December 2015 • Volume XV, Issue 20
Thyatira: A Church of Love, Service and Faithfulness
Since many people have a hard time keeping straight the
seven churches of Revelation 2-3, I will start with four
simple facts about the congregation in Thyatira (2:18-29).
First, Thyatira was the smallest town or city amongst those
mentioned in Revelation 2-3. Second, though this
congregation was in the smallest of the seven cities,
Christ’s letter to it is the longest in Revelation 2-3.
While Ephesus gets 7 verses (2:1-7), Smyrna gets 4 verses
(8-11), Pergamos gets 6 verses (12-17), Sardis gets 6 verses
(3:1-6), Philadelphia gets 7 verses (7-13) and Laodicea gets
9 verses (14-22), Thyatira receives a whopping 12 verses.
Third, Thyatira was the city of Lydia, “a seller of purple,”
“whose heart the Lord opened,” whose household was baptized
and who hosted Paul and his companions (Acts 16:14-15, 40).
Fourth, Thyatira was the church of “that woman Jezebel”
So there you have it: the church in Thyatira was in (a) the
smallest city yet it received (b) the longest letter; it was
a congregation famous for two women: (c) Lydia, her actual
name, mentioned in Acts 16, and (d) Jezebel, her “spiritual”
name, mentioned in Revelation 2.
The first strength of the church of Thyatira that is
highlighted by the Lord Jesus Christ is love: “I know thy
... charity” (19). Whereas the standout, positive feature of
Ephesus was labour, persevering labour even in disciplining
false apostles (1-3, 6), the main virtue of the congregation
in Thyatira was love.
Theirs was a love for the Triune God: Father, Son and Holy
Spirit. They loved Jesus Christ, who loved them and bought
them with His own precious blood. They loved one another, as
brothers and sisters in the Lord; they loved their
neighbours; they even loved their enemies, desiring their
salvation, praying for them and doing good to them.
What a high and beautiful commendation uttered by the Son of
God Himself: “I know your love!” Would He say this about our
churches? Is the first of the nine-fold fruit of the Spirit
evident in our congregations (Gal. 5:22-23)? Do our churches
exemplify the love of I Corinthians 13?
The second virtue of the Thyatiran congregation is its
service: “I know thy ... charity, and service” (Rev. 2:19).
The saints ministered to each other, as Christ’s willing
slaves who serve the Lord.
In today’s terms, this would include the members of the
church gladly giving others lifts to public worship, serving
tea at meetings or bringing meals to the sick, visiting the
afflicted, eagerly helping in the various ministries of the
congregation, assisting the young mothers or elderly, etc.
Their attitude was not: “Do I have to! Surely somebody else
could do it!” In the church of Thyatira, the members
believed in helping one another and this was their practice
too, their holy service as a kingdom of priests, working
together in Christ name as a harmonious body.
The source of their service was their love: “I know thy …
charity, and service” (19). Because of their Christian love,
they were willing volunteers in the service of the Triune
God and one another. Because of their love, they wanted
others to join them in the worship of the Lord, and so they
evangelized and sought to bring others under the preaching
of God’s Word, that they too may believe in Jesus Christ
What about us? “I know their love and their service? Because
they love Me, they are a serving congregation.” Is this what
Jesus Christ in heaven says about our churches? And what
about each of us individually? What service of your fellow
saints do you do? How do you assist and aid them out of
The third gracious characteristic of the congregation in
Thyatira is its faithfulness: “I know thy … charity, and
service, and faith” (19). That the idea of the word here
rendered “faith” is that of faithfulness is seen from the
development of the verse. Out of their “charity” or love
sprang “service” which was characterized by faithfulness. In
other words, they were faithful in their service because of
their love for the living God and their neighbour.
The office-bearers and members of the church in Thyatira
were faithful in their loving service in little things, as
well as big things. They showed faithfulness towards all the
saints, not only the more comely parts of the body but the
less comely parts too. The excellent motto of the
congregation in Thyatira was “Faithful, loving service!”
What do you think of this church? Would you want to be a
member of a church like Thyatira? Perhaps you think that you
could do with being served and helped, and maybe you really
could do with such assistance. The implied exhortation is
that we need to serve others, especially our fellow saints
in Jesus Christ, who taught us, “And whosoever will be chief
among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man
came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give
his life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:27-28).
This is a high calling of service, the imitation of our
Saviour, but it is the calling of every Christian and every
member of a true church. The godly Christian life and the
life of faithful church membership are not easy but they
lead to perfect joy in heaven with the Lord, and great peace
and blessedness here below! Rev. Stewart
“The Seven Churches in Asia,” 12
sermons on Revelation 2-3 in an attractive box set (CD or
DVD), is available from the CPRC Bookstore for £12/set (inc.
