Summary: This is number seven in an eight part series looking at the seven churches of Asia
And so here we stand, almost but not quite at the end of our journey. The scripture that Bonnie read earlier was the letter written by Christ to the Christians in the city of Philadelphia, which was the sixth of seven letters written to the churches in the area known then as the Province of Asia. Philadelphia is unique for a couple of reasons; firstly they were the youngest of the seven cities having been settled only 150 years before the birth of Christ. And so they were about a hundred years younger then Halifax is now. The second thing that makes them unique is they were the only one of the cities to have an NHL team. The Philadelphia Flyers. As well as a professional baseball team and football team. This is a picture of what remains of the stadium they played in. You don’t believe me do you? Good.
The city was founded by Attalus the 2nd who the ruler of the city of Pergamum between 159 -138 BC. We are told that Attalus cared so much for his brother Eumenes that he was known as Philadelphos, which literally means “One who loves his brother.” And so the city was named Philadelphia, which means city of brotherly love. And you thought the Philadelphia in the US was where that term was coined. Sorry.
If we pull up a map here we discover that Philadelphia was located in what is now Modern Turkey about 80 kms Southeast of Sardis. It was built where the borders of Mysia, Lydia and Pyrgia met and was actually established to be a centre for Greek culture for the area. The earthquake that destroyed Smyrna in 17 a.d. also wrecked havoc on Philadelphia but with a difference. The aftershocks of the quake continued to rock Philadelphia for years. Strabo, an ancient geographer actually referred to Philadelphia as “A city full of earthquakes.” Whenever a tremor was felt a mass of people would rush out of the city, away from the possible dangers of falling buildings, and into the open plains. You’d have to think that would start getting on your nerves pretty quick.
When the city was rebuilt after the original quake by the Emperor Tiberius it was renamed to Neo Caesarea, or the New City of Caesar. Later on when the Emperor Vespian was particularly kind to the citizens of the city it was renamed once again to Flavia, after Vespian’s family name Falvius. At some point some one must have said “This is silly.” And so the name was changed back to Philadelphia.
Out of all the cities it is Philadelphia that receives the greatest praise and no condemnation at all from the risen Christ. The church has such an impact in Philadelphia that long after the rest of Asia had fallen to the Muslims Philadelphia remained a Free Christian City amidst a sea of pagan people. Philadelphia was the last bastion of Asian Christianity. It is one of only two cities that still remains today, and here we can see ruins that date back to when this letter was written along side of relatively modern apartment buildings.
Again Christ begins by telling the church Revelation 3:8 “I know all the things you do, as we mentioned before while Christians will be judged on their individual salvation, which is based on God’s grace and our faith, the church will be judged corporately on the spiritual condition of the majority of it’s constituents, and on it’s works. The things it did and the things it didn’t do.
We need to remember that the church is not a comfort club for the Saints. We are not just here to provide a refuge from a hostile world. The church has a mission firstly 1) The Mission of the Church is to Change the World. And that happens when we stand up and say “This is the truth” and then demonstrate that truth by walking in it. And that not only involves what happens inside the walls of the church but also what happens outside the walls of the church. We need to speak out against social injustice. That may mean taking a public stand against pornography or against abortion or drunk driving. There will always be issues in this world that are diametrically opposed to the word of God.
Whether it is the child labour that John Wesley preached against or the slavery that Orange Scott preached against or the death of tens of thousand innocent children through abortion today the church has to take a stand. We also need to speak out against immorality and say this is right and this is wrong. And those judgements are not to be based on what the world says is right or wrong or what everyone is doing. Nor are they to reflect social standards, but they are to be based on the world of God which is timeless and unchanging. If we simply let everyone decide for themselves what is right and what is wrong what do we end up with? (Video clip: What is sin. I downloaded this from http://www.namb.net/essentials/whatis.asp) And that is why Jesus said The word of God provided the moral compass that the Philadelphia church used to guide their actions.