May 30, 2006
A Message to Sardis, Revelation 3:1-6
3:1 Kai. tw/| avgge,lw| th/j evn Sa,rdesin evkklhsi,aj gra,yon\ Ta,de le,gei o` e;cwn ta. e`pta. pneu,mata tou/ qeou/ kai. tou.j e`pta. avste,raj\ oi=da, sou ta. e;rga o[ti o;noma e;ceij o[ti zh/|j( kai. nekro.j ei=Å 3:2 gi,nou grhgorw/n kai. sth,rison ta. loipa. a] e;mellon avpoqanei/n( ouv ga.r eu[rhka, sou ta. e;rga peplhrwme,na evnw,pion tou/ qeou/ mouÅ 3:3 mnhmo,neue ou=n pw/j ei;lhfaj kai. h;kousaj kai. th,rei kai. metano,hsonÅ eva.n ou=n mh. grhgorh,sh|j( h[xw w`j kle,pthj( kai. ouv mh. gnw/|j poi,an w[ran h[xw evpi. se,Å 3:4 avlla. e;ceij ovli,ga ovno,mata evn Sa,rdesin a] ouvk evmo,lunan ta. i`ma,tia auvtw/n( kai. peripath,sousin metV evmou/ evn leukoi/j( o[ti a;xioi, eivsinÅ 3:5 ~O nikw/n ou[twj peribalei/tai evn i`mati,oij leukoi/j kai. ouv mh. evxalei,yw to. o;noma auvtou/ evk th/j bi,blou th/j zwh/j kai. o`mologh,sw to. o;noma auvtou/ evnw,pion tou/ patro,j mou kai. evnw,pion tw/n avgge,lwn auvtou/Å 3:6 ~O e;cwn ou=j avkousa,tw ti, to. pneu/ma le,gei tai/j evkklhsi,aijÅ
Kai. tw/| avgge,lw| th/j evn Sa,rdesin evkklhsi,aj gra,yon\ Ta,de le,gei o` e;cwn ta. e`pta. pneu,mata tou/ qeou/ kai. tou.j e`pta. avste,raj\ oi=da, sou ta. e;rga o[ti o;noma e;ceij o[ti zh/|j( kai. nekro.j ei=Å
And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: These things says the one holding the seven spirits of God and the seven stars: I have known your works, that you have a name that you live, and dead you are;
While this church existed for several centuries after this letter was written, it should be clear that they had significant deficiencies. In this particular case their biggest problem was that they were dead and didn’t know it yet. Now, whether or not this church was ever alive is not quite clear, either. Every day there are churches in operation that are dead. Arguably, many start dead too, but seem to have an occasional sign of life as some life may be added via its membership. This can’t possibly last very long, as living limbs do not graft well to dead bodies. Eventually they will fall off.
gi,nou grhgorw/n kai. sth,rison ta. loipa. a] e;mellon avpoqanei/n( ouv ga.r eu[rhka, sou ta. e;rga peplhrwme,na evnw,pion tou/ qeou/ mouÅ
become watching and strengthen the rest of the things, which were about to die; for I have not found your works fullfilled before my God.
As part of the cure for this church’s plight, they are given two consecutive imperatives– one present and one aorist. They are told to continue in their becoming watching. So, perhaps despite their death, there were some actually being added via the new birth. This could explain why they also lasted a few centuries. I should point out that this is a reminder of how God gives the increase and how the church really belongs to him. This parallels some of the dead mega churches of our day in which the large portion of the membership is in fact dead, but still sees some blessings from God as true believers are occasionally added via regeneration.
The second imperative to this church is to urgently strengthen what remains. What is this referring to? Could this be referring to people? Possibly, but how do you strengthen dead people? Likewise, this probably doesn’t refer to the invisible workings of the Spirit of God as they will continue on in the lives of children of God. And these things don’t really dissipate as material things do. No, this must refer to doctrine. The church was dead because they neglected their doctrine, which was on the brink of dying. And despite their doctrine, some were occassionally being saved. Therefore, they are given this aorist imperative to strengthen what still remains. “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee [1Tim 4:16].”
