"And unto the angel
of the church in Sardis write;
These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I
know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.
2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things
which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect
before God. 3 Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and
hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as
a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. 4 Thou
hast a few names even in Sardis
which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for
they are worthy. 5 He that
overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out
his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father,
and before his angels. 6 He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit
saith unto the churches."
The situation with the
church in Sardis was one of conflicting appearance and reality. On the one hand
the church had a perception of being a lively church. This perception probably
was both from within the body of the church and without to other churches
looking on this church and thinking it was a lively church. Church activity and
being busy can bring about this perception. A church with a lot of activities
can bring about this appearance.
I have seen churches that
have had activities for the youth such as games and wiener roasts and hay rides
and youth camps. Also I have seen churches that have had weekly fellowship
meetings and quilting circles and like activities. I have also seen that people
within those churches and without those churches look upon those so-called
active churches and say that they were lively churches. While the Lord's church
is a social body and fellowship is important, there is nothing in the scriptures
to indicate the church is primarily a social body and that social activities is
to be the main thrust of the church's activities. The church was designed by
God to worship God, bear witness to his name, to promote spiritual growth in its
members, and to feed the Lord's people with the truth. When a church becomes
known for its social activities it is reflecting the condition of the church in
Sardis. They had substituted social activities for the true worship of God, for
spiritual growth, and for feeding the Lord's people with the truth.
"These things saith he
that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars." The Lord spoke to
the church in Sardis on the basis of the completeness of the work of the Holy
Spirit and the fact that he has the seven stars (messengers of the churches).
When a spirit arises in the church that is contrary to the work of the Holy
Spirit, the one who knows all things and sees all things will make it manifest
that such a spirit is wrong. The Lord also holds the seven stars in his right
hand and when a church begins to possess a spirit that is contrary to the Holy
Spirit, it is imperative that the pastor or messenger of the church warn the
church to repent of such a spirit.
The church in Sardis had a
spirit of social activism and that was the driving spirit of the activities of
most of its members. Often such a spirit arises from the mistaken belief that
the church must provide some activities to maintain interest in the church,
especially interest by the young people. How often I have heard the statement,
"We need something for the young people." The truth is the church has been
provided by her master with everything she needs for people of all age groups
including the young people. For every one of God's people we need the gospel to
be preached in power and demonstration of spirit, we need for God's people to
repent and take up their crosses and follow Jesus, we need to be fed from the
word of God, we need to read and study our bibles, we need to apply these
precious truths to our lives, we need to grow spiritually, we need to use the
gifts that God has given us to his name's honor and glory and to the benefit of
his people, we need to worship God in Spirit and in truth.
We also need for the gospel
ministers to preach the whole counsel of God including warning the Lord's people
about dangers and errors and sinful practices that should not be engaged in or
tolerated by the church. This applies to the young as well as the old and those
in between. Some things that are needed apply specifically for the young and
that is that parents train up their children in the way that they should go and
that fathers bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord
and that mothers guide the household and that children honor their father and
mother. Social activities should not be the main thrust of the church, but
doing those things listed above should have far more importance.
"I know thy works, that
thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. 2 Be watchful, and
strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found
thy works perfect before God." Reality can be quite different from
perception. The church in Sardis had a name among people that they were alive,
yet God said that they were dead. The reality is that they were dead. The
perception was that they were alive. The church in Sardis because of their
emphasis on social activism and substituting that for true spirituality had
become dead to the true worship and service of God. Excitement is often
mistaken for spirituality. People can become excited about social activities
and think that what they are doing is so important, when there is no scriptural
basis for their activities. This excitement for social activities can blind
them to their need for the true worship and service of God. The church in
Sardis had come to the point where there was little that remained to identify
them as a true church of God and what little that
remained was ready to die.
