Summary: Holiness is the indispensable mark of a Christian and the church
The medical field in Britain was rocked some years ago to discover that their profession had been infiltrated by terrorists. It was discovered that attempted terrorist acts were instigated by seven medical doctors and one medical lab technician with suspected links to al Qaeda. Britain hires foreign doctors to serve in their medical centers. One third of the medical doctors that are hired in these health centers are foreign. Two of the terrorists are from India and six come from the Middle East. The doctor who oversees recruiting physicians to serve in the British health services admits that it is impossible to keep out terrorists if they want to fool the system.
A British Anglican priest in Baghdad has said he received a veiled warning from an al Qaeda figure in Jordan three months before the attacks were planned against Britain and the United States. The veiled warning said, “The people who cure you will kill you.” He passed this on to the police.
Of course, we remember the November 5, 2009 mass shooting by Islamic terrorist army psychiatrist Nidal Hisan. He killed 14 and injured 30 at Ft. Hood, near Killen, Texas. The signs were present but political correctness ignored taking precautionary actions.
We’ve always known that the greatest danger comes from within. On January 27, 1838, a young politician by the name of Abraham Lincoln delivered these powerful words in regard to the danger to America:
At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow. Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined with all the treasure of the earth, our own excepted, in their military chest, with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in the trial of a thousand years. At what point is the approach of danger to be expected? If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men, we must live through all the time or die by suicide.
From all outward appearances, the church at Thyatira was a thriving, spiritual church, but Christ saw something seriously wrong when He looked at it. They had many fine qualities, but they tolerated and compromised on the issue of holiness. Holiness is an indispensable mark of the Christian and of the true church.
A Christian is indwelt by the Spirit of God. In the early days of the church when they were trying to describe this reality, they called Him the Spirit of God or the Spirit of Christ. However, the most evident fruit of the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ was holiness. Christians called the third person of the trinity the Holy Spirit because He produced holy living in believers.
Speaking of God the Father, Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:4, “For he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in love before him.” God the Father’s purpose before the creation of the world was for us to be holy. Speaking of God the Son, Paul wrote in Titus 2:14, He gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people for his own possession, eager to do good works. Jesus died on the cross in order to purify us for Himself. How important is the matter of holiness? The Godhead, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are united in the purpose of making us holy.
Be assured, if God is working so energetically and completely to make us a holy people, Satan is working to make us a sinful people. If he can’t harm the church by persecution like the church at Smyrna or false teaching like the church at Pergamum, he will endlessly entice us into sin. Satan’s strategy against the church at Thyatira was to corrupt it with evil. He sought to get the church to tolerate sin and make compromises with wickedness.
The letter to the church at Thyatira is the longest of the seven letters. Thyatira is the smallest and least significant of the seven towns. It’s the middle letter. I wonder if this arrangement is to make us more alert to our tendency to compromise our devotion to Christ.
Let me read the letter in its entirety, and then I will go back and explain and apply:
(18) “Write to the angel of the church in Thyatira: Thus says the Son of God, the one whose eyes are like a fiery flame and whose feet are like fine bronze: (19) I know your works — your love, faithfulness, service, and endurance. I know that your last works are greater than the first. (20) But I have this against you: You tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and teaches and deceives my servants to commit sexual immorality and to eat meat sacrificed to idols. (21) I gave her time to repent, but she does not want to repent of her sexual immorality. (22) Look, I will throw her into a sickbed and those who commit adultery with her into great affliction. Unless they repent of her works, (23) I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am the one who examines minds and hearts, and I will give to each of you according to your works. (24) I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who haven’t known “the so-called secrets of Satan” — as they say — I am not putting any other burden on you. (25) Only hold on to what you have until I come. (26) The one who conquers and who keeps my works to the end: I will give him authority over the nations —