The Good Church – Revelation 2:1-3:22 10/25/20

The Good Church – Revelation 2:1-3:22 10/25/20

It is easy to read through the judgments of the Lord Jesus regarding the first century Church and shake our heads at what they were doing, but how will we respond when the spotlight is turned to aim at us? This passage opens up all kinds of challenges; judgment, salvation by works, lost salvation, topics which, frankly, we’re not even going to try to address. Sorry.

I have bigger fish to fry than the trivia of doctrinal debate. In our passage today Jesus reveals what it is that pleases Him. That is worth focusing on. It’s my conviction that, if we’re actively pursuing what Jesus desires, then what He doesn’t want will pretty much take care of itself.

So, as I’ve repeatedly stated, we’ll start with God’s love. Understanding the depth of God’s love for us allows us to realize that this judgment each of the churches receive is not punitive, it is corrective. I don’t know anyone that, at one time or another, doesn’t need a word of correction. Who’s better equipped to do this than the One who purchased our pardons?

So, we have seven churches that Jesus specifically addresses through the Apostle John. We find Jesus repeatedly saying, “I know your works.” This word for “know” is (οἶδα),[1] meaning to know or understand.[2] The term occurs immediately after the revelation of some specific aspect of Jesus’ nature, this happens in each of the seven proclamations.[3] As used here, it’s a verb in the perfect tense, active voice, and indicative mood. The indicative mood is used to assert the truth of the action, Jesus does in fact know the churches’ works.[4] The prefect tense describes a completed action producing results that continue into the present.[5] Jesus, being who He is, has known, and continues to know each of the churches’ works.

The term “works” (ἔργα)[6] denote action or active zeal,[7] it points to that which occupies our time and attention.[8] This is in the accusative case, which marks the word as the direct object of the verb, [9] in this case “know” (οἶδα).[10] What we find, then, is that Jesus actively knows how we occupy ourselves. Not only does He know, but He also judges those things.

There are tons of details embedded in Jesus’ address to the seven churches. It is tempting to dive into all of that, but where I want to camp is on the things Jesus commends. Those things were: labor, service, patience, no tolerance for evil, testing those claiming to speak for God, love, faithfulness, and having faith. These things deserve to be fleshed out a bit and then applied.

Labor, (κόπον),[11] in secular Greek is used in reference to exertion or manual work that results in physical fatigue.[12] In the New Testament it can reference the Christian’s labor for the community.[13] This kind of sustained effort is more than serving when we feel like it, this is sacrificially serving. For the Christian, this is pushing on in faith and love, even when we’re tired. This is supposed to be a characteristic of the Church, and we find multiple commands to practice “good works,” i.e. Titus 3:14.

Service is closely associated with our “labor,” but is more specific. The word is (διακονίαν).[14] You may notice that our offices of Deacons and Deaconesses comes from this word. This is a reference to the ministries of the church which only happen when they become the individual Christian’s ministry.

The term (διακονία) “service, ministry” occurs thirty-three times in the New Testament and is found in two very different lists of spiritual gifts, one of them being found in 1 Corinthians 12:4–6.[15] (διακονία) basically means to speak or act on behalf of others.[16] Alternatively, it can refer to attending to someone for the purpose of meeting various needs.[17]

The word “patience” is (ὑπομονήν)[18] and is a little different from simply being patient, as tough as that can be. This is patiently enduring, persevering when things get tough.[19] Note that this is an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23. This is “standing fast” when under difficult circumstances.[20] That could be in the context of persecution, or in the sense of being someone that can be counted on even when it’s not convenient.

We also find that Christ commended the Ephesians because they would not “endure” (βαστάσαι) wicked people, while at the same time they were “enduring” (ἐβάστασας) hardship for the sake of Christ.[21] Now, (βαστάσαι) means to “bear, endure, or tolerate.[22] This is coupled with “not” (οὐ)[23] indicating they will not accept or put up with something. But that something is very specific, it is (κακούς) [24] “those who are evil.” This applies to those who are morally troublesome, injurious, or destructive.[25]

Christ commends the churches for paying attention. The expression “you have tested” all comes from a single word, (ἐπείρασας).[26] It is a relatively uncommon word, and means “to try” or “to test.”[27] These people didn’t simply take the teachers at their word, they tested what they were being told to make sure it was true. We need to keep in mind that during the first century, prior to widespread access to the Scriptures, teachers functioned very much in the prophetic, and needed to be evaluated, and here’s how that was to be done; 1 John 4:1-3.

