Christ's Message To All Churches
I have selected several verses from Revelation 2 and 3 which all contain the thought about which I want study with you. The verses are 7, 11, 17, 26 and 28 of chapter 2 and verses 5, 12 and 21 of chapter 3. They read as follows: "To him who overcomes I will give to eat of the tree of life which is in the midst of the paradise of God. He who overcomes shall not be hurt of the second death. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new nane written which no one knows except him who receives it. And he who overcomes, and keeps my works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations, and I will give him the morning star. He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his nane from the book of life; but I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go out no more. And I will write on him the nane of my God, and the nane of the city of my God, the New Jerusalen, which cones down out of heaven from my God. And I will write on him my new nane. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with ne on my throne, as I also overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.” These are the closing words of seven letters Jesus wrote to seven first century Churches of Christ. At this time there were no differing churches in Christendom with differing names. The church Jesus purchased with His own blood was called the Church of Christ, also called the Church of God(Romans 16:16, I Corinthians 1:2). These seven letters to His churches are the most important message ever given to the church universal. These messages did not come from the apostles but from the lips of Christ who built the church. The church had been on earth for sixty years, and He gives us His assessment of the church at the end of the first century. This assessment of the church is so perfect and so all-inclusive that it is a perfect description of the church today and of all time. The church now has been on earth some 2,000 years, and its condition is exactly like the seven churches written to in Revelation 2 and 3. These seven churches are representative churches today of all churches in Christendom. Anything and everything that can happen to one of His churches as long as time exists is described in these seven letters. There are literally hundreds of brotherhoods in the Christian religion today, and all of them believe they are one the Churches of Christ and churches of God mentioned in Romans 16:16 and I Corinthians 1:2). They do not wear the names Church of Christ or Church of God, but they believe they are a part of the Church Jesus built. None of these seven churches were perfect brotherhoods, and there are no perfect broherhoods today. Therefore, these seven letters are a message from Christ to any religious body of people who professes to be one of His churches., and every church will be held accountable for what He says in these seven letters.. Christ expected those seven churches to abide in the doctrines taught by the apostles. Since the Christian religion had been on earth for sixty years, all churches should have known what they should believe and should not believe about the faith once delivered to the saints. Much more should all churches today know what they should believe and how they should live now that the Christian religion has been on earth over 2,000 years. Lack of knowledge is inexcusable in this far off day. I selected these verses because they contain a unifying thought:“Christ's Message To All Churches Today.” Jesus made a sevenfold promise, a sevenfold call and prefaced each promise with the words, “To him who overcomes.” Christians are all soldiers in the same war against evil, and the Lord's sevenfold promise comes to each one of us. That is the reason why we should consider not only one but all seven promises together.
First, let's take a brief look at the seven churches to which these seven promises were made. The seven congregations of Asia Minor were located in seven strongly distinguished cities in the first century. Christ's assessment of them is found in Rev. 2 and 3. Two of them were faithful and well pleasing to the Lord, but five of them had serious problems and were displeasing to the Lord. One had lost its first love and was declining. Two of them were under the spell of unsound religious teachers who condoned immoral living. Another was so worldly minded and materialistic that Jesus called it a dead church, that is, dead spiritually. Still another was located in a city of great wealth and luxury. Because of a lukewarm attitude toward Christ and revealed truth, this church had compromised with the world. It received a severe rebuke from Christ. The Christians in these cities faced four principal dangers, and these very same dangers face all churches in Christendom today and will as long as time lasts. They are as follows: l. Unsound religious teachers; 2. Doctrinal unsoundness as a result of such teachers; 3. Loose moral living; 4. Loss of religious interest and enthusiasm. However, no matter what may have been the environment, atmosphere and temptation of those several communities, the invitation, call and promise of Christ was to each individual Christian in those churches. The matter of getting to heaven is an individual matter. Whatever may happen to others, the eternal destiny of every Christian depends on his or her willingness to take a stand for the faith once delivered to the saints and Christian morality. 2 John 9 says, “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in te doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.” The promise to all disciples of Christ is, “To him who overcomes, I will give to eat of the tree of life that is in the paradise of God.” A true disciple will not believe and practice erroneous teachings of the church to which he or she belongs. If the church to which you belong has erroneous teachings on Christian conversion, Christian worship and Christian morality, you must overcome the temptation to abide by these erroneous teachings. No matter what may have been the environment, atmosphere and temptations of those seven communities, the invitation, call and promise of Christ was to each individual Christian in those churches. The matter of getting to heaven was then and is now an individual matter. For each Christian everything shall turn on his own religious, ethical warfare and victory, whatever may happen to others. This necessarily implies that Christians must be diligent students of the New Testament. Jesus said, “Search the Scriptures.” As an individual Christian you must overcome the problems Christ cited in these letters to His churches.
