Posted by: Brad Beaman | May 12, 2008

When the Church Needs Intolerance

Intolerance has a negative connotation. Many times churches become stagnant because of intolerance. They will not accept those different from themselves. That is why it seems surprising that Jesus himself delivers a message on intolerance.

But when a church tolerates someone who teaches or practices immorality within the fellowship it can ruin a church. Take the example of The Flea and the Man found in Aesop’s fables:

A Man, very much annoyed with a Flea, caught him at last, and said, “Who are you who dare to feed on my limbs, and to cost me so much trouble in catching you?’ The Flea replied, “O my dear sir, pray spare my life, and destroy me not, for I cannot possibly do you much harm.” The Man, laughing, replied, “Now you shall certainly die by mine own hands, for no evil, whether it be small or large, ought to be tolerated.”

Unfortunately this message on intolerance is one the church at Thyatira did not learn.

This passage records Jesus’ words to the church at Thyatira. The city of Thyatira was not a politically great city like Ephesus, Pergamum or Smyrna. But it was the center of trade. They had commerce and such trades as bronze smiths.

Jesus Words

Revelation 2:18
“To the angel of the church in Thyatira write:
These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze.

The sovereignty of God, the authority and power of Jesus are the aspect of Jesus that we find portrayed in the message to Thyatira. The title Son of God is used. When Jesus refers to himself here as the Son of God this is only time that this title is used of Jesus in Revelation.

I was examining some life-size statues of Jesus. It is very interesting to observe the eyes. The artists give Jesus sad puppy dog eyes. Here it is not the eyes of helpless despair, but we find Jesus with eyes of blazing fire.

Jesus’ penetrating eyes can discern the hearts of people. He knows the sinful motives of people when we might not be aware of them. The feet of Jesus are like burning bronze. You and I have feet of clay. Jesus has feet of bronze. It speaks of the majesty and strength of Jesus.

Jesus commends the church vs 19

These letters are to the pastors of the seven churches. Today sometimes pastors receive letters of people expressing gratitude about the positive qualities of their church. It is a joy and let me tell you the pastor loves to have people say positive things about the church. But if it were Jesus saying the good things it would be a joy beyond description. Imagine the excitement of the pastor when Jesus said:

Revelation 2:19
I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.

I don’t know if there would be anything he would rather hear Jesus say. (or read that Jesus said this)

Love is the key ingredient to a God honoring church. This is what Ephesus lacked, but not Thyatira. They loved both God and their fellow man and the scripture teaches that these two go together.

The church of Thyatira had faith. By faith you are saved. Faith pleases God. We are to walk by faith and live by faith. If it were not enough that Jesus commends this church for its love he also commends them for their faith. But there are still more good things that Jesus has to say about this church.

Thyatira had wonderful service. It is the church’s service to God that show their love and faith. Their love and faith was manifested in their service toward God. This church really had a ministry doing the good works God called His church to do.

The church at Thyatira had perseverance. They stayed at it. They were not easily discouraged. Trials came and their testimony persevered. They honored God as they persevered.

They were showing progress. I know this thrilled the heart of the pastor when he heard this. Doing more than you did at first. Spiritual progress where people are growing in their faith is what a church is hoping for. This church is not in a rut, but it is moving ahead.

What a beautiful combination of attributes they had. They were loving people of faith who serve the Lord and were growing Christians. It would have been the ultimate compliment if not for the next word that absolutely spoils the beauty of the moment.

In verse 20 is the word “nevertheless.” This is the lead in to the negative. Now comes the painful truth. There was a glaring flaw at the Church at Thyatira.

Revelation 2:20
Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.

Here are these stinging words: You tolerate immorality. There was a deadly problem in the church.

It is like receiving a report from the doctor. Your blood pressure is OK, cholesterol fine, blood sugar right in line, the best health report you have had in a few years. You health has even improved in those categories, Nevertheless the doctor says. You have a fatal disease and unless you adjust your lifestyle you will die.

Some corrective action is needed in this church. Now this Pastor at Thyatira isn’t so elated. To confront a group in the church and their leader that promotes immorality might mean hurt feelings. They probably have friends and relatives in the church that will come to their defense. There will probably be unpleasant confrontation.

Can’t we just be happy and continue on knowing that some of the church members are making great progress? No.

The problem is this member called a “Jezebel of a Woman”. This was a nickname in reference to a powerful Old Testament figure. Jezebel was a pagan and married King Ahab.

Elijah was the prophet to confront her. Even after he called fire down from heaven he still felt intimidated by her powerful wicked influence. He ran away and wanted to quit the ministry much because of his fear of her.

Thyatira had this kind of person in their church fellowship. If the prophet Elijah was intimidated by Jezebel who wouldn’t be? But we are called to confront the Jezebels. We are not to tolerate them even when that would seem the easier thing to do.

The Christians of Thyatira with all their great qualities were turning a blind eye. But Jesus with his eyes of burning fire could not ignore this.

We need to try and strengthen our weak Christians. Help them study the Word and let God convict them in their sin. But when an influential person who is teaching immorality or living in an adulterous relationship is leading the sheep astray it is time for intolerance.

Jesus has strong words for this Jezebel.

Revelation 2:22
So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways.

Those who are following Jezebel’s ways are in for intense suffering. She was going to have time to repent, but if she didn’t there would be intense suffering. This suffering was altogether different than Smyrna or Pergamum who suffered for their righteousness. She is not suffering because of her faith, but because of her immorality.

Revelation 2:23
I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.

Jesus proclaims that those who are following this corrupt teaching in the church have time to repent. If they don’t there is suffering and even death ahead.

All the churches in Asia will read this and see that Jesus dealt with this sin problem through suffering and death. It is a testimony that Jesus searches the hearts and mind of every believer. He responds to each of you according to your deeds. Promoting immorality and destroying a healthy fellowship is a gravely serious matter.
Ultimately you answer to Jesus to these and He deals harshly with the Jezebels.

Promise for the over comers

Don’t forget there are still some precious and dedicated Christians in this congregation. For those who overcome for the one who does the will of Jesus to the end.

Revelation 2:25-27
25Only hold on to what you have until I come. 26To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations—
27’He will rule them with an iron scepter;
he will dash them to pieces like pottery’ — just as I have received authority from my Father.

Hold on to that Love, faith service perseverance and Christian growth until Jesus comes again. When Jesus comes it will be a glorious day for the faithful who will receive authority from God to rule over the nations.

Revelation 2:28-29
28I will also give him the morning star. 29He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

For the Over Comer
This phrase the morning star is also found in Revelation 22:16 as a title for Christ. The presence of the glorified Christ. Here is a great scriptural motivation to remain faithful to Christ. What a glorious savior that we serve.

At Thyatira they were, with all their great qualities, turning a blind eye to immorality. But Jesus with his eyes of burning fire could not ignore immorality in the church. When it comes to immorality there comes a time when the church needs to be intolerant. Jesus commands it.

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Responses

  1. Howdy!

    WORDPRESS says that our two blogs (at least our most recent posts) are related, so I came by to check you out–I hope you enjoy my slant on the topic. Please stop by my blog and let me know what you think (and if you like it, maybe add Jesus + Compassion to your blog roll so we can stay connected).

    God bless you!

    Cd

    • Hey Dave, I like your site. Glad they are linked. In Christ Brad

  2. Amen…nice to meet you (they linked our sites again after I posted todays blog too!)


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