Sardis: Dead or Alive?
Sardis was the outstanding Greek city of Asia Minor.
It did not have an influence in the Roman period but it did live in the pride of its past history.
It was an example of a broken-down aristocracy.
The city was arrogant and self-sufficient and needed a warning from God.
The term "awaken or decline" might well be used to describe the city and church.
Usually the attitude of a city is reflected in its churches.
Identification, 3: 1a
The sender of this letter is identified as
"he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars."
He has fullness of power and wisdom.
He has also the destiny of the church in His hands.
They will do well to heed His warning.
Complaint, 3: 18
There is a change in the way the Lord spoked to this church.
Previously, He has commended the church, and then gave His complaint.
At Sardis there is so little to commend and so much to complain about that He reverses the order.
"I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and thou art dead."
In those few words He voices a tremendous complaint.
In this church there was much outward activity, but no inner spirituality.
This organization was perfected and running smoothly.
An outsider would see this as the ideal church, but there was no life -- no real-life, in the church.
Someone has said that "there are few things better organized than graveyards,
but there is no life there."
This was the condition of the church at Sardis.
They had a reputation of being alive, but the One with perfect knowledge said they were dead.
Admonition, 3: 2
The church is admonished to get busy and "establish the things that remain,
which were ready to die."
There were some in the church that were alive, but were on the verge of death
and could be rescued by prompt action.
The forms were all right, but they needed to be filled with power and devotion.
A Christian cannot prosper on ritual alone.
Christ states that He has found no work of this church perfect in the sight of God.
They were good starters but poor finishers.
They were like the Galatians who ran well for a while and then stopped.
The church at Sardis had a name before men for doing good work,
but Christ judges it not by what men see but by what God sees,
and indicates that they have not really finished one thing which they started.
Warning, 3: 3
The church is warned of a disaster unless it remembers the real content of religion
as it had first received it and unless it returns to those first principles and practices them.
If it fails to do this, He will come upon it in judgment and destruction.
This warning to "watch" had a definite meaning for Sardis.
The city was built upon a hill, surrounded on three sides by precipitous cliffs.
So it was easily defended against an enemy.
But carelessness had caused it to fall twice.
When Croesus was king and was besieged by Cyrus, he and his soldiers slept,
thinking they were safe, only to have their city captured by these enemy soldiers.
At another time the city under Achneus fell before Antiochus the Great under similar circumstances.
The Lord uses that to warn the church.
"Remember your history. If you do not watch, the same fate will come to you."
In the New Testament "watching" is not just a matter of keeping the eyes open.
It is a matter of keeping busy and being active for the Lord in His service.
Commendation, 3: 4a
There are a few in Sardis who are worthy of commendation.
They "did not defile their garments"; they took no part in the pagan worship
and worldliness of the day.
They had been true to their God in every way.
Promise, 3: 4b, 5
To this faithful group the promises are made that they shall walk with the Lord in white.
They are worthy of fellowship with him because of their purity and loyalty.
The one who overcomes will "be arrayed in white garments."
Sardis was proud of its business in colored cloths, which was worn by the worldly people of Sardis.
Those who have overcome will be given white robes symbolical of their purity.
The overcoming one will not have his name blotted from the book of life,
but will be confessed by Christ before God and the angels.
Because of his refusal to yield to the demands of emperor worship,
he may have his name blotted out of the record book of men
as he is added to the list of martyrs.
But his name is still in the Lamb's book of life and he is secure.
Perfect security and honor are his.
The New Testament teaches the security of the believer with the emphasis
that the fact that one overcomes -- that faithful one who holds out --
it is an indication that he was genuinely redeemed to begin with.
This is the emphasis of this passage.
Adapted from the book, Worthy Is the Lamb, by Ray Summers