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Sixth Edition, 1915
By Dr. John Thomas (first edition written 1861)



Chapter 2


2. Origin of the Ecclesia in Thyatira.




The Christian faith was, doubtless, introduced into Thyatira by Lydia whom Paul and his companions first became acquainted with at Philipp a city of Macedonia. She was "a worshipper of God" belonging Thyatira, but for the time being sojourning at Philippi as "a seller purple." Paul met her at the proseuche, by the river side, beyond the city walls. She had gone there with other devout women to offer to the living and true Deity. It was "on the day of the sabbbaths as we say, on Saturday, by which we may infer, that Lydia devout Jewess, or Gentile proselyte, belonging to the synagogue Thyatira. Luke, who was present, says, that "the Lord opened her to assent to the things being spoken by Paul;" and the result was that she was baptized. Thus, Paul planted, but the Lord gave the increase; and the case shows under what conditions the increase was given. Certain things were being spoken by Paul. The things being spoken were "the truth," or "Gospel of the Deity, which he had before promised by his prophets in the holy scriptures" (Rom. I : 1, 2); and th, "as it is in Jesus." Paul could speak no other things, and none other would have opened Lydia's heart, or understanding to an affectionate comprehension such as the Lord would have acknowledged. The truth spoken is the Lord's instrumentality for the opening of men's hearts; and where the truth is neither heard nor read, there the hearts of mankind remain unopened, and are found to be occupied by all "the depths of the Satan, as they speak."

The reader will observe, that before the Lord opened the heart of Lydia, she was already "a worshipper of God." This fact proves that a belief in, and sincere worship of, the true God is not sufficient for salvation; if it is, why did the Lord open the heart of his worshipper to Paul's teaching? But it is not sufficient; for since the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, salvation is predicated on believing the things concerning the kingdom of the Deity, and the name of Jesus appointed, and being baptized into that name. Any teaching in opposition to this, belongs to the departments of the synagogue of the Satan, apocalyptically designated as "Balaam," and "the woman Jezebel."

Lydia's heart, or understanding and affections, were opened. She desired that others should share with her in the benefit she had received. She therefore introduced Paul to "her household." We are not inwhether these were worshippers of God as well as Lydia; or whether it was composed of men and women, or exclusively of the latter. The probability is, that as she had come with purple goods from Thyatira, she had a retinue of male and female attendants and friends. The men of her company would look after the goods in their transhipment and exhibition for sale in the bazaar, while the females would in the sales, and render any personal service she might require. Hence, "her household" may have been quite numerous; for visiting cities for the sale of goods in those days was a more onerous affair, and required more personal service, than in these, when companies supply the place of private enterprize. Her household may have been Jewish, or mixed; probably Purely Jewish, as she was of that faith; be this as it .may, she introduced Paul to them, that he might speak the same things for the opening of their hearts which he had for the opening of on hers. "As his manner was " he declared the testimony of God, Sand reasoned with them out of the prophets concecernimg the expected Son of David, and King Of Israel, called the Christ. His testimonies and arguments commended themselves to t heir honest hearts, which opened through the force of conviction to the obedience which the faith enjoins. As the result of the whole, Luke tells us in Acts 16 : 15, that "her household was baptized." Lydia and her household were thus, by faith and baptism added to the name of Jesus Anointed, or "the Lord the Spirit;" and 'an ecclesia of Thyatirans was created, so that when they should return to that. city, they would become the nucleus of the apocalyptic ecclesia to which the Spirit writes; and "the house of the Deity,in which the ecclesia of the living Deity, the pillar and the foundation of the truth"-- I Tim. 3 : 15.

But after this Paul visited Anatolia, or Asia Minor, in which Thyatira was situated and flourished, and, although we have no account of his visiting that city, there is every reason to believe that multitudes from Thyatira visited him. In Acts 19 : 8-10, it is expressly said, that Paul while at Ephesus disputed and persuaded the things concerning the kingdom of God, first, for three months in the synagogue there and afterwards daily in the school of one Thyrannus for two years, "so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks." No doubt. many of these were immersed by Paul or his companions, and on their return to Thyatira received into the ecclesia already there.

The creation of the ecclesia among the Thyatirans after this manner occurred about thirty-five years before the dictation of this epistle to their "angel," or eldership, by the Spirit. Ample time had, therefore, been granted them for the development of Christian character. In the general, it appears to have been commendable, though in a certain particular, they were reprehensible. The spirit of the Lord in the gifts he had bestowed had dwelt among them, and in their eldership, during the period of their ecclesiastical existence. The Son might therefore well say, V have known IhY works." Though the resurrected and anointed Jesus was invisible to them, the gifts of the spirit they possessed had been sent by him, and as long as they continued, were a perpetual memento of his existence at the right hand of power, and of his perception and cognizance of all that was transpiring in all the ecclesias of the Habitable. "The grace and the truth," says John "came by Jesus Anointed," who as David predicted, and Paul testified, "ascended on high, and received gifts for men." Hence, wherever those gifts were, there also were the presence and power of the personal, or individual, Son of the Deity, who speaks in these epistles as "the Spirit," on the principle that "that which is born of the Spirit is spirit," and therefore God, or DIVINE POWER.

