Summary: Churches can refuse to face the reality of their spiritual condition before God. Styles and traditions can become so fixed that they continue and become empty of Holy Spirit power. Good works and a nice church format are not what God is seeking.



Rev 3:1-6


Churches can refuse to face the reality of their spiritual condition before God. Styles and traditions can become so fixed that they continue and become empty of Holy Spirit power. Good works and a nice church format are not what God is seeking. He looks for those who will worship Him in Spirit and in truth.

The church at Sardis thought they were alive, but Jesus told them they were dead. Their worship was empty of the presence of the Holy Spirit and their works were done because that was what they had always done. However, Jesus demands that His servants worship and serve Him by the life that only His living Spirit can give.



“To the angel of the church in Sardis write:”

The important and wealthy city of Sardis was located about 50 miles east of Smyrna and thirty miles southeast of Thyatira. It was one of the great and wealthy cities in Asia Minor history. It was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia where King Croesus reigned. He was the last Lydian king (560-546 BC) and was famous for his extraordinary wealth. He is said to have panned gold from the nearby river Pactolus and was the first monarch in history to mint coins.

According to legend, the gold came from the famous King Midas who, cursed with the golden touch, washed in the Pactolus to rid himself of it. It is likely that trade and commerce were the real sources of the Lydian wealth. King Croesus controlled most of western Asia Minor and made generous offerings to the temples of Delphi, Artemis and Didyma.

Because of the inaccessible plateau where the city was originally built, it was an ideal military centre. The acropolis of Sardis rose straight up about 500 m (1,500 ft.) and had only one narrow, winding, steep road of entry. It was an impregnable fortress. Five main roads converged into the river valley, making the city a busy centre of traffic and trade.

However, Cyrus conquered Sardis in 546 BC and thus the Persian influence began.

Subsequently, the city of Sardis fell to Alexander the Great and was conquered by the Greeks.

Sardis finally came to the Romans by the end of the 3rd century B.C.

In 17 AD, Sardis experienced a devastating earthquake, after which Emperor Tiberius rebuilt the city. It was one of the great cities of western Asia Minor until the later Byzantine period. Its importance was due to its military strength, its location on an important highway leading from the interior to the Aegean coast, and its possession of the wide and fertile plain of the Hermus.

In 123 A.D., Sardis was visited upon by Hadrian and later, by Emperor Diocletian and in 297 AD, Sardis was appointed the capital of Lydia.

It was the seat of the Metropolitan Bishop of the province of Lydia, formed in 295 AD. Melito, Bishop of Sardis, served in the second century, and some of his sermons have been preserved. Several representatives from Sardis attended the Councils of Nicea (325), Ephesus (431), and the so-called "Robber Council" of Ephesus (449).

Sardis was conquered by the Arabs in 716 AD, and eventually by the Ottoman Turks in 1306. The city continued its decline until its capture (and probable destruction) by Timur in 1402.

By the 19th century, Sardis was in ruins, its last construction coming chiefly in the Roman period. Since 1958, both Harvard and Cornell Universities have sponsored archaeological excavations of Sardis.


“These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.”

Here again is the reference to the seven-fold character of the Holy Spirit that rested upon Christ (Isa. 11:2-5). The seven spirits are linked with the Eternal Father. The closeness of the seven spirits to the throne (4:5) and their intimate relation with Jesus Christ (5:6) imply that they are the Holy Spirit revealed in His many characteristics. Jesus holds these Spirits of life. The work of the Spirit of God was desperately needed in this lifeless Church.

The Christ who holds the seven spirits also has the seven stars. The seven stars, standing in some relational way with the churches, are in His right hand (Rev. 1:16, 20). Only He could bring the messengers and the Spirit together. These messengers are to come together with Christ and are to be full of His Spirit. These messengers are held responsible for relaying Christ’s message to the churches.


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

Outwardly, everything appeared fine with the church at Sardis but spiritually that was not the case. Christ declares that He, “knows their deeds”. The life and testimony of the church and the individuals who make it up are an open book to the Lord. Nothing is hidden from Him; He sees beneath the surface into the heart and mind.

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