When a church starts on the
course of social activism as their main thrust, eventually they will lose their
desire to maintain scriptural church government, scriptural church discipline,
and the true gospel of Christ, doctrinal truths, and scriptural church
practices. If they continue along this course of social activism as their main
thrust, then they will lose their identity as a true church of
God. It is imperative that
every true church be watchful for such a spirit of social activism arising in
her midst and to withdraw from it. It is also important that we strengthen that
which remains that we not lose the truly important things that pertain to the
church and the worship and service of God. Strengthening what remains begins
with faithful ministers faithfully preaching the whole counsel of God and
following the leadership of the Holy Spirit in that which they preach and teach
and faithfully warning God's people when dangers arise. It also includes a
self-examination of each church member to see if they be in the faith or not.
It includes prayer and study on behalf of every member that God would guide
their minds and hearts into that which is truly important in the worship and
service of God.
"Remember therefore how
thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent." The above
sentence is striking in that it says "remember HOW thou hast received and
heard," and doesn't say, "remember WHAT thou hast received and heard." While it
is no doubt important that we remember WHAT we have received and heard, yet it
is even more important that we remember HOW we have received and heard. First
we wouldn't have heard anything spiritually except we had first been born of the
spirit. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God for
they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them for they are spiritually
discerned." In the new birth God has written his laws in our heart and mind
and has pricked our heart to know and feel our own sin-guiltiness. Next God
sent a preacher to preach the gospel of the grace of Christ to declare unto us
that Christ hath redeemed us from our sins. Of course the preacher wouldn't
have preached if he hadn't first been called of God and shown the truth of God's
grace. He wouldn't have had anything to preach except God had given us the
scriptures. When we began to see all the things that were necessary that God
provided in order for us to be able to receive and hear, then we are led to give
all the praise, honor, and glory to God for his glorious grace and love toward
sinful creatures we know ourselves to be. Once we know HOW we have received and
heard, then we begin to focus on the WHAT we have received and heard. It is
important that we hold the HOW and WHAT fast and not let those precious things
go. It is when we forget the how and what that we get in trouble. However, it
is not enough to just know the HOW and WHAT and to HOLD FAST, but it is also
needful that we REPENT. Repentance is not just a one time activity, it is
necessary throughout our lives. When we see error or sin in our lives or in our
doctrinal beliefs, or in our church practices, or in our priorities, then we
need to repent. To repent is to turn from that error and to turn to the truth.
The church in Sardis needed to repent from their emphasis upon social activism
and to turn back to the emphasis on true worship and service of God.
"If therefore thou shalt
not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I
will come upon thee." Watching is something the church and Lord's ministry
are commanded to do in his word:
1. Acts 20:31
"Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to
warn every one night and day with tears."
2. 1 Cor. 16:13
"Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong."
3. Col. 4:2
"Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;"
4. 1 Thes. 5:6 "Therefore
let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober."
5. 2 Tim. 4:5
"But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist,
make full proof of thy ministry."
6. Heb. 13:17
"Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch
for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy,
and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you."
7. 1 Pet. 4:7
"But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto
When the ministry and the
church watch, then they are able to take action before harm comes to the
church. A failure of the ministry and the church to watch will result in false
teachers and designing men bringing in false doctrines and false practices into
the church. Also failing to watch will sometimes result in members going off
into error or sinful practices and for evil spirits coming into the church such
as the spirit of church activism. The Lord said that if the church failed to
watch that he would come on the church as a thief in the night. A thief comes
unexpectedly to take something away. He comes in your most unguarded time and
condition. In this case the Lord is warning the church and ministry to watch or
else He would come upon the church to take away the candlestick. The church
would lose its identity as a true church of God. The light of the
candlestick or true gospel would cease to shine in the church. False practices
and false doctrines would come in and replace the true. True gospel peace and
comfort and rest would be replaced with a works system of salvation and its
subsequent bondage. How many denominations of religion are present today
because the Lord's churches and ministers failed to take heed and watch?
"Thou hast a few names
even in Sardis which have not
defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are
worthy." It is usually the case in
every church that has been invaded with an evil spirit in its membership such as
church activism that there are a few in that church that don't go along with the
majority of the church knowing that the direction of the church is
unscriptural. Often they quietly protest the starting of the activities that
excite the flesh, but are ignored by the majority who go along with and promote
the new activities. The Lord knows who these few are and how they have not
defiled their garments with the unclean activities promoted by the majority.
