The Message to the Church in Sardis
3 “Write this letter to the angel of the church in Sardis. This is the message from the one who has the sevenfold Spirit of God and the seven stars:
“I know all the things you do, and that you have a reputation for being alive—but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead. I find that your actions do not meet the requirements of my God. 3 Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent and turn to me again. If you don’t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief.
4 “Yet there are some in the church in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes with evil. They will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. 5 All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine.
6 “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.
The city of Sardis was built around B.C. 500 and was located on a narrow plateau fifteen hundred feet above sea level, about thirty-five miles southeast of Thyatira. Because the city was built in a mountainous region it was a natural citadel. It was the capital of the Lydian Empire and was still an important city during the Roman Empire. Sardis had become famous for their abilities in arts and crafts. They made lavish use of the local brightly colored and semi-precious stones such as fire opal and banded agate.
The Sardians also had a process in which they used blue chalcedony that they mined nearby. Their jewlry was reknown throughout the empire. Some historians claim that Sardis was the first city to mint coinage using the precious metals; gold and silver. The nearby mountains were dotted with gold mines thus making the city the monetary capital of the region. The patron deity, named Cybele, was believed to possess the power and ability of restoring the dead back to life. The Romans built a temple for the goddess Artemis and a large bath-gymnasium complex. An earthquake hit the city in A.D. 17, causing tremendous damage.
According to Matthew Henry, the church in Sardis was founded by the Apostle John. Other people think the church may have been started by the Apostle Paul, and another line line of thinking is it was started by one of his disciples. Unfortunately there is no recorded data as to when the church was started or by whom. What matters is that the church was real and that it had a real problem.
The church had a name, and a reputation for being alive; but that name and reputation were with the world. Their name and reputation did not come from God. They were so busy doing things and trying to entertain and please the world that they forgot what the church is all about. They had stopped doing their works and deeds for God. In all their activity they were too busy to notice that the church had died. They were too busy trying to convince each other that they were “Spiritual” to notice that they were dead.
All the outward manifestations of the Spirit meant nothing. All the works and deeds meant nothing. All the church activity was worthless. Why? It is because the church is really dead. The church is going through the motions, but they are not measuring up to God’s standard of Holiness. What looked alive and active to man was dead as far as God was concerned. They thought were very active for the Lord, but they were not intimate with the Lord. God looks at the heart and judges our motives. He watches to see why we do what we do.
This church is not what it appears to be. They probably had a form of godliness without any power. Perhaps spiritual manifestations were occurring, but they were not from God. Perhaps the ice cream social was more important than the altar call. I imagine that the preaching was no longer focused on God and repentance, but had become watered down into a social gospel. Perhaps a lot of people attended the church because the message did not offend them. Perhaps (dare I use the word) sin was never mentioned. The church may have had a good reputation in the city, but God was not impressed.
Again, another very real danger for any church. We can be so focused on “loving” everyone, we water down the truth of the Word so as to not offend or scare someone away. The fact is the truth will be tough to swallow sometimes, it will cause us to face our sins, it will cause us to make choices, hard choices. Jesus is saying to the church of Sardis “WAKE UP”!! Check your hearts and motives. Are we here to be entertained or to really worship? Tough questions only we can answer for ourselves.
Lord, check my heart and motives. Convict me where I am sleeping. In Jesus name, amen.