The Living Dead Church – Sardis

The Living Dead Church – Sardis
December 24, 2023
Passage: Revelation 3:1-6
Service Type:

If you'd open your Bible, we're going to be looking at Revelation chapter three, verses one through six. We're again, studying through the seven churches of Asia. And as we look at these letters, these brief little letters written by our Savior, or by John, the words of our Savior. These addresses to these churches show a relationship to Christ and the New Testament Church. Learning and making application from all of these little epistles can help us to be what we want to be, which is a faithful congregation of the Lord. 

Not only do these short little letters help us congregationally, but they also strengthen and encourage us as individuals, at least they ought to as we, as we get into these things.

As we have noticed in the past, Christ always begins with what I call his communication, where he is opening a statement to the church. 

Christ's Communication to the Church at Sardis

  • Revelation 3:1

Notice the first part of this verse. He says He that has the seven spirits of God. In Jewish literature, oftentimes, especially in Revelation, there is the idea of completeness represented by the number seven. And so, you think that you know, the number four kind of represents Earthly things. You've got the four corners, north, south, east, and west, however you want to call that. Plus, you've got the three parts or the three persons of the Godhead. So that total number of seven represents the totality of everything. And so, It is, essentially, it is God's number. It is a number that represents all that is physical, and all that is spiritual. He has it, all this is saying is that He has this Spirit. He possesses the Spirit without measure.

  • John 3:34

He does not have just a portion of the Spirit, The fullness of the Godhead dwells in Him bodily. Christ has the seven spirits of God. He has complete and total spirits. Uh, he says, uh, again, it says there, These things saith he that hath the seven spirits and the seven stars. Again, the seven stars, uh, are angels. Uh, again, I think, representing the spiritual life of the church. They're under His authority. 

  • Revelation 1:20

Jesus is spoken of as He who holds the seven stars in His right hand.

  • Revelation 2:1

The church is under His authority. We looked at it in the adult Bible class this morning, where Jesus said, "All authority is given unto me in heaven and in earth." (Matthew 28:18). He holds the authority, all authority. Jesus Christ has all authority over the church. 

And he says, the one that has the seven spirits of God that holds the seven stars in his hand, he says, I know thy works. And again, we need to recognize that God, that Christ knows our works. He knows us individually. He knows what we do. He knows the true motives behind what we do. We need to understand. And in some ways, we need to be fearful because he knows our works. He knows us, and who we truly are. 

And so that is Christ's communication, He describes Himself as the one having authority among the churches. 

Christ's Condemnation of the Sardis Christians

  • Revelation 3:1-2

He goes here, in this passage, to this church, he goes straight into the condemnation. Sometimes he goes with the commendation first, but He goes right into His condemnation of the the things that the congregation is involved in. He again says, I know thy works that thou hast the name that thou livest and art dead. So likely this church had a good appearance, and enjoyed the reputation of being alive, but in fact they were dead. 

Thus, the church at Sardis was alive by reputation and by appearance only. They likely had a large membership, maybe a fine meeting place. Maybe they had some prominent members. An outsider looking in would see what they saw as an ideal church, with things maybe that are running smoothly. 

But a church that ignores its weaknesses and problems is in far greater jeopardy before the Lord than a church that deals with its problems. Therefore, in the eyes of Christ, they were dead.

You know, there are a lot of churches today that have a reputation for being sound and active, but inwardly, perhaps, they are decaying and dying. There were several causes, as we look at these seven letters, there were several causes of spiritual death, uh, as we look at just the first five letters, uh, to these churches in Asia.

  • Revelation 2:4-5

And so they left their first love. They were no longer serving God with the same zeal that they began with early in their Christian life. Early in their life as a congregation. Maybe this was also something that led to Sardis being a dead church. 

Another church in Revelation 2, the church at Pergamos, was guilty of tolerating error. 

  • Revelation 2:14-15

Some were tolerating error. They were tolerating the error of the Nicolaitans, which again, we don't know what that was, but they certainly did. 

  • Revelation 2:20

So they were tolerating this false teacher. They were tolerating this false doctrine. And we looked at that a little bit last week, and, maybe simply by saying they'd pay homage to the things of the Roman Empire, like emperor worship so that they could get along. Maybe this is what they were teaching. 

