Revelation 2:20 "But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols."
A small church enduring immense pressure and dealing with a big problem
Thyatira - the little church under big pressure to conform
Out of all the churches that John wrote to in the Book of Revelation, Thyatira was the smallest. The only other mention of Thyatira is when we meet the first convert from Europe, Lydia, the purple trader from this little city in Acts 16:14. Although most likely the smallest of the seven churches, the letter that Jesus dictates to John is ironically the longest one. It goes to show that in the eyes of Jesus - the size of a church does not measure its importance. Thyatira is described by Bible teacher John MacArthur: "Thyatira was noted for its numerous guilds (roughly the equivalent of today's labor unions). Thyatira's main industry was the production of wool and dyed goods (especially purple goods, dyed with purple dye extracted from the madder root.)1 Reliable New Testament scholar Robert Mounce notes: Since the trade guilds were inseparably intertwined with local religious observances, they posed a special problem for the economic well-being of Christians."2
The pressure weighing upon the congregation at Thyatira was immense. Nevertheless Jesus commends this church in Revelation 2:19 ‘I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first." Jesus commends this church as the One whose all-seeing eyes are described as "flames of fire". (Revelation 1:14; 2:18)
Thyatira's big problem - conflicting convictions
Despite her improvement in the face of incredible pressure to conform, Jesus states in Revelation 2:20 that the church was at the same time tolerating error and immorality within her walls. The problem had a name - Jezebel. The woman in question was functioning much like the infamous Jezebel back in the Old Testament. (1 Kings 18-2 Kings 9) Thyatira was a church at the cross-roads. She needed to have convictions about not only how she would respond to outside pressure, but also certain inside persons. As we will see in today's post, Jesus' message to a church at a crossroads is not to be a church of preferences, but of Godly convictions. Preferences are harmless choices we make between one thing and another. Convictions are what we would be willing to die for at all costs. Why is it important to have Godly convictions? What kind of Godly convictions does Jesus want His church to have? Note these thoughts:
1. Conviction to grow in Christ Revelation 2:18-19
2. Conviction about Godly tolerance Revelation 2:20-24
3. Conviction to be an overcomer. Revelation 2:25-29
Conviction to grow in Christ
After introducing Himself with the same title as we find in Revelation 1:15, Jesus says these words in Revelation 2:19 "I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first." This first thought of Christian growth as a Godly conviction is not to hard to prove from this text. The "deeds" or "works" that Jesus speaks of in 2:19 result from the Thyatiran's convictions concerning love, faith, service and perseverance. In the original language, those four words have the word "the" attached to them, meaning that the convictions are rooted in "the love", "the faith", "the service" and "the perseverance".
The commitment they had in the beginning to these four areas had grown to become "greater than at first". Though they were under much pressure, the Thyratiran Christians grew in their faith as a result of these convictions. Scriptures such as Romans 5:1-5 and 1 Peter 1:6-7 speak of these types of grace-based convictions driving Christian growth in the face of such trials.
James 1:2-4 states - "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its
perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." The course of your Christian life will either be driven by preference or conviction. Objective Biblical standards are the engine behind Christian growth, not opinions. Jesus commended this church for at least having convictions that lent to her growth in increasing works of Godliness. The conviction to grow in Christ is one of the convictions Jesus desires for His church.
1. John MacArthur. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary - Revelation 1-11. Moody. 1999. Page 98.
MacArthur writes later on: "The pressure faced by Christians in Thyatira came from the guilds. To hold a job or run a business, it was necessary to become a member of the guild. Each guild had its patron deity, in whose honor feasts were held-complete with meat sacrificed to idols and sexual immorality."
2. Robert Mounce. The New International Commentary on the New Testament - The Book of Revelation. William B. Eerdmans. 1977. Page 101