Praise God! I am glad to welcome you to your favourite column. Last week I began to talk about what the Lord is looking for in a church. I spoke on the first one: Love for the Lord and one another. Let me ask you again: Has your love for the Lord dwindled? Do you still love the Lord as you did in the past? Do you walk in love towards fellow human beings? You need to examine yourself. The Lord won’t commend a church where there is no love for him and one another.
Let me show you more things the Lord is looking for in a church he will commend.
• Intolerance of teachers of false doctrines – The Lord is particular about a church’s attitude to teachers of false doctrines. He is concerned about what is right as against what is popular. The Lord had complaints against the church in Pergamum for tolerating false teachers. He did not fail to underscore the strong points of this church. She was living in the city where satan had his throne but had remained loyal to the Lord and had refused to deny him even when Antipas, his faithful witness was martyred within “satan’s city”. But hear the Lord’s complaints: “And yet I have a few complaints against you. You tolerate some among you who are like Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to worship idols by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin. In the same way, you have some Nicolaitans among you — people who follow the same teaching and commit the same sins” (Rev 2:14-15 NLT).
There was an earlier reference to the Nicolaitans, with reference to the Ephesian church. Some Bible scholars believe that the Nicolaitans were a heretical religious group that troubled the churches of Ephesus and Pergamum (Pergamos). Some others believe they were believers who compromised their faith to enjoy the sinful practices of the Ephesian society. Notice that the Lord’s complaints were not that the entire church in Pergamum was teaching false doctrine, rather it was that the church was tolerant of those teaching false doctrines. The teachings of Balaam and the Nicolaitans were the same; their teachings were meant to seduce and lead the people astray.
Tolerance of the teachers of false doctrines was as serious as teaching false doctrines. The Lord viewed this tolerance as a sin and told the church to repent. “Repent of your sin, or I will come to you suddenly and fight against them with the sword of my mouth. Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it” (Rev 2:16-17 NLT).
A false doctrine is destructive to the church. It is dangerous to the health of the church, therefore no church should condone false teachers in her midst. The health of members must be protected by getting rid of those who teach false doctrines. Just as the Lord was not pleased with the Pergamum church for tolerating heretical teachers in her midst, the Lord will not be pleased with any church today that condones them, either as ministers in her denomination, guest ministers, itinerant ministers, or authors. And there are heretical teachers in our churches today and such teachers could even be enjoying a large following. It is a sin to tolerate and continue in communion with those who corrupt the church with their corrupt teachings as Balam corrupted the Israelites. Continuing in fellowship with such heretical teachers amounts to being partakers of the sins of others. “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues” (Rev 18:4 KJV).
• Intolerance of false prophets – The sin of the church in Pergamum was the tolerance of false teachers. But the church in Thyatira was guilty of tolerating false prophets. False teachers are as dangerous as false prophets. The church in Thyatira tolerated the spirit of Jezebel that operated in polluting or corrupting the Lord’s servants by teaching them to commit sexual sin and sin concerning food offered to idols. The Lord did not overlook this despite the good points he noted in favour of this church.
“I 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” (Rev 2:19 NLT).
This positive observation did not cancel or compensate for the weakness the Lord noted in the church in Thyatira.
“But I have this complaint against you. You are permitting that woman — that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet — to lead my servants astray. She is encouraging them to worship idols, eat food offered to idols, and commit sexual sin. I gave her time to repent, but she would not turn away from her immorality” (Verses 20-21 NLT).
Notice that Jezebel called herself a prophet; she was not a prophet. We first read of Jezebel, the wife of Ahab in 1Kings 16:31 where the Bible says, Ahab “took as wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians; and he went and served Baal and worshiped him” (NKJV). Jezebel became the powerful woman behind the throne; she had full control of her husband and did whatever she liked as seen in the way she killed Naboth to get his vineyard for his husband and how Elijah ran away from her after she had threatened to kill him following Elijah’s massacre of the 400 prophets of Baal.
This is how the Bible summarised how powerful this woman was: “No one else so completely sold himself to what was evil in the Lord’s sight as did Ahab, for his wife, Jezebel, influenced him” (1 Kgs 21:25 NLT).
I still have much to talk about intolerance of false prophets.
Next week, I will start with this. The Lord hates tolerance of false prophets and you should have nothing to do with them. The Lord will not commend any church that encourages or promotes false prophets. False teachers and prophets are dangerous to the church. Please join me next week for a continuation of this message.