Summary: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits[b]of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead
The letter to Sardis Rev:3:1-6
Sardis was probably the oldest of the seven cities, probably being founded at the very beginning of the Iron Age, possibly as early as 1000 BC.
In it's past it had been the capital of the Kingdom of Lydia and it had become very rich and prosperous. It was also built on a busy trade route and like the City of Thyatira it was well known for woollen dyeing.
The cities most prosperous era was in the mid 500's BC. The King at the time had been very ambitious and he had invaded and beaten most of his neighbours which also gained him a vast amount of money. According to the historians a lot of the wealth of the country also came from the gold which was found in the mountains that surrounded the city. Lots of gold could be easily found in the Pactolus river which flowed through the city.
Tradition has it that the gold was in the river because King Midas, the one who turned everything to gold, had been told to bathe in the river to get rid of the curse put on him by Bachus..
Everywhere seems to have a particular claim to fame and Sardis was no different. It was here that the first ever coins were minted in about 550BC, the first time anywhere in the world that little bits of metal had been used for trade.
The King of Lydia at that time was also famous and has been immortalised today in a saying that many of us will have heard. If someone is really well off he is often referred to as being "as rich as Croesus".
Well that's who was King of Lydia at it's most prosperous time. King Croesus. He reigned for only 14 years and died in 546 BC after becoming too greedy for money and power. The country was invaded by Cyrus the Great, the king of Persia, the same person who 8 years later would free the Hebrew exiles from their captivity.
Croesus was burned alive.
But there is a tradition that he survived because the god Apollo, who Croesus worshipped, sent a rainstorm and put the fire out, but this story seems to have no evidence to support it..
In AD17 the town was devastated by a great earthquake and it was only because the Roman Emperor Tiberius gave the town money that it was able to be rebuilt. By the time that this letter was written it was just a small struggling provincial Roman town.
Nothing is known at all about the origins of the Church in Sardis although it is likely that
the good news spread from the surrounding Churches.
The letter which Jesus dictated to John for the Church in Sardis is one of the most severe of the seven letters. It appears that the Church had adopted the same attitude as the rest of the city.
They were sitting back thinking of the past and not getting on with the present or planning for the future. All of the Church's activities were rooted in the past. The good reputation that Jesus mentions is a past reputation. It's something that they used to have but not anymore
The reputation that they had was for being a Church that was alive. They were known as a progressive Church and were talked about far and wide. They would have been well known among the other six Churches in the area. There would have been no false teachers or false doctrines in this Church.
Jesus doesn't even mention the Nicolaitans or the followers of Balaam or Jezebel that we heard about previously.But now we see Jesus telling them that they are living under a complete misapprehension. Not only are they not really alive, they are actually dead!
That's a terrible condemnation to make to a Church of Jesus Christ.
To be told that you are dead, that all of your good works are worthless. That your worship is worthless, that your praise is worthless. The outward appearance of the Church was obviously deceptive because this happy, vital and hard working congregation was more like a spiritual graveyard.
The eyes of Jesus could see under the surface and He tells them "I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God"
The good deeds that the Church were doing were only a series of rituals, of duties, which did not even start to fulfil God's plan for them.
Jesus made a point of saying that it was "in the sight of God" that He found them deficient. In the sight of man they probably appeared to be doing OK.
This is important for us to note.
We need to remember that "The Lord does not look at the things that man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart." (1 Sam 16:7)