One can learn a lot from reading about the seven churches in Revelation 2-3, and Jesus’ response to each. In America there is a tendency to believe God’s love equals God’s pleasure in; that is, since God loves His church and Christ bore all her sins, He is therefore pleased with her. Indeed, God loves His church with an undying love; however, of the seven churches only two were highly commended by the Lord, two received only rebuke, and four received both commendation and rebuke.
We have every reason to rejoice in God’s love and grace. Yet, we should also tremble, and take very seriously His warnings and rebukes. Something we can learn for today is whether “conservative” or “liberal”—both can be doing things very poorly and receive stern rebuke! Jesus takes sound doctrine seriously, as well as love. Furthermore, He is sickened by shallowness, compromise, halfheartedness, and empathy—and He will deal with these sternly, if necessary.
Some will argue, “But this negates grace—making works necessary.” No! Those who would make such an argument misunderstand grace to begin with. The purpose of grace is not simply to provide forgiveness for sin, but to also transform us more and more into the likeness of Christ.
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom. 6:1-2, ESV).
“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29).
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:1-2).
Furthermore, Jesus’ intentions for His people is that they will be salt and light in a decaying and dark world (see Matt. 5:13-16).
Concerning the seven churches, some believe each church represents a specific “age” of the church. I do not hold this view. I believe throughout the church’s history each church has been represented to some degree. Either way, the messages to each church are still messages to churches today. We would do well to pay attention to the commendations, and to take heed to the rebukes and warnings. To ignore these is to ignore the words of the very Lord we profess to love and serve.