January 2016 • Volume XV, Issue 21
Thyatira: A Persevering and Working Church
In the last issue of the News, we saw that the church at
Thyatira (Rev. 2:18-29) was characterized by three graces:
love, service and faithfulness. The Lord Jesus Christ also
mentions a fourth quality of this congregation: its
patience, that is, its perseverance: “I know thy … charity,
and service, and faith, and thy patience” (19).
Perseverance is a wonderful grace in believers and church
members. The Greek word used in our text means “remaining
under,” that is, remaining under a burden placed there by
the Lord, without buckling under it. A congregation which
perseveres is one that sticks to its calling and presses on
in its obedience to the living God without being
disheartened, quitting or compromising.
This spiritual grace is especially necessary for church
office-bearers but it ought to be a quality evident in all
the members of the body of Christ. Those who do not
persevere in godly church life will never achieve much in
the kingdom of God, and their lives will be filled with
gnawing regrets and discontentment.
It is relatively easy to do your bit when the sun is shining
and all are applauding you on every side. But the grace of
perseverance is vital to keep on loving your fellow church
members, year in and year out, even if you learn more about
their annoying ways and weaknesses.
We also need to persevere in our service to the body of the
church, even if we get little thanks, or if we are treated
poorly, or if we see little or no fruit for our labours, or
if the church does not grow or becomes smaller.
Each church member must persevere in faithfulness. We must
not give way to despairing thoughts like these: “I don’t
feel like doing this any more. Sure, no one will notice if I
just stop or slack off from church work. Other people don’t
seem to be pulling their weight, so why should I bother?”
We must all be very clear as to the reason why we labour in
the body of our Lord Jesus Christ! Our primary motivation
must be love of the Triune God in gratitude for His great
redemption of us from our sins through the cross of our
Saviour, the incarnate Son of God. What drives us in our
service must not be the desire to be seen or praised of men,
like the Pharisees (Matt. 6:1-18). Our standard is not the
behaviour of other church members, never mind the weaker
ones in the congregation. Our rule is God’s inspired and
So persevere in loving the saints; persevere in service in
the church; persevere in faithfulness to your calling as a
member of a true manifestation of Christ’s body! Here you
see how the fourth virtue of the church at Thyatira
qualifies the previous three.
Christ’s fifth word of commendation regarding Thyatira
concerns its “works:” “I know thy works … and thy works”
(Rev. 2:19). Twice this verse speaks of “works.” The first
refers generally to everything the congregation does; the
second refers to good works.
What qualities does the infinitely holy and just God
consider necessary for good works? First, their source is
love for the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Second,
their standard is the law of Jehovah. Third, their goal is
the glory of the covenant God. The nature of the good works
in view in our text is especially service in the body of
believers, and the characteristics of such service include
faithfulness and perseverance.
The Lord Jesus Christ Himself said about Thyatira, “I know
thy good works!” What a commendation! What an encouragement!
To all of this our Lord adds a very important concluding
statement: “I know thy ... charity, and service, and faith,
and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more
than the first” (19). The italicized words refer to
Thyatira’s works, her good works—not their quality (as such)
but their quantity.
Christ here tells this congregation that they are doing
works of loving, faithful, persevering service and that
these good works are more than they were in their beginning!
Are you doing more good works than last year? Than five
years ago? Than 10 years ago? Even if you say, “I don’t
know,” Christ knows!
By Jehovah’s covenant grace, Thyatira was performing more
good works. It was “stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in
the work of the Lord” (I Cor. 15:58). And it was abounding
more and more in good works! Surely, great rewards from the
liberal God will be given to such people—the reward of
grace, as it is rightly called!
Christ declares that “he that overcometh, and keepeth my
works unto the end” (Rev. 2:26) will receive an exceeding
great and precious reward. The Lord Jesus speaks to all
seven congregations in Revelation 2-3 of “him/he that
overcometh” but to Thyatira only does he add, “and keepeth
my works unto the end.”
Thus we learn that the good works of the church at
Thyatira—the loving, faithful, persevering service in the
church by the saints—are here called Christ’s works! He
performed these works in each and every member of the
congregation and over many years. They are His works because
they were performed by the church’s members through Christ’s
own Spirit whom He purchased for His people on the cross.
We too must understand, beloved, that our good works are
Christ’s works. Christ is working spiritually in the hearts
and lives of believers in true churches so that they
faithfully serve their fellow saints in love. What an
Christ personally promises and gives rewards to all who
overcome and keep doing His works to the end. We will
consider our gracious and rich reward in the next issue of
the News, DV. 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
the CPRC website and
Our Old Man and New Man (3)
Our readers will recall that in the last two issues of the
News, I was discussing the Bible’s teaching concerning “the
old man” and “the new man” in the child of God. I explained
that Scripture repeatedly speaks of a war that goes on and
must go on between these two—in the very life of the
believer and, indeed, in the whole of his Christian life.
