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I. INTRODUCTION

A. Summary of Previous Lessons

B. Text of Rev 2:18-29

“18Write this letter to the angel of the church in Thyatira. This is the message from the Son of God, whose eyes are like flames of fire, whose feet are like polished bronze:
19I know all the things you do. I have seen your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. And I can see your constant improvement in all these things.
20But I have this complaint against you. You are permitting that woman—that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet—to lead my servants astray. She teaches them to commit sexual sin and to eat food offered to idols. 21I gave her time to repent, but she does not want to turn away from her immorality.

22Therefore, I will throw her on a bed of suffering, and those who commit adultery with her will suffer greatly unless they repent and turn away from her evil deeds. 23I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am the one who searches out the thoughts and intentions of every person. And I will give to each of you whatever you deserve.

24But I also have a message for the rest of you in Thyatira who have not followed this false teaching (‘deeper truths,’ as they call them—depths of Satan, actually). I will ask nothing more of you 25except that you hold tightly to what you have until I come. 26To all who are victorious, who obey me to the very end, To them I will give authority over all the nations. 27They will rule the nations with an iron rod and smash them like clay pots. 28They will have the same authority I received from my Father, and I will also give them the morning star!

29Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.” (Revelation 2:18–29, NLT)

The Letter to the Church in Thyatira (Rev 2:18-29)

“The City of Thyatira” by Robert Walsh (1772-1852) and Thomas Allom (1804-1972)

C. History and Background of the City of Thyatira

Thyatira was a small thriving agricultural town. It was known for its purple dye. No one knows exactly how the church began in Thyatira. However, in Acts 16 Paul shares the gospel with a woman named Lydia who was a merchant of “expensive purple cloth” and was from Thyatira (Acts 16:14). Lydia was in Philippi when she met Paul, and she might have returned to Thyatira and helped to start the church there (Walvoord, Revelation, 69-70).

N.T. Wright provides some helpful background information on the city of Thyatira. The trade unions were known for smelting copper and bronze (maybe where the description of Jesus is chosen in Rev 2:18). More importantly, the local patron deity of the area and of the bronze trade was “Apollo Tyrimnaeus” who appeared on local coins together with the “son of God”, who was the Roman emperor.

The local trade unions (woolworkers, linen workers, makers of outer garments, dyers, leatherworkers, tanners, potters, bakers, slave dealers, and bronze smiths) regularly held meetings and ceremonies that included idol worship as a way to invoke divine favor onto the trade work. This put Christians in a difficult place if they expected to find work (Wright, Revelation for Everyone, 25; Metzger, Breaking the Code, 36).

II. JESUS ADDRESSES THE CHURCH IN THYATIRA (2:18) Continue Reading…

I. INTRODUCTION

A. Summary of Past Lessons

B. Text of Rev 2:8-11

“8Write to the angel of the church in Smyrna: This is the message from the one who is the first and the last, who was dead but now lives. 9I know about your oppression and poverty, but you are rich. I also know about the people who claim to be Jews but are not, instead they are part of the synagogue of Satan. 10Do not fear the things you are about to suffer. Look! The Devil is about to throw some of you into prison in order to tempt you and you will experience oppression for ten days. Have faith until death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11The one who has an ear must listen to what the Spirit says to the churches: ‘The one who overcomes will not be harmed by the second death.” (Rev 2:8-11) 1

John Writes to the Churches in Ephesus and Smyrna

Bamberg Apocalypse Bible: “The Letter to the Church in Ephesus and Smyrna” (AD 1,000)

C. History and Background of the City of Smyrna

Among the seven cities that John sent letters to, Smyrna is the only city that still exists today (now called Izmir which is Turkey’s third largest city with seven hundred thousand [Walvoord, Revelation, 59-60]). The city of Smyrna was about thirty-five miles north of Ephesus. Besides Ephesus, Smyrna was the wealthiest city in the area because of its seaport. It was also known for its science and learning.

