The Church of Sardis
The church at Sardis was described as being “dead” (3:1). It appeared to be alive – had “a reputation of being alive” – looked spiritually vibrant on the outside – but was spiritually lifeless. The church was Christian in name only. This recalls Christ’s scathing rebuke of the Pharisees who “look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean” (Matthew 23:27).
“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. (2) Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. (3) Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. (4) Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. (5) The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.’”
While most in the church at Sardis were in a dead spiritual state, “a few people” were faithful to Christ, and had “not soiled their clothes” (3:4). They were promised that they would be taken on a walk in Christ, and to be dressed in white (3:4-5).
Take notice that Jesus said in verse 2, “Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, . . .” The church in Sardis was in grave danger. There were members of the church who were spiritually weak and about to die. Jesus commanded the congregation, as a whole, to wake up and to take care of the weaker brethren. Sin had crept into the congregation. The devil, the adversary, was gaining victory over the church. The church was to wake up to the danger and remember that which they had received from the apostles. Jesus commanded the brethren saying, “Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent.” (verse 3) In order to overcome the sin and immorality of the world, Christians must always remember the teachings of God’s word. God’s word, the Bible, is our compass to keep us on the path to heaven. If we stray from God’s word, thereby “soiling” our spiritual garments, then we must turn back and remember His words, and repent of our sinful ways.
I am fearful that many local congregations are failing to learn from the lessons seen within the disobedience of the church in Sardis. Let each and every one of us examine our lives and our work to make certain that we are not spiritually dead, separated from the fellowship of our Lord and Savior.