THE LETTER TO SARDIS
In these few moments, Gracious Lord, I praise your name and long for a new touch of your Spirit.
Read REVELATION 3:1–6
To the Church in Sardis
3 “To the angel[a] of the church in Sardis write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits[b] of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.
4 Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. 5 The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels. 6 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Revive us, Lord, the world is waiting! Equip your church to spread the light.’1
Like many cities in the ancient world, Sardis was built on a hill, which made it defensible from conventional attack. Its inhabitants were proud of the fact that it had never been overrun by invaders, but on two occasions enemies had infiltrated the city and taken its defenders by surprise. Christ’s warning to this church that he may ‘come like a thief’ when least expected (v 3), suggests that the complacency which had led to the city’s downfall was being replicated in a church which relied on a reputation that had no basis in reality.
In contrast to other letters, there is no specific information concerning the weakness of this church, beyond the fact that its image and self-understanding were based merely on a reputation of being alive. The stark reality is that it was spiritually dead. Twice it is said that the church’s deeds were lacking, suggesting a superficial faith which lacked the power to bring about transformation in life and behavior. Perhaps this congregation is an example of churches which have a semblance of life, recalling past glories and achievements and clinging to the memory of what had once been true, but unaware of the tragic reality of decline.
However, there were a ‘few people’ (v 4) in Sardis who remained faithful, a reminder that in churches that may be described as ‘dead’ (v 1) there are genuine saints who refuse to abandon a congregation with obvious defects and remain personally faithful to Christ. Their commitment to Jesus may be treated as odd by the lukewarm majority, but to them is given the promise that they will be acknowledged ‘before my Father and his angels’ (v 5).
The ‘white’ robes (vs 4,5) may remind believers of the new clothes given at baptism to symbolize new life in Christ. How significant is your baptism in following Jesus today?
Holy Spirit, excavate an emptiness in my life that only you can fill. Revive me from lethargy with a new infusion of your power.
1 Elizabeth Ann Head, 1850–1936, ‘O Breath of life, come sweeping through us’
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