Question:

Dear Brother Hamilton,

Is their a point in time when a church has become so disobedient to the commands of the Lord they are considered "apostate" and rejected by God? And would this mean that all members in that church are condemned, even though they may not even believe all the teachings presented by the elders and the preacher?

I find it hard to believe there are any perfect churches, that are in complete and perfect obedience to all the Lord's commands. Reference is made to the following in Revelation 2:1-7: "To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, 'These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: "I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.'" What does the term "remove your lampstand from its place - unless you repent" mean? Could it mean God would condemn every member of the church no matter how pious and faithful they might be?


Answer:

Judgment is based on the individual and not a collective. "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12-13). The basis of judgment is the things the individual does. "But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who "will render to each one according to his deeds"" (Romans 2:5-6). Thus, in the corrupt church at Sardis, we read, "I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. ... You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy" (Revelation 3:1-2, 4). The church as a whole would not reach heaven, but there were still a few there who were worthy of salvation.

But can a Christian be faithful individually while being in fellowship with a group that is not obedient to Christ? Perhaps for a short time, but the influence of others is going to pull the faithful Christian away from the truth. "Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened" (I Corinthians 5:6-7). Unfaithful groups are going to worship God in ways He did not command. They are going to teach things that God did not teach. They are going to be involved in projects that God did not authorize. "If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin" (I John 1:5-6).

What does it mean for a church to have its candlestick removed? It means it is no longer recognized as a true church of Christ. People are unable to be a part of such a church and be faithful to Christ. An unfaithful church leads its members astray. Faithful Christian would not place themselves in fellowship with people who have little or no respect for the teachings of Christ.

"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. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ" (Galatians 1:6-10).

"Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people." Therefore "Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty." Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (II Corinthians 6:14-7:1).