The letters to the churches in the book of Revelation are like tests, they tell us what a church should care about and what dangers a church must avoid. These seven lettersshows us how Jesus wants his churches to behave, what they are to value and what they are to reject. There is a lot we can learn by reading what Jesus rebukes churches for and what he praises them for doing.
In his message to the church of Ephesus (Rev. 2.1-7) Jesus warns the church because it has forgotten its first love. This is generally what we think of about the letter to Ephesus. Recently as I was preparing for fall Sunday School, I reread this portion and what jumped off the page was what Jesus praised the Church of Ephesus for doing. Jesus says in verse two, “I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false.” He then elaborates in verse six, “Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.”
Jesus praises the church of Ephesus for not tolerating false teachers and he praises them for hating the works of those false teachers. Why does Jesus praise them for hating false teaching? Part of the reason is that Jesus hates false teaching.
In our culture it is considered a virtue to be accepting, this is even true in the evangelical church, so much so we are very accepting of aberrant and even false teaching. We accept false teaching but we often reject those who stand against false teaching. But Jesus in his letters to the other churches rebukes those churches who accept, tolerate, and endorse false teaching (2:14; 2:20). It is not a good thing to be indifferent to or accepting of false teaching. How a church responds to false teaching, whether they accept it or reject it, is one of the major tests of its faithfulness. Why?
False teaching is not just being in error about any belief or doctrine. False teaching is a corrupting of the core of the Christian message, the gospel, how we are saved. If a corrupted message of salvation is believed, those who believe in it will face destruction. In other words, false teaching is not neutral, it brings harm to people who accept it. Therefore Jesus hates it and he calls his people to hate it as well.
The danger does not stop there. If a church allows false teaching to go unchallenged it weakens the entire body of believers leading to spiritual decay and even spiritual death. False teaching is spiritual cancer and it only spread if the church does not oppose it.
If we desire to be faithful to Christ, we must examine what teaching we approve of, which teaching we tolerate, and which teaching we hate. If there is no teaching which you respond to with a firm hatred of its evil, then you need to reexamine what you believe. Far too often we accept, invite and even promote false teaching in America today. We do this to our own harm, as well as the harm of others. Jesus hates false teaching, we must as well. The question becomes, “Do we?” This is one question Jesus asks his churches. We must be prepare to answer it.