful to eat things sacrificed to idols, and that simple fornication was no sin; they, by an impure worship, drew men into impure practices, as Balaam did the Israelites. Observe, (1.) The filthiness of the spirit and the filthiness of the flesh often go together. Corrupt doctrines and a corrupt worship often lead to a corrupt conversation. (2.) It is very lawful to fix the name of the leaders of any heresy upon those who follow them. It is the shortest way of telling whom we mean. (3.) To continue in communion with persons of corrupt principles and practices is displeasing to God, draws a guilt and blemish upon the whole society: they become partakers of other men’s sins. Though the church, as such, has no power to punish the persons of men, either for heresy or immorality, with corporal penalties, yet it has power to exclude them from its communion; and, if it do not so, Christ, the head and lawgiver of the church, will be displeased with it.
Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.
It is much the same with the Thyatira, where they sufferest that woman Jezebel who leads them to commit vile sins before God. We must turn and flee from such practices or else we will share the fate given for her and her followers. A fate that will cost a man dearly unless he repents – a part in the great tribulation, we’ll talk more about that later but trust me you don’t want to take part in it!
Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.
Ah, Sardis, whom God warns to be watchful and strength what remains barely clinging to life for their works have not been found perfect before God. Sardis and us as well at times isn’t showing fruit, they go through the motions but their hearts aren’t in it. They worship with their mouths not their hearts, they are perishing!
I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
But at least Sardis is trying somewhat, Laodicea has just plain old quit. They do nothing, their totally apathetic, not hot or cold. Lukewrm, is what they are, and like drinking a glass of lukewarm water Jesus is about to bring an exhortation on them that strikes fear into the hearts of true believers. All the exhortations are bad but this one in particular seems the most hopeless and it also seems like so very many believers today. They aren’t hot not even cold. They just are. They’re warm bodies not truly serving anything anymore. They once served Christ but now they just are. Avoid becoming this people.
As followers we want to be considered part of the churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia. We don’t want Christ to have anything bad to say about us, but do our lives reflect that. Or do they more accurately reflect one of the other five churches we’ve just discussed? I pray not, I pray you are found deeply rooted in Smyrna and Philadelphia, that you have grown through the other churches and what they believe, how they function, to grow to a fully functioning follower of Christ, one who is on fire for the Lord, who puts God before all else and lives who lives their life to see that God receives all the honor, glory and praise due him!