And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith He that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white: for they are worthy. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. Revelation 3:1-6 (KJV)
In chapter 3:1-6 we will endeavor to show that Jesus gives the Holy Spirit to His Church, that local churches, because they are made up of a “Mixed multitude” (a term from the Exodus), often grieve His Spirit, what happens to the church when He is grieved, and the hope of life which only comes by His Spirit.
It appears that complacency is a problem. We get in a place where the temperature is just right, the seats are soft and comfortable, there is no trouble to speak of, and we fall asleep. Suddenly, we awake and we find ourselves plagued with problems, or we may not awake because the enemy has crept in on us while we were unaware and kills us. If a friend does not wake us up, then, death is inevitable.
That friend, of course, is Jesus. In this Scripture text, He reveals Himself through another one of His characteristics. He had to go away, in the ascension, before the Spirit came. Now the Spirit of God in all His fullness can dwell and habitat in the life of every believer.
Jesus’s message to Sardis is one to “WAKE UP!” to your true situation. There was still hope for Sardis, but it was by the resurrection power of the Spirit. They could have life and power with God in no other way.
Jesus is the One who gives the Spirit, who is the giver of life and power to live a clean, holy and endless life.
In verse 1 we have Jesus revealing Himself to the church of Sardis as the One who has the “Seven Spirits” – indicating the fullness of the Holy Spirit, and the “Seven Stars”. See chapter 1:4, 16.
The Holy Spirit is the source of life for the Church. Without the Spirit, there is no life. We notice that Jesus reveals each part of His character as needed by each church. The church of Sardis certainly needed to see Jesus as the One who gives the Holy Spirit. In chapter 4:5 we have “Seven burning lamps, which are the seven Spirits of God”. In chapter 5:6 we see “Seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God…”. We have a fullness of light, power, and spiritual enlightenment, which come from the Spirit of God.
The “Seven stars” are the pastors. Jesus places pastors in each of His local bodies as it pleases Him. If the pastor is the source of the church’s problem, then, Jesus will remove him and put in a replacement. It could be the people of Sardis was blaming their pastor. Accusing him of not doing his job, or the church’s lack of growth, its complacency, its dying or death. They could have been saying, “These sermons you have been preaching are irrelevant to our need. There is no threat from without. We are not near dying”. The pastor, on the other hand, may have just blended in, became one of the neighborhood. “When in Rome do as the Romans do”.
Sardis was a city on a hill. it was protected by cliffs. It was virtually impregnable. However, it was overthrown at least twice by enemies while the guards slept at their post; thinking, “We are impregnable, there is no danger”.
Jesus says that this church has a name of being alive – they still have a name over the door, they are still keeping their programs going, but there is little difference in the practice of the church and the practice of the city – “But you are dead”, says Jesus. It really does not matter what the people in the community say about the church. What really counts is what Jesus says.
In verse two, it would almost seem fitting to say, that, the phrase “Be watchful” could also read “WAKE UP!”.
Consider Paul’s writing to the Romans in chapter 13:11-14. It is time for the Church to “Wake up”. Revival is needed.
Sardis could very well represent the time of the “Reformation” if we were looking at that dispensationally. During the “Dark ages” the professing church had become villainous. Killing, enslaving and conquering of land was the work of a majority of the “church” of this time. The true Church had fallen asleep. The doctrine of the church was to earn your salvation or pay for it with money. You could even pay the “Priests” to pray some poor soul into Heaven. If you could do that, why not pay them to pray an enemy into hell. The church, then, used the name of Jesus, but few within it really knew Him.
Jesus saw the need and He called out brave, and bold men like Martin Luther, Ulrich, Zwingli, John Knox, John Calvin, William Tyndale, and others to raise a mighty voice, to put the Word of God back into the hands of the people. To preach the true gospel of grace. The people began to wake up. The Church began to identify more with Jesus now, and less with the world.
Jesus’s words sound as though there is still hope.
“Strengthen the things that remain” is probably a reference to the small minority who were loving the Lord Jesus. Every time they tried to work for Jesus, the majority would stop it. The works were not perfect or complete in His eyes. Those who loved Jesus were the only possessors of the Spirit. A complacent spirit grieves the Spirit of God. The Spirit keeps us alert and aware. When we pay no attention to Him we grieve Him, and our source of power and strength erodes until ‘rigor mortis’ sets in. The Spirit never leaves the individual true believer, but He does and will leave from empowering a local church.
