October 20, 2017

The Church: The Lord’s Candlestick

By Mike Willis

There are a number of figures of speech by which the Lord identifies his church. It is referred as the following: (a) the Temple of God (1 Cor. 3:16); (b) the House of God (1 Tim. 3:16); (c) the Vineyard of the Lord (Matt. 20:1); (d) the Kingdom of the Lord (Matt. 4:17); etc. Each of these figures tells us something about the Lord’s church and is worthy of one’s study.

In Revelation 1-3, the church is compared to a candlestick. Jesus is seen standing in the midst of the candlesticks (Rev. 1:12-13). The candlesticks are specifically identified as the churches of the Lord (Rev. 1:20). The “candlestick” is something that can be removed by the Lord (Rev. 2:5). Let’s consider the things taught about the church under the figure of it being the Lord’s candlestick.

The Church Gives Off Light to the World in Darkness

The world is filled with darkness. “Darkness” is the situation of being void of light. It is used to describe one’s spiritual condition when the “light” of the revelation of God’s word is not shining. Consider some of these verses that describe the world as lying in darkness and the gospel as bringing light to that darkness:

The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up (Matt. 4:16).

To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:79).

And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil (John 3:19).

Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life (John 8:12).

When the devil’s influence reigns one is under the power of darkness (Luke 22:53).

God is the source of true light. He is described as light (1 John 1:5),  as also is Jesus (John 1:4-5; 8:12). When Jesus came into the world, men saw the light of his star and went in search of the Messiah (Matt. 2:2). Jesus came as a light to those in darkness (Luke 2:32). The gospel reveals that light (2 Cor. 4:4-6; Eph. 5:13). The Bible reveals the way from darkness to light (Acts 26:18). It reveals the path of light, exposing what is sinful and what is righteousness (Rom. 7:7). Psalm 19:8-12 expresses how the word of the Lord enlightens the eyes and shows men what is light and what is darkness.

Christians are “lights” in the same sense as the moon gives light. The moon is not a source of light; it merely reflects the light of the sun. We are mirrors reflecting the light of the Son. Individually, we are lights (Eph. 5:8; 1 Thess. 5:5-8; 1 Pet. 2:9). As a congregation, we are God’s light in the world (Rev. 1:12-13; 1 Tim. 3:15).

Not All Candlesticks Are Equally Bright

In the book of Revelation, the candlesticks are used to describe the seven churches of Asia. The Lord was fully aware of the condition of each church. The Lord was in the midst of the candlesticks (Rev. 1:13; 2:1). Each letter begins with Jesus saying “I know” the condition of the church (2:2, 9, 13, 19; 3:1, 8, 15). The Lord just as certainly knows what is going on in the church of which you and I are members as he did the churches of the first century. If the Lord were to write to the church where we are, what would he say?

Of the seven churches of Asia, not all of the candlesticks were equally bright. The church at Ephesus was in danger of losing its candlestick because it had lost its first love, albeit it was doctrinally sound (Rev. 2:1-5). The church at Smyrna shined brightly in the midst of persecution (2:8-11). The church at Pergamos allowed its light to be dimmed by their on-going fellowship with those who taught the doc- trine of the Nicolaitans (2:12-15). If they did not repent, God promised to fight against them with the sword of his mouth (2:16). The church at Thyatira tolerated the immoral teaching of those who believed one could commit fornication and eat meats sacrificed to idols (2:18-29). The church at Sardis was basically dead, although a few in that dead church were still alive (3:1, 4). The church at Philadelphia was clinging fast to the Lord in the face of bitter persecution (3:7-12). The church at Laodicea was lukewarm and needed to repent (3:14-21).

Which of these churches more nearly resembles the light that we emit? In some cases our light shines brightly. In some cases it flickers. In some cases it may be altogether dark.

What are some things that darken one’s light? At Ephesus, the loss of one’s first love (2:4-5). At Pergamos, the acceptance of false teachers (2:12-15). At Thyatira, the acceptance of worldliness (2:18-29). At Sardis, spiritual deadness (3:1). At Laodicea, lukewarmness (3:15-17). There are many different things that can cause the church’s light to flicker or be vanquished. Bitter, in-fighting (Gal. 5:15) and division (1 Cor. 3:1-4) cause churches to lose their light. I attended a wedding the other day in which the families went through a ceremony of lighting a “unity candle.” Two families were come together to begin one new family. Perhaps we need a “unity candle” service in some places.

What are some things that make one’s light bright? At Ephesus, doctrinal loyalty (Rev. 2:2). At Smyrna, faithfulness in the face of severe persecution (2:9-10). At Pergamos, not denying the faith (2:13). At Thyatira, love, service, faith, patience, and works (2:19). At Sardis, a few names that had not defiled their garments (3:4). At Philadelphia, continued works of obedience in the face of many trials (3:8, 10). At Laodicea, opening the door to the Savior who wanted inside their lukewarm hearts (3:20). There are many different things that can cause this church’s light to shine brightly: (a) Intense brotherly love for one another (John 13:34-35); (b) A commitment to work through problems together. In our family we have had problems. There have been times when we have sat down together and expressed our differences. Not once have we asked someone to leave the family and go away from us. Rather, we have had a commitment to work through our differences, respecting each other in spite of the differences we have, and maintaining our family. (c) Active programs of work, such as converting the lost, edifying the saints, helping those who are hurting, and lifting the spirits of those who are down and depressed.

Conclusion

Jesus said, “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:13-16).

One of my first remembrances of church services is the learning of “This Little Christian Light of Mine.” The little children’s song is based on this text. Let’s think about the important message that is included in its words.

This little Christian light of mine, I’m gonna’ let it shine.
This little Christian light of mine, I’m gonna’ let it shine.
This little Christian light of mine, I’m gonna’ let it shine.
Let it shine, all the time, let it shine.

Hide it under a bushel, No! I’m gonna’ let it shine.
Hide it under a bushel, No! I’m gonna’ let it shine.
Hide it under a bushel, No! I’m gonna’ let it shine.
Let it shine, all the time, let it shine.

Don’t let Satan “puff” it out.
I’m gonna’ let it shine.
Don’t let Satan “puff” it out.
I’m gonna’ let it shine.
Don’t let Satan “puff” it out.
I’m gonna’ let it shine.
Let it shine, all the time, let it shine.

All around the neighborhood, I’m gonna’ let it shine.
All around the neighborhood, I’m gonna’ let it shine.
All around the neighborhood, I’m gonna’ let it shine.
Let it shine, all the time, let it shine.

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