Another impressive truth Jesus revealed in these letters is that some Christians have a better opportunity for Christian growth and faithfulness than do others. All disciples do not have the same moral and religious opportunity. Who would not have rather belonged to the church in Philadelphia. than the church in Laodicea?(Revelation 3:7,14). He said to the church in Philadelphia, “You have kept My word, and have not denied My name; you are strong, and I have set before you an open door and no one can close it.” It is a wonderful blessing to grow up in a church like that Also, it must have been easier for a Christian to hold on to his faith in the persecuted congregation of Smyrna(Revelation 2: 8) Many Christians in that church chose martyrdom rather than to deny the name of Jesus. It must have been easier to be a faithful Christian in Smyrna than in Sardis(Revelation 3:1). In Smyrna all enemies were outside the church, but in Sardis they had a name in the community for being a greata church, but they were dead spiritually. Yes, Christ informed us that all disciples who made up those seven churches did not all enjoy the same opportunity and privilege of Christian growth. Some had to endure terrible temptations. Some sat before unsound preachers. In some churches many members were living far below the moral standard of Christ. The Lord knew the greatly differing chances of each Christian, and He describes them and informs us that regardless of them all, the individual Christian will be judged by the warfare and issue of his own faith and conscience. At the end of every letter to every church He said, “To him that overcomes.” This is Christ's message to all churches in Christendom. We must be overcomers regardless of the dangers that may be in the church to which we belong. These letters contain universal church instructions. The moral obligation and responsibility of the individual could not be more powerfully impressed upon our minds than by this high call of Christ repeated seven times across that awful difference of advantage and opportunity. In view of these words of Christ, no one can expect Christ to ignore His words, laws and commandments when all stand before Him at the judgment seat of Christ at the last day.
Furthermore, let me say that this difference in advantage and opportunity is still the same today as it was then, and it will continue as long as time lasts.Those seven churches are representatives of the universal church in all generations. The dangers and problems of those seven churches are about all the dangers and problems the church anywhere can get into. However, it is true that the persecutions those churches suffered are almost impossible today in most nations of the world, and for that we are thankful. In addition the names and forms of heresies, false teachings in those days are so dead, we can hardly understand what some of them taught. Who knows anything about the Nicolaitanes or who Jezebel was. Jesus said He hated the Nicolaitanes, and Jezebel was one of he women preachers of the day. If she was anything like the Jezebel of the Old Testament, I feel sorry for those Christians who were members of the church in Thyatira. But putting aside such ancient things, the rest of the picture is of today and resolves. There are temptations, dangers, unsound religious teachings today which have deceived great numbers of people who are followers of Christ.
One of the dangers of our day is a super abundance of unsound religious religious teachers in Christendom, and some are quacks. It is estimated that about one third of the human race are followers of Christ and are among all the forms of Christendom. What an array of of unsound teachings and doctrines exist today to allure the followers of Christ. Unsound teachers, with far out ideas, have introduced great confusion among the followers of Christ. Speaking to Christians in the church at Corinth, Greece. the word of God gave this warning, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you. If anyone defiles he temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are”(I Corinthians 3:16,17). In the Christian age of the world, the only temple God has is His church, and it is a living temple, and every who is a llving stone in that temple is a Christian. God's temple is called the Church of Christ in Romans 16:16 and the Church of God in I Corinthians 1:2. In spite of such a sound teaching in the word of God, I read an article by a preacher who said that the church was never called “The Church of Christ” in the New Testament times. He also intimated that it was denominational to refer to the church as, “The Church of Christ.” This is an example of what unsound preachers often do. They make a religious statement that is only a half truth. It is true that the exact title, “The Church of Christ” is not found in scripture. However, the title “Churches of Christ” is found in scripture(Romans 16:16) No one doubts or questions the scriptural fact that the Lord's church was collectively called “Churches of Christ.” If the sum total of all the Lord's churches in the world are called Churches of Christ, does it no follow that each individual congregation is a Church of Christ or the church of Christ in a particular city? When Jesus said, “Upon this rock I will build My church,” would there be any difference in calling the church, “Christ's Church” or “The Church of Christ.” There are no perfect brotherhoods in Christendom, not even among the best of them. There have been immoral behavior and unsound religious teachings among the highest leaders in all brotherhoods. One of the finest things all churches in Christendom could do for the Church and the world is to give the original names of the church back to Christ and God. Are not the names Church of Christ and Church of God better and more scriptural than calling the church after the names of men or after some religlious teaching of some kind?
