Do you like to receive mail? Would you like to receive mail
from Jesus? Just over 1900 years ago, Jesus actually wrote letters
to seven churches in Asia. They were shocking letters, combining
praise and rebuke. While we can look at these letters in numerous
ways, I often wonder, “What if we were one of the seven churches
of Asia? What kind of letter would we receive?” I also wonder,
“What if everyone in this church was like me? Would Jesus rebuke
us or praise us?”
Would Jesus rebuke us for declining or praise us for
Jesus rebuked the Ephesians in Revelation
2:4 because they had left their first love. There are
probably as many ways to explain this statement as there are
commentaries about it. But however you interpret this verse, you
recognize that the Ephesians had declined. They were not where
they used to be and Jesus rebuked them to return to where they
In contrast, Jesus praised Thyatira in Revelation
2:19 because their latter works were greater than those done
at first. They had grown. Of course, there was room for more
growth. But Jesus was pleased that they had improved.
What would Jesus say to us? Would He be able to praise us
because we have grown? Or would He have to rebuke us because we
had declined? What about you? Are you growing? II
Peter 1:5-8 tells us to grow, we must be increasing.
Would Jesus rebuke us for tolerating sin or praise us for
not bearing with evil?
Jesus rebuked both Pergamos and Thyatira because they both
tolerated sin within the church (Revelation
2:14-15, 20). How easy it is at times to develop an
“us-them” mentality. We can easily assess the sins of those
people who are not one of us. But sometimes when one of our own
sins, we can overlook it or become comfortable. When sin becomes
tolerated, discipline is avoided and the church dies.
On the other hand, Jesus had praise for the church at
Ephesus because they could not bear those who were evil (Revelation
2:2). Ephesus was so strong regarding this that even people
who claimed to be apostles were put to the test. The Ephesian
church would not allow the impenitent in the church. They would
not allow false teachers. They would not tolerate evil.
What would Jesus say to us? Would He praise us because we
work to restore the sinner (Galatians
6:1), but if he will not be restored, we purge out the old
leaven (I Corinthians 5:4-7).
Or would He rebuke us for tolerating sin? What about you? Do you
tolerate sin? Do you wait for others to deal with sin in the
church? Or do you work to bring sinners to repentance?
Would Jesus rebuke us for being lukewarm or praise us for
using our strength?
3:15-16, Jesus rebuked the Laodiceans because they were
lukewarm. You understand what is wrong with being lukewarm,
don’t you? A lukewarm drink is one that has become so affected
by its environment that it is no longer good for anything. A cold
drink can cool you down and refresh you on a hot day. A hot drink
can comfort and warm you on a cold day. A lukewarm drink, however,
has been so affected by its surroundings that it is no longer good
for anything. Most of us have had a taste of room temperature coke
or coffee and we know it is good for nothing. It no longer has any
strength. That was
On the other hand, Jesus praised the church at Philadelphia
because they had a little strength (Revelation
3:8). Isn’t that intriguing? You would think that having
only a little strength would be a place for rebuke. But Jesus did
not rebuke Philadelphia but praised them. In fact, Jesus had
nothing but praise for them. Why? Because they used what strength
What would Jesus say to us? Would He be able to praise us
because we are using our strengths and walking through the doors
He is opening for us? Would He praise us for still affecting those
around us? Or would He have to rebuke us because we have become so
much like the world that we are no longer effective in His
kingdom? What about you? Are you hot or cold, using the strengths
you have to affect others? Or have you been so stifled by the
world that you have essentially assumed room temperature?
Would Jesus rebuke us for focusing on the physical or
praise us for being spiritually minded?
Jesus also rebuked the Laodiceans because they were
confident in their riches. They were focused on physical things (Revelation
On the other hand, Jesus praised the church at Smyrna because of their poverty (Revelation
2:9). But, Jesus added that they were really rich. Why?
Because they were focused on spiritual things. The Philadelphians
obviously knew that the most important blessings from God were not
their houses and clothes, but their salvation and eternity.
What would Jesus say about us? Would Jesus be able to
praise us because we are not distracted by the physical things of
this world, but are focused on things above (Colossians
3:2)? Or would He have to rebuke us for being focused on
physical things? Look at our nice building. Look at how blessed we
are. Do we allow the great physical status to make us complacent?
What about you? Upon what are you focused, the physical or the
Would Jesus rebuke us for trusting in ourselves or praise
us for trusting in God?
Jesus additionally rebuked the Laodiceans because they
trusted in themselves, not God (Revelation
3:17-18). God exhorted them to turn to Him for white garments
that they may be clothed and salve with which to anoint their
However, Jesus praised the churches in Smyrna and
Philadelphia, because they trusted in God (Revelation
2:9-10; 3:8-10). These churches were unmoved in the face of
the synagogue of Satan. They put their trust in the Lord to
protect them, help them and in the end save them.
What would Jesus write to us? Would He be able to praise us
because we continue to trust in Him? Can He see our perseverance
in the face of our adversaries? Can He see our devotion to His
truth in the face of false teachers? Can He see our refusal to
compromise in the face of a worldly environment? Or would He have
to rebuke us for trusting in ourselves and in the things of men?
What about you? Do you trust in God, staying true to His word? Of
do you trust in the things of men, compromising God’s truth?
Would Jesus rebuke us for only having a reputation or
praise us for real strength and life?
Jesus rebuked the church at Sardis because all it had was a
reputation (Revelation 3:1).
Jesus had almost nothing good to say about the church there,
except that there were a few faithful, living, strong members of
the church. Who knows how they developed such a reputation? Maybe
they had once been truly alive and now they were simply living on
the past. Perhaps the few who had not defiled their garments
worked very hard and provided the good reputation. The point to
learn is that Sardis did not have real strength, they only had a
On the other hand, Jesus praised several of the other
churches because they really were working. They had some real
strength and life in them. He praised Ephesus in Revelation
2:2-3 for their work and their patience. He praised Smyrna in Revelation
2:9 because of their work even in tribulation and poverty. He
praised Pergamos in Revelation
2:13 because of their works even in the face of persecution
and martyrdom. Finally, He praised Thyatira in Revelation
2:19 for their “works, love, service, faith and your
patience.” These churches did not just have a reputation. They
had real strength, which they used.
What would Jesus write to us? Would He praise us because we
have real strength? Would He praise us because we, as a whole, are
truly working to do His will? Or would He rebuke us because all we
have is a reputation? Would He rebuke us because we are riding on
past success? Would He rebuke us because all we have are a few
names that are undefiled and the rest are riding on the waves of
their work? What about you? Is life and strength more than just a
reputation for you? Could Jesus praise you or would He have to
What if Jesus were to write us a letter, what would it say?
Perhaps it would be nice to receive a letter from Jesus so we know
exactly where we need to improve. But then, isn’t that what we
have in the Bible? We simply have to use it that way, allowing it
to guide and strengthen us, being totally honest with its rebukes
and encouragements. We need to read it and obey it. Because the
next question we will have to answer is not what would Jesus say
if He were to write us a letter. The next question is what will
Jesus say when we stand before Him in judgment.
to God in the church by Christ Jesus
Church of Christ