Sardis

E W Rogers, Oxford

Part 5 of 7 of the series The Apocalyptic Letters

The chief thing that marked this church was a lifeless pro­fession, a denial of what was professed. The church had a name to live, but it was actually dead. Its reputation belied its state. Its character was cold, bleak, dead, mere formal ortho­doxy. Reality can only be produced by the Spirit of God working in the church without hindrance. And this will be effected when the guides in a local church function according to the mind of God. No wonder, then, the Lord is here shown as "he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars", 3. 1. For the Spirit was sent by the Father and the Son, and scriptural guides are appointed by Him, Acts 20.28. But while the name of Christ is attached to Christendom, it is dead; there are many churches in all branches of Christendom, Protestant as well as Romanist, utterly devoid of life.

Protestantism was brought into existence in consequence of the abuses of popery, but in such a revolt there was not a full return to the simplicity of Holy Scripture. The Lord had not found these works perfect - they had not returned all the way, Rev. 3. 2. They should, therefore, remember how they had received and first heard; that word they should keep, and repent of their failure, 3.3. The Scriptures are the sole valid authority; to it the protesters of Luther's day and later returned in part; they began reformation but did not complete it.

This was doubtless the state of the Sardian church at that time. There was reform but they had not gone back to the fountain of truth and made adjustments in accordance with it. They had made a beginning but did not finish. It has been so throughout the Christian era. It certainly was so at the time of the Reformation when there was a revolt against popery but things were retained and others were introduced which did not accord with Holy Scripture. John exhorted the believers to "hold fast that which they had heard from the beginning" of Christianity, i John 2. 24. Paul also enjoined Timothy to "hold fast the form of sound words" which he had heard from him, 2 Tim. 1. 13. The Lord has always had the few who have made Scripture their sole guide for faith and conduct. Most have done otherwise: they have retained whatever was pleasing to the senses; they have kept the name but in revolting against a corrupt form they have created a dead form of religious activities.

It is the responsibility of overseers to "strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die". As an army commander would rally his men after a defeat and re-equip and encourage them, so elders should rally and hearten the saints. How can this be done? By returning to the Scriptures; plausibility, expediency, conformity are no safe guides. The overseers must be "watchful"; they must keep awake and do as Peter was enjoined, "strengthen thy brethren", Luke 22. 32.

The Lord warns that should there be failure in watching He would come at an altogether unknown hour and "as a thief". Now the Lord does not so come for the Church. There is not the slightest hint of a thief-like coming in John 14. 3; 1 Thess. 4. 13 ff.; 1 Cor. 15. 50 ff. But the words are used in the case of the day of the Lord when He will introduce His judgments on men; see 1 Thess. 5. 2; Matt. 24. 43. Christendom, it must be borne in mind, continues to the time when the beast casts off the woman, for the woman and Christendom are identical but the Church, the bride of Christ, is taken away some time before that occurs. The rapture will be the fulfilment of the promise to Philadelphia in Revelation 3. 10; this will also be the time of the spueing out of the Lord's mouth of the professing thing spoken of in the Laodicean letter.

As in Thyatira, there are in Sardis a few who "have not defiled their garments" with the corruptions of lifeless Christendom. These are promised that they will "walk with" the Lord in white. What a privilege to walk with the Lord; could there be a greater honour? "In white" speaks of the character that these saints have wrought out on earth; this will then become manifest in open display with the Lord in glory; see 19. 8 r.v.

Someone has said that majorities should be tolerant, and minorities should be courageous. God is not on the side of the big battalions; he seems to delight in the "few". How many were saved in Noah's day? "A few, that is eight". Are there few that shall be saved? Apparently, if Sardis is a guide.

To the overcomer there is a threefold promise: (i) he shall be arrayed in white garments. He will then be seen to be in the right however much he may have been maligned before, (ii) "I will not blot out his name out of the book of life". Although they may have been regarded as criminals or heretics or worse by men and, in consequence, had their name expunged either from the citizens' or church registers, they may rest assured that their names will not be expunged from the book of life. We cannot stress too strongly that every genuine believer is an overcomer, and of such none will ever perish, John 10. 28. But genuineness is proved by continuity. A Peter may deny his Lord in a moment of unguardedness, but this was not apostacy; he was restored, (iii) "I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels". Believers will be acknowledged by Him, whilst all other men will be disowned.

No doubt these overcomers are among the twenty-four elders who are clothed in white and crowned with victor's crowns referred to in Revelation 4. 4. They will then be in the enjoyment of the fulfilment of this very emphatic promise, "I will never, never, blot out his name".