I agree with George Pepperdine, the founder of Pepperdine university, who said, “When one sees the religious world divided into hundreds of conflicting groups, denominations, cults and isms, one wonders if such a condition can please God, if Christ's church really exists today. Jesus prayed for His disciples, “That they all may be one”(John 17:21). Paul instructed all church members in New Testament times to, “speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you”(I Corinthians 1:10). Paul condmened their divisions when they some said, “I am of Paul; and I of Cephas, and I of Christ”(I Corinthians 1:12). It is not God's plan that the church. be obscured by division and lost to the world. Do you think it is well pleasing to God for Christendom to be divided into many separate bodies, teaching contradictory doctrines and wearing divisive names that honor men over Christ and God?
Another danger common to those seven churches and common to churches today is loose morals. Numbers of Christians in Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis and Laodicea were living far below the standard of Christian morality. Good moral living was not considered necessary to go to heaven. They considered themselves above the mral laws of Christ. Their religious teachers justified this belief, but exactly what their doctrine was I am not certain. Whatever it was, they considered themselves free from the moral laws of Christ. It is not uncommon for Christians in the highest positions of the Lord's Church, be it preachers, elders, or deacons, to fall into immorality. As I said before there are no perfect brotherhoods even among the best. If this temptation is so powerful to leaders of the church, what must if be to church members in general? Loose morals was one of the dangers facing the seven churches to whom Jesus wrote, and it is one of the greatest dangers facing God's church in our generation. In our society the belief in an absolute standard of right and wrong is fast disappearing from society. There is a loosening of moral faith and the boundary between right and wrong is disappearing. It is becoming increasingly accepted that an individual is not responsible for his character. It is believed that one's noral fate is determined by habits of his ancestors, either animal, or human. The scientific teaching about heredity is lending support to this idea. The doctrine of moral_heredity is spreading. One of the most popular doctrines in Christendom is that we are born in sin, and sin is inherited from our parents. No one in the world disputes that fact that heredity and environment are important factors in human behavior.
They both work together. What does a child inherit from its parents? He inherits chromosomes and genes. He doesn't get all of his two parents genes; he gets only half of those that operated in either parent. Millions of combinations are possible, and this accounts for the variety in looks and size etc. However one moral behavior is not influenced by these chromosomes. Sin is someting we do and comes into the life by response we make to an evil environtrent.
The greatest cause of immoral behavior is an evil environment and the individual's response to it.” In our day the moral standards of society are far far below the moral standards of Christ. The failue of the church to stand against an evil environment is the number one problem of the 21st century. It was to Christians who were greatly influenced by the moral standards of their society that Jesus said you must be overcomers. You must overcome false teaching; you must overcome lackadaisicalness; and you must ouerccne an evil environment. He closed every letter to the seven churches with the words, ”To him who overcmces.” Jesus said to him that overcomes l will give to eat of the tree of life, the hidden manna, a white stone, and on the stone a new name written, authority over the nations, the morrning star, the name of my God and my own new nane. Then He added that to him that overcomes, he will not be hurt of the second death, and I will not blot out his nane out of the book of life. I will permit him to sit down with me on my throne.
All of these worderful gifts pranised to the overccners refer to eternal life and our home in heaven. They are all synonyms for the crown of eternal life that awaits the overcomers. He did not say that heaven was certain to a Christian, even if he falls into sin. It is a popular doctrine in Christendom that when one receives Christ as
Savior, he will go to heaven no matter how bad a life he falls into. If he lives a bad life, he will go to heaven but will not rèceive the rewards in heaven that a faithful Christian will receive. No, he did not say that. He said, “Overcome and eternal life will be yours.” The responsibility and the strain He leaves upon our own wills. Paul wrote to Christians, not just to accept the faith, but to fight the gocd fight of faith. Yes, this is stern, bit how true to our experience. When we come face to face with temptation, God will not go before us, nor stand instead of us. It would not be worth the name temptation, unless it was our tanptation. For who is it that is to be tempted, tested and put to the test? Is it God or Christ? No, it is you and Me. However clear this call, and all our salvation starts fron thàt, however near his help, we have to decide; we must overcane. So it was with the prophets of old; so it was with Christ, so it was with, the first century Christians, aid so it is with us.