Sardis had a glorious history. But by the Roman period, the city had lost its prestige. While the city was still enjoying wealth, its glory was rooted in its past history rather than in present reality. The ancient city had been built on top of a steep hill and was nearly impregnable. Because the citizens felt so secure, the city walls were guarded carelessly.
Read Revelation 3:1-6 along with Matthew 24:42-44 and 1 Thessalonians 5:1-8. What three things does Jesus urge the Christians in Sardis to do as a cure for their spiritual condition? How did Jesus’ warning to “watch” correspond to the city’s history?
While Jesus recognizes a few Christians in Sardis as faithful, most of them are spiritually dead. The church is not charged with any open sin or apostasy (as are those in Pergamum and Thyatira) but with spiritual lethargy.
The message to the church in Sardis applies prophetically to the spiritual situation of the Protestants in the post-Reformation period, from approximately 1565 to 1740, as the church degenerated into lifeless formalism and a state of spiritual complacency. Under the impact of the rising tide of rationalism and secularism, the church’s focus on the saving grace of the gospel and commitment to Christ waned, giving place to creedal and dry philosophical arguments. The church of this period, although appearing to be alive, was spiritually dead.
Jesus’ message to Sardis also applies to every generation of Christians. There are Christians who always talk in glorious terms of their past faithfulness to Christ. Unfortunately, these same Christians do not have much to share about their present experience with Christ. Their religion is nominal, lacking the true religion of the heart and genuine commitment to the gospel.
|Keeping ever before us the great truth of salvation by faith in Christ alone, in what ways could we say that our works have not been found “perfect” before God? What does that mean, and how can we “perfect” our works before Him? See Matt. 5:44-48.|