Summary: Lessons from the church of brotherly love.



October 4, 2009

"To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:

These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Revelation 3:7-13

This letter was written by Christ to the Christians in the city of Philadelphia. It 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; first, they were the youngest of the seven cities. They were settled only 150 years before the birth of Christ. Secondly, 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. The Philadelphia in the US was named after this city, probably in hopes of it being a loving, kind, gentle city.

If we pull up a map - we discover that Philadelphia was located in what is now Modern Turkey about 50 miles Southeast of Sardis. It was actually established to be a centre for Greek culture for the area. The earthquake that destroyed Smyrna in 17 a.d. also did a lot of damage to Philadelphia.

Out of all the cities, it is Philadelphia that received the greatest praise from Jesus. There was no condemnation at all from the risen Christ. The church had 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.

Christ begins by telling the church, “I know all the things you do”. Again we are reminded that Christians will be judged, not only on their individual salvation, which is based on God’s grace and our faith, but also 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. 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 labor that John Wesley preached against, or the slavery that Scott preached against, or the death of tens of thousand of innocent children through abortion today, or same sex-marriage and homosexuality. The church has to take a stand. We need to speak out against immorality. We need to say this is right and this is wrong. And those judgments are not to be based on what the world says is right or wrong, or what everyone is doing. They are to be based on the Word of God which is timeless and unchanging. The Word of God provided the moral compass that the Philadelphia church used to guide their actions- and it needs to be ours as well. The Bible is our foundation. The Bible is truth. Everything must be viewed through the truth of it’s pages.

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