Summary: The sermon reviews the positive things that Jesus had to say about the church - their trust in God, their witness and their love and endurance
The letter to the Church in Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13)
This is the sixth letter to the seven churches in Asia that we find in Revelation Chapters 2 and 3. It is written to the Church at Philadelphia.
It is one of the two Churches (the other being the letter to the Church in Smyrna) for which Jesus has no rebuke. So today I intend to focus on its positive aspects.
Let’s recall the short introduction that we had - in the letter to the Church in Ephesus - on the Church of Philadelphia:
It was a weak but loyal church and was commended for its witness and faithfulness to God’s Word. It received no reproof.
Historically it represents the Reformation, the time of Luther and Calvin.
Contemporarily it represents all earnest spiritual churches.
2. Historical background
Philadelphia was a small town in the Roman province of Lydia. Its name meant “brotherly love” and it was grounded in the second century BC. It was named after Attalus II, the brother of Eumenes, King of Pergamum. Attalus was called “Philadelphus” because he showed so much brotherly love to Eumenes.
The town is situated about 100 kms north east of Ephesus and about 30 kms south of Sardis
The town was often rocked by earthquakes and in AD 17 was completely destroyed by such an earthquake. It was rebuilt with the help of the Roman emperor Tiberias and shortly after, as a mark of respect to Tiberias, was renamed Neocaesarea.
The Church there lived up to the name Philadelphia, showing I believe a lot of love for Christ.
But we see a contrast between the town and the Church. While the town was unsafe due to earthquakes, the members of the church were safe by their faithfulness to the Lord.
We read in Rev 3.v.11 & 12
“Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. To him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it.”
3. The Letter to the Church in Philadelphia
The Lord has a lot of positive things to say about the church
3.1 Their trust in God v.7
3.2 Their witness v.8
3.3 Their love and endurance v.9
I think that we, as a Church, can learn a lot from them. But I also see a lot that we have which is similar to what was happening at this Church.
Your endurance has impressed me a lot. Nowadays we live in an “instant” society. Everything has to be “fast” except perhaps “fasting” itself!
As a society, we don’t feel that we need roots. There is often little depth to our lives. I can understand Paul when he said in Philippians 2:12
“So then my beloved, just as you always obeyed, not only in my presence but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”
Working out our salvation with fear and trembling means that we must learn to endure. We can find that in HIS strength alone.
The Church in Philadelphia understood this dependence on their Lord, because of their “little power” (v.8)
Their faithfulness reminds me of the Parable of the Sower in Matt 13 3-9
In that parable, there are four types of earth and although the seed is the same, the results are different.
i. The Pathway.
This ground is hard and the seed has no chance of taking root, because there is no earth in which the seed can grow. The seed is God’s Word and Satan comes and steals it away before it can take root in our hearts. It speaks to me of the man who will not listen to God.
ii. The Rocky Ground
Here there is a bit of earth. The seed begins to grow. But worry and persecution set in and this seed dies. This speaks to me of Christians who are not grounded in Jesus and fall away when the going gets hard.
iii. The Thorn infested Ground.
This speaks to me of the man or woman who hears God’s Word but is not fully committed to God. Jesus is not the No. 1 in his life and so when problems come, he is overwhelmed.
It can be anything that takes the No. 1 position in his life – his job, sport, the Church or even the family. Anything that is more important than God will be a stumbling block.
iv. The Good Ground.
This ground has good rich and fruitful earth and represents a Christian who has heard the Word of God and allowed it to take over his life. He is not of this world but belongs to the Kingdom of God. He is a witness for the Lord and people get saved and built up through his ministry