Agonizomai: Rev 2 - Introduction<br>The Messages Are First of All For Pastors

Friday, April 17, 2009

Rev 2 - Introduction
The Messages Are First of All For Pastors

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To the angel of the church in (insert church name) write ...

These are the words of Jesus Christ in the vision that John saw while he was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day. The entire vision is in the classic Hebrew apocalyptic style, using imagery that recalls Old Testament passages in Ezekiel and Daniel.

The word translated as "angel" simply means "messenger". A "messenger" is one who bears the word of God to others. In this case it is the pastor of the church - the one charged with being the under-shepherd of Christ. This is the one who is supposed to make known to the people the entire counsel of God, from the warnings and admonitions to the assurances and comforts that are in Christ alone. Law and gospel.

There are heavenly angels who are "ministering spirits" to the saints of God. These operate in the spiritual realm under the direction of God withstanding the forces of darkness in ways we know little of directly. Some insight can be gleaned from Daniel 10:11-21, where Daniel is told something of the battle behind the scenes.

But it is not heavenly angels that are contemplated in speaking of the angels of the seven churches. It is ministers of the gospel. Those who teach and preach bear a greater responsibility than those who sit under the teaching. Under-shepherds have more to account for than sheep, because they have been entrusted with more. But it would nevertheless be a grave error to presume that shepherds operate in a vacuum. Woe to the congregant who feels himself absolved of any responsibility to Christ to do what is right and to grow in grace simply because he is under the authority of a bad minister. Woe to the congregant who abdicates individual responsibility to discern, to test all things and, where necessary, to minister to the minister.

Christ’s warnings to the churches are not simply warnings to the ministers, but also warnings to the people under their pastorate. In the body of Christ all are equal, though there be many functions. By "equality" is not meant that worldly concept of egalitarian or communistic ideals - but the Biblical, spiritual truth regarding their condition apart from the grace of God. Prior to salvation all were dead in trespasses and sins. Prior to regeneration all walked according to the prince of the power of the air, all had their conversation in this world and were ruled by the passions of the carnal nature. All were equally subject to eternal punishment, just all as were saved by the power of same blood and are indwelt by the same Spirit. And it is the Spirit that imparts to men the several gifts that are given to each in and for His church.

It is not that all gifts are equal. Plainly they are not. Some bear greater responsibility than others. It is the fact that they are, first and foremost gifts that is in view. What has any of us that we did not first receive? And if we received it as a free gift of God’s grace then where in it all is there room to think ourselves better or higher or more important than a brother. Where is there room to think ourselves less loved or underprivileged if we do not have the higher gifts? If we truly understand that it is all by grace that these gifts are given then hierarchy in the purely worldly sense evaporates to be replaced with God’s sovereign order in which it is no longer a question of human organization, but of all serving each other according to the gifts given.

The One Who holds the seven stars in His right hand is Christ, and the stars are the ministers of the churches. {Re 1:20} The significance of these ministers being held in His right hand is to show that they are channels of His power and authority. Not, as we said before, the dominating governance that men exercise upon each other, but the power and authority that the love of Christ radiates towards His church. Though the church neither as a group nor as individuals can do anything of themselves - yet the power of the love of Christ expressed in and to and through His saints enables them to be salt and light in a wicked and fallen world.

Christ’s power is given upon receipt of the Holy Spirit to all believers. There is power "exousia" and power "dunamis." True disciples receive both. Exousia is the power of right or inheritance. It is the sort of power that is vested in a king, or that a king vests in his servants - finding its source in delegated authority based upon office or position. Dunamis is the power of performance - the power to actually effect results and to change cases or to impact people, circumstances or events. Both forms of power are only in Christ and are only for those who are in Christ. That is because Christ comes to dwell and He brings His power to effect the will of the Father in and through us by means of the obedience of our faith.

It is worth expanding on this. We receive power when we receive Christ. We grow in grace, in wisdom and in favor with God and men as we learn to yield to the power of God by obeying His will in all things. We know what His will is by prayerfully studying His word. A true Christian never lacks power, though he may fail to exhibit power. All that is needed for life and godliness is already ours in Christ Jesus. The question is not if we have power, but whether we will walk in it by obeying God. The power of God is never ever given for disobedience.

Then why are so many Christians apparently powerless? And there can be only two possible answers. One is that many who profess to be Christians are not - and therefore never received the power because they have never received Him to Whom all power belongs, namely Christ. The other possibility is that the Christian is simply disobedient.

Some would add a third reason - that the powers of darkness have overtaken the believer and are actually debarring him from experiencing the power of God due to possession, oppression or some sort of generational curse resulting from the sins of ancestors. This latter is not the case. It gives too much credence, attention and power to the enemies of God. The main problem in the church and in the world is not demons per se, but sin and the sin nature of men. The cure is not exorcism but faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. No evil spirit was ever exorcised from an existing (regenerate) believer anywhere in scripture.

Christ holding the seven stars in His right hand shows in fact that He is in charge of the pastorate whom He has provided to care for the church - and that He works through them to accomplish His purposes. They may be good, bad or indifferent but they nevertheless are in His hand of power. They will accomplish His will either by the obedience of their faith or by the disobedience of it. He holds them accountable - as we see in the following - just as He holds all individual saints in the church accountable and indeed all men, whether believers or not. But our will is either for good, in which case we are doing His will, or to do that which is contrary to His will, and He uses even that disobedience to accomplish His will. This is why God is God and He alone is good yet we, as creatures, are morally and actually accountable to God for our sin.

In the same way that Christ holds in His hand of power the pastors of His church, He also walks in the midst of His church constantly. The Spirit of God, the blessed Third Person of the Holy Trinity, issues forth from both Father and Son and carries their actual presence in and among the saints. So, in a very true sense it is Christ Who walks among us and it is Christ Who indwells us, though the Bible speaks of us receiving the Spirit and of the Spirit being in all believers. God is One, though He is manifested in three Persons.

Wherever there are God’s saints gathered together as a congregation (not just to meet on Sunday, but as a group committed to Christ) then Christ is there in the midst, as He promised. The church in question may be more or less aware of His presence, depending upon the degree of obedient faith found in it - but aware or not, Christ is in the midst because He is intimately concerned with the fruit of His labours.

When people either mistakenly or ignorantly call upon the Holy Spirit to "come" they are actually misunderstanding the Bible and may even be in danger of misrepresenting God’s Word. We see clearly that God the Son, by the Spirit, walks in the midst of all 7 of these churches regardless of their condition. He will never leave nor forsake His own. If we draw near to Him He will draw near to us. In fact, in the letter to the lukewarm Laodicean church Christ’s very words illustrate the point...
Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. {Re 3:19-20}
This is an admonition not for unbelievers but for those who claim to know Him to repent of their half-heartedness and draw near to Him. He never left. He is always "at the door" and not only at the door but at the door "knocking." Are we listening? Will we open it? If there is any absence of the sense of the presence of God it is not that God has walked away – for Christ walks in the midst of the lampstands. Rather it is that we quench the Spirit by our disinterest and our lack of true repentance. So often we want the fruit without tending the tree. We want the experience, the feeling, the manifestation - but without any serious thought of repentance. We want to have two masters, to hold onto our sin, to refuse to humble ourselves - to have our cake and eat it, too. God will not play that game.


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