The works of the Angel were conspicuous for "love, and service, and faith, and endurance." Such an eldership must have been in the general in a spiritually healthy and efficient state; and which argued also a wholesome condition of the Spirit's servants, called in the letter "my servants," or, in the nomenclature of the synagogue of the Satan, "the laity. " It is "the leaders of the people cause them to err;" but where the leaders are faithful, this cause of error is wanting. The leaders corrupt the people, and when the people are corrupted, the seducers are enthroned and flourish; and the people come at length to delight in the corruption that destroys them.

The ecclesia among the Thyatirans became an arena upon which the two classes of leaders displayed themselves. The one class were characterized by a more abundant love, service, faith, and endurance in the days of John, than in the days when they were originally constituted the Star in Thyatira; while the other class was characterized by the idolatrous, meritricious, and murderous wife of Ahab. "the woman Jezebel," who slew the prophets of Yahweh. The former were the Antipas in Thyatira whose devotedness sustained the truth against the machinations of all its enemies, heretical or pagan. Their "love" was not like that of the Satan's -- a love of "divine things" as far as agreeable to our animal instincts, and compatible with our worldly prosperity and peace. The love of the Antipas was the fulfilling of the law; the doing whatsoever Jesus had commanded, by which they evinced that they were his real friends. Many of the Satan's synagogue who rejoiced in Jezebel, possessed spiritual gifts, and could speak with tongues, and prophesy, and understand mysteries, and had the knowledge, and the faith to remove mountains, and bestowed their goods to feed the poor; and not only in some cases gave their bodies to be burned; but in crowds rushed to martyrdom, till the pagan authorities refused to kill them; and told them to become their own executioners. Still, as Paul intimates, they were nothing; for they were destitute of "love. " So it is now. Though papists and protestants, Jezebel and her children, have not the gifts, yet they largely bestow of their goods to feed the poor, and in many instances have, and would again, sacrifice their lives for what they call "the gospel;" still like their predecessors in apostolic times, they are nothing but sounding brass, and a tinkling cymbal, because they are destitute of the love commended in the Thyatirans. This was "long suffering and kind," even to an excess rebuked by the Spirit in the letter before us; for they permitted Jezebel-teachers and seducers to speak, instead of putting them to silence at once. These were envious, boastful, puffed-up, of unseemly behaviour, seeking their own, easily provoked, evil thinkers, who rejoiced in the mystery of iniquity, which was finally established by their means. These were the characteristics of Jezebel and her children, John's clerical contemporaries, and the official fathers of the professional soul-savers of modern christendom. Their co-apostolic predecessors like themselves were destitute of "love," without which men cannot be saved. "Love," says Paul, "rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." Paul's clerical contemporaries did not rejoice in the truth; but relinquished their original hold upon the name and denied the faith of the Spirit. Our clerical contemporaries are in the same condemnation. They cannot, if their lives depend on it, inform the public what '"the truth as it is in Jesus," consists in. They are ignorant of its system in toto, and therefore cannot "believe all things and hope all things," and consequently have not the love of which this faith and hope are constituent parts.

The service of the Star-Angel in Thyatira, like its love, had increased. Their last works were more than their first. They contended earnestly for the faith originally delivered to them; like the Antipas in Pergamos, they held it fast, and were therefore in a position to overcome; for the power of victory is our firm and hearty belief of the truth. They were the pillar and support of the truth in Thyatira, where it might have flourished to this day if their successors in office had been "faithful men able to teach others." But this unfortunately was not the case, so that the fountain being poisoned at the head, the waters became bitter, and the people died. The evil had begun to work by A.D. 98, the epoch at which the Spirit addressed them through John. Forty years before that the Mystery of Iniquity was at work; but it had not yet triumphed in Thyatira. It was, however, hard at work there professedly opposed to Paganism, and at the same time doing its best to paganize christianity. The Mystery of Iniquity had its apologists in all the ecclesias. In Ephesus, they falsely styled themselves "apostles;" in Smyrna and Philadelphia "Jews;" and in Laodicea, they said, they were "rich, and increased in goods, and had need of nothing." But the Spirit pronounced them "liars," "vanquishers" and "wasters of the people," the Satan, "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked," and, as in the letter under consideration, the Woman Jezebel.




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