Week 18: The Early Church of Jesus

Our next week covers the first three chapters of the Book of Revelation, which is the record of a vision that John had nearly sixty years after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the vision it’s as if Jesus Himself has been a newcomer in seven first-century churches, and He describes the unique dynamics within each one. Imagine what Jesus would say if He visited us at Explore this Sunday!

55 thoughts on “Week 18: The Early Church of Jesus”

  1. From Essential Jesus: Of the seven churches mentioned in Revelation, five fall into a ‘Good news/Bad news’ category; Jesus commends them for some things but criticises them for others Only two of the churches fall into an ‘All Good’ category; Jesus praises them in spite of the fact that they are both facing severe struggles.

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  2. From Essential Jesus: As you’ll discover, some of the details in the Book of Revelation are difficult to understand. That’s because it’s the record of a vision. But concentrate on the main point. After all, when you wake from a dream, it’s generally only the main point that You remember. And the main point of the next five readings is this: Jesus knows what’s going on in the Church and He really, really cares. So let’s get going, to see if we can piece together what Jesus thinks about His Church.

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    1. From Essential Jesus Day 86: People sometimes refer to the last book of the Bible as ‘John’s Revelation’. But that’s a little misleading because in fact, it is ‘the revelation about Jesus Christ’, as the opening sentence makes clear. What we need to understand as we begin our exploration of this challenging book is that although the writer John recorded this incredible vision, the Book of Revelation is all about Jesus.

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    2. From Essential Jesus Day 86:
      But John also gives us plenty of new information about Jesus.
      He is majestic in appearance and His voice is powerful (vv 12-15). When Jesus was on earth, John got as close to Him as anyone (John 13:23-25). But, in this vision, John sees Jesus in all His heavenly glory. That contrast only highlights the miracle of the incarnation; in Jesus, the God of the universe became one of us.
      He will decide who goes to heaven or hell (v 18). That’s why we must take our decision about Him very seriously. It will have eternal consequences.
      He cares passionately about the Church (v 11). Jesus has something to say about the emerging Church of the first century (v 11). It reminds us that He knows and cares what goes on in our churches too.

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    1. vv 2, 3: I know what you do, how you work hard and never give up. I know you do not put up with the false teachings of evil people. You have tested those who say they are apostles but really are not, and you found they are liars. You have patience and have suffered troubles for my name and have not given up.

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    2. vv 4, 5: You have left the love you had in the beginning. So remember where you were before you fell. Change your hearts and do what you did at first. If you do not change, I will come to you and will take away your lampstand from its place.

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      1. This makes me think of sayings of Jesus like Mark 12:28-30: One of the teachers of the law came and asked Jesus, “Which of the commands is most important?”

        Jesus answered, “The most important command is this: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’

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      2. From Essential Jesus Day 87: The good news about this body of believers was… The bad news was they’d forsaken their first love, Jesus (Revelation 2:4). They were like a husband who plovides everything for his family needs but who is unfaithful to his wife. If there’s not true love for Jesus in the church, its members are just going through the motions and Jesus doesn’t like that. The way to rekindle dying love is to repent and start again (v 5).

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    3. From Essential Jesus Day 87: The church in Smyrna (vv 8-11) was one of two that were singled out for commendation only (the other is in Philadelphia, 3:7-14). But to the casual observer, this church may have looked like a failure. They were poor, they were being criticised, and their members were about to suffer persecution and imprisonment (vv 8-10) That’s not such a great formula for church growth. Or is it? Today places where the Church around the world is facing the greatest persecution is also where it is experiencing the fastest growth. That doesn’t mean we should throw our own churches into turmoil in an effort to boost attendance. But it reminds us that when Christians stand strong for the gospel, as they must in persecution, people will be attracted. Jesus called that faithfulness (v 10) and that’s what He wants to see in His Church.

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    1. v 13: I know where you live. It is where Satan has his throne. But you are true to me. You did not refuse to tell about your faith in me even during the time of Antipas, my faithful witness who was killed in your city, where Satan lives.

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    2. From the Essential Jesus book Day 88: I know people who have been searching for the perfect church all their lives. They evaluate the pastor, preaching and programmes wherever they attend, and then move on. It’s important to find a church that loves Jesus and believes the Bible, and it may take some finding. But, as Groucho Marx once said, ‘I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.’ Churches aren’t perfect because they’re made up of imperfect people.

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    3. From Essential Jesus Day 88: The church in Pergamum (vv 12-17) had a wonderful history: they had remained true to Jesus during a period of unusual stress and persecution (v 13) . But that spiritual victory was long past; now they were being enticed by false teaching (vv 14,15). There are churches and denominations today that have a wonderful history of evangelism and outreach but who have lost their commitment to the gospel and biblical teaching. As a result, they are gradually dying. Jesus says the way to fix that situation is straightforward: ‘Change your hearts and lives!’ (v 6).

