Have you ever known someone who claimed membership they did not actually have? What if they are touting the special position you are in as if they were in it? The lazy manager who takes credit for the work of his diligent employees chafes those employees.
An unnatural encouragement
My son is working at the Augusta National as a buss-boy in the Trophy Room. It is his second year. As I was writing this lesson he came in his dress pants and white button up cotton shirt sporting a mandarin collar. He gets home around mid-night and has to be back at work around 6 a.m. the next day. He popped in to where I was at work and told me of a fellow who is young, possesses an even younger looking face and for that he gets what seems to be an inordinate amount of tips. It seems the other employees feel he does not pull his share of the load. When working 17 hour days those things get noticed.
I include that backstory on this fellow for my son reports this fellow to come up saying, “I just want you to know that you did a good job out there today.” My son indicates that the other employees see this behavior and it becomes a topic of conversation. Colin said that while annoyed he tries to tell the others that the first year of work at the Augusta National can be overwhelming. That other fellow does work, but does not run at the same speed as the others there.
Encouragement and praise is a good thing, but it needs matched to reality. There are bosses who run the Augusta Nation Trophy Room dinners. They are the authorities and it is the encouragement of them which is most important.
Managers need to manage
I hope that the manager takes aside this young fellow and redirects him. The jobs held as a young person are important; both manager and the young hire need wisdom. The manager needs to manage quelling the gossip and the undercurrents of this story before it develops into a more full blown event. The young employee’s behavior needs shown to him that he might have the opportunity to correct it. That would be the win-win. Bottom line here is that the authority figure needs to step in and be that authority figure.
First century Philadelphia
7 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. (Revelation 3:7–ESV)
Here Jesus told the church in Philadelphia that he was the manager, and he used a set of phrases to establish this. The character he put at the front of his list was holiness. Jesus was perfect in all he did not achieving holiness during his life, but expressing it, manifesting it. Humanity is to be perfect, modeling Jesus Christ, becoming separate from all things ungodly, straining toward what is ahead. We are to aim for perfection for holiness is of the highest value of all things.
Jesus, as God, defined holiness and so when he says the words are of the holy one he identifies himself as not merely an example of the way to live, but the definition of how to live. Paul said, “live like me.” He, though, was emulating Jesus whose character is the essence of God’s intention for all things good.
Jesus was the manager because Jesus was the expression of perfection. He was worthy of reverence.
The one true God
This is in essence what God spoke to Cyrus through Isaiah when he said: “I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God;” (Isaiah 45:5–ESV) God revealed what we call monotheism; his words to Cyrus are just that. When Jesus spoke to the pastor at Philadelphia he did not stop at his purity, perfection as is labeled holiness, but went on to say he is the only God. Jesus is not one among many. As I have said, “You don’t just go down to Walmart and choose a god off the shelf.” Man’s choices do not define who God is. Rather, God just is, and that is what he is identifying himself as representing when he says he is the true one.
The key of David
This goes to power and access. When Jesus invokes the name of David and speaks of a key he is implying access to a royal palace. David, as far as Israel was concerned, held the keys to the kingdom (not always, but during many years of his era). In Benson’s commentary 1 it is stated that this is a reference to a royal palace, or more completely one who occupies a royal palace. Admission or exclusion from this place are the king’s prerogative. He chooses.
Openings and closings
Jesus is not subject to any feature or facet of humanity. He has those traits and from those traits opens doors and closes them. That is him managing. There is no other person, God, committee to appeal to. In the U.S. judiciary the Supreme Court of the United States is as far as you can go. Their decision is binding. Jesus’ openings and closings are binding.
Opposition is not legitimate
Jesus told of his purity, perfection, uniqueness, and possession of the keys to the kingdom. He was holy, true and the gatekeeper of heaven. It almost goes without saying, but because of rebellious tendencies it needs said: his decisions are greater than any man’s. Who can oppose the ideal of perfection? Who among men can even raise their head in the presence of the one true God?
There were those in Philadelphia who did raise their fists and their efforts against the Christians. They would make claims that went beyond what was legitimate. Jesus right from the get go establishes his supremacy. What he says, goes. He is the supreme authority. Beside him there is no other for God has put all things under his feet.
Be all that you can be
8 “‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. (Revelation 3:8–ESV)
Before discussing the open and closed doors we should look at what Jesus said about the works of the Philadelphian church.
Let your mind go to the parable of the talents. It can be read in Matthew 25. In this parable Jesus tells a story of a man going on a journey. Before he left he gave each of 3 servants a portion of his wealth with the intent that the servants would manage what was entrusted to him. One servant received 5 portion, called a talent, another 2 and the third but 1. When the man returned from his journey the servants with 5 and 2 talents had through diligent management doubled the portion of the owner’s wealth they had been given. The last fellow was idle and tried to pass of his own inactivity as somehow a fault in the master’s personality.
