Forbearance And The Seven Churches

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Forbearance is such a difficult spiritual quality to embrace. First, we never need to be forbearing unless there is a tension, a stress, or a problem. When everything is fine, there is no call or need to be forbearing. Second, being forbearing goes against our natures. When we are disturbed, or upset, or offended, or wounded, or suffering from injustice, the last thing we want to do is to “hold ourselves back” or “restrain ourselves.” Our natural inclination is to “get in there swinging and straighten this mess out.” We want resolution, not forbearance. We want justice, not forbearance. Forbearance is like mercy and forgiveness. The only time we are whole heartedly in favor of it is when it is not needed.

The most powerful motivation to be forbearing is gained by considering God. God is perfect purity, perfect holiness, perfect goodness, and perfect righteous. And this pure, holy, good, righteous God looks down on the mess humanity produces every day. No human being is ever insulted or offended as unjustly, as extensively, as unreasonably as is God. You and I have committed ourselves to being godly. I don’t know about you, but I am constantly amazed by the fact that God puts up with me.

God sees everything. He knows everything that happens. He even sees the villainy and wickedness in human hearts as they enjoy evil and promote evil. You and I never see it all; God sees it all every second. Yet, He holds Himself back, He restrains Himself.

We surely need a clear, insightful understanding of forbearance. We must see it when and where it exists. This evening we extend our insights by examining the seven congregations in Asia Minor. Revelation 2 and 3 tells us about those congregations.

  1. The resurrected Jesus, from heaven, instructed John in Revelation 1:19, 20 to “write the things you have seen and heard.”
    1. Jesus said:
      1. “The seven stars in my hand are the angels of the seven churches.”
      2. “The seven lamp stands are the seven churches.”
    2. There are some specifics that we need to note.
      1. The opening of each letter to each congregation is identical: “To the angel of the church in . . .”
      2. At the moment John wrote these letters to each of the seven churches, each congregation was still in fellowship with Christ.
        1. The angel of each congregation was still in place.
        2. Each congregation was still on the lamp stand.
  2. We will examine each congregation in exactly the same way.
    1. The congregation in Ephesus (2:1-7):
      1. The positives:
        1. I know that you work hard and that you persevere.
        2. I know that you will not endure evil people.
        3. I know that you have tested false prophets and rejected them.
        4. I know that you refuse to get too tired to continue on.
        5. I know that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans just as I do.
      2. The negative:
        1. You do not have the same love you had when you became Christians.
        2. Please note how important love was in the face of all that they did right.
      3. Instructions:
        1. Redirect yourselves (repent).
        2. Remember your lost love, and do the deeds that love leads you to do.
      4. Promise:
        1. If you redirect, you will eat fruit from the tree of life in God’s paradise.
    2. To the congregation in Symrna (2:8-11):
      1. Positives:
        1. I know the severity of your suffering.
        2. I know your physical poverty.
        3. I know how strong your opposition is.
      2. Negatives: None.
      3. Encouragement:
        1. You are about to experience increased suffering, but do not be afraid.
        2. This additional suffering is a test.
        3. It will last only for a period of time.
      4. Promise:
        1. Continue in your faithfulness even if it results in your death, and you will not be hurt by the second death.
    3. To the congregation in Pergamum (12:12-17):
      1. Positives:
        1. I know that you live where Satan’s throne is.
        2. Yet, you hold to My name and refuse to deny My faith.
        3. You do that even though a person in the congregation was killed.
      2. Negatives:
        1. Some of you are making the same mistake Balaam made–you are encouraging idolatry and sexual immorality.
        2. Some of you believe the teachings of the Nicolaitans.
      3. Promises:
        1. If you do not redirect soon, I will come quickly and make war with those who are doing these things.
        2. If you do redirect, I will give you a special food and a special name.
    4. To the congregation in Thyatira (2:18-29):
      1. Positives:
        1. I know what you have done.
        2. I know your love, faith, service, and perseverance.
        3. The things you are now doing are greater than the things you did in the past.
      2. Negatives:
        1. You permit a woman in the congregation who claims to be speaking for Me to encourage and lead members into idolatry and sexual immorality.
          1. She has had time to repent, but refuses to do so.
          2. If she does not, I will bring sickness and suffering upon her and those who follow her.
      3. Promises:
        1. I will kill the woman’s children.
        2. All the churches will know that I search the inner person and the heart.
        3. I will give each person according to his or her acts.
        4. To those who do not follow this woman’s teachings, I place no other burden on them.
        5. I ask them to hold what you have until I come, and you will receive authority, position, and the morning star.
    5. To the congregation at Sardis (3:1-6):
      1. Positives: none.
      2. Negatives:
        1. I know your works and reputation, and they both leave a false impression.
        2. Others think you are alive; I know that you are dead.
        3. The few things that remain good among you are almost dead; you never complete what you start.
      3. Responsibilities:
        1. Wake up.
        2. Remember the things that led you to be Christians.
      4. Promise: if you don’t, I will surprise you as a thief surprises his victims.
      5. Declaration: there are a few among you who are still pure.
      6. Promises:
        1. Those people will walk with me.
        2. I will present those who overcome to God: their names will remain in the book of life.
    6. To the congregation in Philadelphia (3:7-13):
      1. Positives:
        1. I know what you do.
        2. You have an opportunity that cannot be closed.
        3. Though you have little power, you keep my word and refuse to deny my name.
      2. Negatives: none.
      3. Promises:
        1. I will make your enemies bow at your feet.
        2. I will make them understand that I love you.
        3. Because you have persevered, I will protect you in coming hard times.
        4. The one who perseveres will be a pillar in God’s temple.
      4. Encouragement: hang on to what you have; do not let anyone take your crown.
    7. To the congregation at Laodicea (3:14-22):
      1. Positives: none.
      2. Negatives:
        1. You nauseate me to the point of vomiting you.
        2. You are completely self-deluded: you claim to be spiritually wealthy, but are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.
      3. Directive:
        1. Buy refined gold from me so that you will be rich.
        2. Buy rich clothing from me and hide your shame.
        3. Get eye salve from me and cure your blindness.
      4. Promises:
        1. I reprove and discipline those I love (He still loved them!)
        2. I am knocking right now.
          1. The one who opens the door to me will eat with me.
          2. The one who overcomes will sit on my throne with me.
      5. Responsibility: be zealous and redirect.
  3. First observations:
    1. Ephesus had six glowing positives that we would applaud, and only one negative.
      1. The only negative was their love, which we would regard as lesser in importance that the six positives–they were doing the right things.
      2. Christ did not applaud.
      3. Having proper love was as important as all the glowing positives.
    2. Symrna had three positives and no negatives; Philadelphia had three positives and no negatives.
    3. Pegamum had three positives and two negatives (almost equal); Thyatira had three positives and one negative of several parts (almost equal).
    4. Sardis and Laodicea had all negatives and no positives.
    5. Yet, at the time of the writing, all these congregations were in fellowship with Christ.
  4. IV.Second observations:
    1. The negatives included:
      1. Loveless obedience and service.
      2. Encouraging idolatry.
      3. Encouraging and supporting sexual immorality.
      4. Being spiritually dead.
      5. Never completing what they started.
      6. Spiritual self-delusion.
    2. Yet, at the time of writing, they all were in fellowship with Christ. What does that say about the forbearance of God?
    3. Even the worst congregations, Christ still loved, still wanted to save, and still wanted them to repent. What does that say about Christ’s forbearance?
    4. The few who were pure in Sardis were not instructed to take any course of action against their dead brothers. What does that say about our forbearance with each other?

