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“I have a few things against you”


In the book of Revelation, Jesus (via the Apostle John) is very clear on the importance of opposing false doctrine. John MacArthur writes:

img   In His final recorded messages to the church, given to the apostle John in a vision several decades after Christ’s ascension into heaven, we see that the silencing of false teachers was still one of our Lords primary concerns, even from his throne in heaven. He addressed several churches—Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Only two of the churches, Smyrna and Philadelphia, were commended for their faithfulness without any qualification or hint of rebuke. Both of them had remained true to Christ despite the influence of “those who say they are Jews and are not, but a synagogue of Satan” (Revelation 2:9; 3:9). All five other churches received various measures of rebuke, based on how corrupt, unfaithful, or spiritually lethargic they were.
   A prominent theme in practically all Jesus’ messages to those seven churches is the issue of how they responded to false teachers and rank heretics in their midst. Ephesus, of course, was the church Jesus rebuked with the words: “I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (2:4). But Ephesus was nonetheless strongly commended twice because they refused to tolerate false teachers. Before he admonished them for leaving their first love, Jesus praised them for their steadfast resistance to false apostles: “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. and you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars” (v. 2). Afterward, he told them, “But this you have, that you hate the deeds of Nicolaitans, which I also hate” (v. 6).
   The epistle to Pergamos was basically the flip side of that message to Ephesus. Christ commended the saints at Pergamos for holding fast to his name and not denying the faith, even though they dwelt where Satan’s throne was. In other words, they had successfully preserved in the faith despite external threats and persecution. Unlike Ephesus, they had not left their first love. Nevertheless, Christ had a list of rebukes for them, and these were all related to their tolerance of false doctrine in their own midst. It was if they were utterly insensible to internal dangers that came with a tolerant attitude toward deviant doctrines. He wrote, “I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam. . . . You also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate” (vv. 14–15).
   Likewise to Thyatira he wrote: “I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce my servants.” (v. 20).
   The church at Sardis was spiritually dead, and the church at Laodicea was lukewarm and smug. Those churches had clearly already lost their will to oppose false doctrine and purge sin from their midst. Their lack of energy, lack of zeal and (in the case of Sardis) lack of life was a direct result of their failure to keep themselves and their fellowship pure. They had not been sufficiently wary of false teaching, and therefore they had not remained devoted to Christ alone. The warnings of Christ gave them chilling reminders that churches do go bad. When that happens, it is almost it is almost never because they succumb to dangers from the outside. Rather it is almost always because they let down their guard and allow false doctrines to be disseminated freely inside the church. Apathy sets in, followed inevitably by spiritual disaster.
   It is clear from those letters to the churches in Revelation that battling heresy is a duty Christ expects every Christian to be devoted to. Whether we like it or not, our very existence in this world involves spiritual warfare—it is not a party or a picnic. If Christ himself devoted so much of his time and energy during His earthly ministry to the task of confronting and refuting false teachers, surely that must be high on our agenda as well. His style of ministry ought to be a model for ours, and his zeal against false religion ought to fill our hearts and minds as well.

—John MacArthur, The Jesus You Can’t Ignore (Thomas Nelson, 2009), 206–208.



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Posted  in: Church & Culture · John MacArthur · The Jesus You Can’t Ignore · Theology Proper
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