The diligent servants were commended while the other one was condemned.
The church in Philadelphia was like a servant who had received a small allotment, but they did well with that. Jesus made it clear that some of his servants receive more and some less. Philadelphia had little strength, but they endured. Jesus had inspected their works and found them on point. They were like the on talent servant, but they did not bury it. They put it to work.
God’s helps to the faithful
God never gives tasks to his servants that go beyond their capability. When God tells his servants to do this or that he makes a way for them. The servants will have to exercise faith while doing it, but the way forward will be there.
Think about open and closed doors, openings and closings if you will. Here are four things they can represent:
This list is not exhaustive so add more if you want to. That is a value of God’s word. By reading to the point of understanding the Holy Spirit fits it to our immediate needs.
God’s people come from the world. They are transferred from the kingdom of darkness to light and that infuriates Satan and those of his inclination. A closed door can be protection from those who threaten God’s people. When God closes a door of protection there is no man who can come through it.
Some of God’s people may find it very difficult to share the gospel or carry out the things God has asked them to do. Jesus will open the door for them. He will make a way of opportunity and then they can obey and go through it.
Think of oppression and escape. Maybe the enemies of the church in Philadelphia thought they had the perfect trap for these Christians. God can open a door on the trap allowing his servants a way of escape. I used to play Connect-4 with my children. As they got older it became more and more difficult to beat them. A useful strategy involves setting up the play so that I can win in two places, or so that if they block one of the places I can win they make a way for another way to win. God does the same in life. We are the pieces on the Connect-4 grid. Satan is trying to make us fall, but Jesus is making a way of escape.
Finally consider direction. Some of us struggle very hard to know what the right decision is. An open door or a closed door can channel people in the direction God wishes. In Proverbs God said the King’s hand is in the heart of the Lord he directs it like a water course wherever he wills.
What about us?
Apply those thoughts to your own life. You may be strong or you may be weak, but submission and obedience are critical no matter what. When you collide with things you do not understand or cannot seem to sort out fear not, but have faith. Remember this passage in Revelation to a church of little strength. Ask God to open a door to show you the way, to give you direction or help you out of your quandary. Then make the best decision you can and let God direct the outcome. He channels us through life to his own impossibly great ends. We do not exist by accident but by and for his glory.
Lies undo being a Jew
9 Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. (Revelation 3:9–ESV)
This passage gave me great pause, and this pause centered on lying. The hangup which I had was in how I interpreted the word lie. At first blush (and second and third for I thought about it a long time) it seems that the lie was in saying they were Jews. I am sure they sincerely believed they were and likely had a heritage to back it up.
The lie, though, does not seem to have been in saying, “I am a Jew.” Surely the Jews in Philadelphia had put in place intrigues and falsehoods to harm the Christian church. Falsehood and lies would have been part of their method. They had done this in Jesus’ era and now were doing it in the Apostolic era.
God, through Jesus, said that this approach invalidated their Judaism. Jews since the time of Moses and even post-crucifixion, unsaved, non-Messianic Jews had the Old Testament to live by. These men in Philadelphia were acting against what they knew as God’s principles. Lying and bearing false witness were even prohibited by the most basic of the Jewish law: the Ten Commandments.
The favorite son that wasn’t
It is crucial that God be acknowledged. There is only one God, beside him there is no other. The Jews had been given the law and the prophets. Their culture and existence as a nation had been crafted by God himself and that over many centuries. They were in this sense a favorite son, but while that status was something that could be inherited it could be lost in the spiritual sphere.
Here in Philadelphia the one being treated as the favorite son was not the Jew. It was the Gentile. God loved both the Jew and the Gentile. That squabble is not one he dabbles with. The accusatory Jews in Philadelphia were going to come to the point where they learned that God indeed did love the non-Jew. They would acknowledge it and not as a forced confession of a thing they deny, but as a confession of a thing they discovered.
Sometimes God blocks persecution
10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. 11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. 12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ (Revelation 3:9–ESV)
Jesus prayed that the suffering he was about to face might be taken away from him. God said no and Jesus submitted to God’s will obeying to the point of death. Down through the ages many others have followed Jesus being persecuted. Sometimes the persecution was even to the point of martyrdom.
That way is not always how God acts. Look at verse 10. Jesus said he would keep them from the hour of trial that was coming. While the Jews had not kept God’s word in the area of lying these from Philadelphia had kept God’s word about patient endurance. One of the rewards given to these people was protection.
Had they arrived? No. Verse 11 tells them to hold fast, don’t quit. The race goes on until the finish line. They were not there yet.
This church would get blessings forever. One blessing would be God’s marking them out as his own. Read through verse 12 again and look at the blessing, the protection, the participation that was there. Jesus said he held the key of David. That meant he was the gatekeeper of heaven. These faithful in Philadelphia would walk through that gate. We can too if we will but follow. We must not discard what we know.