Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Letter to the Evangelical Church

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this: ‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent. Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’"       Revelation 2:1-7 NASB
I know this is not a letter to the Evangelical Church (particularly in America), but it could be. Look at the commendation: deeds, toil, perseverance, intolerance of evil men, assaying those who claim to be apostles and finding those who are false, and stamina for Christ's name. This is written to a good church, a believing church, a righteous church, or so it seemed. This is written to what could be what many of us consider the evangelical church today.

And yet there was serious fault to be found in this church--serious enough to threaten its qualification as a church (lampstand). Removing a lampstand from its place is tantamount to no longer considering that body a true church of Christ. Could the Evangelical church truly be under such a threat, a clear threat to salvation itself, all the while believing in the gospel of grace? Yes, because there is a qualitative necessity within faith (see James 2:19-20 for instance) that determines whether or not it passes muster as faith. Just believing the right things is not, evidently, a sufficient concept of saving faith.

Christ, speaking through John here, identifies one such quality as the love that should naturally (or supernaturally) arise in one when that one has true faith in Christ. First love is not meant to convey a sentimental, romantic notion but a pure and unsullied one. Love is an uncallous thing and it should persevere as such as long as does the faith which gives it rise. This is not a principle new to this letter for John states as much throughout the bulk his first epistle. One just does not have the necessary quality of faith to be saved if one does not love Christ and the those in Christ sincerely as a result of having faith.

If that seems at odds with the Once-Saved-Always-Saved mantra of so much of evangelicalism, or the easy-believism acceptance of virtually anything and everything under the banner of grace, welcome to the matrix. There is a reckoning coming for those who rely on something they deem as acceptable that Christ does not. If you're convicted that might describe you, repent. Overcomers get a feast that lasts forever.

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