Allen Raynor Weblog: “Sardis: The Dead Church” (Pt. 2)
(Aug. 12, 2019)
In Sardis, as in any other church characterized by deadness, the faithful remnant needed to wake up! There was no time for indifference in Sardis and there is no time for indifference right now, right here! Sin and error need confronted head-on. Spiritual laziness needs to be addressed. The remnant in Sardis needed to strengthen the things that remain which were about to die. The Lord basically was encouraging the true Christians at Sardis to fan into flames the dying embers of the remaining spiritual graces in their church. Further, the faithful remnant needed to “remember what they had received and heard.” In other words, they needed to get back to the basics/fundamentals when it came to the truth of God’s Word. These were the teachings of the Apostles; Paul’s letters which had been circulated among the churches; the Gospel of Christ Himself. Also, after going back to the truths of Scripture, they needed to “keep” them. Finally, they needed to repent. With sorrow and remorse, the believers at Sardis were to confess their sins and turn away from them. This would be true revival.
The consequences for them, if repentance did not come would be severe. He warns them “If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.” This idea of “coming as a thief” carries with it the idea of imminent judgment. For Sardis or for any other church or any individual believer to escape the stricter judgment of God is to repent and follow God’s truth.
The white garments the Lord promises to clothe them with symbolizes their Godly character and faithful service. White represents purity and holiness. He further promises “He will not erase/blot out his name from the book of life, but will confess his name before the Father and before His angels.” This is much more of a promise than a threat. The “book of life” is a register of all living. In John’s day rulers kept a register of the citizens of a city. If someone died or committed a serious crime, their name was erased from that register. Christ here, is promising to never erase a true Christian’s name from the roll of those whose names were “written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.” (13:8) Rather, Christ will confess every believer’s name before God the Father and before His angels.”
Like the other letters to the churches, this letter to Sardis ends with the exhortation “He who has ears to hear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” What then happened to Sardis? It was strongly argued by Melito, a prominent man who served as bishop at Sardis several decades after John wrote, that at least some revival did take place in Sardis. Until Christ returns it is not too late for churches and individuals to repent and turn to Christ!
The church of the twenty-first century is in need of revival more than anything else. Although, by looking around these days it would seem that “innovation” is the key to success; or at least that is what is most commonly believed. Many believe with the right music, the right atmosphere, the right style of preaching, the right programs, etc. you can build a church. It is true you can use technique to draw a crowd; however drawing a crowd and building a healthy New Testament Church are two very different things. One of the things that leads to deadness in a church is when the crowd of today decays into dead church members tomorrow. Those made alive by the Spirit of our God shines brightly for Jesus. It is essential we be honest with people and encourage them to count the cost just as Jesus encouraged them to do.
Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor