The Tattered Church :: By Grant Phillips

When thinking of the word “tattered,” it reminds me of something old, torn, worn and frayed. Well, the Church is old, about 2,000 years old actually, but are we torn and frayed at the edges? Are we tattered and dilapidated? I think we are, and obviously Jesus saw this beginning to happen when He wrote His letters to the seven churches of Revelation.

The Book … the Bible … tells us that the Church should be a unified body, working together to serve the Lord Jesus and watching for His return. Jesus even tells us to be ready.

Dr. J. Vernon McGee gave a beautiful illustration from a personal viewpoint concerning unity. This is what he said:

“This chapter reminds me of a great symphony orchestra. When I first went to Nashville as pastor, some friends asked me to go to the symphony with them. They thought they were doing me a favor, but there are other things I would rather do than go to a symphony concert. Although I’m not musically educated, and I don’t understand music at all, I got a message at that concert. We had arrived early, and I had noticed all the instruments. It looked like over a hundred men came out from all the different wings, and each went to his own instrument. My friends told me they were “tuning up.” Each one played his own little tune, and, I give you my word, there was no melody in it. It was terrible! They quit after a few minutes, for which I was thankful. Then they disappeared into the wings.

Soon they all appeared again. This time, they were in full dress with white shirts and bow ties. Each man came to his instrument, but no man dared play it. Then the spotlight went to the side of the stage and caught the conductor as he walked out. He bowed several times, and there was thunderous applause. Then he picked up a little stick and turned his back to the audience. When he lifted that baton, you could have heard a pin drop in that auditorium. Then when he lowered it — oh, what music came out of that great orchestra! I had never heard anything that was more thrilling. It made goose pimples come over me and made my hair stand on end.

After that first tremendous number, I got a little bored; I began comparing it with life on this earth. Out in the world, every person is playing his own little tune. Everyone is trying to be heard above the clamor of voices or carrying his own little placard of protest. Everyone seems to be out of tune, out of harmony, with everyone else. It doesn’t look very hopeful in the world today, and we look to the future with pessimism. Like Simon Peter walking on the lake, we see huge threatening waves.

But one of these days, there is going to step out from the wings of the universe, from God’s right hand, the Conductor. He is called the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. He will lift that baton, that scepter, with nail-pierced hands. When He does that, the whole world will be in tune. He is eminent, and He is transcendent. He is “above all, through all, and in you all.” So don’t give up — the Conductor is coming. He will get us all in tune.” [Thru The Bible Commentary; Ephesians; Chapter 4; pages 115-116]

The Lord Jesus Christ is saying to His Church through the apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians that we are:

“… to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace(Ephesians 4:1-3, emphasis mine).

“to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called”

What does that mean? How do we do that? He is saying that we should be living our lives in a manner that reflects our position in Jesus, i.e., that we are a child of God. In other words, as Jesus lived, so should we. Then the Lord tells us how “to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.”

“with all lowliness and gentleness”

Pride was Satan’s downfall. God said in Proverbs 6:16-19 that there are seven things He hates. Guess what came in as number one? That’s right … pride. If we serve Jesus with pride in our hearts, we might as well take a seat. Just stop … until we go to Him and confess our pride and ask His forgiveness. He doesn’t stop with this, though. Also, this does not mean that we are to be Christian wimps. Gentleness (meekness, as the KJV interprets it) means to do His will whatever it costs. He goes on to say:

“with longsuffering”

Longsuffering is simply “patience.” If we can eliminate the pride and also learn to be patient, we’re on our way to walking worthy of our calling. The next thing for us to work on is:

“bearing with one another in love”

This means holding each other up in love. An example would be our love for each other urges us to pray for one another and help our brothers and sisters in Christ in whatever manner we can. Lastly, He tells us:

“endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

The Lord wants us to act as a unit, remembering that He is the head, we are the body, and His Word is what we stand upon. We as a Church body are to work together, without quarreling, glorifying Jesus. We may not agree on everything, but we can be civil with each other.

In the next three verses, Jesus explains what He means by “unity of the Spirit.”

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).

“one body”

Every person Jesus has saved from Pentecost to the Rapture is part of that “one body” … the Church … the bride of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:1-31 explains how we are the body of Christ.

“one Spirit”

The “one Spirit” is the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, who seals us, guaranteeing our place in God’s family, and He teaches and guides us in our walk with Jesus.

“one hope of your calling”

Our blessed hope is in Jesus Christ and His Word. We trust Him with our eternal life because we know His Word is true. In that same hope, we long for and anticipate His return.

“one Lord”

This can refer to no one but the Lord Jesus. He is the one and only Lord of our lives, even above those closest to us, i.e., our family. He should be all we live for daily (Matthew 5:6).

“one faith”

Acts 2:42 explains the one exercise of faith we have in Jesus Christ. Our faith is solely in Him, knowing He is the only way to the Father (John 14:6). Our faith should never rest on anything or anyone other than Jesus.

“one baptism”

I realize some think this refers to water baptism, but water baptism is only a ritual. It is only a picture of our baptism in Christ by the Holy Spirit the moment we are saved.

Strongs Lexicon defines Christian baptism (water baptism) as: “a rite of immersion in water as commanded by Christ, by which one after confessing his sins and professing his faith in Christ, having been born again by the Holy Spirit unto a new life, identifies publicly with the fellowship of Christ and the church.” (Emphasis mine.)

The baptism that matters is that of the Holy Spirit once we are born again. Water baptism is important, but not for salvation. Concerning water baptism, only a true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is truly baptized. All others are simply dunked, with no meaning whatsoever.

“one God and Father of all”

Many of the world say that God is the Father of all. That is not true. He is only the Father of those who come to Him through Jesus Christ (John 14:6).

So, from Ephesians, we as the body of Christ, the Church, can easily see what Jesus wants His Church to be. The Church is very precious to Him, and He has a message to us via His letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3.

The Church is suffering today by a great influx of the world’s corruption, just as they had experienced in the apostle John’s day. Unfortunately, apostasy has corrupted most churches of the 21st century, as was prophesied.

“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:6-7).

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth” (1 Timothy 4:1-3).

“You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen” (2 Peter 3:17-18).

The churches Jesus wrote to in Revelation 2-3 were Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Only two received no condemnation. They were Smyrna and Philadelphia. The other five had serious problems and needed to repent.

>Ephesus had lost her first love and had become legalistic.

>Pergamum followed after Balaam and the Nicolaitans and was a liberal church.

>Thyatira followed after Jezebel and became paganistic and cultic.

>Sardis was dead.

>Laodicea was lukewarm and pompous and became apathetic and worldly.

>Smyrna was heavily persecuted and was faithful unto death.

>Philadelphia was alive and sent forth many missionaries with the Gospel.

Each of the churches mentioned in Revelation two and three were very real but also represent different phases of the Church since that day to today. One doesn’t have to look far to see characteristics of each of these churches in different church groups today. Some say that only Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea can be seen today, but I disagree.

The important thing is that our individual spirituality is Philadelphian in our relationship with Jesus. Only the church of Philadelphia was promised by Jesus that we would be kept from (out of) the Tribulation. Only the Philadelphian church can be classified as true believers of the Lord Jesus. Can there be Philadelphian believers in any of the other six churches that are mentioned in the book of Revelation? Most certainly! The body of Jesus (true believers) is scattered all over the globe. It isn’t the name over the church door that saves. It is the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, rooted in our hearts.

Most of today’s church groups, whatever their pedigree, have turned their back on Jesus and gone after Satan. Many are legalistic, liberal, pagan, cultic, dead, and ego-driven. Only a faithful few remain loyal to Jesus. Are we really following our Lord’s teaching in Ephesians 4:1-6 (provided at the beginning of this article)?

Obviously, those religious groups that worship something or someone other than Jesus do not believe in Him and are lost. Of the churches who “say” they worship Jesus, most do not. Only those who honor His Word are true followers. If your church group honors the Lord Jesus and His Word, you are very fortunate. If your pastor proclaims God’s Word, the Bible, without corruption, you are very fortunate.

Jesus knows every individual who comprises His body, the true Church, and those are the ones who will rise to meet Him at the removal (Rapture) of all His saints. We will all receive new heavenly bodies and be dressed in white. Not one will be dressed in the tattered clothing of many of today’s churches. They will be left behind.

“And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.’

Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.

‘I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star'” (Revelation 22:12-16).

Grant Phillips


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