Notes on the Seven Churches (35)

“Searching the Seven Churches”

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The way, the truth and the life!

The Church in Sardis  – (Revelation Chapter 3 Verses 1-6)

In Sardis, there is no threat from surrounding paganism, heresies within or seeking to infiltrate the church. The problem here is spiritual dry rot, deadness. Therefore, Christ is depicted as the one who has “the seven spirits of God” (v1), i.e., the fulness of the Holy Spirit. For he is the one who received the promise of the Father. “Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing” (Acts 2:33). He, Jesus, the sovereign ruler over the church has the authority to dispense the Holy Spirit to his people. It is through his Spirit that he communicates his life into the church. This is the antidote to the dryness, the lifelessness we see in the church in our land today. It is to Christ we must go, pleading with him that he pour out afresh upon us his life-giving Spirit. The angel and the seven stars of the church being the pastor and other office-bearers who in order to perform an effectual ministry, must always be seeking fresh effusions of the Spirit. Else their ministrations will be ineffective. The name Sardis comes from a Greek word that means sordid, defiled. It is a very rich, prosperous place which perhaps some bearing on the name given to the place. You may notice that we are given to see clearly that there is no such thing as a perfect church. From the first of these churches to the last one, there is a progressive downgrade, finishing with the false Church, Laodicea. For at the end of the age prior to the second coming of Christ, there will be no such thing as the church institute on earth. There will be some believers, families here and there, but no official church as we know it today. So the reality here in Sardis is spiritual deadness (v1). Yet there are a few, a remnant into which this malaise has not yet filtered. It is to those that Christ speaks (v2f). It is the remnant that is the church on whom centres the promises and the hope. They are the salt and the light, the custodians of the truth. A small remnant.

The letter comes firstly to the angel of the church, the minister or ministers (v1). So along with the church, he, or they, are addressed, “I know your works, you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead” (v1b). Just because a man preaches God’s word, understands the Bible and its doctrines, he may be religious, but it does not mean he is a spiritual man, not at all. A man can be a very gifted expositor of the word of God, and yet be dead spiritually. This is the question we must all ask ourselves, do I have the life of the Spirit, the life of God in our souls? Have we been reborn (John 3:7)? I recall a Minister telling of another Minister he was asked to counsel. This minister had confessed to him that he had never prayed within a year. He had a church about five hundred in membership, but his prayer life was non-existent. You see a man can be a good manager, organiser, he can build a large assembly of people, but without dependence upon Jesus Christ? “For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw” (1 Corinthians 3:11-12). Is there as a result of this lack of spiritual life a failure on the part of the ministry to watch and to warn the flock. I mean one way of gathering people is to be extremely positive, steer well clear of the negative. But we need both don’t we? The ministry needs to comfort, console, teach, but also to reprove the unfruitful works of darkness. But there is certainly apathy here, coldness, the fire has gone out in the belly of the ministry. Perhaps the work has become a burden. Remember Sardis is a wealthy place, riches abound. It’s the kind of place where leisure, pleasure and luxury abound, everything that’s the dell knell to spiritual life. It will kill any church if it gets into its soul. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world” (1 John 2:15-16). “But as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life” (Luke 8:14). “If riches increase, set not your heart on them” (Psalm 62:10). “Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God” (Proverbs 30:8-9).

(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2011)

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