The most astounding statement of God’s forbearance is found in 2 Peter 3:9:

The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

Some were saying, “Where are you, Lord? Why are you so slow about returning? Don’t you see how we are suffering? Don’t you see how evil the people of this world are? Have you forgotten your promise?”

Peter said, “The Lord is not slow, and He certainly has not forgotten His promise. The fact that this evil world continues does not prove that the Lord is hesitant to keep His promise. Instead, it is an evidence of the Lord’s patience. He does not want one person to be destroyed, not even the most evil person on earth. He wants every person to come to repentance.”

Do you get the picture? God is not sitting in heaven fuming about all those evil people in the church and ungodly people on earth. He is not saying, “I can’t wait until I get My hands on those people. I will make them sorry they rejected me!”

God is saying, “If I wait just a little longer, perhaps they will exercise their free wills and turn to me. I don’t want to destroy anyone.” That is forbearance.

If God is that forbearing with everyone, how forbearing should we be with each other?

David Chadwell

Author: Greg

Welcome to Gods Message on the web. My name is Greg and I want to welcome you. I started doing these Podcasts, MP3, and Audio Books back in 2007. Stay awhile and make yourself at home. The Christian Podcasts here are free and for everyone to enjoy. I’m doing a complete series on David Chadwell who is a retired minister from Fort Smith, Arkansas. I’ve also done an Audio Book for Wayne Jacobsen’s the Naked Church. Plus a series of MP3s for Pastor Billy Crone and his The Final Countdown series.

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