I have to tell you, this is as important today as it was during the first century. I’m doing my level best to give you the unadulterated word of God. I’m always trying to understand the passage more clearly. But, in case you haven’t figured this out yet, I’m fallible. If you doubt that, you can ask my wife. When I say something, anything, I encourage you to test it, verify for yourselves that it is correct.

This love that they are commended for is that somewhat pesky love, (ἀγάπην).[28] This love really defies definition, although one inspired definition is found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a. This definition is hard enough, but Jesus goes and blows it out of the water by showing what this love looks like; 1 John 4:10-11. This is supposed to be the hallmark of Christ’s Church; John 13:34-35. You should also note that this is one of the fruit of the Spirit.

Next we fine “faithfulness” (πίστις), it means being dependable or faithful.[29] To be “faithful” (πιστὸς)[30] is to be “trustworthy” and “reliable.”[31] This is the person that can be counted on to do what they say they will do.[32] How many of us say something but, when the time comes, we fail to follow through with the commitment? It’s a real danger. This kind of life is one that’s characterized by what Paul says in Philippians 3:13-14. This person sees all of life through the lens of Jesus and His love. Because of this, their life is are built around one consuming conviction, all of life will be lived for Jesus.

Finally, the final trait we find commended is “faith” (πίστιν).[33] Faith is foundational to the Christian life. It conveys the sense of having “confidence,” “certainty,” and “trust.”[34] This, if you’re thinking about it, this shifts all of the other characteristics into new categories. Everything that we experience as Christians are driven by a faith relationship with our God. Once again, you should note that this, too, is one of the fruit of the Spirit.

You know, it would be easy to take a list like this and create a new set of laws to live by. That would be a mistake. If you were paying attention, you noted that all of these characteristics or activities are a reflection of a spiritual gift, of the fruit of the Spirit, or of a life dedicated to Jesus in some way. Note that the emphasis here is on doing, but this “doing” is based on “being.” These things are not something outside of ourselves, they are a reflection of who we are in Christ.

The ultimate result of all this is a life lived by faith, all of these things together are simply examples of the life described in Galatians 2:20. Thankfully, I cannot look at your life and determine how you’re doing. What’s more, that’s not my job. That is the job of the Holy Spirit. However, it is my job to challenge you to look at your life and draw your own conclusions. If Jesus were to judge your life, and He will one day, what would He have to say to you?

[1]Kurt Aland et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear with Morphology) (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Re 2:2. [2] Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich, and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1985), 673. [3] David E. Aune, Revelation 1–5, vol. 52A, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1997), 142. [4] Michael S. Heiser and Vincent M. Setterholm, Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database Terminology (Lexham Press, 2013; 2013). [5] Michael S. Heiser and Vincent M. Setterholm, Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database Terminology (Lexham Press, 2013; 2013). [6]Kurt Aland et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear with Morphology) (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Re 2:2. [7] Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich, and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1985), 251. [8] James Strong, Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon (Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1995). [9] Michael S. Heiser and Vincent M. Setterholm, Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database Terminology (Lexham Press, 2013; 2013). [10]Kurt Aland et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear with Morphology) (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Re 2:2. [11]Kurt Aland et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear with Morphology) (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Re 2:2. [12] Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich, and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1985), 453. [13] Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich, and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1985), 453. [14]Kurt Aland et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear with Morphology) (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Re 2:19. [15] David E. Aune, Revelation 1–5, vol. 52A, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1997), 202. [16] David E. Aune, Revelation 1–5, vol. 52A, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1997), 202. [17] David E. Aune, Revelation 1–5, vol. 52A, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1997), 202. [18]Kurt Aland et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear with Morphology) (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Re 2:2. [19] Robert L. Thomas, New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries : Updated Edition (Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc., 1998). [20] Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich, and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1985), 582. [21] David E. Aune, Revelation 1–5, vol. 52A, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1997), 143. [22] James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997). [23]Kurt Aland et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear with Morphology) (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Re 2:2. [24]Kurt Aland et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear with Morphology) (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Re 2:2. [25] James Strong, Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon (Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1995). [26]Kurt Aland et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear with Morphology) (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Re 2:2. [27] Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich, and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1985), 822. [28]Kurt Aland et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear with Morphology) (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Re 2:4. [29] David E. Aune, Revelation 1–5, vol. 52A, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1997), 202. [30]Kurt Aland et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear with Morphology) (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Re 2:10. [31] Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich, and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1985), 849. [32] James Strong, Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon (Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1995). [33]Kurt Aland et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear with Morphology) (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Re 2:19. [34] Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich, and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1985), 849.

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