The congregations that existed in Asia Minor, in John’s day, always make for an interesting study. Countless sermons have focused on them. The churches at Smyrna (Rev. 2:8-11) and Philadelphia (Rev. 3:7-13) both share the distinction of receiving only praise from the omniscient Lord who addressed them. Jesus basically commended both churches by saying “I know your works and I know the challenges you are facing.”
One point here is perhaps worthy of our reflection. The fact that Jesus had no criticism, complaint or even a word of warning for these congregations did not mean that they were perfect. It is well for us to remember that all churches are made up of fallible human beings. I wonder if the human element in these two congregations was the same as with churches of Christ today. These brethren labored to serve God. They suffered tribulation, such as Jesus mentioned in Matthew 24:9. They endured the slander of those who claimed to be Jews, but were liars (Rom. 2:28-29). Outside of these things I wonder if they did not demonstrate some of the same human weaknesses that are characteristic of us all. I wonder if the church at Smyrna had any who were opinionated or not as easy to get along with as other people may be. I wonder if the church at Philadelphia had some brethren who were less loving than they should have been. I wonder if they had any good brethren who might have failed to properly greet visitors. I wonder if anybody who might have visited either of these two congregations on a Lord’s Day might have left with the impression that they were an unfriendly congregation. I wonder if there were any saints who might have made some off-handed remarks that proved offensive to anyone. I wonder if there were any brethren who might have been late for services on occasion. I wonder if any of the men might have preached too long on any given Sunday.
The human element is always in a state of transition. That is, we are forever trying to improve ourselves. We want to eliminate our weakness and faults. We want to learn from our mistakes, grow and do better. We think that because we find fault with the human element in a congregation, that the Lord does likewise. The letters to the churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia suggest that such might not be the case.