Don’t Forget Love, My Seven
Pulpit & Pen (P&P) gets a lot of flak for their defense of the Gospel. Mostly, this is due to pointing out the errors in false teaching, false doctrine, false prophets, heresies, etc.… This ruffles the feathers of less discerning Christians and possible false converts; because it is perceived as a direct attack on their person (John 3:20-21). That isn’t the case, the attack is against the false ideologies, not the people (Ephesians 6:12). I have learned a lot via P&P and believe that it continues to help bring many into the light by exposing the darkness. However, it is our duty as bearers of the image of Christ to show love in all things; without it, we are nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2). I would like to take the opportunity for my first article at the P&P to illustrate what we do and why we do it, and how important it is for us to remain humble and loving while carrying this mission out.
The best sermon any man can give will always be the direct reading of God’s word. After that, we do our best to follow the Spirit in how we translate/understand it, and then by giving implications and applications.
Revelation 2:1-7 KJV
Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; 2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: 3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. 4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. 5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. 6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate. 7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
1. The Lord hates false teaching and heresy.
2. In the process of combating false teachings and heresies; it is imperative that one does not abandon their “first love.”
I do believe that as we exposit this passage and understand the context, we will see the importance of correction and the supremacy of doing so in love. Note, we don’t get to define love and then superimpose that definition onto God. No! We define love by looking to God, His word, and then getting the true definition from Him, through His word. In R. C. Sproul’s, The Holiness of God, he puts it well. “The Bible says that God is holy, holy, holy. Not that He is merely holy, or even holy, holy. He is holy, holy, holy. The Bible never says that God is love, love, love, or mercy, mercy, mercy, or wrath, wrath, wrath, or justice, justice, justice. It does say that He is holy, holy, holy, the whole earth is full of His glory.”
I take the stance that Revelation contains mostly future events to take place, but the vision John has of the 7 churches in chapter 2, deals with actual churches that were found in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) at that time. Revelation came to a close in the first century (AD 70-96) and this passage (2:1-7) is addressed to the church in Ephesus. The letter of Paul to the healthy church in Ephesus is dated c.AD 60-62; we can assume enough time transpired for heresy to enter this church’s region. Paul makes no mention of the Nicolaitans in his epistles, so we can draw the conclusion this occurred in between Paul’s letters and Revelation. Either way, we can see it wasn’t very long for something to have gone awry in that area.
Verses 2-3 can apply to all Christians who are weary of this sin-soaked world, see false teachers & prophets for what they are (Romans 16:18, Acts 20:28-31), and continue to use their lives working for the Lord. This is exactly what the Pulpit & Pen accomplishes. We are steadfast in holding those who claim they are Christian, to keep their doctrine error free and accurate (2 Timothy 3:16). Despite many “slinging stones” at us (Matthew 5:10-12), we continue to hold onto the truth, and “water it down” for no one. We simply hate what the Lord hates and loves what the Lord loves; that is our duty (Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30-31, Luke 10:27, and Deuteronomy 6:5). That is the duty of ALL Christians, and it is saddening to see that many miss the point.
The Nicolaitans origins are a bit hard to pinpoint. Many say they are from Nicolas, who was chosen with 6 others as deacons to help the apostles in Acts 6:5. Others state it could have been any number of people named Nicolas. And a third option is that the Nicolas from Acts 6 had his words taken out of context by a group of people who were practicing apostasy via antinomianism. We only get that he was from Antioch and was a convert from Paganism to Judaism, and then from Judaism to Christianity. That bit of information is used to build a case for the Nicolaitans to be from this man. Regardless; the point isn’t in this. I merely wanted to point it out for education and encourage readers to study it; it is quite fascinating! (See notes for references on the Nicolaitans.)
The primary focus is what they believed, not who started it. Basically, the Nicolaitans wanted to incorporate pagan traditions into the church. They wanted one foot in the church and another in the world. They didn’t want to divorce themselves entirely from the world and wanted to “add God” to their already established way of life. They wanted to practice the folly of worshipping the “right God in the wrong way.” Does this sound familiar? It should. (https://pulpitandpen.org/2017/05/09/worshiptainment-worshiping-the-right-god-in-the-wrong-way)
This is exactly the type of apostasy found in the church today. The “name it and claim it” bunch, and those that exalt man over God, are the modern-day perpetrators of the antinomian cult of thought.
This is what P&P stands against and wants to show others. We simply cannot mix the world with the Church (Matthew 6:24)! We are to stand out, be set aside, and follow God as HE commands; not as we think (1 John 2:15-16, Romans 12:2). Why? Because in verse 6, Jesus says He HATES the deeds of the Nicolaitans. Have we forgotten so quickly what “strange fire” begets (Leviticus 10:1-3)? It brings death, swift and surely. Why is it so incredibly hard for the modern-day Church to see that we are in the middle of a falling away (2 Timothy 3:1-5)? This world isn’t going to get better; in fact, we are promised it will get worse! There will be many who are deceived and won’t want to hear the Truth. (2 Timothy 4:3-4) That is why polemicists do what we do; it is the job of all Christians to contend for the faith. If no one points out error, then people will believe it and be led to the slaughter of Hell and damnation. We should care enough to stop that, and P&P does.
Unfortunately, many think the Gospel is to be preached without offending anyone in any way. However, that simply can’t be done; the Gospel itself is an offensive message; and it is supposed to be (1 Peter 2:8). That doesn’t mean that we are to seek contention in our presentation (1 Timothy 3:2-3); but, we are not to hold back the truth either. Being told one is a sinner, not a good person, and going to Hell; is an offensive message. However, without the law, the salt has lost its flavor and is useless (Matthew 5:13). The good news of the Gospel is misconstrued and not rightly understood if a person isn’t presented with the bad news. We must stand firm in the fact that all of mankind is wicked, corrupt, and incapable of doing anything truly good without God (Romans 3:23, Mark 10:18, & Romans 3:10). Once that is accomplished, the Gospel message will bring forth either rejection or TRUE belief from the hearer. Anyone can water down the message of the Bible and rack up numbers of false converts; just look at Joel Osteen.
