THE BOOK OF REVELATION
THE CHURCH'S TRIUMPH THROUGH CHRIST
Sermon #9 - Christ's Letter to the Church at Sardis - Revelation 3:1-6
INTRODUCTION - The letters to the seven churches, though written to literal churches in John's day, still have pertinent application to the Church of Jesus Christ through every age. We are called to examine ourselves in light of what the Spirit of God says to the churches. Ephesus teaches us to be orthodox, but to beware of losing our love. Smyrna teaches us that the church will go through tribulation, but is to remain faithful. Pergamos shows us that when persecution fails to bring down a church, the devil will try to destroy the church from within, endeavoring to introduce immorality and idolatry into its congregation. Thyatira shows us that even though a church may be extremely busy, it can still be filled with heresy, thus activity is not to replace the understanding of God's Word. This morning we shall study Christ's letter to the church at Sardis, and may God give us ears to hear what the Spirit says to the churches!
1) THE GREETING TO THE CHURCH AT SARDIS - Revelation 3:1 - Sardis had once been a proud, strong city. Having been built upon a high and supposedly inaccessible hill, the people trusted in their fortress town. Yet twice in its history, the sleeping population had been caught unawares as enemies breached their walls and conquered their city. Like the other towns mentioned in Revelation, paganism, emperor worship, and Judaism abounded in this rich city. It would have been difficult for Christians to live here, and yet, as we read the letter to this church, there is no persecution or tribulation being experienced by the congregation. Something was wrong at the church in Sardis, allowing it to exist peacefully in the midst of a godless town.
2) THE DESCRIPTION OF CHRIST - Revelation 3:1 - Again, we are taken back to that glorious picture of the ascended Christ in Revelation 1. Here He is seen with the seven Spirits and seven stars. The "seven Spirits" is the Spirit of God in His fullness and work (Revelation 1:4,5), while the "seven stars" are the ministers of the churches (Revelation 1:20). As Christ describes Himself this way, so we shall see that the great needs for this church is the Spirit of God and a revival among its ministers and members. The church was basically dead and only Christ who holds the pastors and administers the Spirit of God, would be able to save them. They are called to return to Him, and in their repentance He would revive that church again.
3) THE PRAISE GIVEN TO THE CHURCH AT SARDIS - Revelation 3:1,4 - There is little to be praised in this church. They thought that they were a good church, having "made a name" for themselves in the world and in the other churches. Yet in reality, the church was dead. We do not see any heresies or immorality being rebuked in this church. They were probably full of good works. Yet this was not true spiritual life. The only good which is mentioned concerning this church is what is stated in Revelation 3:4 - there were a few living souls left in the church. Yet even this was not sufficient to save the church from eventual destruction, if they did not repent.
4) THE REBUKE GIVEN TO THE CHURCH AT SARDIS - How might we understand the sort of church which Sardis had become? Paul states in II Timothy 3:5 that there are some who eventually have "a form of godliness but deny its power," in other words, there may be an appearance of spiritual life, yet in reality the church is dead. The works are not coming from regenerate souls, but from those who are actually dead. The prayers, songs, worship, preaching, and life of the church is cold formalism. It has no love or desire to glorify God. They are dead people, hard at work. Dead ministers preaching to dead people. We must realize that churches like this abound today. There is no lack of people like this even within Christianity. Their Christianity is full of doing things, yet their hearts are spiritually dead. This is why there was no persecution in Sardis. The church had conformed to the world and the paganism around it. They were just a group of good-living people, who cared for one another and the people of the town. Their Christianity was non-threatening and accommodating to the world. Who would want to persecute this? Satan does not even introduce immorality or idolatry into this church for it was dying quite well without him. In these cases, it is best for him to leave the church alone and let it perish due to its spiritually dead state.
5) CHRIST'S WARNING TO THE CHURCH AT SARDIS - Revelation 3:2 - Christ tells them to wake up. The church didn't even know that it was dead! These people are like this - living like Christians yet not realizing that they are dead. They had become like the city they lived in, having a false sense of security, and having fallen asleep in that supposed invulnerability. This church is told to strengthen the things which remain. The church is called to repentance, to realize its dead state, and to return to those things which they had originally learned in Christ. There were some sparks of life left in this church and there is still mercy held out to these people. If they do not repent, Christ will come to them quickly in judgment. He has warned them already, and if they do not return to Him, He will take away their candlestick. He will judge the false Christians in the midst of His church!
6) CHRIST'S PROMISES GIVEN TO THE CHURCH AT SARDIS - Revelation 3:4,5 To those who are true Christians in this church, they will be clothed with white, with the righteousness of Christ. This is a favorite picture of the saints in Revelation as they are clothed and justified in the holiness of Christ. Secondly, their names are written in the Book of Life and their names shall never be erased from that Book. The false Christians of Sardis thought that they were safe, but they will not find their names written in the Book of Life. Instead, it is only true believers who may be assured and may rejoice that their names are written in heaven (Luke 10:20; Philippians 4:3). The Book of Life is the list of the elect from the foundations of the world (Revelation 13:8; 17:8), and all whose names are not in this book will be cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). All who have confessed Christ in this life will be confessed by Christ before His Father in heaven (Matthew 10:32,33). These are the promises given to those who are truly the Lord's!
7) CHRIST'S EXHORTATION TO THE CHURCH AT SARDIS - Revelation 3:6 - Do you have an ear to hear what Christ is saying? Are you spiritually dead this morning? Have you been living a life of Christianity in your own strength, without the Spirit of God? Has it just been formalism, duty, or obligation? Then repent of this great sin, and turn to Jesus Christ for salvation and forgiveness. You need His Holy Spirit to work in your heart. You need His strength and power to live for Him. Yet this will not come to you apart from salvation in Christ. Let us examine ourselves today and make sure that we are not "living/dead" people. Let us turn to Christ for mercy and life!