Summary: compares the church of Sardis to the church today.


“The Church of Sardis”

September 28, 2009

"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. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God.

Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, 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.

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.

He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Revelation 3:1-6

Sardis was located in what we know as modern Turkey. It was located about 50 miles from Thyatira. The city of Sardis had once been one of the richest and most powerful cities in the known world. 700 years before this letter was written Sardis was unsurpassed as a commercial and cultural center. It was situated at the junction of five main trading routes and was a major commercial center overlooking the Hermus Valley. It was a rich city that really hadn’t had to do much to achieve its prosperity.

It was this sense of ease and apathy that eventually led to the downfall of Sardis. The city was located on the top of a hill that was so steep that it’s defenses seemed impregnable - but twice, once in 549 b.c. and again 300 years later, enemies scaled the steep cliffs to discover that the Sardians were so confident they hadn’t even posted a guard.

It’s interested how the first conqueror, Cyrus of Persia, told that there would probably be rebellion or uprising in the city, made sure no one in the Sardis was allowed to possess a weapon. Talk about anti-gun laws! He stopped the people from even wearing sandals -instead they had to wear the soft slipper type footwear favored by actors and dancers. And then he ordered that the boys of Sardis (potential warriors) to be instructed in music, song and dance. He feminized them. The result was that the city lost its spirit.

The city was known primarily for two things. First, we are told that it was in Sardis that the process for dyeing wool was first discovered, and secondly Sardis was known for its worship of the goddess Artemis. You will remember that the worship of this Greek deity was usually accompanied by immorality. There is no indication that there was any persecution of the church from this group.

You may be thinking, “Why not?” Well, by the time John wrote this letter the city was wealthy, but soft and degenerate. It would appear the church was much the same. There is no evidence to suspect that there was persecution in this congregation. There was no threat from inside or outside the church. One commentator remarked that the reason the church in Sardis was left alone was because of its lack of aggressive and positive Christianity. “They that live godly WILL suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12)

Content with mediocrity and lacking the depth of conviction which provokes intolerance, it was too passive to be worthy of persecution. They weren’t a threat. They weren’t offensive. Everyone just got along and didn’t make waves.

And so, sheltered and unthreatened, the Sardis church gradually wilted -until there was no substance to it. And Jesus said,

“I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.”

OUCH! That had to hurt! Notice that the Great “I AM” said, “I know you.” “I know your deeds”. In Matthew 25:31-46 Christ tells of the Shepherd, on the great Judgment Day, who separates the goats from the sheep. What was the criteria used for the division? Let’s look at it.

Matthew 25:35-36: “For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.

In verses 42 and 43 the same speech is repeated - but this time with no food, no drinks, no visits and no hospitality. Both groups addressed Christ as Lord. There were equal expectations. And I’m sure that one of the condemned probably stood up and said “Excuse me, what about, ah, Ephesians 2:8-9 where it says God saved you by his special favor when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

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