Summary: A Church pleasing to God
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 consider the introduction to the Church of Philadelphia:
It was a weak but loyal church and was commended for its witness and its faithfulness to God’s Word.
It received no reproof.
Those who position each of the 7 churches to a specific time period often compare this to the Jesus movement in the ’70s, following the drug-rich sixty’s.
In actuality, it represents all earnest spiritual churches, that stand regardless to their size and hold fast to the Word of God.
Often the mistake is made of gauging a church's spiritual value or status with God on its size, but here Jesus makes it clear size alone would be a very inaccurate measure as we will see next week in the last of the 7 churches Laodicea.
2. Historical background
Philadelphia was a small town in the Roman province of Lydia. Its name meant “brotherly love” and it was founded in the second century BC.
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.
The Church there lived up to the name Philadelphia, showing a deep and true love for Christ and each other.
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.
There is more to be said for that than meets the eye. We live in a sinful world but are safe from the wrath of God that is to come.
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. In this Letter to the Church in Philadelphia -The Lord has a lot of positive things to say about the church
1 Their trust in God v.7
2 Their witness v.8
3 Their love and endurance v.9
I think that we, as a Church, stand to learn so much from them. But I also see a lot that we have which is similar to what was happening at this Church. For that, I am deeply grateful both to God and to you.
Your endurance has impressed me a lot. Nowadays we live in an “instant” society. Everything has to be “fast” except perhaps “fasting” itself!
America as a society, we don’t feel the need anymore for deep spiritual roots.
There is often a sad shallowness to the life of the unsaved. But I see those here who are pressing in with the Lord, gaining in His Word, letting the dross be skimmed away in your life.
But in light of today's society, 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.