The only hope (v. 3) for a church in such as the aforementioned condition, is to get back to the basics. “Remember” salvation by grace through faith, hold on to it as though your life depended on it (it does), and repent. Confess your deadness, your complacent spirit, your grieving of the Holy Spirit.
If there is no awakening Jesus warns, that He will come as a thief (1 Thessalonians 5:4). This would, of course, be only upon those who are not “Overcomers” as the next two verses deal with. A living organism has … growth, repair, reproduction, and power. If these are missing in a local church that church is either dying or dead. The church needs revival. If the believers at Sardis did not obey God Jesus warned He would “Come as a thief”.
In verses 4 and 5 the judgment that awaited a majority of “church members” would be avoided by the “Overcomers”. The “Overcomer” is a saved – born again – individual who is constantly growing in his/her walk with Christ, and by God’s grace is always faithful.
White is a symbol of righteousness, purity, cleanliness. Jesus mentions only a few who “Have not defiled their garments”. Jesus says, “They are worthy”. They have been made worthy because of the Holy Spirit and the One who gives the Spirit, Jesus Christ. The only way of righteousness or being worthy is in His Spirit.
The “Book of Life” is mentioned several times in the Scriptures. Revelation 13:8; 17:8; 20:12; Exodus32:32; Psalm 69:28; Philippians 4:3 just to list a few. Some believe this implies one can be saved and lose it. That would be contrary to God’s grace. If we do nothing to deserve God’s grace, then, how can we presume that we can do something to get out of His grace? The “Book of Life” has had written in it the names of everyone who was ever conceived. When a person died apart from Christ his/her name is “Blotted out of the book of life”. When a person believes and confesses that Jesus is Lord, and believes that God raised Him [Jesus] from the dead, then God writes that person’s name in the “Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27) and his/her name remains in the “Book of Life”.
Jesus says, that He will confess this individual’s name before the Father.
Some points to note about the BOOK OF LIFE:
1. Contains the names of all the living;
2. Revelation 13:8; 17:8 suggest that the names of saints are written in the book from the foundation of the world – before they have done anything good or bad;
3. Chosen in Christ before the beginning of time (Ephesians 1:4; Matthew 25:34).
4. As unbelievers die their names are removed from the BOOK OF LIFE (Psalm 69:28).
Once again, to the church of Sardis, the message of Jesus is commanding His people’s hearing (v. 6). It is an invitation to hear the Holy Spirit speak to the heart of the true believer of Jesus. It seems especially appropriate in this letter because Jesus is showing Himself as the One who gives the Spirit. Hear His words. Hear Him and believe and do them.
In conclusion, the prophet said, “This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6). If the church is to be the Church it must operate in the presence of God. The Holy Spirit must be a continued welcome and wanted guest within the local church, and the total Body of Christ.
To “Grieve the Spirit” is to make Him an unwanted guest. Unwanted guests do not feel like staying very long and begin to pull away any influence and make themselves absent. God gives His people a commandment not to grieve the Spirit; “And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30). The Holy Spirit will never leave a born again person, but when we pay Him little or no attention; ignore His teaching, leadership, comfort, convictions, righteousness, and judgment we will certainly be without His powerful influence.
Why do churches die? Because they neglect Jesus and His gift that He has given. That is the person of the Holy Spirit, which is Christ within us. And to think that there are some who profess to know Christ as Savior and believe that they now have the “Liberty” to live as they please. The Spirit of Christ in you leads you to live the life that He pleases.
Only those in the local church who heed the warnings of the Spirit and repent of their foolish deeds will overcome. Jesus’s promises to the “Overcomers” are for all those who are repentant.
The church must stop grieving the Holy Spirit; the church must depend on the Spirit, not the promises and promotions of the flesh and man; the church of the 21st century must wake up out of its comfort, and lethargy, and live for God. The church must experience revival. Every believer must Hold Fast to the words of Jesus and to Him, and Repent of all our sins; disobedience, rebellion, and unbelief.