Christ’s messages to the seven churches in Asia are sobering audits, for the most part. Out of the seven, only Smyrna and Philadelphia are not rebuked harshly. It is helpful to contrast Smyrna and Philadelphia with Pergamum and Thyatira. All four churches have members that are working against the Gospel. Christ refers to those in Smyrna and Philadelphia as the “Synagogue of Satan.” In Pergamum and Thyatira, “Jezebel,” “them that hold the doctrine of Balaam,” and “them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes” are named.
In Christ’s audit, however, Smyrna and Philadelphia are assured that He knows the trouble that the Synagogue of Satan is causing for the true members of the Body of Christ, whereas Pergamum and Thyatira are rebuked for allowing those that hold false doctrines to entice others into sin.
False doctrine is not hard to spot. It is any teaching that contradicts the clear testimony of Scripture, or any way of thinking that exalts human reasoning above the Bible. How would our churches fare if Christ were to send us a similar audit today? Would he commend us for keeping His commands and enduring patiently, or would he rebuke us for allowing members with false doctrines to lead others away from the truth and into sin?
Christ’s rebuke to Pergamum and Thyatira indicate clearly that He believes that we, as a church, are responsible for the doctrines that are taught from our pulpits, in our Sabbath School classes, and in our schools.
Let us heed Jude’s advice, and contend for the faith that was entrusted to God’s holy people. I can assure you that certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among us. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord, sometimes with great subtlety.
Dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They have written to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and who do not have the Spirit.
But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
Be merciful to those who doubt; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.
Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.