The rhythm of Revelation chapters two and three is pretty evident. Seven letters to seven churches. The churches are described as seven lampstands . . . they are represented by seven angels . . . and in their midst is He who has the seven spirits of God. And the letters are patterned the same. Addressed to the angel of the church, they begin with a brief description of some attribute of the Author. There is then an assessment of their works. For most of the churches, but not all, there is commendation for faithfulness. And, for some of the churches, there is rebuke and a call to return to being the church that Christ intended. Finally there is a promise for “the one who conquers” followed by a final exhortation to “he who has an ear” to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Pretty recognizable pattern. The cadence is clear. The rhythm reverberates.
But what’s caught my attention is the foundational beat of the rhythm . . . the reality behind each of these letters . . . the source of each commendation . . . the source of each correction. Jesus, the One in the midst of the lampstands, knows what’s going on within His church.
Seven letters and seven times Jesus says, “I know.” To the churches at Ephesus, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodecia, Jesus says, “I know your works.” To the church in Smyrna, “I know your tribulation and your poverty and the slander.” To Pergamum He says, “I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is.” In every letter Jesus reminds His church, He knows.
Regardless of what church government structure a local body of believers might adopt, I’m thinking it can be easy to forget who’s really in charge. Whether our organization structure tops out at the pastor . . . or at a body of elders . . . or at a bishop, or such, over many congregations . . . the rhythm of Revelation reminds me that Jesus is the Head of the Church . . . and that He knows.
God has appointed Him as head over the body (Eph. 1:22-23). As head over the body, He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, “that in everything He might be preeminent” (Col. 1:18). And the expectation is that “we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ” (Eph. 4:15). And so, while we might focus on our polices and practices and programming, we need to do so keeping in mind that the Head of our church knows His church and seeks to direct His church.
That’s why everything we do needs to be submitted to His will for the church.
Each local body of believers is unique . . . God having brought into fellowship a sovereignly determined mix of blood-bought, Spirit-enabled, gifted body parts. Each individual called to do their part . . . each congregation called to ministry in the context of their location and their situation. And among each of these local gatherings of His people, He is in their midst . . . and He knows.
And so, ours needs to be to align ourselves to, and evaluate ourselves against, His Word. Ours needs to be to seek His leading and submit our planning to His Spirit in prayer. Ours needs to be to remember that He knows . . . and that He cares . . . and that He is building His church.
Our is to have ears to hear what the Spirit says to the churches . . . by His grace . . . for His glory.