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I Know thy Works
‘To the angel of the church in Ephesus—in Thyatira—in Sardis—in Philadelphia—in Laodicea write: I know thy works.’22 In the A. V. we find the words in all the seven epistles; according to R. V. they occur only five times.—Rev. 2:3
‘I know thy works.’ These are the words of Him who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, and whose eyes are like a flame of fire. As He looks upon the churches, the first thing He sees and judges of is—the works. The works are the revelation of the life and character. If we are willing to bring our works into His holy presence, His words can teach us what our work ought to be.
To Ephesus He says: ‘I know thy works, and thy toil and patience, and that thou canst not bear evil men, and thou hast patience and didst bear for My name’s sake, and hast not grown weary. But I have this against thee, that thou hast left thy first 153 love. Repent, and do the first works.’ There was here much to praise—toil, and patience, and zeal that had never grown weary. But there was one thing lacking—the tenderness of the first love.
In His work for us Christ gave us before and above everything His love, the personal tender affection of His heart. In our work for Him He asks us nothing less. There is such a danger of work being carried on, and our even bearing much for Christ’s sake, while the freshness of our love has passed away. And that is what Christ seeks. And that is what gives power. And that is what nothing can compensate for. Christ looks for the warm loving heart, the personal affection which ever keeps Him the centre of our love and joy.
Christian workers, see that all your work be the work of love, of tender personal devotion to Christ Jesus.
To Thyatira: ‘I know thy works, and thy love and faith and ministry and patience, and that the last works are more than the first. But I have this against thee, that thou sufferest the woman Jezebel, and she teacheth and seduceth My servants.’ Here again the works are enumerated and praised: the last had even been more than the first. But then there is one failure: a false toleration of what led to impurity and 154 idolatry. And then He adds of His judgments: ‘the churches shall know that I am He which searches the reins and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your works.’
Along with much of good works there may be some one form of error or evil tolerated which endangers the whole church. In Ephesus there was zeal for orthodoxy, but a lack of love; here love and faith, but a lack of faithfulness against error. If good works are to please our Lord, if our whole life must be in harmony with them, in entire separation from the world and its allurements, we must seek to be what He promised to make us, stablished in every good word and work. Our work will decide our estimate in His judgment.
To Sardis: ‘I know thy works, that thou hast a name to live, and thou art dead. Be watchful and stablish the things that are ready to die: for I have found no works of thine fulfilled before My God.’
There may be all the forms of godliness without the power; all the activities of religious organisation without the life. There may be many works, and yet He may say: I have found no work of thine fulfilled before My God, none that can stand the test and be really acceptable to God as a spiritual sacrifice. In Ephesus it was works 155 lacking in love, in Thyatira works lacking in purity, in Sardis works lacking in life.
To Philadelphia: ‘I know thy works, that thou hast a little power, and didst keep My word and didst not deny My name. Because thou didst keep My word, I also will keep thee.’
On earth Jesus had said: He that hath My commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me. If a man love Me, he will keep My word. and My Father will love him. Philadelphia, the church for which there is no reproof, had this mark: its chief work, and the law of all its work, was, it kept Christ’s word, not in an orthodox creed only, but in practical obedience. Let nothing less, let this truly, be the mark and spirit of all our work: a keeping of the word of Christ. Full, loving conformity to His will will be rewarded.
To Laodicea: ‘I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot. Thou sayest, I am rich and have gotten riches, and have need of nothing.’ There is not a church without its works, its religious activities.
And yet the two great marks of Laodicean religion, lukewarmness, and its natural accompaniment, self-complacence, may rob them of their worth. It not only, like Ephesus, teaches us the need of a fresh and fervent love, but also the need of that poverty 156of spirit, that conscious weakness out of which the absolute dependence on Christ’s strength for all our work will grow, and which will no longer leave Christ standing at the door, but enthrone Him in the Heart.
‘I know thy works.’ He who tested the works of the seven churches still lives and watches over us. He is ready in His love to discover what is lacking, to give timely warning and help, and to teach us the path in which our works can be fulfilled before His God. Let us learn from Ephesus the lesson of fervent love to Christ, from Thyatira that of purity and separation from all evil, from Sardis that of the need of true life to give worth to work, from Philadelphia that of keeping His word, and from Laodicea that of the poverty of spirit which possesses the kingdom of heaven, and gives Christ the throne of all! Workers! Let us live and work in Christ’s presence. He will teach and correct and help us, and one day give the full reward of all our works because they were His own works in us.
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