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AM Bible Study Archives
"The Church That Tolerated Secret Sin"
Wednesday AM Bible Study
March 11, 2009
Theme: This passage reveals the courage with which Paul answered the call to go to Jerusalem.
Jesus is passionate about the purity of His Church. His goal for His precious, redeemed people is that they be made as glorious, holy, spotless and blameless as He Himself is. And in order to accomplish that goal, He gave Himself to the point of taking the sins of all His people upon Himself and dying for them in order to sanctify them and cleanse them (See also Rom. 6:1-4;1; Titus 2:11-14; Peter 1:14-19).
Given that our Lord laid down His life to make us holy, it’s clear that He will not accept His church having an easy-going, tolerant attitude toward sin—the very things that He died a dreadful death on the cross to save us from. We see this expressed in our Lord’s fourth letter—the letter to the church in Thyatira—where Jesus warns His Church against becoming tolerant toward hidden immorality within its midst.
I. BACKGROUND ON THE CHURCH IN THYATIRA.
A. Thyatira was a city that was known for its trade guilds. Ancient inscriptions found in the city mention such trades as wool-workers, garment manufacturers, leather- workers, fabric dyers, tanners, potters, bakers, slave-traders, and bronze-smiths. In fact, the first convert to Christianity in all of Europe was a businesswoman of Thyatira named Lydia—a seller of purple fabrics (Acts 16:14).
B. Many of these guilds required that their members be involved in some forms of idol- worship which, very often, also involved immoral sexual practices. This required that Christians who worked in these professions would have to make a choice—either to take a stand and separate themselves from what was idolatrous or immoral, or to compromise with sin as an every-day way of doing business.
II. THE LORD'S INTRODUCTION OF HIMSELF (v. 18).
A. As is true in all of these letters, the way Jesus introduces Himself is crucially related to what He has to say to the church. Look at how He introduces Himself in this case: “The Son of God”. This not only speaks of His divine majesty; but also of His superiority over all other false gods. Some in the church in Thyatira sought to dabble in "the deep things of Satan"; and our Lord is a jealous God who will share His worship with no created being—real or imagined.
B. He also introduces Himself as He "who has eyes like a flame of fire" (see 1:14). He is One who sees all things with perfect clarity; and before whom nothing is hidden (see Hebrews 4:13).
C. He also adds that "His feet are like fine brass" (see 1:15); which speaks of the absolute holiness of the paths in which He walks. The combined effect of these three is to reveal a divine Lord over His church before whom nothing is hidden and no sin tolerated.
III. THE LORD'S COMMENDATION (v. 19).
A. He says, “I know your works”; and He describes those works as “love, service, faith, and your patience”. The love provided the motivation for the service; and the faith provided the motivation for the patience. This, then, was a church that served others in love, and endured with confident faith in God. What’s more, Jesus commended it for the fact that its “last works are more than the first.” It was a church that was not only doing the right things from the right motives, but was also growing and maturing in these qualities.
B. But note what is distinctively missing from this list—holiness in the things it tolerated (compare with 2:2). It was a church that was doing all the right things; but was not as pure as its Lord would be pleased to have it be. We must never forget the important priority of "holiness" in the Lord's church, without losing sight of the other things— especially before the Son of God, whose eyes are like a flame of fire and whose feet are like fine brass.
IV. THE LORD'S REBUKE (vv. 20-23).
A. That which the Lord had against this church was the fact that it "tolerated" something. It had allowed a woman—here named Jezebel, who had set herself up as a prophetess (which, before God, she clearly was not)—"to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrifice to idols" (v. 20). It would be hard to imagine that someone would have literally named themselves Jezebel, but it's certainly possible. More likely, this is the Lord's name for her, because she was behaving like the infamous Sidonian wife of King Ahab who led Israel into dreadful idolatry (1 Kings 16:31; 21:25-26).
B. The Lord had given this woman time to repent; but she did not (v. 21). As a result, the Lord promises to punish her—casting her on a bed of sickness (v. 22); and those who "commit adultery with her" (whether spiritually or literally) into great tribulation "unless they repent of their deeds". He even promises to "kill her children with death" (v. 23)—which, again, may be figurative or literal. When the church will not deal with sin, the Lord must.
C. He will do this, He warns, in such a way that "all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts" (v. 23). This suggests strongly that the activities that "Jezebel" was leading the people toward were being done in secret (see Ezekiel 8); and since the church clearly knew about the woman, this made the church guilty of tolerating hidden sin in its midst. Jesus warns that He "will give to each one of you according to your works". Sin may be hidden from the sight of men—even godly men; but it is not hidden from the sight of God.
V. THE LORD'S EXORTATION (vv. 24-25).
A. The Lord now speaks to those who are not guilty of siding with this evil woman. He speaks to those "who do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say . . ." (v. 24). This is probably a name that those practiced the doctrines of this woman secretly used. They may have felt that they were 'free' to plunder the goods of Satan without guilt—when in reality, they were falling into the devil's trap.
B. The Lord says that He will put no other burden on the innocent members of the church. But He does encourage them to "hold fast what you have till I come" (v. 25). This, no doubt, refers to the qualities mentioned in verse 19 (see also 2 John 8).
VI. THE LORD'S PROMISE (vv. 26-28).
A. To the one who overcomes—that is, by resisting the allure of hidden sin, refusing to tolerate it, and holding fast to what they have—and who keeps the Lord's works to the end, they will receive authority over the nations with the Lord (v. 26). He sites Psalm 2:8-9 as a part of this promise; but here, He shares the application of it with them (v. 27).
B. Plus, He says He will give them "the morning star", which is probably a reference to a share in His glory at His coming (Revelation 22:16; see also Daniel 12:3).
VII. THE LORD'S CALL TO ALL THE OTHER CHURCHES (v. 29).
What He says to this church is meant to be heard and heeded by them all.
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