The Essentials Conference in Ottawa & the Seven Churches of Asia Minor
Is there a word in season from Revelation 1 – 3 [from the exalted Christ] to the assembling brethren at Ottawa for 30 August? Yes…do read on.
The exalted Lord Jesus Christ, who had been crucified and raised from the dead, sent messages through his servant, John, to seven churches in Asia Minor – Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia & Laodicea.
While each message is unique for it is specifically related to the particular church and to its members within their own situation, there are certain common themes in the Letters. Of these perhaps the most important is that Jesus Christ is truly the Lord, that he shares the Father’s throne, that he loves his people with an everlasting love, and that he will do what it takes in mercy and judgment to cause and to assist them to love and serve His Father faithfully, whatever their circumstances.
Each Letter calls for a response from the church and each of its members and these responses again are specifically related to the spiritual and moral condition of the church. However, in what Christ commands and asks for, there are several common themes. And it is surely reasonable for us to reckon that these common themes, being of divine origin, have an application to churches everywhere, whatever be their situation, and especially when they are troubled or in difficulties.
Let us notice very briefly what is required of each church:
Ephesus (2:1-7): Remember, Repent & Do ( verse 5) and Hear the Spirit.
Smyrna (2:8-11): Do not fear & Be faithful ( verse 10) and Hear the Spirit.
Pergamum (2:12-17): Repent ( verse 16) and Hear the Spirit.
Thyatira (2:18-29: Repent (verse 21) & Hold fast (verse 25) and Hear the Spirit.
Sardis (3:1-6): Wake up & Strengthen (verse 2) & Remember, Keep & Repent (verse 3) and Hear the Spirit.
Philadelphia (3: 7-13): Hold fast (verse 11) and Hear the Spirit.
Laodicea (3: 14-22): Buy from Christ (verse 18) & Be zealous and Repent (verse 19) & Hear Christ’s voice and open the door (verse 20) and Hear the Spirit.
At the end of each Letter is the call to hear the Spirit – “He who has an ear, let him what the Spirit says to the churches” – and this command is surely intimately related to hearing what Christ says to each of the churches, for the Holy Spirit is the Paracletos (representative, advocate etc.) of the Exalted Lord Jesus Christ.
If we collate the commandments of the Lord of the Church to the churches, we notice the repetition of certain ones.
REMEMBER: this relates both to remembering the wonderful conversions from paganism and the amazing origins of these churches and to recalling the content of the Gospel and of the mighty works of God in salvation-history.
REPENT: This is a corporate turning as well as an individual turning away from that which is evil and contrary to Christ’ will to that which is pleasing to him and to his Father. It is a turning which is filled with godly sorrow for the wrong and a fervent desire to do the right.
HOLD FAST/KEEP/BE FAITHFUL: Having turned to Christ in order to be with him and follow him, there is then the daily commitment to him, the holding fast to him and to what he requires, the keeping of his commandments and the being faithful to him through thick and thin.
Ottawa - application: The assembled brethren can surely do not better than to remember the heritage of Christianity and of the Anglican Way and the Canadian experience of It (including the Solemn Declaration); to repent for the sins of this Anglican Church of Canada and their part in them; and to turn to the God of our fathers and to commit themselves to a new faithfulness to Christ and a new consecration to the Anglican Way, as received from him in his providence.
Finally, in the message to the seventh church, a message wherein there is no commendation of this church at all from the Lord of glory, there is heavenly counsel which surely applies to all churches that are under the active chastisement of the Lord – and surely the Canadian Anglican Church is in this position (unless the Lord has already “spit it out of his mouth” because it is indifferent to him, neither hot nor cold – 3:16).
“I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see” (3:18).
The city of Laodicea prided itself on its financial wealth as banking center and some of this pride had entered the church. But what the church needs is the gold refined by fire, that is genuine faith (see 1 Peter 1:7) through which is ready access to the riches of grace.
The city of Laodicea prided itself on its clothing trade but yet the church there basking in this reputation was spiritually naked. In the ancient world to be stripped naked was a terrible humiliation and shame. This naked church needs to be clothed in the pure white garments of righteousness, given by the Lord who has washed us clean by the shedding of his blood.
The city of Laodicea prided itself on its famous eye-salve which was exported all over the world. Yet the church there was blind and itself needed the anointing that only Christ can provide. Only he who is the light of the world can enable this church truly to see!
The homosexual agenda of the LesBiGay activists is merely and only the presenting problem in the Canadian Church. To see it as the problem is to major on minors.
Underneath it and giving this novel agenda credibility is an Anglican Church that is indifferent to the Gospel, that sets its aims and standards from the norms of Canadian society and which urgently, therefore, needs to remember its God and his salvation, to repent and then to consecrate itself afresh to its high calling and holy vocation of serving the Lord Jesus in Canada. In one word and through one picture --- Christ the Lord is knocking on the door of Canadian Anglicanism, but will he be invited in as the Lord of glory who desires to be in communion with his people? Or will his knocking not be heard for there is too much concern amongst the would-be orthodox with the evils of active homosexuality?
The Rev’d Dr Peter Toon August 23, 2004