And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.
“‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
Understanding And Applying the Text
Christ identified Himself with imagery from chapter one (Revelation 1:4, 16). “The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.” (v1)
Christ knew the details of each church. (“I know”). He commented on the circumstances or traditions of the individual cities. But Sardis was a little different. With the other cities, Christ started by praising them. But with Sardis, He condemns them right out of the gate. There was no praise. There were no words of encouragement. Jesus condemned them straight away.
Sardis was an ancient city of Lydia. It was on the foothills of the Tmolus. Sardis was a chief city of Asia minor. It was the first city in that part of the world converted by John’s preaching. Some say it was also the first to revolt against Christianity.
Jesus said He knew all about their reputation. They had a good reputation. They had a reputation for being alive and vibrant. The church had a good name. Others thought well of it. They thought of it as honorable. It was flourishing. It had a reputation for pure doctrine, unity, decency, and order. There is no record of divisions within the church. All appeared well.
Isn’t that the way we look at churches. The big mega-church must be doing it right. God is blessing them. The small struggling church is dead. The megachurch is where it is at.
But, the church did not live up to its reputation. There was a form of godliness. But there was no power. They had a reputation but no substance. Jesus knew their works. He knew who they were. They were hypocrites. The church in Sardis was dead.
We all want a good reputation. Our reputation opens and closes doors for us. But our reputation needs to match reality. Con men make people think they are one way when they are another. The church of Saridis was a church of con men. And worse of all they conned themselves.
Christ said, “Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die.” This is about individuals. The church was a dead church. But there were individuals who were still alive. They were weak and about to die. They were not yet dead. They were ready to die. If they woke up and saw reality they could revive those who were not yet dead.
Christ told them to think back. They were to remember their initial instruction in the Christian life. (v3) This included both doctrine and ethical teaching. They were to remember the mercies God had for them. They were to think back to the affections they felt. They were to remember how they welcomed the gospel and God’s grace when they first received them.
If they do not repent Christ will come when they least expect Him. And He will come in judgment.
When Christ abandons a people, He does not leave them. He comes to them in judgment. His judicial presence is dreadful to those who do not have His grace. I know a man who says God is love, only love. There is no wrath in God. here is an example of Christ judgment,
But even in Christ’s judgment there is mercy. He mentions a faithful remnant in Sardis. He promises them they will walk with Him. They are worthy.
The one who conquers… Conquers who? Conquers what? This not a one-time event. We do not conquer Satan, our sin once and done. Some translations have overcome. We do not overcome Satan, our sin, persecution. It is not a one and done. This is a continual act. We are always in the fight. We must continue to conquer. We must continue to overcome it.
But yet we do not overcome alone. We do not have the strength, or knowledge to conquer Satan. He must call on Christ. We are to remember Him. We are to remember what we have received. We are to repent.
Our repentance is not a one and done. We must continue to repent for we continue to sin against a holy God.
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.