The Letter From Jesus to The Local Church at Sardis
Review to This Point
After Jesus rose again from the dead He spent 40 days teaching His disciples before He ascended. God in His sovereignty only recorded a small part of what Jesus taught during that time. But we know that His teaching during that time would have been 100 percent consistent with everything He taught before He arose. And I have no doubt that He took questions from His disciples during those 40 days and answered them. This again is consistent with the record we have in the Gospels. He would have covered and reinforced every topic during those 40 days that He knew needed taught.
After working with them for 40 days, Jesus leaves some very important final instructions and ascends up to Heaven. We call those instructions the great commission. And after being prepared by Jesus with personal teaching and instructions, the Holy Spirit comes and indwells them and empowers them to be witnesses.
That was roughly in 29 A.D. It could be a couple of years later.
At first the church in Jerusalem under the authority of James literally refuses to follow the instructions of our Lord. They refuse to spread out and go teach about Jesus to every creature in all countries.
God then does several things. He sends Peter to a house of Gentiles, Peter preaches to them, they get saved and Peter sees them receive the Holy Ghost. Peter takes the journey; he accepts the truth that God died for all and wants Gentiles to be saved. Peter goes back and shares that truth to many including a reluctant James.
Jesus then meets Paul on the Damascus road and Paul sees the light and gets saved.
And third God has to send persecution to Jerusalem to get Christians to scatter. And they do leave Jerusalem and they finally go and preach the Gospel like they were supposed to. Churches are started all over, and not just by Paul. Each church is an individual local assembly. Each one is unique with a unique mixture of strengths and weaknesses.
Time passes. All of the apostles have passed away except John. And most likely most of the original leaders that started all of those churches are also gone. Some of them might be on their 2nd, 3rd or even 4th leader by now.
It is now 96 A.D. Aproximately 67 years have passed since Jesus taught for 40 days and gave the great commission and ascended. Things have changed. Some have let things slide and some have let things start slipping off a cliff. And a few have kept the course.
It was time to give His assessment of how the individual churches were doing. And these report cards, if you will, were not given only for the benefit of those 7 unique individual churches, but they were given and preserved for us as well.
They were given to those churches so that each one of them could keep on track with what pleases Jesus. They were given so they could keep doing what is good and fix what was wrong. Those letters were given so that we can know what pleases Jesus and we can know what He wants us focused on doing, and so that we can know what things are to be avoided.
These 7 letters have foundational information on how a group of believers should walk with God and please their Saviour.
In the letter to Ephesus we learned: that Jesus is pleased with their labor for Him and their patience. And He is pleased that they tried those who claimed to be apostles and found them liars. They would search a matter out and Jesus is pleased with that. Jesus was pleased that they would bear things for His names sake. However, they left their first love. They had let their love for Jesus slip. They were still working for Him but their motivation was not right. They had a heart issue.
In the letter to Snyrna we learned He has reasons for allowing persecution. Hard things had already happened to this church and even harder things were coming. And that in no way showed that Jesus was upset with them. On the contrary this is one of the few churches that received not one word of correction. Not one. In this letter we saw that Jesus has eternal rewards for those who suffer for His name.
In the letter to Pergamos we learned: that Jesus is pleased when we hold fast His name and do not deny His faith. We also learned that Jesus is not pleased with them because they allowed false teachers in their midst teaching the type of things that Balaam taught. And they are given a call to repent. That is what Jesus wants. When you get off, just get it right. When you wander away, just humble yourself and come back.
And in the letter to Thyatira we learned what Jesus thinks of false teaching. He calls it the depths of Satan. He was not pleased about how they tolerated the false teachers in their midst. And we are given a list of things they were doing that Jesus is pleased with. And it is a great list.
Rev 2:19 I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.
That is a great list to think about. If you wanted a list of what Jesus wants a church to be doing, this list covers most of it. Charity. That is an old English word for a working love. A love that cares and gives and helps. And service. That is serving God by doing what He wants, by doing His work. That includes teaching and preaching and getting out the Gospel. And service includes serving each other. And faith. O’ so important. Scripture says but without faith it is impossible to please Him. And whatsoever is not of faith is sin. Faith is critical. Jesus is pleased when any group operates in faith. Believing His word and acting upon it in faith. And in this list of things that please Jesus is patience. Also very important. Just patiently keep doing the work. Wait on God for any results that He chooses to give. Do not stop Charity and faith and service no matter the circumstances. And the last one listed is thy works. It is actually listed twice. Once at the beginning and at the end. Works not as in working to get saved. No. We are saved by grace. But once saved we are to be doing good works.
Eph_2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
2Ti_3:17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
Doing working laboring. Lifting a hand. Helping. That is what we should be doing as opportunity comes our way.
Gal 6:9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
Gal 6:10 As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.
charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works. That is what a local group of believers is to be doing to please Jesus.
The letter to Thyatira can be summed up as just keep on doing the good things in this list and while you are doing that do not tolerate evil beliefs in your midst. And in the end there are rewards waiting for you.
All of these letters are very practical. They give clarity to what local groups of believers should be doing and what they should be standing against. They give clarity on what pleases our Lord and how we should be walking the walk. It is sad to say but many outfits do not study these letters and then follow what they teach.