With their doctrine dying, those in this Sardis church had a difficult time edifying the saints for the work of the ministry. Therefore, their works were found incomplete before Christ. As an aside, the purpose of the church isn’t to be purpose driven. Nor is it to perform miracles. Nor is it to save the lost. While these may sound like good things, they’re not the intended purpose of the New Testament church. The purpose is wrapped up in the mandate to make disciples (Matt 28:19). But you and I don’t save anyone. And no one but a saved man can understand and obey the truths of God. Therefore, the church is to train up those converts in all the ways of the Lord. This is best done by systematic, expository preaching and teaching. There is no practical way for this to ever be completed by topical preaching combined with pulpit grandstanding. The crowds may be great. But failing to properly disciple should warrant a similar message as what was given to this church.
mnhmo,neue ou=n pw/j ei;lhfaj kai. h;kousaj kai. th,rei kai. metano,hsonÅ eva.n ou=n mh. grhgorh,sh|j( h[xw w`j kle,pthj( kai. ouv mh. gnw/|j poi,an w[ran h[xw evpi. se,Å
Remember, therefore, how you have received and heard and keep it and repent. If then you do not watch, I will come like a thief, and you will not at all know what hour I will come upon you.
Again, we have have consecutive commands to the elders of this church. First, they are told to remember how they’ve received the truth and graces of God. This command (mnhmo,neue) is a present imperative, denoting the continuing nature of the command. Notice Christ contrasts between receiving the message and hearing the message. In the regeneration process, it’s never enough to simply hear the Gospel message. One doesn’t become saved until he receives the message. This is not a new device in the New Testament. But it is apparently an important reminder for these individuals and therefore it’s also important for us in our generation.
The second command (th,rei) is also a present imperative. They are told to keep watch or to guard what they had once received. And again, this command is to be carried out on an ongoing basis.
The next command in this string of imperatives is an aorist imperative (metano,hson). With the utmost urgency they are to repent of their ways and their neglect of doctrine. Of all the commands I could desire for our generation of churches, I think this would be the greatest. There is an incredible need for repentance as we’ve patterned our churches after the world. Even when we think we’re practicing spiritual separation, we only do so to the conventions of men and to pragmatism.
Now comes the stern warning: if they happen to neglect the encouragement, Christ will come upon them as a thief and they will not, under any circumstances know the hour or the day. This should also be noted by those who try to predict the coming of the Lord. The use of the double negative (ouv mh.) is very emphatic that such a knowledge is by no means possible.
avlla. e;ceij ovli,ga ovno,mata evn Sa,rdesin a] ouvk evmo,lunan ta. i`ma,tia auvtw/n( kai. peripath,sousin metV evmou/ evn leukoi/j( o[ti a;xioi, eivsinÅ
But you have a few names in Sardis who did not stain their garments, and they will walk with me, because they are worthy.
We often hear how those over us in the Lord will one day give an account for our souls. I do not think we have a proper appreciation for this event. First of all, I do not believe that God’s messengers will give any account. More likely, Christ will give them an account of their lives and their works as he does so here. Moreover, we should note that there is nothing to fear for the true saints of God who walk in God’s truths. These messengers are basically told, “Oh, by the way, there are some among you who will walk with me robed in white”. Now when you consider this in light of the account in Matthew chapter 7 with the preachers who are designated as unsaved, this should warm the Christian’s heart. We are never alone. And God knows it when we stand against the greatest of odds, even when the opposition is within the church.
~O nikw/n ou[twj peribalei/tai evn i`mati,oij leukoi/j kai. ouv mh. evxalei,yw to. o;noma auvtou/ evk th/j bi,blou th/j zwh/j kai. o`mologh,sw to. o;noma auvtou/ evnw,pion tou/ patro,j mou kai. evnw,pion tw/n avgge,lwn auvtou/Å
The overcoming one will in this fashion be arrayed in white garments, and I will under no circumstances wipe away his name out of the Book of Life and I will acknowledge his name before my father and before his angels.
Once again, I think it appropriate to discuss the perseverence of the saints. Picking up from the previous verse and the fact that this letter is addressed to the elders of this church, there are those amongst them who undoubtedly persevered to the end. And the promise to these few wasn’t just a confession of them before the Father, their names were forever sealed in the Book of Life. Quite frankly, all the names written in the Book of Life are forever there as this compilation was prepared before the foundation of the world.
~O e;cwn ou=j avkousa,tw ti, to. pneu/ma le,gei tai/j evkklhsi,aijÅ
The one having an ear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
This is the familiar closing to the remnant within each church. With all urgency hear!