But they were tolerating false teachers. And so they had also works that were not perfect or complete before God. 

  • Revelation 3:2

They were not complete, they were not perfect in that way that they had grown to full maturity. You know, some only partake of milk when they ought to be able to partake of strong meat. 

  • Hebrews 5:11

There were, maybe a large percentage of the congregation who were not mature enough in the faith to be ready for strong meat. They were dull of hearing. That's why, perhaps, their works were not complete or not perfect before God. Those are His condemnations of the church. They had a name that they lived, but they were dead. You know, we don't know exactly what led to this, but we can speculate based on what He said to the other churches. But their works were not as complete as they should be. Jesus says that you are, you have a name as if you were alive, but in fact, you're dead. 

Christ's Charge to the Church at Sardis

He goes on to give them his charge; and tells them what they need to do to correct the situation. You know, all churches in this situation need to heed this. 

  • Revelation 2:2-3
  • Luke 12:35-40

 There may be those who think, well, you know, I know I'm not living right, but I've got time. I can make it right tomorrow. I can make it right the next week. I hear people say, well, I just need to get my life straightened out first, and then I can focus on spiritual things. And that is the exact opposite of what we ought to do.

  • 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6

And so again, we've got to be ready. We don't know when the Lord is returning. Just like the good man of the house in Luke chapter 12, he doesn't know when the burglar is coming. He's got to be ready. And so he says, be watchful.  He says, strengthen the things which remain that are ready to die. There were, some things there that they could build upon. They were to grow and build upon what they had. 

What they did have? Jesus said He had not found their works perfect before God. You know, maybe some were weak and sickly. Some were ready to die. Strong members have a responsibility to those that are weak. 

  • Romans 15:1

So He says, Be watchful, strengthen those things which remain. And then He says, Remember, therefore, how thou hast received and heard. Again, go back and remember your past state and get back to it. They should recall the time when they first gave their hearts to the Lord and compare it to their present condition.

  • Revelation 2:5

Again, just like the church at Ephesus. They had lost, left, their first love. And He says, Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, repent and do the first works. Or else I will come unto thee quickly and remove thy candlestick out of its place. You know, they needed to go back. They needed to repent.

They needed to regain that first love, that early zeal they once had. They should remember what they had heard and how they had accepted it. And remember what you've heard and go back to that, He says, and He says, hold fast when you get there, hold fast. You know, a condition of success in every field, physical or spiritual, is to hold fast.

You know, we've talked about the idea of grit, of having that stick-to-itiveness, to hold fast. They should hold to what they had received with the same love and zeal that they once had. Some may have all the outward forms of being faithful. They're there at every worship service. They're always in attendance at Bible class and every church event. Some may have all the outward appearance, but they might be lacking the weightier matters of Christian duty. You know, their personal prayer life, uh, and studying the word of God, teaching, and doing the works of a Christian.  

  • Mathew 23:23

You know, the Pharisees, the scribes, they were thought to be the most pious people among all of the Jews. And yet, you know, they went through their spice cabinet, and they gave 10 percent of everything they had, but they forgot the most important things. And we see that over and over throughout the gospels and how the Pharisees acted.

  • 2 Timothy 1:13

We've gotta hold fast and be faithful in all that God has us to be faithful in. He says, hold fast, repent. You know, those who are dead in the Lord's work or in sin they need to repent

  • Luke 13:3

So important was that statement. He re-emphasized it again, word for word in verse 5. 

  • Acts 17:30

You know, just as one does not repent of error until he gives up error. One hasn't truly repented of negligence until he begins doing what he ought to have done.

  • James 4:17

If we know what we ought to do and we're not doing it, in fact, if God's word commands something, whether we know we're supposed to do it or not and we don't do it, to us it is sin. That is why it is important that we study and learn God's word. 

Christ gives His communication, His condemnation. He gives them the charge and then He gives them this caution in verse three. 

Christ's Caution to Sardis

  • Revelation 3:3

He gives them this caution, if you don't watch, then I'm going to come on you just like a thief. We need to be watchful at all times so that sudden destruction does not overtake us as a thief in the night. Those who are dead in the Lord's work are in danger of losing their souls when the Lord returns. 