The battle is unending and bitterly serious, sometimes
leaving the saint weary beyond description and even,
occasionally, overcome by the power of his wicked flesh.
Nevertheless, in this life-and-death battle that goes on in
the Christian, the new man, the Christian from the viewpoint
of God’s work of grace in him, always has the victory. The
Scriptures assure us of this and urge us on to be steadfast
in the battle because we need not doubt that the victory
will come. We are united to Christ by faith, which faith is
the victory that overcomes the world (I John 5:4).
We need to be assured of our victory, because the battle is
fierce and we ourselves experience times when our evil flesh
seems indeed to have triumphed and we are all but buried
beneath the load of our sin and guilt.
The certainty of victory lies, first of all, in our union
with Christ. Christ is the Captain of our salvation, and He
fought and utterly defeated our enemies: Satan, his demons,
the wicked world and our own sinful flesh. The sacrament of
baptism signifies and seals this victory in the elect, for
it is a sign that we have been crucified with Christ and
also raised with Him (Col. 2:11-12). Immediately after
saying this, Paul reminds us of our regeneration: that is,
of the creation of “the new man” in us (13). The victory is
certain because Christ on His cross blotted “out the
handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was
contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to
his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he
made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it”
The Christ who began the good work in us will perform it
until it is completed in the resurrection of our bodies
(Phil. 1:6). We experience that victory in this life. We do
not give up the battle in discouragement. We fight in a way
analogous to the victory of an army against an invader. The
battle is really won but mopping-up operations have to be
carried on for several weeks after the battle is over. We
are engaged in these mopping up activities, while our
enemies have been principally defeated.
We are victorious over our sinful flesh in the prayer for
forgiveness. We pray, as the publican did, “God be merciful
to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13). The publican went home
justified—assured in his heart that all his sins are so
forgiven that he is righteous in God’s sight. God sees no
sin in him. That is victory for it is God who is our Judge!
We are victorious when we fall into sin, and lie wounded and
bleeding on the side of the pilgrim’s road we walk. So
wounded are we that we sometimes consider giving up, for the
cost of battle appears too great. But we do not give up. We
fight off our weariness and continue on our path with a
determination that comes from our Lord who fights in us to
give us the victory He has won on the cross.
We are victorious when we walk with God in the blessed
consciousness of the covenant He established with us in
Jesus Christ, for it is with us as it was with Enoch, who
“had this testimony, that he pleased God” (Heb. 11:5).
We are victorious when we come to the cross of Christ to
seek help in time of need in the confidence that “it behoved
him [i.e., Christ] to be made like unto his brethren, that
he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things
pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of
the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being
tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.”
We are victorious when we know assuredly that “we have not
an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of
our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we
are, yet without sin,” and so we “come boldly unto the
throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to
help in time of need” (4:15-16).
To cheer us in the battle, God gives us the picture of the
Christian warrior (Eph. 6:10-17), victorious in the fiercest
battle. His spiritual armour is defined, and he is urged to
withstand the fiery darts of Satan and to stand in the
confidence of the armour with which he is protected. The
picture is of a warrior, bloodied and wounded, weary with a
weariness that reaches his bones, a broken sword in his
hand, his helmet knocked askew, who can hardly lift his arm
to slay yet another enemy, yet he is still standing: “and
having done all, to stand” (13). The battlefield is littered
with the dead whom he has slain, but he remains on his feet!
This is the victory he has in Christ Jesus, the Captain of
his salvation, whose warrior he is. The perfect rest of
heaven is guaranteed him with the Lord’s words ringing in
his ears: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant ...
enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matt. 25:21)! Prof. Hanko
Heidelberg Catechism (1563):
Q. 88. Of how many parts doth the true conversion of man
A. Of two parts: of the mortification of the old, and the
quickening of the new man.
Q. 89. What is the mortification of the old man?
A. It is a sincere sorrow of heart that we have provoked God
by our sins, and more
and more to hate and flee from them.
Q. 90. What is the quickening of the new man?
A. It is a sincere joy of heart in God, through Christ, and
with love and delight to live according to the will of God
in all good works.
A box set of 12 CDs or DVDs of the 2014 BRF Conference
entitled “Be Ye Holy: The Reformed Doctrine of
Sanctification” is available for £12 (inc. P&P) from the
CPRC Bookstore. You can also listen or watch these lectures
If you would like to receive the Covenant Reformed News
free by e-mail each month (and/or by post, if you are in the UK), please
contact Rev. Stewart and we will
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