Monday, December 6, 2021

Beware of Pollution in the Church

“Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.”  – Revelation 2:23

When I was in eighth grade, I attended a small Christian school in Camarillo. During the spring semester, our school had a science fair, and I did my science fair project on water pollution. My parents bought me a few cheap goldfish, and I put them in separate bowls. The goldfish in one bowl had nice fresh water. And the goldfish in the other bowl didn’t. Every day I added salt to their water. As you probably know, salt water isn’t good for fresh-water goldfish. For them, it’s polluted water.

After a week or two, guess what happened to the goldfish in the polluted water. No, they didn’t die! I’m not a fish murderer! But the salt water did stunt their growth. They were noticeably smaller than the goldfish in the fresh water.

Pollution has a way of doing that. It stunts our growth. It makes us sick. Eventually, it will kill us. And what is true in the natural world is also true in the spiritual world. You see, nothing infects and weakens a church faster than moral pollution. And one of the most polluted churches in the New Testament was the Church at Thyatira in Revelation 2.

Before wading into the church’s moral mess, Jesus praises the Thyatira Christians for their deeds, love, faith and persevering service. But there is something glaringly absent from Jesus’ praise: He doesn’t praise them for their doctrine. Jesus doesn’t praise them for teaching God’s true word while expelling all false teaching. There’s no indication that they stand firm against people who pollute God’s word. And that’s a big deal … because Jesus spends six verses to rebuke their conduct.

Jesus begins His rebuke in Revelation 2:20: “Nevertheless, I have this against you. You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads My servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.” Let’s take a closer look at the three sins Jezebel was polluting the Thyatira Christians with:

Sin #1: She called herself a prophetess. She was assuming a position of authority and a title that God hadn’t given her. As the Apostle Paul teaches, “in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing….” (1 Cor. 12:28). The list goes on, but we can see that Jezebel was proclaiming herself to be in the second-highest tier of leadership in her church. Jesus teaches us to pursue humility, not arrogance. Any time someone comes to a church and immediately asks to be a pastor or elder in the church, the leadership team should see that as a red flag.

Sin #2: Jezebel’s teaching misled Christians into adultery. In the Old Testament, God refers to idol worship as “adultery.” That makes sense, because just as a husband has promised himself to his one wife, Israel promised herself to her one God: Yahweh. So, to worship any other god is to cheat on God. Some Bible scholars believe Jezebel was just leading her followers into spiritual adultery—idol worship, not into physical adultery. But bearing in mind how worship at the pagan temples worked in those days, I think it’s much more likely that Thyatira’s Jezebel was doing both.

Sin #3: Jezebel’s teaching misled Christians into the eating of food sacrificed to idols. It also seems likely that Jezebel was convincing Christians to give in to the pressure from the trade guilds to conform. In Thyatira, there were several well-organized trade guilds for at least a dozen different industries. Every year, each guild threw lavish parties in Apollo’s temple, which every trade guild member was required to attend. Jezebel’s teaching probably went something like this: “Jesus taught us to give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s. So, our city leaders and trade guild leaders are asking us to go to Apollo’s temple and offer him some incense. And they expect us to eat food sacrificed to idols. Who cares? And God created sex, so if there’s a little sex involved in the Apollo worship, it’s no big deal … especially if you’re having sex with a brother or sister in Christ who you love. This is no time to get on your moral high horse. It’s not worth losing your job over.”

The bottom line was: Jezebel BELIEVED in God, but she didn’t TRUST in God. And without trust, it’s impossible to please God (Hebrews 1:6). She didn’t trust God to take care of her and her family if she got fired for obeying His first two commandments: “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me,” and “Thou shalt not make for yourselves an idol to worship.” Jezebel didn’t trust God to take care of her and her family if she got fired for obeying His seventh commandment: “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”

Jesus makes it clear that, in mercy, He has given Jezebel time to repent, but she has refused (v. 21). So, she is about to suffer His judgment, and her spiritual children—those who follow her false teaching—will suffer His judgment next if they refuse to repent (v. 22). “Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds” (v.23).

Jezebel polluted sound teaching in the Thyatira church by teaching Christians that moral compromise is okay if it helps you keep your job. But in Christ’s church, moral compromise is never okay—no matter what it helps you keep. Therefore, it should never be tolerated in the church. God’s message to the Christians in Thyatira is loud and clear: It’s not okay to turn a blind eye to polluted teaching or polluted behavior in your church. You must get rid of it. Jesus’ church must be a holy church. And if it’s not, judgment is coming. 

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. His new book, “Buoyed Up: Jesus’ 8 Steps to an Unsinkable Life,” is available on Amazon in paperback, e-book and audiobook. Join us at Impact for Sunday services: in person at 9 a.m., or online at 10 a.m. on Facebook Live or YouTube. For more information, visit

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