Summary: Sermon 8 in series dealing with Sardis
The Revelation of Jesus Christ
“The Dying Church”
Jesus came that we might have life.
Last week we focused on the new life He promised to anyone who puts their faith in Him.
If anyone is in Christ he is a NEW creature. Old things have passed away behold, HE has become new. But what about churches? Jesus instructed John to write to seven representative churches of his day. Their struggles and accomplishments are representative of churches throughout history. Any given church may have similar characteristics or a combination found in those churches. What is a church? The term translated “church” means assembly. It was common term used to refer to an assembly of likeminded people. I could have been political, social or religious. American culture seems to think more in terms of a building or structure.
We see a building with a cross and we say, “Oh, that must be a church!” The church is people.
Jesus addressed a group of people in a particular location.
I. Prologue 1:1-20
The Prologue in chapter one records what John the aged Apostle saw (and heard) including a manifestation of Jesus far different that what John had known previously. The theme of the book describes the coming of Jesus and the events leading up to that return.
II. Jesus’ Messages to the Seven churches 2-3 (Things with are)
A. To the church in Ephesus – the passionless church 2:1-7
Repent – do the first-love kind of things.
B. To the church in Smyrna – the suffering church 2:8-11
Hold on to the end
C. To the church in Pergamum & Thyatira – the compromising church 2:12-17
Repent – Hold fast till I come
D. To the church in Sardis - the dying church 3:1-6
Sardis stands about 30 miles south of Thyatira. It was a cross roads for Trade and along a military road. A good part of the city was behind a high nearly impregnable wall about the valley. In spite of numerous attempts through their history, they had been capture only twice.
They lived in relative security and affluence. They were the place of several temples. They are famous for a “necropolis” city of the dead or the place of a thousand hills referring to the mounds of the cemetery seven miles outside the city. Their security and affluence had lead to moral decadence. They were also famous for their wool industry. By this time the city was in decline. It lost its grand reputation for glory. The people had been lulled to sleep by security and affluence. The sin of Sodom and Gomorrah? Arrogance, abundant food, and carelss ease refusing to help the poor and needy. Ez 16:46
1. Characteristic 3:1a
“To the angel (leader) of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this:
Jesus refers to the image in chapter one. John saw Jesus standing among the seven churches holding the seven pastors of seven churches. Here Jesus reminds them that He still has charge of the churches and its leaders. He is the source of life and discipline for His church. Those who serve Him find life. Those who serve self find death. He was also the one who sent the Holy Spirit among them. This was a similar greeting as to Ephesus. They had lost the passion of their first love. It seems Sardis was demonstrating no passion at all.
But Jesus stood ready to release His Holy Spirit to breathe new life into this church. Jesus stands ready to breathe new life into any group of people who will repent and follow the instructions of the head of the church.
2. Commendation 3:4
There is no commendation for the church as a whole but there is a promise to a minority who remained faithful to Christ.
But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with me in which; for they are worthy.
This is perhaps a reference to the woolen clothes industry. The literal translation is “you have a few names”. There were some people who Jesus new by name maintaining a faithful witness in a dead place. Clothes is generally a symbolic reference to lifestyle; things visible on the outside that indicate the condition of the heart. What we wear is a reflection of what we feel and who we identify with. There was a core of believers in Sardis who still refused to identify with the failing culture around them. Their walk will identify them as followers of Jesus. Compared to the cultural decay around them, their lifestyles would appear white.
They would be walking a worthy walk called for in a number of New Testament passages.
3. Correction 3:1b