Summary: Both Christ and the Apostle Paul warned that the leaven of sin can destroy a congregation. The leadership at Thyatira are chastened for not practicing congregational discipline.
Verse 18 – Jesus introduces Himself to the leadership and, secondarily, to the congregation at Thyatira as “the Son of God, Who has eyes like a flame of fire.” The significance of this designation in relationship with the Thyatiran brethren is twofold: (1) This city's god and guardian was Tyrimnos, the son of Zeus; thus, Tyrimnos was regarded as the the son of god. Combined with that was the worship of Caesar Nero, who claimed to be the son of the god Claudius and son of the god Apollo. So, by Jesus' opening words, He claims not to be a son of a god but the Son of the God; thus, being the only One deserving worship and obedience. (2) Being the Son of God, He has eyes like piercing fire; enabling Him to be “He who searches the minds and hearts and [gives] to each one of you according to your deeds” (vs. 23).
Verse 19 – The congregation at Thyatira had so much going for it. There is no doubt that the Lord Jesus saw many things that pleased Him and would wish that His other congregations would imitate. Jesus says they possessed four crucial characteristics of a faithful congregation: love, faith, service and perseverance.
Faith is the bedrock of true religion. Hebrews 11:6, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”
Love brings depth to our knowledge of the true God and opens our hearts to Him and our fellow man. 1 John 4:7-8, 16, 12, “Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love...God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him...No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.”
Service is the practical and necessary fruit of faith and love. 1 John 3:18, “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” 1 John 5:2-3, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.”
Perseverance is maintaining faith, love and service in all circumstances to the final end...to the close of the curtain of our life's performance. Galatians 6:9-10, “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” Hebrews 6:10-12, “For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
These characteristics, in and of themselves, are praised by Jesus. However, the Lord notes and takes delight in the fact that their “deeds of late are greater than at first.” Rather than slumping or even maintaining the status quo as the years have passed, the Thyatira brethren were bearing more fruit than ever before. They were growing and increasing in these characteristics with the passing of time.
This should motivate each and every congregation today to inquire within: Are we more mature spiritually than we were twenty or thirty years ago, five or ten years ago, or even last year? Have we grown and are we still striving for more growth? As a congregation, are we busier in going-about the Lord's business than in the past? Can the community around us take note that we have greater faith, love, and perseverance now in comparison to the past? Can the community testify that we are more devoted in rendering service to those within the Church and out in the community than before? We need to perform self-assessments on a regular basis and act on the findings of those assessments. We know this for certain - whether or not we do these assessments, we know that the Head of the Church, the Son of God with piercing fiery eyes is doing so quite regularly.
Verses 20 – 23 - While the congregation at Thyatira had many virtues that Jesus praised, they had an internal problem...a cancer that had the potential to destroy them. Most alarming is that the congregation's leadership recognized the cancer but decided not to take any measures to deal with the disease – they stood by and 'tolerated' its existence.