Updated: May 26
What can we learn from them
To the Church in Sardis- the almost dead church
Sardis was considered to be an impregnable city built on an inaccessible hill situated at the top of the Hermus valley and was the capital city of the area known as Lydia. Such physical security had perhaps caused the citizens to become over-confident or even arrogant. The city was beginning to decline at the time that this book was written.
3 “To the angel of the church in Sardis write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.
The church in Sardis was no longer living up to its reputation. Nearly the whole assembly in Sardis had some form of defilement in their lives. They had fallen asleep on duty as it were and were only give out a flickering light of the gospel. Jesus tells them to wake up and strengthen what is left of their faith. They had not finished the job as far as God was concerned. They desperately needed to rekindle their love and faith. Jesus warns them they need to repent from their sins. He further warns them that if they don’t listen to His wake-up call that He will visit them suddenly without any notice and with judgement implied.
4 Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. 5 Those who are victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out their names from the book of life but will acknowledge their names before my Father and his angels. 6 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
However not everyone in the Sardis Assembly had gone astray or defiled themselves. The repentant and victorious believers along with those who have been already faithful in the church of Sardis are promised a special walk with Jesus Christ sharing in His glory and purity. Jesus gives all such believers His personal assurance that their names are permanently inscribed in the book of life and that Jesus will personally acknowledge them as friends in the presence of the Father God and His holy angels. Therefore let those believers who are willing and able be ever obedient to the Holy Spirit as He speaks to the church.
Further commentary (adapted in part from Pilgrim Benham: A letter to a modern church -Calvary Chapel)
Jesus gives no commendation to the church at Sardis since Jesus cannot commend dead works. The faithful minority are however promised a special walk with Jesus.
Corrections (do these apply to your church?)
1. Wake up (stay awake) unlike those Sardians who woke up to find the enemy had climbed the steep castle wall and conquered the city. This was probably due to over-confidence in their defences. To wake up is to admit your faith is asleep and not moving forward. Sardis was the church who had a problem staying awake! Wake up before you are attacked unaware.
2. Strengthen what remains most likely faith, hope and love. These three are strengthened by regular use. If we grow complacent, we forget our dependence on God. Having awakened we must fan the tiny spark or flame of our faith into life. Shake off the spiritual numbness and ask Jesus to grow your mustard seed of faith.
3. Remember what we have been taught. Both waking up and strengthening involves remembering. Do you recall the Gospel of your salvation? The Holy Spirit is our helper and will bring all the relevant things we need to our minds!
4. Hold fast to what we know to be true. Our remembrance ought to be more than a mental exercise but rather something that leads to action that bears fruit. Keep and value the wonderful life that Christ has purchased for you.
5. Repent and do a U-turn as often as required (1 John 1:9). If there are walking dead in your church, then repentance is the only remedy. Do not persist in the things that are killing your faith. How can we fall asleep in the presence of King Jesus?
Concerning the Church at Sardis no mention is made of any persecution from external enemies or false teaching from within. The root problem was that they had absorbed the surrounding godless culture.
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