The Bible says, “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 its place, except thou repent” (Revelations 2:5).
There are seven churches (church at Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea) that are addressed in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. Each one is an autonomous church, having the right and power of self-government. There are no two churches exactly alike. Each one has its own characteristics and is in a state that’s different from all the others.
All but two (Smyrna, Philadelphia) are told to repent of the state they’re in and return to God and do the works that are pleasing to Him.
All of these churches actually existed in Asia Minor during the time of John’s writing. These churches and the state they’re in are often used to represent a time in church history where the church universal was in a similar state.
It’s clear through the message given to each church that God held the congregation of each church responsible for the state their church was in. That’s because the state that each church was in was the consequence of the choices the congregation made.
It’s very obvious that Satan has made his way into some of the churches by influencing the choices of its members. There’s false doctrine, worship of idols, spiritual deadness and sickening lukewarmness.
But Satan is not blamed for the sinful state of the churches. The people are blamed for the sinful fallen state of the church. They made the choices that allowed unbiblical things to be done and taught in the church.
To change the state of the church and to avoid God’s judgment the people are told to judge themselves and repent of their sins and start doing what pleases God. The church’s standing (justified, redeemed, forgiven, pardoned, sanctified) will never change, but the state (holy, separated, unholy, worldly) of the church changes at the will of its members. Jesus bought and built the church but gave the responsibility of dealing with sin and error and keeping the church pure to its members (1 Corinthians 5, 6:1-5).
Even today this principle applies. Each and every local church is in the state that the members of that church want it to be in. There may be a few who are grieved over the sinful worldly state of the church and are working to bring it back to following the Bible (KJV), but they are the minority.
The point being made is that God gives the pastor, deacons, and lay persons the responsibility and will eventually hold them accountable for the state their church is in.
It’s been said, “our compromises today will be our children’s convictions tomorrow.” And so it is that the compromises this generation of Christians make about the church will be the convictions of the next generation of Christians. And this explains the declining state of the church.
Each generation has been weakening its stance on separation and holiness. Each generation knows less and less of the core values or doctrines of the church and therefore does not understand the church’s biblical mission or ministry.
Each church member must share the blame for the state the church is in. And each member must do their share to bring the church back to biblical soundness by repentance and returning to the God of the Bible (KJV).
James H. Cagle lives in Ray City, Ga., and is a former Hamilton County resident.