THE CHURCH in SARDIS
Rev 3:1-6 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; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. 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. 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. 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. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
Only this New Testament scripture, and the extensive ruins that have been uncovered, assure us that this city ever existed, and testify of its greatness. Situated in an interior area of the province of Asia known as Lydia, Sardis is located approximately a hundred miles east of the Aegean seacoast city of Ephesus. The ruins of many idolatrous temples exist, which assures us of the extensive idol worship of this city's inhabitants. Since no record exists telling us of missionaries visiting the city, the church of Christ at Sardis, addressed in this scripture, was probably planted, and nourished, by devoted companions of the apostle Paul.
Jesus began His message to the church at Sardis by identifying Himself as the one having the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars. The seven stars referred to the seven churches of Asia, each of which was led by the Holy Spirit of God (See Rev. 1:4; 1:16; 1:20). He continued His message by telling this body of Christ that, by His omniscient power, I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. The majority of the members making up the body of this congregation professed to be faithful Christians, were children of God, and spiritually following His will. However, their profession was in name only, because by their works, they proved that they were spiritually dead. No specific false doctrine or error in their teaching is mentioned in this reprimand. However, it is evident that the character of this body of Christ, though observed by the world around them as being religiously alive, yet they were seen by Jesus as being spiritually dead. Although there were a few members of this congregation that were faithful to the cause of Christ, yet those that hypocritically wore the name of Christ resulted in the whole church, in general, being condemned. James wrote this truth about such a congregation of God's people: For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also (James 2:26). In order for any body of Christ to be spiritually alive, faith cannot be a false facade. It must produce good, charitable works.
In verse 2 Jesus tells this congregation to "wake up!" Those Christian values that remain, but are near death, must be nurtured, brought back to life, that they may produce compassionate works before God. They were encouraged to remember the joy and zeal they experienced when they first received God's wonderful gospel message of salvation through Christ Jesus, were baptized for the remission of their sins, and were added to the church of Christ. Not only were they told to remember that time of their Christian life, but they were to grasp that moment of time, hold fast, and repent of their spiritual neglect. Unless these backsliding, unwatchful members of His church corrected their erring ways; unless they return to their first love, Jesus told them that He will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. This warning does not seem to apply to Judgment Day as much as to the demise that will result to this congregation, due to the abandonment of their faith in Christ Jesus, which is apostasy.
Although this Sardinian congregation was unfaithful as a whole, Jesus says that there were some that remain pure, sinless, and right in the sight of God. These, Jesus tells them, shall walk with Me in white: for they are worthy, not that they merited salvation on their own, but their faith and works were sufficient to evoke the grace of God upon His children. Jesus told these faithful members, and by inference, tells us today, 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. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.