Summary: When John wrote his letter to Sardis, it was wealthy but degenerate, and it was experiencing spiritual death. Despite its reputation for being alive, Sardis was infested with sin. The church’s deeds were evil, and its clothes were soiled.
By: Tom Lowe Date: 6-5-2015
Lesson 9: The Church at Sardis (3:1-6)
Revelation 3:1-6 (NIV)
1 “To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.
2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.
3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.
4 Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy.
5 The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels.
6 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Sardis lay about 30 miles southeast of Thyatira. It was a city in degeneration. Seven hundred years before this letter was written Sardis (modern Sart) had been one of the greatest cities in the world. There the king of Lydia ruled over his empire in oriental splendor. At that time Sardis was a city of the east and was hostile to the Greek world.
Sardis stood in the midst of the plain of the valley of the River Hermus. To the north of that plane rose the long ridge of Mount Timolus; from that ridge a series of hills went out like spurs, each forming a narrow plateau. On of these spurs, 1500 feet up, stood the original Sardis. Clearly such a position made it almost impregnable. The sides of the ridge were smooth and steep; and only where the spur met the ridge of mount Timolus was there any possible access into Sardis and even that was hard and steep. It has been said that Sardis stood like some gigantic watch-tower guarding the Hermus Valley. The time came when the narrow space on the top of the plateau was too small for the expanding city; and Sardis grew around the foot of the spur on which the citadel stood. The name Sardis is really a plural noun, for there were two towns, one on the plateau and one in the valley beneath.
The wealth of Sardis was legendary, but it eventually led the way to moral decadence. The city had become lethargic, its past splendor a decaying memory. Through the lower town flowed the River Pactolus, which was said in the old days to have had gold-bearing waters from which much of the wealth of Sardis came. Greatest of the Sardian kings was Croesus, whose name is still commemorated in the proverb, “As rich as Croesus.” It was with him that Sardis reached its zenith and it was with him that it plunged to disaster.
When John wrote his letter to Sardis, it was wealthy but degenerate, and it was experiencing spiritual death. Despite its reputation for being alive, Sardis was infested with sin. The church’s deeds were evil, and its clothes were soiled. The Spirit had no words of commendation for this church that looked so good on the outside but was so corrupt on the inside. Even the once great citadel was now only an ancient monument on the hilltop. There was no life or spirit there. The once great Sardinians were soft, and twice they had lost their city because they were too lazy to post a guard. In that debilitating atmosphere the Christian Church too had lost its vitality and was a corpse instead of a living Church.