Summary: If Jesus showed up at your church what would he find? What would he say?
“The Great Unveiling: Checking Out the Church”
At the end of chapter 1 we are reminded that the 7 lampstands are the seven churches. That’s an important description of the church – for she is to be the light of the world. And it’s a lampstand; which means we’re dealing with candles – candles that periodically need to be trimmed and cleaned.
That’s what chapter 2 & 3 are designed to do – trim and clean up the church. While we could certainly spend a sermon on each one of the churches, that does not advance our overall purpose in this series. But we do need to take some time to check out the church. As, Peter wrote (1Pt. 4:17 GNT), “The time has come for judgment to begin, and God's own people are the first to be judged.” Judgment begins with the church of Jesus Christ – with us!
So we begin with Jesus’ view of THE PROBLEMS OF THE CHURCH. As we read Jesus’ analysis of the 7 churches, we discover four basic problems. One is WRONG DOCTRINE. It’s dealt with most directly in the church at Pergamum (2:12-17). Jesus was pleased that people had not denied their faith, but displeased that they were ALLOWING HERESIES AND THEOLOGICAL COMPROMISE to enter and reside among them. Only a few people had departed from the faith but many tolerated the errors that led to their departure. Toleration led to compromise which led to worldliness. The truth is doctrine determines how we live. As A. W. Tozer pointed out, “It would be impossible to overemphasize the importance of sound doctrine in the life of a Christian. Right thinking about all spiritual matters is imperative if we would have right living. As men do not gather grapes of thorns nor figs of thistles, so sound character does not grow out of unsound teaching. (1)
Tolerance of wrong doctrine STILL PLAGUES THE CHURCH TODAY. There are those, in fact, WHO DISPARAGE DOCTRINE – “I don’t need doctrine; all I need is the Bible.” But since doctrine is, at its core, the content of what one believes, unless one believes nothing, one has doctrine! To downplay doctrine is to ignore what we believe and therefore to lose sight of what we believe. When we lose sight of what we believe, we lose sight of how to live.
Another wrong doctrine being promoted in the Church today is that JESUS IS NOT THE ONLY WAY TO GOD. In the name of tolerance, we dare not be so exclusive! I have, in fact, been challenged with “How can you be so exclusive? How dare you say that?” Note: I didn’t say it – Jesus did. If Jesus is not the only way, then the cross is emptied of its power and His death meant nothing.
Another error gaining strength is that THERE IS NO HELL; God is simply too loving to send anyone to hell. Point of fact: If there is no hell then Revelation is not necessary and God has lied. Still others promote that IF JESUS DOESN’T MENTION IT, IT ISN’T WORTH MENTIONING. Truth check: there are many things Jesus did not address – that’s why the whole biblical story is important. If we are only bound by what Jesus said, then all we need are the Gospels – the rest of the Bible is unnecessary and invalid.