by Mike Ratliff
1 “To the angel of the church in Sardis write:
He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Revelation 3:1 (NASB)
My brethren, the message from Revelation 3:1-6 goes contrary to most of what is taught in Evangelicalism today. The church at Sardis had a name that it was alive yet our Lord bluntly said that even so, they were spiritually dead. Since 2006 when I became involved in this ministry, I have seen good friends like the late Ken Silva, along with all of those associated with him, denigrated because we stood firm with what God’s Word says about what constitutes real Christianity and what doesn’t. When we point out that certain ministries do not measure up, we are called divisive, haters–and many other ugly things–and then some of our critics resort to worldly things such as lawsuits and even denial of service. Excuse me, but how can anyone justify this and call it Christian behavior?
In my own experience, some of those same fellows stalk me on twitter, Facebook, and other blogs making sure to denigrate everything I do or say, always looking to ambush. However, in my own case, most of the ugliness has been in twisting what I have written and taking those things out of context then attempting to discourage me with an attack from behind or from the side… You get the idea.
In our studies of real Christianity and how real Christians love one another as they love the Father and Christ, is what I just shared an example of that? No, it is an example of man-centered religiosity based on fables that pretends to be all about Christianity. The thing is, they think they are Christians. They think they are the ones who are alive and everyone else is wrong. However, our Lord said that we shall know the false from the true by their fruits and how is that? How do real Christians treat each other?
Let’s look at the church at Sardis, the dead church.
1 “To the angel of the church in Sardis write:
He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. 3 So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you. 4 But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. 5 He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. 6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ Revelation 3:1-6 (NASB)
Sardis was a wealthy city and this church probably had a name for being a leading church, however, the church in Sardis was dead, that is, unredeemed unregenerate people, for the most part, populated it. That does not mean they were irreligious. They considered themselves Christians, but that was not based on Christ’s criteria. What were Christ’s criteria? We have our answer in v2, “Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. ” The Greek word that is translated as “completed” is πεπληρωμένα or peplērōmena the Accusative, Perfect, Participle of πληρόω or plēroō, “fulfill, complete”. In other words, their “works” were of the flesh not of the Spirit, which they would be if they were in him. However, notice that our Lord reminds them that they have heard the gospel and now they need to repent and obey it. Notice also that there are a few there who are found worthy. These are genuine Christians so not all are dead.
Here is Charles Spurgeon’s take on this passage from Spurgeon’s Morning by Morning for December 8th.
“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.”-Revelation 3:4
We may understand this to refer to justification. “They shall walk in white”; that is, they shall enjoy a constant sense of their own justification by faith; they shall understand that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to them, that they have all been washed and made whiter than the newly-fallen snow.
Again, it refers to joy and gladness: for white robes were holiday dresses among the Jews. They who have not defiled their garments shall have their faces always bright; they shall understand what Solomon meant when he said “Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart. Let thy garments be always white, for God hath accepted thy works.” He who is accepted of God shall wear white garments of joy and gladness, while he walks in sweet communion with the Lord Jesus. Whence so many doubts, so much misery, and mourning? It is because so many believers defile their garments with sin and error, and hence they lose the joy of their salvation, and the comfortable fellowship of the Lord Jesus, they do not here below walk in white.
The promise also refers to walking in white before the throne of God. Those who have not defiled their garments here shall most certainly walk in white up yonder, where the white-robed hosts sing perpetual hallelujahs to the Most High. They shall possess joys inconceivable, happiness beyond a dream, bliss which imagination knoweth not, blessedness which even the stretch of desire hath not reached. The “undefiled in the way” shall have all this-not of merit, nor of works, but of grace. They shall walk with Christ in white, for He has made them “worthy.” In His sweet company they shall drink of the living fountains of waters.
The promise in v5 is not only for these found worthy but for those who are being warning if they repent and believe.
My brethren, yes, the visible church in our time is worldly and full of spiritual darkness. The world loves it so we know that it cannot be doing what is supposed to be doing. However, even in Sardis there were a few found worthy. I believe that this is the remnant that our Lord always has no matter how bad things get. Again, look at the warning, yes those people were pretenders. They were unregenerate and unredeemed even though they had a name that they were alive. That is called hypocrisy. That is rampant in our time my brethren. We tend to look at how popular a Christian leader is or what their doctrine is before we look at their fruit, that is, how are they doing in the Christian fellowship department? Do they love one another at their Church? How about how they treat Christians from other churches? How’s their humility doing or are they way too arrogant? You get the idea.
In any case, we must examine ourselves first, put everyone else ahead of self while standing firm in the Lord.
Soli Deo Gloria!