May 19-20, 2018 • Pastor Netz Gómez
And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. 2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God.
3 Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. 4 You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. 5 He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but 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..”
I. HISTORIC CONTEXT
Currently known as Sart, it is 33 miles from Thyatira, at the crossroads of Susa in Mesopotamia. It was the capital of Lydia. Sardis was famous for its military history, jewelry, dyes and textiles. Although its inhabitants lived very confident by its geography and its militia, the city was taken by Ciro king of Persia in 549 a.C. and later by Antiochus in 218 a.C. The predominant religion of the city was the worship of the forces of nature.
II. PRESENTATION OF JESUS (3:1a)
He presents Himself as the one who has the fullness of the Holy Spirit and who holds the leaders in his hand; that is, as the Lord of the church and the one who has the power and the anointing to fan it.
III. PRAISE OF THE VIRTUES (3:1b)
This church receives practically no praise from Jesus except for a small group of believers inside this church who had not stained their clothes and were walking with Jesus in white robes.
They had a reputation that they were alive, it means that it was an active and growing church but in reality they were spiritually dead. Jesus, as he usually does, shows the true nature of things, He is the truth and reveals to them that his works were not perfect or complete. When Jesus shows someone who is in reality he does it out of love and so that they do not live deceived and can correct what is wrong and inherit the best.
No persecution against the Christians of this city is mentioned, which indicates that the safe position that the Jewish community had reached even though
it rejected pagan worship also benefited the Christians of Sardis by taking advantage of their tolerance but at the same time provoking that anyone belonged to the church even though he did not have a real commitment to Christ.
It seems that the inhabitants of Sardis had this characteristic, they started something and did not finish it; even his temple to the goddess Artemise equaled in size to that of the city of Ephesus never finished building it. On the other hand, death was a concern of the inhabitants of Sardis evidenced by the impressive cemetery a few miles from the city.
Dr. Vance Havner reminds us that movements can go through four stages: a man, a movement, a machine and at the end a monument. Sardis was in this last stage but they still had hope.
Satan did not even have to deceive them with the false teaching or press them with death or tempt them through lust, the church was already about to die. They had accommodated themselves to the world and did not have to pay any price for their faith in Christ.
IV. EXHORTATION (3:3-4)
The exhortations to this church show the steps that a person or a church that is spiritually dead need to carry out in order to experience revival.
“Be watchful” The first thing is to awaken from spiritual lethargy; is to be alert and to examine the condition in which someone finds himself to realize the numbness and spiritual stagnation and take the necessary steps to get out of there. In spite of being a sheltered city it had fallen twice in the hands of its conquerors due to the carelessness that they showed for leaning too much on the fortifications and geographic conditions of the city. That happens to many believers who can trust their religious activity but only a vibrant relationship with Christ can keep us alive spiritually.
“Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God.” Just as the city needed to strengthen certain weak areas, so the church needed to do it. It is important to note that by knowing the city one can know the condition of the church. In general the inhabitants of a region are a ected by the cultural and spiritual environment that prevails which should be the other way around because the church was called to transform society with the gospel not to be a ected by it.
Jesus speaks to this church in time, before things end of dying; it prevents them from stopping the spiritual decay that can lead them to die totally and the same with us.
“Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast” Like the church in Ephesus, the believers of Sardis needed to remember the rich spiritual heritage they had received and return to the attitudes and activities that their leaders had taught them. Our attitude of treasuring and obeying the teachings that God has brought us over the years is key to keeping us spiritually alive; Failure in this aspect will lead our Lord to send a sudden and severe discipline that will surprise us “as a thief”. Much like the surprise that the inhabitants of the earth will experience at the
Second Coming (Mt 24:43., Lk, 12:39, 1 Thes 5: 2, 2 Pt. 3:10, Rev. 16:15). The believers of Sardis were not watching expectantly for the return of the Lord..
Jesus does promise a reward to the few faithful of this congregation who “have not defiled their garments” to encourage the rest of the church to repent.
“they shall walk with Me” In the Persian courts one of the privileges that the king granted to his favorites was walking through the palace gardens with the king, they were called ‘The Garden Companions’. And this is the reward that Jesus makes the faithful to walk with Him in the New Jerusalem. Enoch walked with God on earth and continued to walk with Him in the heavenly places and that is what awaits those who do not stain their garments with the sin that this world wants to soil us constantly.
“in white, for they are worthy. 5 He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments” The white robes as Rev. 19:8 says are our pure works (Rev. 7: 9, 13, 19:14, Mt. 22: 11-12). In antiquity the white clothes denoted festivities and victory. Only the faithful of Sardis were going to enjoy intimate communion with Jesus. (Rev. 7:14; 22:14).
The cultural reference of that time was the day of a Roman triumph. They suspended work and the true Roman citizens were given a white robe. The privileged few, usually civil authorities or some friends of the victorious general who was honored, had a part in the triumphal procession. Thus the victors will walk in the triumphal entrance of our Captain on the day of His victory. Those who have remained faithful to Him will share His honor on the day of His glory.
“I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life” In the Greek the denial appears twice to emphasize the fact that He will not erase their names from the “book of life (eternal)” (Luke 10:20). According to other texts of the Scripture there are several books or records that God keeps in heaven (Rev. 20:12), namely:
• ‘The Book of the Living’’ in which all those who inhabit the earth are inscribed, including the unsaved (Ex. 32: 32-33; Ps. 69:28; Is. 4:3)
Ex. 32:33 “And the Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book.” The erasing of someone’s name is synonymous with judgment based on the notion of expulsion from the record of citizenship of that time, which basically indicated that someone was going to die.
• There is also a book that contains the names of the lost and their deeds.
Rev. 20:12 “And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.”
• There is also the ‘Book of the Chosen’ with the names of all the saved.
Dan. 12:1 “…And at that time your people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book.”
Rev. 13:8 “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world..” (Also Rev. 20:15).
• A fourth book is “Book of the Faithful” also called the “Book of Life” which contains the names of all faithful followers of the Lord.
Mal. 3:16 “Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, And the Lord listened and heard them; So a book of remembrance was written before Him For those who fear the Lord And who meditate on His name.”
When the Lord says “I will not blot out his name” He refers that God will never forget the good reputation (Pr. 22:1) of those who remain faithful in the midst of a world and even a church that was dying.
“I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels” (Mt. 10:32; Mr. 8:38; Lk. 9:26; 12:8). The faithful in white garments will walk with Jesus the Victor in their triumphal entry; and they will be brought to the banquet of the King of kings; their names will be honored in the record of heaven; and finally Jesus will confess them before the Father who is the Sovereign of the universe telling him the deeds of His followers. The fidelity that had been put to the test will be rewarded without measure in the coming age.
In light of these realities that are to come, the Christians in Sardis would be encouraged to live worthy of their call (Ephesians 4:1).
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” All the churches are invited to learn from the warnings Jesus makes to others. We can apply truth to everyone because we must all be prepared for the coming of the Lord. Jesus may not be satisfied with the situation in our lives or that of our churches and being honest it is di cult to stay awake when the world around us is still asleep.
As Craig Keener says: ‘Whether we strive to win people reluctant to the gospel or fight for the rights of the poor, or the unborn, it’s always easy to tire of doing good and following the crowd (especially when the church that surrounds us is part of it). On the other hand, as it happened to the citizens of Sardis and to the Christians of this city, it is very easy to depend on the achievements of the past instead of striving in the call of God for the future.’
- For you, what does a Christian who is spiritually numbed look like?
- How can someone revive spiritually?
- How do you motivate the rewards that Jesus gives to the faithful Christians of Sardis? Explain why