THE MASTER’S VESSEL MINISTRIES, HOUSTON, TEXAS
Preacher: Pastor Uche Emenike
Topic: The Messages to the churches
Text: Revelations 1:9-11; 2:1-7
Letter to Sardis
- This letter is written to a church that is deeply seated in the world and does not realize that she has lost her source of life.
- Sardis was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia and it is located fifty miles east of Smyrna and thirty miles southeast of Thyatira. It was a city of great wealth with much of its wealth coming from textile manufacturing and dye making, and the trade of Jewelry. It is also reputed to be the place where gold and silver coins were first struck. However, it was also a city where most people practiced paganism. We have the huge Temple of Artemis dating back to the 4th century B.C. located in this city. The lack of mention of persecution of this church in such an environment reveals how deep seated the church is in the world and how comfortable she has become in her domain.
- In 3:1, Jesus introduces Himself as the One who possesses the seven Spirits of God i.e. the seven-fold characteristics of the Holy Spirit as seen in Isa. 11:1-2 and also possesses and controls the leaders of the seven churches. Note that in Rev. 1:4, these seven Spirits are said to be before God’s throne. Christ is righteous in His judgment of the wicked. Also the leaders of the churches are responsible to no other person but Him.
- Jesus identifies Himself as such because the church is lacking in that which gives life to any church i.e. the Spirit of the living God. The church has relegated the Spirit to the background and is no longer depending on Him. Likewise the leaders are to blame because every decay starts from those responsible for visionary leadership and discipline.
- Jesus is able to see what no man can see. While man looks at the outward appearance, He looks at the inward heart. He does not commend this church at all. He goes straight to her fault.
- The church is well known in her community
- She is actively busy perhaps in social justice, or feeding the poor, or rescuing lost animals, or preventing the abuse of children.
- She has various departments in church catering to a wide variety of needs. She is a very busy place.
- Yet Jesus says that she is dead even though she has an appearance of living. There is no longer any distinction between her and her community. No wonder the community does not see her as a threat. Her worldview is no longer shaped by scripture but by culture. Her views on abortion, same-sex relationships, adultery, morality, and Christian doctrine has shifted and more in line with what the views of the world.
- She has lost that life-quickening Spirit – see Jn. 6:63. Her spiritual power was gone, having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof – II Tim. 3:5.
- She may have started strong in the Spirit but defilement and complacency, and decay set in. Like Samson in Judg. 16:20, she still wants to act like before but she did not know that the Lord had departed from her.
- You may have heard some believers categorizing some churches as Dead Churches. It is from here that they got the idea. There is an element of truth in their assumption even though sometimes the assumption is not made out of love but out of holy piety.
- Any church can fall into this category, including the Orthodox, Evangelical, Pentecostal, etc. Therefore do not think that your church is alive because there is so much noise made in it whereas the other church is dead because they use the liturgy.
- In v.2, there appears to be a certain people who have not sold out completely to the world but are on the verge of doing so. They still had some form of life. Jesus tells them to wake up and strengthen the things that are about to die – perhaps their prayer life, or bible study life, or their love for fellowship and evangelism. It could also include what spiritual life that is left of the church that can be recovered. Call people together for prayer or the study of the word. Teach sound biblical doctrines that have been ignored so far. We now see why some brethren are bent on bringing spiritual revival to churches where they are serving. Do not discourage them by asking them to come out from among them. Instead, encourage them in their service. So far, for the church in Sardis, God is not satisfied with their state.
- In v.3, such brethren are told to remember what they had received and heard, and how they received and heard such. This could allude to the passion they had for the Great Commission, the basic Christian doctrine that they were taught at conversion and which they received joyfully, and God’s standard of morality which they received joyfully. They have to go back to basics. Otherwise Jesus would judge them swiftly. The Lord coming as a thief in the night has the connotation of fearful judgment as in I Thess. 5: 1-4 where it speaks of the day of the Lord coming as a thief in the night. Believers walking with the Lord have no fear of the Lord coming to them as a thief in the night. Instead, they long for His coming. John cries in Rev. 22:20, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”
- In v.4, there are another group of believers who have remained true to Christ and have not wavered. Their garments have not been soiled by unrighteousness. In scripture, garment is a symbol of righteousness which could be bad as in our self-righteousness – Isa. 64:6 or good as in God’s salvation by grace through faith in Christ – see Isa. 61:10. It also means our works of godliness and righteousness as a direct product of our salvation – Rev. 19:8. These are the remnants within an ungodly congregation.
- In v. 5, the believer who overcomes (i.e. from v.2-4) will be clothed in white garments i.e. the righteousness of Christ that guarantees heaven. In ancient times, white garments are worn during festivities like weddings. We shall wear ours also at the marriage supper of the Lamb – Rev. 19: 7-9. His name will not be erased from the book of life. Using John MacArthur’s illustration, in John’s day, kings and rulers kept a register of the people in their domain. Any name can be purged from the register either through death or the commission of a great crime which causes that person to lose their citizenship. Christ will never blot out the name of the overcomer from the Lamb’s book of life even after death. In the meantime, if he falters, there is the blood of cleansing as recorded in I Jn. 2:2. He will also confess the overcomer before His Father and the angels in heaven. In other words, He will affirm that the Christian belongs to His as earlier stated in Matt. 10:32.
- In v. 6, everyone is admonished to respond in the area that the Spirit of God is leading them to respond.
The happenings of Sardis shows the picture of the church during the time of the Protestant Reformation when much of Christendom was dead even though it had a name under the Roman church. A few group of believers took their stand for biblical truth and authority at great cost to their personal safety and we are beneficiaries of their sacrifice. Let us stand for the church and strengthen the things that are about to die today so that history will not repeat itself.