These few in Sardis had continued and the Lord said would continue to walk with
him in white. White is associated with righteousness in the scriptures. These
few were continuing to tread the pathway of righteousness and walking uprightly
with God and actually experiencing sweet fellowship with the Lord, while the
majority had lost that sweet fellowship even though they probably didn't realize
it because of the subtle change from true spirituality to excitement of the
flesh. Satan is a great deceiver.
Just because a majority of
the church goes along with an error doesn't excuse any of us with going along
with that error. We should do as the few and continue to walk with the Lord in
the way of righteousness and protest solemnly to our brothers and sisters in the
church that the direction of the church is wrong and that the church needs to
repent of that direction.
"He that overcometh, the
same shall be clothed in white raiment."
There is an aspect of every elect child of God that they are clothed with the
righteousness of Jesus Christ: 2 Cor. 5:21 "For he hath made him to be sin
for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."
Every one, for whom Christ died, will stand before him in the resurrection
clothed in Christ's righteousness. However, sometimes we can walk in this life
with defiled garments. Our manner of living is sometimes not consistent with
the fact that we have been washed in the blood of the Lamb and that we have
committed ourselves to be his disciples. We can sometimes walk without our
wedding garment on. We must be careful that we are not cast into outer darkness
in lost fellowship with God and his church. By overcoming the false spirits
that sometimes come to abide in the Lord's church such as social activism, then
we walk the pathway of holiness and are clothed with his righteousness in our
walk of life.
"And I will not
blot out his name out of the book of life." We are told to "Study to
show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed,
rightly dividing the word of truth." Often when we read or think about the
book of life our minds are focused on the Lamb's book of life and the fact that
our names were written there before the foundation of the world. We know that
in the covenant of redemption that all that God foreknew will be glorified
without the loss of a single one. There is therefore no such thing as one of
those whose name is written in the Lamb's book of life ever having their name
blotted out of that book. Yet there is an implied warning in the verse above
that our names can be blotted out of the book of life. This book of life must
therefore be different from the Lamb's book of life. As with most subjects in
the scriptures there are eternal aspects and there are timely aspects. The
scriptures teach an eternal salvation and they teach a timely salvation. They
teach an eternal calling to glory and a timely calling to repentance. They
teach an election to eternal life and an election to church membership. They
teach an eternal justification by grace and timely justification by faith and
works. Thus there is an eternal book of life with those whose names were
written there before the foundation of the world and permanently preserved there
into the glory world. There is also a timely book of life in which one can have
part in here in time and can also lose his part in here in time based on his
actions or inactions. Rev. 22:19 tells us that we can lose our part in this
timely book of life: "And if any man shall take away from the words of the
book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and
out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book."
We know that eternal salvation is based on grace and not works and that all the
elect from before the foundation of the world will live in heaven's glory world,
therefore, the elect can do nothing of themselves that would either secure that
eternal salvation or cause them to lose that eternal salvation. Contrariwise,
God's people can live in the kingdom of
God here in time and enjoy the
fruits and benefits of that kingdom. When they are living in the kingdom and
enjoying the fruits and benefits of the kingdom they have their names in this
timely book of life. However, if they through their actions turn away from a
godly walk or turn away from the true worship and service of God then their
names will be removed from this timely book of life. They will in essence be
cast into outer darkness in this time world.
"But I will confess his
name before my Father, and before his angels." Matt. 10:32 "Whosoever
therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father
which is in heaven." When we overcome we are in a practical sense
confessing the Lord before men. To confess something means simply to
acknowledge a truth. Confessing or denying the truth doesn't change the truth.
Truth is truth whether we confess it or deny it. When the Lord confesses us
before the Father, he is simply acknowledging that we are his true disciples.
Likewise when he denies us before the Father, he is simply acknowledging that we
are not walking as true disciples. Thus to overcome the obstacles of true
discipleship places us back into the pathway of true discipleship and also
knowing that the Lord is acknowledging to the Father that we are true disciples.
"He that hath an ear let
him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." As with the letters to
the previous churches, we once again see that the Lord speaks to the churches
through the preaching of the gospel by his gospel messengers (angels=pastors).