Notes on the Seven Churches (39)

“Searching the Seven churches”

The way, the truth and the life!

The Costly Victory  – (Revelation Chapter 3 Verses 7-13)

The saints in the church in Philadelphia we do not doubt feel their smallness. As the world’s growth in power and dominance develops almost by the day. We are sometimes overwhelmed by the thought of this ourselves today, are we not? But Christ knows the cost of faithfulness, he has come through this himself. He describes his conquering saints here as “pillars upholding the temple of God” (v12). They are such by his power, for power belongs to Christ, not man, not the devil. Philadelphia’s taken the open door (v7), the opportunity for missionary enterprise, in spite of the trials set before them. They became a missionary church, they seized the opportunity, and they triumphed. Hence, they wear the victor’s crown (v11). They never hit the headlines, they were never reported in the tabloids, but they never denied their King Jesus. The prophet assures such faithful ones, “no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed” (Isaiah 54:17). “Hold fast” (v11), he tells them. To what? His word, his name, the revelation of Jesus Christ. For if you lose the crown, you lose the life, because the crown is the crown of life. So who would take away our crown? The world would if we go back there or even hanker after going back. The flesh would, “now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21). The devil would if we give place to him, “give no opportunity to the devil” (Ephesians 4:27); “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Remember Sardis? Ichabod! It didn’t happen overnight, just bit by bit, they slipped away into oblivion as a church. It became more and more worldly. It was big, it was active, it was flashy, everyone thought it was great. It was dead.

And so the victor’s place (v12). This promise is not for the defeated, the backslider, for the one who succumbs to the world, the flesh and the devil. This is not for the unfaithful, the one who denies his name. For such there is no promise, it is only for the conqueror. A pillar in the temple? This is neither a literal pillar or temple. If you were a literal pillar in a literal temple you could not come in and out anyway, could you? And there would be no consolation in that. No, it is spiritual, the temple is the dwelling place of God. You are the temple of God he says to his people, “do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you” (1 Corinthians 3:16)? The promise is intimate covenant communion with God, unbroken fellowship with the Lord. You will be brought into this and you will not go out again, unbroken and undying communion with God (v12a). The victor’s name (v12b). It’s a name of glory, of strength, of power, of majesty. It’s his new name that they will wear, “therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11). Those who are faithful to his word and his name shall share his name and his glory. The church in Philadelphia has “little power” (v8), of their own that is, but in Christ, they have a mighty Lord who is the faithful, the true one (v7). There will unquestionably be trials and tribulations but as they suffer they must keep this vision of him before them, “hold fast” (v11). For his victory is our victory, his consolation is our consolation (Hebrews 12:2). We too are exhorted to hear (v13). For in our trials and tribulations, we will all need much spiritual discernment if we are to wear the victor’s crown. We will need heavenly minds, developed and focussed on the reward set before us. So rallying to and beneath the cross, the cry is no surrender, we fight to the end, carrying our cross, that we may wear the conqueror’s crown.

(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2011)

Sermon Audio

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