While exiled to the island of Patmos (AD 94-96), Jesus instructed the apostle John to record messages to the seven churches in Asia, including the letter to the church in Sardis below.
1 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. 2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. 3 Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.
4 You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. 5 He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. 6 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” ‘
Notes: Sardis was an impregnable fortress overlooking the Hermus valley, the proud capitol of Lydia with very proud and secure residents, but in 281 BC skilled mountain climbers launched a night attack “as a thief in the night” and took the city because they were not “watchful”. The hill on which Sardis stood prevented growth, and by the end of the first century Sardis was in slow but steady decay. In this city was a temple to Cybele (“the mother of the gods”) where worshipers had to be “clothed in [clean], white garments”, yet her feasts were characterised by the vilest orgies.
- Complete the Revelation seriestable below by answering these questions (2:18-29):
- How does Christ reveal himself to this congregation?
- What does Christ commend in this congregation?
- What does Christ condemn in this congregation?
- What does Christ exhort in this congregation?
- What does Christ warn this congregation of?
- What does Christ promiseto this congregation?
- Considering the problems addressed in this church, why would Jesus reveal Himself as “He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars”?
- Jesus accuses this congregation that “you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.” Describe in your own words what a church looks like that looks “alive” but it is actually “dead”.
- What does Jesus call this church to “overcome”?
- What does Jesus call the church to do in response to their lifelessness? [i.e. how to they turn the situation around?] Explain what it could mean in practice.
- Sardis enjoyed a good reputation but did not deserve a good reputation.
- Considering the statement above, what is the relationship between one’s character and one’s reputation? And how does integrity relate to character and reputation?
- Whom do you know that has excellent integrity: i.e. his or her character and reputation is one and the same?
- What do you fear people might discover about your life that might tarnish your reputation?
- Where is the greatest risk for shame in your life (i.e. where is your character found lacking most?)
- When one is said to have integrity, there is no difference between one’s reputation (what they say of me) and one’s character (the person I truly am when no-one is around). Considering this truth, what is the simplest thing one can do to become a person of integrity?
- Consider the gravity of the accusation(s) in this letter to Sardis. What hope does Christ’s message in this letter give you? Why?
Application and Prayer
Reflect on your own life as a Christ-follower. How much of your good works, acts of worship, fellowship and personal devotion are “alive” and how much are “dead works”? i.e. how much is in relationship and how much is in ritual?
Ask the Resurrection Lord to breath his Spirit of Life into you, that you may truly be alive in Him. [see Genesis 2:17 with John 20:22; Ezekiel 37:1-10]