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Lukewarm Churches – Take Heed

By J. C. Ryle

    There is only too much evidence that [churches] too may fall to pieces and decay.  Where are the churches whose faith and patience and love and zeal shine forth so brightly in the Acts and Epistles of the New Testament?  Where is the church of Antioch and the church of Ephesus, the church of Philippi and the church of Berea, the church of Thessalonica and the church of Corinth – those holy communions which once brought such glory and praise to God, whose obedience was spoken of throughout the world, whose children were ready to shed their blood for the Gospel’s sake?  They are gone, they are dead, they are fallen; they kept not their first estate, they became high-minded and puffed up with self-conceit; they did not persevere in well-doing, they did not abound in the fruits of righteousness, and so the Lord who had grafted them in, did also cut them off like ­withered and useless branches – and if anything can be said to remain of them, it is but the wreck and remnant of what they once were.  Doubtless, beloved, there are promises belonging to Christ’s church generally – the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18); the Lord will never leave Himself without a witness, but there is no assurance that the church of any particular place or nation shall abide unchanged, except she continue faithful.  Take any church on earth, the most renowned for wisdom, the most famous for age, the most apostolic in her government; and we are bold to tell you if that church is unfaithful to the Bridegroom Christ Jesus, if she does not hold forth the light of the pure Gospel, if she leaves her first love, if she suffers false prophets to teach and seduce, if she becomes lukewarm, and says, “I am rich, and increased with goods” (Rev. 3:17), if she rests content with having a name to live while she is dead, and plumes herself on keeping hold of the truth while she does not witness to it – we are bold to tell you, however long God’s mercy may spare her, her candlestick shall sooner or later be removed, for we know this fearful threat has been over and over again made good.

    Yes! even we have reason to watch and to pray and to be humble and fear:  the fine gold may become dim; no home so strong but if the servants sleep it may be broken up; no church so well ordered but through the sin and faithlessness of her members she may be overturned.

    – Excerpted from the sermon The Unchanging Christ by J. C. Ryle.