P&P). Free video and audio of these sermons can be found on
CPRC website and
Our Old Man and New Man (2)
I shall have to summarize the questions asked in this issue
of the News, for the questioner sent in more material than
we have room for in this article. The issue involves the New
Testament concepts of our “old man” and our “new man.” The
questions ask for these terms to be identified and the
The questioner especially refers to two texts: Ephesians
4:22-24 and Colossians 3:9-11. The texts seem to convey the
idea that in the life of the Christian this work of God is
completed (Col. 3:9-10) and yet the believer is admonished
to put off the old man and put on the new man (Eph.
The questioner further says, “This leads to a wider question
concerning the nature and extent of the change that has
taken place in the believer. What is the believer’s
relationship to the old man and the old nature?” He then
points out that II Corinthians 5:17 speaks of the believer
as a “new creature.” He reminds us that Ephesians 2:3
teaches that we “were by nature children of wrath.” Are we
to infer from this that when we were quickened we were given
a new nature? If so, where do the struggles of Romans 7 come
The questioner ends with saying, “I recognize these are
fundamental questions but the answers sometimes given are
anything but clear.” To this, I will definitely add a loud
In the last issue of the News, I defined some key terms. I
can now go ahead and answer the questions submitted.
In a certain spiritual sense, the regenerated Christian is a
schizophrenic person: that is, he has a split personality,
as it were. Paul writes of this in Romans 7, a passage
appealed to by the questioner, that, although he wants to do
the good, he does not do it: “For the good that I would I do
not” (v. 19). He also writes that the evil that he does not
want to do, he does: “but the evil which I would not, that I
do” (v. 19). As any Christian knows from his own experience,
both of Paul’s statements are true. Paul does both: he hates
sin, but does it; he wants to do the good, but does not do
it. And both can and often do happen at the same time. A
regenerated Christian finds himself hating sin but doing it,
in spite of his desire not to do it; and he finds himself
striving to do good, but he sins nonetheless.
I have found that a good way to explain this aspect of the
life of the child of God is to use the analogy of the nation
of Israel. The nation of Israel was composed of two
elements: the elect and the reprobate. The elect were those
who served God and the reprobate were the carnal element in
the nation who turned the people again and again to idols.
Both lived side by side. This situation in the nation is
analogous to the regenerated Christian who has a new heart
which cannot sin but also a totally depraved nature. Between
these two is constant warfare, both tugging the child of God
in opposite directions.
Paul describes this bitter and awful conflict in Galatians
5:17, where by the word “flesh” Scripture refers to our
depraved natures: “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit,
and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the
one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye
would.” Before our spiritual renewal, we were “children of
wrath, even as others” (Eph. 2:3). Moreover, our old natures
remain totally depraved even after our regeneration.
In the nation’s history, the reprobate element were many
times in control of the nation and the nation as a whole
sinned by doing all the evils that the wicked nations
outside of Israel did. The elect were still present, for God
told Elijah that he had reserved unto himself seven thousand
who had not bowed the knee to Baal (I Kings 19:18). But even
the elect remnant did not always remain holy in their lives;
they too fell into idolatry. This situation is analogous to
the elect Christian who sometimes falls into many sins. His
totally depraved nature is dominant in his life. He engages
in many sins and seems to be a wicked man. The life of
regeneration is hidden by the sins of his evil nature.
But at other times, the new man in Christ has control of his
life. He lives in fellowship with God, prays fervently,
enjoys His favour and walks in good works. This is analogous
to Israel when the elect were in control of the nation and
the nation served God, worshipped in the temple, brought
sacrifices for the forgiveness of sin and were clearly a
nation dedicated to God. Such was the situation in the
nation during the reigns of David, Solomon, Asa, Jehoshaphat
and Hezekiah. Yet the wicked were still present in the
This is the battle that goes on in the Christian all his
life. It begins at the new birth and continues till he dies.
One more point in the analogy. When the nation of Israel as
a nation lived faithfully in the service of God, their
service was never perfect. Even at the peaks of Israel’s
life of obedience to God, there was much that was sinful.
And when the wicked had control of the nation and the nation
as a whole walked in all the ways of the heathen, the nation
was never totally like the heathen, for the elect were
And so it is with the Christian. Even when the child of God
lives a worldly life so that one seeing him would think him
an ungodly man, the Spirit does not depart from him, but
continues his work of grace so that the elect, sinning child
of God, repents, turns to the cross of Christ for
forgiveness and enjoys God’s favour again.
But when the Christian lives in obedience to God, because of
his evil nature, he still is far from perfect. The authors
of our Heidelberg Catechism were profound in their
understanding of human nature and remind us of two things:
even our best works are corrupted and polluted with sin, and
we have only a small beginning of the new obedience (Q. & A.
We cannot conclude with our emphasizing that, in spite of
the hardships, the regenerated in Christ is always
victorious. It is not as if the outcome of the battle is
ever in doubt. Nor is it ever true that the Christian
attains perfection in this life, as some claim. But I
reserve this word of great comfort to the next issue of the
News. Prof. Hanko
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