Walvoord points out that the word “Smyrna” comes from the word “myrrh” which was a sweet perfume used in embalming dead bodies (Pss 45:8). It was also a holy anointing oil used in tabernacle worship in the Old Testament (Exod 30:23). It is mentioned by the bridegroom in the Song of Solomon (Song of Sol 3:6) and the heavenly bridegroom in the Psalms (Pss 45:8). The “protecting deity of Smyrna was a local adaptation of Cybele, which was known as the Sybeline Mother. Greeks identified her with Nemesis which was the Greek goddess of retributive justice. The city also created a temple to the goddess Roma (195 BC) (Osborne, Revelation, 127).

In addition to that deity worship, worship of the Roman Emperor was also very common. In AD 26 Smyrna beat out ten other cities for the honor of building a temple to honor the emperor Tiberias (Osborne, Revelation, 127). Under Domitian (AD 81-96), every year each citizen had to burn incense on Caesar’s altar in order to receive a certificate. Failure to receive a certificate meant death if someone found out. About sixty years after Domitian, the famous bishop of Smyrna, Polycarp (the disciple of John), was burned alive for refusing to call Caesar “Lord” (Osborne, Revelation, 127). Who and how the church started in Smyrna is a mystery. It could be from Paul’s three-year stay in Ephesus, which was nearby (Walvoord, Revelation, 60; Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 158-160).

II. JESUS ADDRESSES THE ANGEL OF THE CHURCH IN SMYRNA (2:8)

“Write to the angel of the church in Smyrna: This is the message from the one who is the first and the last, who was dead but now lives.” (Rev 2:8) 2

This brief verse emphasis two aspects of Christ’s deity: eternality and resurrection.

A. Christ’s Eternality and Sovereignty
Continue Reading…

Notes:

  1. Unless otherwise noted, all translations are my own
  2. Unless otherwise noted, all translations are my own

As we are looking at church effectiveness and comparing it to chapter six of Acts, there are some significant things the early church apostles did in order to lead the church well.

One is that these apostles knew exactly what tasks were most important for them to do and they did not deviate from those tasks. Three times in this passage we see the apostles say that their priority was to “teach” the word of God.[1] The setting for this passage is that the church had been experiencing tremendous growth. Just before Acts 5:42, the apostles had been arrested and flogged by Jewish religious leaders because they were teaching and follow Jesus’ ways. The religious leaders let the men go after having them flogged because they believed the apostles would no longer be important and relevant to the community and the culture at that time. However, we know that “every day, in the Temple and from house to house, they continued to teach and preach this message: ‘Jesus is the Messiah.’”[2] Right from the beginning they knew what was most important to them, and they continued to do that.

Next in the story from Acts, the Greek-speaking believers complained because they believed their widows were being discriminated against in the food distribution compared to the Hebrew-speaking widows. The Greek-speaking believers had the attitude of “Hey, they are getting what we want/deserve, we won’t tolerate that.” With this in mind, we see the apostles react in an interesting way by quickly calling a meeting and bringing all the believers together—not just a few, not just the core leaders, and not just the people they know will agree with them. They call all the believers together, and they announce what is going to happen by making this bold declaration: “We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility. Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word.”[3] What a bold statement! The apostles of the early church made an important executive decision. They knew what the church needed to do in order to be successful, they declared it, and they organized it. This means that if we want our church to be well led, we need to be slightly aristocratic in our leadership of the church. The Senior Pastor should have the freedom to make key decisions and lead well. He or she has been elected to lead the church and should be given the freedom to do that well.