The prime lesson of this letter is to warn all against a carnal security. Read the Lord's own words in Matthew 10. 32-33. If the Lord denies anyone in that day it is tantamount to blotting out his name from the book of life. A religious form, having been maintained but lacking vitality and reality, will avail nothing then.

There are 7 articles in
ISSUE (1971, Volume 22 Issue 1)

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit

The Church at Jerusalem - A Church Making Progress

Gospel Work and other Assembly Activities

Psalm 2

Sardis

Suggested Analysis of Genesis

The Teachings of Jehovah and the will of God - Part 1

There are 6 articles in this series

Smyrna

Pergamos

Thyatira

Sardis

Philadelphia

Laodicea

There are 82 articles by this author

To Spread the Gospel - the Believer’s Responsibility

Smyrna

Pergamos

Thyatira

Sardis

Philadelphia

Laodicea

The Purpose of God

Paul’s Prayer

What a Change!

The Epistle to the Ephesians

The Mystery

Ministry in the Church

Gathered Threads

Some Practical Lessons

Paul’s Pastoral Epistles - Introduction

1 Timothy 1

1 Timothy 2

1 Timothy 3

1 Timothy 4

1 Timothy 5

1 Timothy 6

2 Timothy 1: ‘Be Courageous’

2 Timothy 2: ‘Be Careful’

2 Timothy 3: ‘Be Constant’

2 Timothy 4: ‘Be Considerate’

Titus 1: God is Faithful

Titus 2: Christian Behaviour and its Effects

Titus 3: The Christian and the State

The Believer’s Responsibility in Regard to the Spread of the Gospel

The Infallible Christ

Will the Church go through the Great Tribulation?

The Man of God out of Judah

Having been Gathered Out

‘For Me to Live is Christ’

Short Papers on Some Fundamental Truths

After all This

The Scriptures of Truth (Part 1)

The Scriptures of Truth (Part 2)

Evidences of New Birth

The Inspiration of Scripture

On the being of God - The Holy Trinity

The Attributes of Divine Persons

Eternal Punishment

Gospel Preaching: the Message, Motive and Method

The Believer’s Responsibility in regard to the Spread of the Gospel. 2 KINGS 7 : 9.

Question: What is the meaning of “being crafty, I caught you with guile”? (2 Cor. 12: 16)

Question: Ought Christians to testify to all whom they meet?

Question: Is it wise to submit to being called “Plymouth Brethren”?

Question: Assembly Ceasing to Exist

Question: Delivering unto Satan

Question: Does the pre-eminence of Christ Guarantee that the Saved will Outnumber the Unsaved?

Question: The Activities of The Holy Spirit in the Eternal State

Question: Is the Devil PERSONALLY able to operate in more than one place at a time?

Question: Are the instructions in James 5. 14 applicable to-day?

Question: What was wrong with the desire of the sons of Eli for roast flesh Instead of boiled flesh?

Question: Does John 14. 6 imply that the unevangelised heathen will be lost?

Question: Conviction of Sin?

Question: Attitude of Young Believers in Assembly

Question: Why did blind Bartimeus address the Lord Jesus as “Jesus, thou Son of David”?

Question: Were the “miracles” of Peter and Paul examples of faith comparable with... Heb. 11?

Question: Ministry before the Breaking of Bread?

Question: Necessary to be Baptised to Break Bread?

Question: Concerning “He that believeth on Me the works that I do shall he do also.”

Question: In what sense have believers been crucified with Christ?

Question: The Publishing of Able Brethren's Addresses to Conventions, etc.?

Question: Why are the Proverbs Neglected as a Basis for Practical Ministry?

Prayer to the Lord Jesus

Sanctification

The Ministry Of Reconciliation 2 Cor. 5. 19-21

Question: Does 1 Cor. 14. 34 apply to all meetings when brethren are present?

Question: How far are we justified in speaking of God as Father when preaching the gospel?

Question: What are we to understand by the “spiritual body” referred to in 1 Cor. 15?

Question: To what does the phrase, “that which is perfect,” refer in 1 Cor. 13?

Question: How is it that many of the laws in the O.T. appear to be quite cruel?

Question: If believers go to be with Christ immediately at death how can they be raised?

Question: What happens to the believer when he dies before the Lord returns?

Question: Sins of the believer at the Judgement Seat of Christ?

Question: Satan disputing with Michael?

Victory And Defeat

Paul’s thorn in the flesh

Evidences of New Birth