We cannot confuse justification with sanctification; they are not the same (Romans 5:1 & Ephesians 2:8-9). Christ Jesus saves us, and He alone. The 5 Solas are in full effect always in a true believer’s life. We are not going to get into “-isms,” but know that the Solas serve to quickly illustrate very clear instruction on how we are to seek a relationship with God via His word. As we grow in holiness and sanctification; we become more sensitive to the evil in the world around us. We start to see how truly corrupted everything is; especially the things that used to come across as being good! As we educate ourselves, we learn that phrases like the following are false and ill-conceived:
- Love the sinner, hate the sin.
- God helps those that help themselves.
- God won’t give you more than you can handle.
- You are David, your troubles are Goliath.
- Judge Not!
Every single one of these notions contains some iota of truth, but have error and lies within them; making the entire thing poison. I have been guilty of thinking or saying each one of these at some point in my life. But, these expressions will lead many to Hell! People begin to think the “sinner’s prayer” is all that is needed and belief in Jesus is a recital. The purpose of exposing evil and falsehood isn’t to say, “look at me, I am so holy!” No, it is to stand on the truth to bring soul saving repentance; regardless of how it makes someone feel. Therefore, we may come across as callous at times. But, it’s because we believe in Heaven and Hell as real places, and if someone believes lies and false doctrines, they will go to Hell! And, they will die thinking they are saved (Matthew 7:21-23)!
Here is our reprimand: verses 4-5. The Lord begins to chide those who are contending for the faith in the Ephesus church. In their efforts to thwart false teachings and carnality, they have forgotten something; their “first love.” What is that and what does the Lord mean?
Jesus Christ is the first love of all Christians! Without repentance and faith in Christ Jesus, we are lost and forever damned. We have no hope outside of Christ, and He loved us long before we ever learned to love Him. Our first love is that He loved us first, and the Spirit of God revealed the Truth to us and we were born again into loving our Lord Jesus Christ! Praise and thank God for that; every day. Think about when you were converted and born again; was not your heart so filled with love that you just wanted to share the Gospel and the love of Christ to all who would listen? Even to those that wouldn’t listen too? Your heart was so broken that people were perishing and would go to Hell forever, that you would explode if you didn’t share that news. You truly had a burden for the lost. Then, somewhere along the way, you learned that zeal without wisdom is folly (Romans 10:1-3). You were shown that there is a correct way to present the Gospel and an incorrect way. On top of that; you grew in sanctification and started to see how much falsehood exist in the world around you. Many people claiming Christ, do so falsely and ignorantly; many are horrendously wrong in their theology. Being aware of these things can serve to make one bitter (Matthew 24:12); we cannot allow that.
We cannot get mad at the lost for acting like lost people! We cannot get mad at sinners, for being sinners! We do not contend with them; our enemies are their corrupted ideologies. We are all evil and wicked! We cannot be proud Christians; that is antithetical to being one. Pride must be killed and crucified every day of our lives. We didn’t have some merit or favor that made God decide to save us; it was His choosing (Romans 9:18). Who are we to think we are better than someone else (Ephesians 2:3, 12)?
This is where we can mess up big time; forgetting our first love and that we are nothing without Christ. We were once blasphemers, covetous, liars, idolaters, murderers, fornicators, etc. (Colossians 1:21). How dare we think we are better than others. Christ washed Judas’s feet and said the first will be last and the last will be first. If our Lord and Savior can debase Himself for us; then we must debase ourselves for others. We must put Truth in love first, and show patience and kindness as He did for us. How many falsehoods have you wrongfully believed (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)? How patient was the Lord with you?
So, we should expose people like Bentley, Osteen, Moore, Meyer, etc. (Romans 16:17). But, we shouldn’t make fun of them; they are going to Hell if they don’t repent. They aren’t our punching bags; their ideas are. What if it were your mom, dad, brother, sister, or child that was believing in these falsehoods? Would you make fun of them then? We should pray for everyone, especially those that are lost in these false doctrines! Benny Hinn needs prayer! But, I will say this; it isn’t wrong to pray that they repent (2 Peter 3:9) or get removed from their position of leadership; I believe that to be in alignment with scripture. However, remember it is God’s will in all things; that means we must stop praying agenda, and pray His will. Would I like to see that Todd Bentley never preaches again? You bet! But, that is still God’s choice to make, of the when and the how; not anyone else’s. Let’s ensure we don’t put ourselves in the same position we accuse others of being in; God’s seat.
The above is where I have failed and I have witnessed others to have failed. We can deliver and stand for the truth; we should. We aren’t to water it down; we can’t. But, before we contend or argue, let’s ask ourselves this: “Am I doing this to be right, or for what is right?” I appeal to all calling themselves Christ’s to contend for the faith and tear down the societal altars of idolatry that exist in the media and churches alike. However, we cannot do it correctly and will be in sin; if we don’t put love ahead of being right and correcting others (1 Peter 1:22). Remember, we were lost too, and yet while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Think upon that; it might just aid in you being used in bringing someone to repentance, as opposed to pushing them away forever to Hell.
*Notes: A good study that shows this very well? Galatians 5. There is contention in the church and shows the wrong way to deal with it, and the right way.
[Guest Post by Matthew L Hopkins]