But what about those 12 leaders gave them the ability to be leaders? Church expert Craig Van Gelder gives us a good description of church leaders in his book, The Essence of the Church, when he writes, “First, leaders in the church must have a mature Christian character. . . .Second, the Bible assumes that leaders in the church will be selected based on their gifts and skills. The Spirit gives spiritual gifts to all in the church. Some gifts relate directly to leadership.”[4] We see both of these statements from Van Gelder in relation to the leaders we have observed in chapter six of Acts. The apostles were very mature in their faith since 11 of them had spent three years with Jesus and had already endured some persecution because of their faith. These early leaders knew they preached and taught well, so they selected seven men to do the food ministry. They knew that effective leaders focus on doing one thing well, while ineffective leaders attempt to do everything and do nothing well.

This shows church leadership, staff, and members of the church the necessity of finding their areas of strength. When giving a talk on this same passage of scripture, Andy Stanley, pastor of one of the largest churches in America, North Point Community Church, states that we should, “Only do what only you can do. The less you do, the more you accomplish.”[5] Say what? Less is more? The essence of what Andy is teaching is that leaders in the church, in order to be effective, need to focus in on the few things that only they can do. These 12 apostles were clearly called to preach and teach based on the three years they spent with Jesus. These 12 men had been personally equipped by Jesus to be leaders of the early church, and no one else at that time had been as equipped or given as much authority as they had. Clearly they were called to preach and do nothing else. We see them leading the church by having the authority to make an important decision. They stayed focused to do only what they could do, and that allowed them to lead well, which is exactly what the church in our culture needs to do: lead well.


[1] Acts 5:42, 6:3,4

[2] Acts 5:42

[3] Acts 6:2-4

[4] Craig Van Gelder, The Essence of the Church: A Community Created by the Spirit (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000), 181.

[5] Andy Stanley, “When Less is More” (lecture, Catalyst West Conference at Mariners Church, Orange County, CA, April 23, 2010).

 

Churches need to play a significant role in our community in order to save lost souls.

To serve lost souls churches must be effective, but what makes up an effective church? There are a few things that I believe the church should be and do in order to play a key role in saving souls and helping people authentically live as Christ followers. From my own personal experience of what God has done in my life, from reading the Bible, and from observing my own church, I believe there are three core elements that allow a church to be effective. I believe a church needs to be led well, it should have solid Bible-based teaching, and it should show love to the community. These three elements of an effective church in a community can be deduced from a small passage in the book of Acts that shows us how the early church performed ministry in an effective way. Let us start by taking a look into the early Christian church in chapter six of Acts.

In the book of Acts there is a lot happening. Jesus has died, risen from the dead, been taken up into heaven, the day of Pentecost comes and with it comes the Holy Spirit, and the apostle Peter delivers an amazing sermon that saves 3,000 souls. Then, the early apostles begin to experience some opposition from religious leaders.[1] The result is that the religious leaders release the apostles, and we can now read what they do after being released starting in Acts 5:42:[2]

And every day, in the Temple and from house to house, they continued to teach and preach this message: “Jesus is the Messiah.” But as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers. They said, “We apostles should spend out time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility. Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word.” Everyone liked this idea, and they chose the following: Stephen (a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit), Phillip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas of Antioch (an earlier convert to the Jewish faith). These seven where presented to the apostles, who prayed for them as they laid their hands on them. So God’s message continued to spread. The number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem, and many of the Jewish priests were converted too.[3]

This passage of scripture contains massive implications for local churches today if we study it. When studying this passage it shows us 1) how and why the church should be led well; 2) how important biblical teaching is; and 3) how the combination of a well led church with solid teaching allows God’s love to be shown in the community. Rather than you simply trusting me about each these three observations from Acts, let us take some time to examine each of them. The starting point of the church ministering effectively to the community is by being led well.


[1] Please note that when I use the word “apostles,” I am using it in the context of the 12 disciples (minus Judas) that are now the current leaders of the early church.

[2] The passage of scripture we are studying is Acts 5:42 through Acts 6:7. However, for simplicity sake, throughout this paper I will refer to the passage as “chapter six of Acts.”

[3] Acts 5:42-6:7 (New Living Translation)