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    4. From Essential Jesus Day 88: The church in Thyatira (vv 18-29) were a loving, faithful, serving and persevering congregation (v 19).What vicar wouldn’t be happy with that? But the church in Thyatira had the same problem as Pergamum: they were tolerating false teaching (v 20).And notice that it led to immoral behaviour.When human reason takes a higher place than biblical principles the Church begins to look no different than the world. For example, a recent survey found that Bible-believing Christians were just as likely to divorce as non-Christians.

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    5. From Essential Jesus Day 88: All this raises an important question: how do we live with the fact that there’s no perfect church? Jesus says, ‘Hold on to what you have until I come’ (v 25). In other words, remain faithful to the gospel and God’s Word and eagerly look forward to his return. We can do that no matter what church we belong to.

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    6. From the Essential Jesus book Day 88: Lord, You know that the Church isn’t perfect and neither am I. Even so, help me to hold firmly to the Gospel and to look eagerly for Your return.

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    1. vv 4, 5: But you have a few there in Sardis who have kept their clothes unstained, so they will walk with me and will wear white clothes, because they are worthy. Those who win the victory will be dressed in white clothes like them. And I will not erase their names from the book of life, but I will say they belong to me before my Father and before His angels.

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    2. vv 7, 8: This is what the One who is holy and true, who holds the key of David, says. When He opens a door, no one can close it. And when He closes it, no one can open it. I know what you do. I have put an open door before you, which no one can close.

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    3. From the Essential Jesus book Day 89: Years ago I attended an urban church that some of my friends thought was dead. It was part of a denomination that was drifting away from the Bible.The church was located in a difficult neighbourhood and we struggled to maintain a large stone building that hadn’t been filled in 50 years. But a small group of us began meeting in a side chapel once each week to pray for the church. As a result, God did a wonderful thing: He didn’t suddenly fill the pews, but He made those of us who prayed spiritually alive.

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    4. From Essential Jesus Day 89: The church in Sardis (vv 1-6) had ‘a reputation of being alive’ (v 1). Today, everyone wants to be part of a successful church. Mega-churches attract the best preachers, the most money and the largest congregations. But is that what Jesus wants? Not necessarily. Even though the church in Sardis had everything going for it, Jesus considered it dead. Why? Because its members weren’t fully obeying the basic teachings of the gospel (vv 2,3). That can happen if we focus on a few ‘precious promises’ but not committed to reading and applying all parts of the Bible, for example. Without that, Jesus says to the church in Sardis, ‘I have found that what you are doing is less than what my God wants.’ (v 2).

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    5. From Essential Jesus Day 89: Perhaps the most encouraging thing from this passage is that whether you find yourself in a dead church or one that is truly alive, Jesus says you will ‘walk with me’ (v 4) if you remain faithful to Him and His Word. The best reason to read and live out the full message of the Bible is not so that we can be ‘holier than thou’; it’s so that we can be closer to Jesus.

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    1. vv 15, 16: I know what you do, that you are not hot or cold. I wish that you were hot or cold! But because you are lukewarm—neither hot, nor cold—I am ready to spit you out of my mouth.

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    2. vv 17, 18: You say, ‘I am rich, and I have become wealthy and do not need anything.’ But you do not know that you are really miserable, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. I advise you to buy from me gold made pure in fire so you can be truly rich. Buy from me white clothes so you can be clothed and so you can cover your shameful nakedness. Buy from me medicine to put on your eyes so you can truly see.

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    3. From Essential Jesus Day 90: People who are passionate about God today are often labelled ‘extremists’. A society that worships a valueless form of tolerance is threatened by anyone who knows what they believe and is willing to talk about it. Of course, we shouldn’t try to cram our beliefs down the throats of others; that does more harm than good. But there’s nothing wrong with making God our first priority; that’s what He wants (Matthew 6:33).

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    4. From the Essential Jesus book Day 90: No one would ever accuse the church in Laodicea of being a bunch of religious extremists (vv 14-22) ; they were lukewarm for God, and that really bothered Jesus (vv 15,16). Being lukewarm still bothers Jesus. For the Laodiceans, it was wealth that had dulled their passion for the things of God (v 17). Those of us who have material possessions should be thankful for what we have, but we should also heed this warning to the Laodiceans; it’s impossible to love both God and money (Matthew 6:24). It’s like trying to marry two people at the same time; it just doesn’t work.

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  3. From Essential Jesus: Is it a good thing that, in general, the Western Church doesn’t face much persecution? How can a congregation remain faithful when they live in peace and prosperity?

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  4. From Essential Jesus: If you find yourself in a dead church, how can you know whether to find a new church or stay and try to make things better? Have you ever been in this situation? What happened?

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  5. From Essential Jesus, Have you ever felt lukewarm in your relationship with God? Have you ever been in a church that felt that way? What could you do to help your church ‘stay awake’?

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