The letter from Jesus to the local church at Sardis
Rev 3:1 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;
Again the pattern continues. A truth that was given in the introduction to the 7 letters is brought up again in a specific letter. And the truth that is brought up again has something to do with the specific condition of that specific church.
This time it is that Jesus has the 7 stars. In the intro to the letters we learned that the seven stars are the pastors (the messengers of the Word of God) and they are held in His hand. They are His. He holds them and protects them and cares for them, and they are supposed to do what He wants.
And in the church of Sardis the preachers are not right with God.
Rev 3:1 …I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.
This church is in really bad shape. Jesus still calls them a church but just barely. They are spiritually speaking, and as far as doing and working, they are dead. They are not all dead as in not saved and going to hell. We see that there are a few in verse 4 that are worthy.
But as a body Jesus calls them dead. Over and over again in these letters Jesus will comment on the good a local church is doing before He gives them correction on what they need to fix. In this letter to Sardis, there is not one good thing listed after Jesus says I know thy works.
That is really bad. To have Jesus evaluate everything you are doing and to have Him try the hearts of your group and have not one good thing to say about it all. We have seen the pattern in the other letters. Even a church that has something really bad going on, Jesus would still mention the good they are doing.
This church He has nothing good to say about them and Jesus calls them dead. The one who sees all and knows all, even the hidden thoughts of the heart, He knows for sure and calls it as it is.
And as He did with the other letters we have looked at, Jesus gives them a chance to get right. They are given a call to fix things. This is something we see over and over again. Jesus wants the fellowship and the sweet relationship restored.
Jesus will not walk in darkness, He will not fellowship with it. And when someone wanders off from Him, Jesus does not react with vengeance. He tells them they are wrong and then calls them to come back. If they refuse, there will be consequences. A man will reap what he sows. But thru the process Jesus is longsuffering and patient calling men to repent and come back.
Rev 3:2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.
They have a few things left. But they are so weak that even they are ready to die. There is not even enough of it left for Jesus to list what it was. They have slid so far that there is almost nothing left and what is left is ready to die.
He says, for I have not found thy works perfect before God. So they are still going thru the motions on a few things. But the few things they are still doing are not being done right. When doing works for God you can be off in two major ways. 1) The way you do it; the method is not right before God. 2) Your heart can be wrong. Yes it is possible to dot the I’s and cross the T’s and to all outward appearance what you are doing is the way God wants it done. But the motivation of your heart can be totally wrong.
We try to do things according to His Word. And one of the things I pray regularly is about pleasing the Lord with the things we do. I do not want to just be going thru the motions. The goal is to please my Savior. To please Him with both the action of doing and to please Him with my heart while I am doing it.
I for one do not want to have to stand before Him one day and have Jesus say I have not found thy works perfect. And on that day it will be too late to fix anything. Instead on that day I want to hear well done my good and faithful servant enter into the joy of the Lord.
The next thing in the letter is sad to me.
Rev 3:3 Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent.
They at one time heard the truth and they had received it. They heard the wonderful news that Jesus saves and they received it. That is a wonderful time when you turn from the world and turn to God and get saved. And after that you keep hearing and receiving truths about caring and witnessing and so many wonderful truths in the Word of God. Many start out excited, God just saved their soul from hell.
And then they find out not only that but He now listens to them and cares about them and guides them. It’s good. And they start walking with no intention of drifting away. And then they let something slip. And then something else and it just keeps slipping and they end up where they never intended to go when they started out.
This happened when Jesus wrote these letters and it still happens today. Someone today lets something slip and guess what their car still starts the next day. They let something else slip and lightning does not strike their house.
Jesus wants sweet fellowship with all of His children, but He will not force it. If He did it would not be real. Love must be freely given by choice or it is just a shame. Jesus will bring conviction, He will give the call to us to fix what is wrong and to return.
We see this in this letter.
Rev 3:3 Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent.
Rev 3:3 …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.
I have no doubt that this local church in Sardis had been slipping for a long time, maybe even decades. Jesus would have sent conviction and a Spirit led call to return many times but they refused. They are now almost completely dead as a group and are given a final call to remember, repent, and return.
And if they refuse, Jesus will come on thee as a thief. This is an illustration. A thief comes without warning and takes what you have. If they do not fix this Jesus will come and take away their status as a church.
In this church there are a few who have not defiled themselves and Jesus has a message for them.
Rev 3:4 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.
There were just a few that refused to defile themselves with whatever wicked things the others were involved in. We are not told what the others were involved in, just that a few would not join in. Only a few. This is very sad to me. That a local group could slip so far away from the truth and the Love of God to virtually almost completely stop walking with God.
I believe that one of the reasons that Jesus had this letter to Sardis recorded and preserved for us is to get us to see the great danger of letting things slip and letting our heart cool toward Him.
Each of these letters ends with a reminder to all churches that there are rewards awaiting us in Heaven. A reminder is given that it will be worth it all when we see Jesus.
Rev 3:5 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.
Rev 3:6 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
I pray that this small group can keep on track. And instead of letting things slip that we can push forward and spread the gospel to as many as we can, and continue to have a part in helping others get the gospel out, and continue to help the fatherless and others and with the right heart.
One day I want to hear my Savior tell me well done.