What on earth have we done with the Teachings of Jesus?
We are continuing on with our studies into the letters to the Seven Churches in the Book of Revelation. Yesterday we covered the letter to the corrupt church. Today we commence with the fifth letter to the dead church in Sardis, now a city near Salihil in modern-day Turkey ~
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. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God.
Hold fast and watch!
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. 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.
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. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Henry says – Sardis was the first city in that part of the world that was converted by the preaching of John. It was further the first that was laid in ruins, in which it still lies, without any church or ministry.
Everything appeared well…
This letter was sent to a languishing ministry and church. They are reminded that Christ has the seven spirits, the Spirit without measure and in perfection. To whom they may apply themselves for the reviving of His work among them. He has the seven stars, the angels of the churches. They are sent by Him, and accountable to Him.
Christ this time begins with a reproof, and a very severe one: I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou live, but art dead. Hypocrisy, and a lamentable decay in faith, are the sins charged upon this church. This church had gained a great reputation. It had a name, and a very honourable one of a flourishing church. A name for vital lively faith, for purity of doctrine, unity among themselves, uniformity in worship, decency, and order. There were no divisions among them. Everything appeared well, as to what falls under the observation of men.
But they were dead
This church was not really what it was reputed to be. They had a name of being alive, but they were dead. There was a form of godliness, but not the power, not a principle of life. There was a great deadness in their souls and in their services. A great deadness in the spirits of their ministers, and a great deadness in their praying, preaching and in their conversation. Further there was a great deadness in the hearing of the people.
Our Lord proceeds to give this degenerate church the best advice: Be watchful, and strengthen the things, etc., Rev. 3:2. He advises them to be upon their watch. The cause of their sinful deadness and decay was that they had let down their watch. Whenever we are off our watch, we lose ground. Therefore we must return to our watchfulness against sin, Satan, and whatever is destructive to the life and power of godliness.
Strengthen those things that remain
They were told to strengthen the things that remain, and that are ready to die. It is a difficult thing to keep up the life of power and godliness ourselves, when we see a universal deadness around us. I have not found thy works perfect before God; there is something wanting in them. There is the carcase, but not the soul—the shadow, but not the substance. The inward thing is wanting, thy works are hollow and empty. Prayers are not filled up with holy desires, alms-deeds not filled up with true charity, sabbaths not filled up with suitable devotion of soul to God.
There are admonished to recollect to themselves how they have received and heard (Rev. 3:3). Not only to remember but what impressions the mercies of God had made upon their souls at first. But what affections they felt, how welcome the gospel and the grace of God were to them when they first received them. Again the command to ‘Hold fast what they had received’, that they might not lose all, and repent sincerely. They had lost so much of the life of faith and had run the risk of losing all.
I will come as a thief
Christ enforces His counsel with a dreadful threatening: I will come unto thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know the hour, Rev. 3:3. Observe that when Christ has to leave a people, He comes to them in judgment. His judicial presence will be very dreadful to those who have sinned away His gracious presence. His judicial approach to a dead declining people will be surprising. Their deadness will keep them in security, and, as it secures an angry visit from Christ, it will prevent their discerning it and preparing for it.
Our blessed Lord does not leave this sinful people without some comfort and encouragement: In the midst of judgment He remembers mercy (Rev. 3:4). He makes honourable mention of the faithful remnant in Sardis, though but small. Thou hast a few names in Sardis which have not defiled their garments. They had not given in to the prevailing corruptions and pollution of the day and place in which they lived. God takes notice of the smallest number of those who abide with Him. And the fewer they are the more precious in his sight.
They shall walk with Me in white
He makes a very gracious promise to them: They shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. In the white robes of justification, adoption and comfort, or in the white robes of honour and glory in the other world. They shall walk with Christ in the pleasant walks of the heavenly paradise. What delightful dialog will there be between Christ and them when they walk together!
This is an honour proper and suitable to their integrity, which their fidelity has paved the way for. It is a gospel worthiness that is ascribed to them, not merit but aptness. Those who walk with Christ in the clean garments of real practical holiness here. And keep themselves unspotted from the world, shall walk with Christ in the white robes of honour and glory in the other world. This is a suitable reward.
Glory is the perfection of grace
Now follows the great reward promised to the conquering Christian (Rev. 3:5). He that overcomes shall be clothed in white raiment. Holiness, when perfected, shall be its own reward. Glory is the perfection of grace, differing not in kind, but in degree. Now to this is added another promise: I will not blot his name out of the book of life, but will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
Christ has His book of life, a register and roll of all who shall inherit eternal life. The book of eternal election. The book of remembrance of all those who have lived to God and have kept up the life and power of godliness in evil times. Christ will not blot the names of His chosen and faithful ones out of this book of life.
Behold Me, and the children You have given Me
Men may be enrolled in the registers of the church, as baptised, as making a profession, as having a name. But that name may come to be blotted out of the roll, when it appears that it was but a name without spiritual life.
The names of those who overcome shall never be blotted out. Christ will produce this book of life and confess the names of the faithful who stand there, before God, and all the angels. He will do this as their Judge, when the books shall be opened. It shall be done as their captain and head, leading them with Him triumphantly to heaven, presenting them to the Father. Behold Me, and the children that thou hast given me. How great will this honour and reward be!
The demand of universal attention finishes the message. Every Word from God deserves attention from men. That which may seem more particularly directed to one body of men has something in it instructive to all.
Adapted from the Matthew Henry Commentary
- Christ has the Spirit without measure and in perfection. We may apply ourselves to Him for the reviving of His work
- Know the churches can have a form of godliness but not the power and so be dead, though look very much alive
- Whenever we are off our watch, we lose ground.
- We must return to our watchfulness against sin, Satan, and whatever is destructive to the life and power of godliness
- Are we wanting in our inward parts? Are our works hollow and empty?
- We are to bring to our recollection the mercies of God to our souls
- We are to hold fast what we have received and repent sincerely
- Know that in the midst of judgment Christ remembers mercy, this is the day for repentance and turning back to Him
- Be wary of not giving in to the prevailing corruptions and pollution of our day
- God takes notice of the smallest number of those who abide with Him
- Know that if we overcome we shall walk with Christ in the pleasant walks of the heavenly paradise
- We need to walk with Christ in the clean garments of real practical holiness here
- Know that holiness, when perfected, shall be its own reward
- Christ has a book of remembrance of all those who have lived to God and have kept up the life and power of godliness in evil times
- Those who pursue holiness shall not have their name blotted out of the book of life
- Christ will confess the names of the faithful and they will stand before God, and all the angels
Towards a new whiteness No Christian can ever weave himself A robe which is purely white. No man in his own strength Can hope to do what is right. If he could make a robe That was almost pure There would still be A percentage of mixture. Things done in love for the Lord Deeds however right and good Still need the cleansing Of His precious blood. But thus cleansed we can hope to be Clothed in all His brightness Truly we shall be Arrayed in heavenly whiteness. By the late Andrew Feakin [passed away 16th March 2019]
Prayer: Father, I come to You. Help me to apply myself to You to revive any work now dormant in me. May I not just have a form of godliness and deny Your power, but live in Your power every day. Prompt me to be on my watch against sin and all that would drag me away from You. Let my works not be hollow and empty but filled with good fruit unto You…
Help me to bring to my mind Your mercies to my soul over the years. Thank You for Your mercy when we deserve judgment. Take me to the cross every day that I may have my conscience clean before You. Keep me from the prevailing corruptions and pollution of our day and may I be known as one who abides in You. May I keep up the life and power of godliness in evil times and be in pursuit of holiness. In Jesus name I ask. Amen.
Letter to the Dead Church
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