Summary: We will seek to address the question: “how is a congregation to express and practice its faith in the midst of the genuine cultural challenges that it faces?”

American Idols: Looking at Ourselves and Our Loyalties Through the Eyes of Jesus**

The Idol of Tolerance: Thyatira

Revelation 2:18-29

Sermon Objective: We will seek to address the question: “how is a congregation to express and practice its faith in the midst of the genuine cultural challenges that it faces?”

Supporting Scripture: 2 Corinthians 6:16-17; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:9

Series Intro

We began a series earlier this month called “American Idols: Looking at Ourselves and Our Loyalties Through the Eyes of Jesus”

There are two categories of idols:

{1} an image or other material object representing a deity to which religious worship is addressed.

{2} any person or thing regarded with blind admiration, adoration, or devotion.

Our concern is with the latter. There are a myriad of “things” which could be classified as an idol … they are limited only by the passions of the individual in question. But there are certain dispositions or demeanors that our culture serves and pursues as an end in themselves … they have become idolatrous.

What we discover in “The Revelation” is that they are not just limited to our culture but that others have also pursued these with “blind devotion”. We have looked at Ephesus’ fallacy of superiority and Smyrna’s temptation to shop for a more convenient faith, and Pergamum’s tendency towards compromise. Others will include:

• Leisure – The Church in Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6) • Stoicism – The Church in Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13) • Independence – The Church in Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22)

Today we will look at the church in Thyatira and the danger of “Tolerance”. It is found in Rev. 2:18-29.


Last week I received a call asking me about the podcasts of our sermons. The caller was having some problems listening to them. I helped him get it figured out but, in the process, I had to listen to a few seconds of a few of the sermons. I learned something while listening to those few seconds of a few sermons … I have an accent!

Who knew!?

As far as I was concerned I sounded just like “you’se guys” up here in the northeast but, lo and behold! I sound like someone from Oklahoma!

Now while that little discovery is humorous and relatively insignificant, it reminded me of what is happening in these messages to these churches … Jesus is helping each of them discover some things about themselves they did not know. However, whereas my accent does not require me to eliminate it in order to honor the Father, what Jesus is showing these churches (in most cases) is not only those things about them that he applauds but those things about themselves that are distancing them from Him.

They require response and reaction.


On the inland route about forty-five miles due east of Pergamum was the city of Thyatira. It was located at a significant crossroads; it began as a military outpost to protect the afore-mentioned capital of Asia-Minor; Pergamum.

Although not a great city, it was nevertheless important through commerce in wool, linen, apparel, dyed stuffs, leatherwork, tanning, and excellent bronze work. In fact, it was conspicuous for having access to the natural materials necessary for manufacturing bronze; the artisans of the city became well known for making impressive weapons.

Associated with its commerce was an extensive trade guild network which played a prominent role in the social, political, economic, and religious life of the city. Like a modern-day chamber of commerce or trade union, these various guilds represented all the different industries of the day. There were more trade-guilds in Thyatira than in any other Asian city. Historians and archaeologists are aware of guilds existing in Thyatira for wool workers, linen workers, garment manufacturers, dyers, tanners, potters, bakers, slave dealers, and, of course, bronze smiths.

Not only was there a thriving economy in Thyatira, there was a Christian church there too. It has been suggested that some of Paul’s converts at Ephesus evangelized Thyatira. Acts 19:10 might give credence to this and it is certainly plausible.

By the time of John’s writing the city would have been growing rapidly and so were the challenges faced by this young church. Most of those challenges would center around these blue collar trade guilds. One had to belong to one of these guilds to participate fully in the economic life around Thyatira.

The guilds were both secular and religious in nature. They were also dedicated to particular pagan deities. In Thyatira it was Apollo – the son of Zeus – the son of the High God.

I cannot stress enough how impossible it would be for the citizens of Thyatira to participate in the economy of the city without also participating in the guild meetings.

And these guild meetings were more than just places to network and secure business. They were known for their moral and sexual laxity. They were mirrors of the Roman culture. The phrase “what happens at the guild stays at the guild” easily applies to these meetings. That, coupled with their dedication and worship of an idol, was quite a struggle for a young Christian … or any Christian who possessed a craft and wanted work.

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