The Orthodoxy of the Church, Chap 3, Section 2 of 4


How terrible were the persecutions suffered by the church in Smyrna! But no matter what happens, life always revives after it has died. Persecutions only manifest what kind of church the church is. He is “the First and the Last, who became dead and lived again.”

“I know your tribulation and poverty” (Rev. 2:9). You have nothing founded on this earth, but the Lord knows that you are rich. “Do not fear the things that you are about to suffer” (v. 10). The entire church in Smyrna was persecuted, but the life which has died and is now living again can break through all these persecutions. The church in Smyrna was able to endure great persecutions because she knew resurrection. Only resurrection can bring us out of the grave.

“I know…the slander from those who call themselves Jews and are not” (v. 9). Here we must give heed to the problem of the Jews. The Lord said that the church has tribulation and poverty in her sufferings; these are easy to deal with. But that which comes from within is not easy to deal with. The Jews spoken of here do not refer to the Jews in the world but to the Jews in the church, just as the “people” we saw before in connection with the Nicolaitans did not refer to the people in the world but to the laity in the church. Here the Lord speaks of the Jews who persecuted them. This is the most painful among painful things. In the seven epistles there is a line of opposition. The Nicolaitans are spoken of twice—once to the church in Ephesus and once to the church in Pergamos. The Jews are spoken of twice as well—once here and again to the church in Philadelphia. In the epistle to Pergamos, the teaching of Balaam is referred to, and in the epistle to Thyatira, Jezebel is referred to. All of these constitute the line of opposition. We may ask what the meaning of the Jews is. Is not salvation of the Jews? Why do they speak blasphemy here? For this reason we must know what Judaism is and what the church is.

There are many essential differences between Judaism and the church. Here I wish to mention four points to which we must give special attention: the temple, the law, the priests, and the promises. As their place of worship, the Jews built a splendid temple on this earth of stone and gold. As their standard of behavior, they have the Ten Commandments and many other regulations. In order to attend to spiritual affairs, they have the office of the priests, a group of special people. Finally, they also have the blessings by which they may prosper on this earth. Please notice that Judaism is an earthly religion on this earth. They have a material temple, regulations of letters, mediatorial priests, and enjoyment on this earth.

When the Jews entered the land of Canaan, they built the temple. If I am a Jew and want to serve God, I must go to the temple. If I feel I have sinned and need to offer a sacrifice, I must go to the temple to offer the sacrifice. If I feel God has blessed me and I wish to give thanks, I must go to the temple to give thanks. I must go this way all the time. I can only worship God when I get to the temple. This is called the place of worship. The Jews are worshippers, and the temple is the place where they worship. The worshippers and the place of worship are two different things. But is this so in the New Testament? The special feature of the church is that there is no place and no temple, because we, the people, are the temple.

Ephesians 2:21-22 says, “In whom all the building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in spirit.” Have you seen this? The special feature of the church is that your body is the dwelling place of God. Individually speaking, every one of us is the temple of God. Corporately speaking, God builds us up and fits us together to become His dwelling place. There is no place of worship in the church; the place of worship is the worshipper. We carry our place of worship wherever we go. This is basically different from Judaism. The temple in Judaism is a material temple; the temple in the church is a spiritual temple. Someone once calculated the total value of the Jewish temple—it was enough to afford all the people in the world a monetary share. But what about the temple of Christians today? Some are crippled, some are blind, and some are poor, but this is the temple. Today some people say, “If you do not go to the solemn and magnificent temple, at least you need a `church’ building.” But the church does not have a “church” building. Wherever the believers go, there the church building goes as well. God dwells in men, not in a house. In the church God dwells in man; in Judaism God dwells in a house. Man thinks that he needs a place in order to worship God. Some even call the building the “church.” This is Judaism, not the church! The word church in Greek is ekklesia, which means “the called-out ones.” The church is a people bought with the precious blood; this is the church. Today we can have the temple upstairs, we can have the temple at the porch of Solomon, we can have the temple at the gate called Beautiful, and we can have the temple downstairs. Judaism has the material place. Who then are the Jews? They are those who bring the material place into the church. If God’s children wish to walk in His way, they must ask God to open their eyes so that they may see that the church is spiritual, not material.

© Living Stream Ministry, 2021, used by permission