The Weekend Word
A Letter to the Church in Sardis – The Church of the Living Dead
- Something to think about as we have been going through these letters, we are having the opportunity to read, see, hear Jesus preach to his congregations.
- We observe how he effectively uses the law and the gospel. We see how Jesus speaks to his church and by extension speaks to us.
- Note the increasing level of sin in each church.
- Ephesus left its 1st
- Smyrna started to love 2 masters.
- Pergamum went further along listening to false teachers –like Balaam & Balak.
- Thyatira was in bed with Jezebel.
- As Jesus gets to Sardis, he is spiting mad.
1 “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.
- Go back and read the emphasis on the trinity – 1:4 = Father & Holy Spirit – 1:5 = Jesus.
- A reminder – the 7 spirits = the Holy Spirit in his completeness – the 7 stars = the spirit of the churches.
- Again we see Jesus’ intimate knowledge of his church – God’s word pierces us. What is the message right off the bat? You aren’t what you think you are.
- Is this church any different than what Jesus said about the Pharisees? Matthew 23:27 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.”
- When Jesus says ‘but you are dead, how far does that go? No Holy Spirit?
- How do you know if a church has the Holy Spirit? If Christ is being preached then the Holy Spirit is present – not if tongues are preached, not if works outside of Jesus are preached.
- What is the biggest killer of a church? “Jesus and…” // so the pastor continues, “here we have spoken of Jesus but now let’s get down to the important stuff – what you need to be doing.”
- If the ongoing message is not Christ crucified for sinners, for you, it is not of the Holy Spirit.
- This will probably be met with some opposition, but if you want to know if you are in a church with the Holy Spirit, do not look for great numbers (although they may be there), do not look for a lot of excitement and joy (although it may be there) – look for depressed people hearing the word of Christ.
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.
- KJV – Be watchful. Seems to indicate that they are asleep or not conscious of what is going on. ‘Wake up seems to be a shout – this is not the nice, gentle Jesus.
- What remains seems to indicate there is a flicker of flame remaining.
- They are lacking before 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.
- Verses 2 & 3 are all law
- ‘What you have received and heard’- we may not know what it was, but they had it previously and they drifted away. Jesus is saying go back to it. (received faith is a receiving of Jesus – not necessarily an understanding of everything that is going on.)
- If you are not paying attention, watch what Jesus says here – his coming will surprise you. How important is this for the Christian to hear? This is Jesus’ version of ‘do this or else!’
- Now this is to be seriously studied. If you do not repent Jesus is not coming for you. The passage says he will be coming against you.
- Who is this Jesus? Is he always for you / us? Or is this the real Jesus? These scriptures seem to say if you do not repent, Jesus will come against you.
- Like a thief – a thief does not call on your cell phone to set an appointment.
- Like a thief – a thief does not come to give you things – but to take things from you. A thief comes against you.
- While the imagery of “coming like a thief” is used elsewhere in the New Testament to refer to the second coming of Christ at the end of the age, the return spoken of here is an imminent return to this church in this age for judgment in anticipation of the final judgment. Similar to Ephesus and the removing of the lampstand – or better yet, similar to God sending the Assyrians down to execute his judgment on Israel.
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.
- Jesus is speaking of the faithful remnant – there is always a faithful remnant. The faithful remnant walks with Jesus.
- What is this garment? Where does it come from? This is the baptismal grace given to them as their identity as Christians in Christ’s righteousness.
- Paul teaches in Galatians that through our baptism, we have been clothed in Jesus. – Galatians 3:27
- Why the color white?
- How do you soil your garment? Is not each sin you commit washed away? Is it not covered up? Impenitence!! – the failure to repent.
- Can one be worthy? Not on our own – our worthiness resides completely in our repentance. The absolution is granted as the Small Catechism teaches.
- We see the example here in Ephesians 5:25-27. We see the efficacy of holy baptism in carrying out Jesus’ mission in bringing a people to himself.
- “… as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”
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.
- How is this for a great gospel promise?
- Question – If Jesus says he will not blot their name out of the book of life, does this mean that he can? Could Jesus blot someone out?
- When we confess Jesus, he will confess us before the father – deny him, he will deny us. Matthew 10:32-33. What does it mean to deny him?
- What happens to those who are clothed in white? See Rev 7:13-17 and Rev 22:14.
6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
- A reminder – those who have the ears to hear are the sinners.
Take note of something – this passage warns of drowsiness, not staying alert, not paying attention, losing focus on the things of the world. Don’t lose focus – stay in church, stay alert to the word of God – live in your baptism and fellowship.