  • Proverbs 29:1

When the Lord comes again on that great day of judgment, if we're not right with Him, if we're not faithful to Him, we're going to be destroyed. 

  • Hebrews 12:25
  • Matthew 24:37-39

If we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven, now, as it was also in the days of Noah, so will it be when the Lord comes, as we read in Matthew 24.

We need to be careful and recognize that the Lord is going to return and if we are not already at that point in the right relationship with Him, we're going to be lost just like those who died in the flood. 

Christ's Commendation to Sardis

Then we see finally here at the end we see Christ's commendation of the church. It is a church that has an aim but is dead. But Jesus said there were some things there that were praiseworthy, were commendable. 

  • Revelation 3:4

Even in a place where so much had declined, and where most had become dead [some were faithful].

So the church had a reputation of being alive, but they were dead. They were few who were true and loyal in their service to the Lord. They, He says, had not defiled their garments. They had kept themselves unspotted from the world. 

  • James 1:27

To have that pure religion, we've got to look to ourselves to make sure that we are pure, that we are clean, and that our garments are not spotted. We also need to be involved in Christian service. Here, these individuals have kept themselves from the prevailing corruption. 

Just as zeal is contagious, well, guess what? So is indifference. The others had not influenced, though, these few. He says, of these few, they will walk with men white, for they are worthy.  

We see it as possible for a church, which is lacking as a whole, to have some faithful members. And some of the churches we have studied had errors and immorality, and the church as a whole was told to repent. Sardis was not accused of having errors or allowing immorality, at least not directly. Thus, the church as a whole was lacking, even though they were lacking as a whole, they had some that were faithful. 

No doubt this is true of many congregations today. Often there are only a few who keep the work going and keep the church pure. It's been said that 90 percent of the work gets done by 10 percent of the congregation. That may be true in some places. It may not be true in every place. Often there are only a few who keep the work going, and keep the church pure, and if not for these few, the whole group would have their candlestick removed. 

Christ commends that some among them are still faithful.  

Christ's Covenant with Christians

And then we see his promise or his covenant with them.

"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. 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. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." — Revelation 3:4-6; 

There are three blessings for those who overcome.

  1. They will walk with me in white, their robes have been made white in the blood of the lamb. - Revelation 7:14; 6:11; 7:9, 13-14; 
  2. Their names are written in the Book of Life - Philippians 4:3; Revelation 21:27; 20:12; 22:19; 
  • He will confess their name before the Father - Matthew 10:32-33

Those who do not overcome Jesus will not confess them before the Father. This is true of every conditional promise. And every one of these destroys the doctrine of once saved, always saved.  

Lessons Learned from the Church at Sardis

As we look here at the church at Sardis, a few lessons that we learned is that congregational character and reputation may often be completely different. 

1) They have a reputation as having a name, but in fact, He says they are dead. The funeral of a dead congregation is a major disappointment to the Lord. Dying congregations need to be strengthened, not strangled to full ruin. A failure to be watchful is an open invitation for a congregational catastrophe. 

2) We see also that the faithful few can carry congregational obligations, most of them even. 

3) Also, we see how wonderful and indeed it is when the Lord considers our being worthy enough, by heavenly grace, to walk with Him in white.  

4) And we see how sweet to every saint is the contemplation of having Christ confess his name to the Father and before the angels. 

The question is, are you alive or dead spiritually? Are you lazy and indifferent to the Lord's work? Do you from all outward appearances seem to be a Christian, but are actually only going through the motions? If this describes you, then you need to repent and strengthen the things that you have which remain. 

Let us strive to overcome so that we can keep our names in the Book of Life. 

In order to have our names written in the Book of Life, we must believe that God is, that He's a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him, (Hebrews 11:6). We must believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and based upon our belief, we must repent of our sins, confess Him before men, and be baptized to wash away our sins. If you've not done that, put on Christ tonight in baptism, you need to do so. 

If you have not been faithful. We urge you to repent and go back to your first love. Go back to Christ. He is ready and willing to receive you if you will just repent and go back to Him. 

If we can help in any way to respond to this invitation, please contact us so we can assist you.

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