Fourth in a series
What does Jesus think of a church that tolerates false teaching? We see the answer in Christ’s open letter to the church at Thyatira. This indictment of Thyatira by the risen Christ calls us to maintain watchfulness over our doctrine and practice.
The open letter begins by describing both the vision and the power of the Savior (Revelation 2:18). His fiery eyes accurately perceive theological compromise in His church. No sin escapes His sight. His burnished feet crush sin in judgment.
When these fiery eyes looked at Thyatira there was much to commend. The church was characterized by “love and faith, and service, and patient endurance,” all qualities we should pray for in our own churches. Having begun with gospel baby-steps, Thyatira now exploded in great strides of faith. Their “latter works” surpassed and exceeded their first (v. 19).
And yet, a contingent of the church had compromised the faith by tolerating false teaching and false teachers. They had bought into the seductive self-indulgent religion of “that woman Jezebel” (v. 20). Just as the Jezebel of ancient Israel had led the people of God into idolatry long ago, there was now a teacher doing the same in Thyatira.
In Smyrna, Satan had sent tribulation (Revelation 2:10). Satan had set up his throne in Pergamum to assault the church there (v. 13). But, some in the church at Thyatira had delved into the “deep things of Satan.” It’s hard to determine what is precisely meant by this phrase, but this association with the teaching of Jezebel imperiled the witness of the church and displeased the Savior.
When false teaching takes root in a church, the gospel is distorted, and sinners perish outside of Christ. What could be more heart-breaking?
Church, we must maintain watchfulness over our teaching. We must work together to “hold fast what you have” until Christ returns (v. 25). When someone espouses that which contradicts the clear teaching of scripture, they should be called to repentance (v. 22).
We must work for meaningful church membership. Can the members of your church distinguish between true and false teaching? Are they willing to sacrifice their comfort in order to correct error? Are they equally prepared to patiently unravel theological knots with someone who has been led astray? Are they prepared to dismiss an unrepentant member whose false beliefs distort the gospel and lead sinners away from Christ?
What we teach sends a message to the world. What we tolerate sends an equally strong message.
The circumstances in Thyatira were grave, but they we not irredeemable. Christ would have to deal with Jezebel. False teachers would have to be pulled out by the roots. Faithful church members would have to tighten their grip on the “faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). What would be the end result? “And all the churches will know that I am He who searches mind and heart” (v. 23). The question is, do we have ears to hear?
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This article is part of a series on the theme of the 2018 North Carolina Pastors’ Conference, “7 Churches of Revelation.” This year’s event will occur Nov. 4-5 in conjunction with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s annual meeting. Visit ncpastorsconference.org for more information. Jonathan Homesley is senior pastor of Lake Wylie Baptist Church in Charlotte. Each column in the series is written by a different N.C. leader and refers to one of the seven churches in Revelation.)