Revelation 3:1-6, Sardis

Revelation 3:1-6

1. The church must test itself for deadness and life v. 1

“Sardis was built on a mountain and had an acropolis that was viewed as impregnable. ‘To capture the acropolis of Sardis’ was proverbial in Greek to do the impossible.

But no less than five times the acropolis was conquered, twice through lack of vigilance (547/546 Cyrus II and 214 Antiochus III) when the watchmen on the wall failed to see armies sneaking up on the city. The parallel with the church’s lack of wakefulness and its dire situation is striking.” [1]

Jesus chose these words for Sardis on purpose because of it’s history and connection with being the stuff (having the reputation for being awake) but being so easily conquered (but being dead).

How do we test ourselves?

A. Are we seduced by supply and demand internal ministry? (nice easy ministries)

1. Ministry needed to attract and keep church seeking Christians

B. Are we seduced by feeling invincible?

C. Is there anything that makes us secure apart from the Gospel?

D. Are we sober-minded about doctrine and doctrinal practices?

1. People’s public practice of “Lent” fasting

2. The church must awake and keep the Gospel v. 2b – 3

What are their works that are not complete? The text does not say. Verse 3 gives some indication by reminding them to remember what they received and heard and to keep it.

What they have received?

The Gospel

Paul reminds the churches often to guard the message they have received. Since Jesus is the theme of Revelation, then, no doubt, the message of Jesus is what they have received and heard and need to keep.

How do they keep the Gospel?

Repent and do the work of the Gospel

In order to remember and keep what they heard and received they would need to repent from not keeping the Gospel.

What does keeping the Gospel look like?

A. Gospel personally applied

1. Justification lacking (works righteousness)

2. Holiness lacking (lawlessness)

a. Holiness is the life of the redeemer lived out in the redeemed.

3. Cultural Christianity rather than a passionate pursuit of knowing King Jesus

a. Disengaged parents (particularly dads)

1. Cartoon theology for kids rather than Jesus full strength

2. Censored Bible (not reading portions because it’s rough or hard)

b. No discernment regarding adaptation of cultural darkness into Christian

existence (the occult)

c. Use of stupid “God” chatter and cultural theology (“God won’t put on you

more than you can bear”)

d. Church as home base and no fellowship with God’s people

(moving my letter)

B. The Gospel locally applied

1. External ministry with no Gospel implication (social gospel, which is no gospel,

see Jimmy Carter)

2. Failure to preach the Gospel to our unreached neighbors / friends / family

3. Failure to get indigenous with the Kingdom of God (being so irrelevant and

useless that the Gospel is ignored)

C. The Gospel globally applied

1. Local existence is only part of the Gospel mandate

a. The local is the home base for Gospel expansion

2. There 6,872 UPG’s and many more churches

b. What if each church found partners to help reach 1 UPG?

3. Each local member giving and praying for the local church’s UPG

4. Each denomination’s leadership overhauling it’s financial structure to release

more resources to the Great Commission

3. If the church does not wake it will have its lampstand removed v. 3

Matthew 19:30, 20:16 Jesus says the last will be first and the first will be last.

I’m reminded of stories I’m reading about the revival going on in Haiti. Gatherings of 50K people. A church of 3K homeless people pastored by a man who refuses to live in his home to live with the people who just take up residence in the park.

A worship gathering with these folks in which a 12 year old boy leads the worship with command and an amazing voice.

This pastor, who meets with his church of 3K homeless people in a tent like shelter that was destroyed by a storm refusing to accept help from some very well meaning pastors because he believes the Lord wants them to use their resources to repair the structure to show the power of God to use the least to get work done.

We would call them last on the developed country list from the earthquake devastation, but it seems they are first on the spiritual list.

A. Could it be that the lack of spiritual movement is that our lampstand’s flame is burning


4. The faithful walk with Jesus as holy and exultant people v. 4-5

Rev 19:7-8

5. The one who does not overcome by / with / for the Gospel is blotted out of the book of life.

“For the concept of erasing a name from the book of life see Ex. 32:32, where the thought is of a register of citizens. In Dn. 12:1, Lk. 10:20, Phil. 4:3 and in this passage it symbolizes a register of the citizens of the kingdom of God. The Lord’s confession of the overcomer echoes Mt. 10:32, ‘I will also acknowledge him before my Father’.”[2]

Verse 5 has bothered people, for it seems to suggest that unfaithful Christians will have their names taken out of the book of life. The “book of life” contains the names of all those who are born. Those who reject Christ have their names blotted out of the book, for they are dead. True believers have their names recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life (13:8; 21:27). Those who do not have their names in the latter book of life will go to hell (20:15). A person may have his or her name on a church roll, but not be saved. What surprises there will be when “the books are opened”! (20:12) Churches today can have “living” names and yet be dead.[3]

[1] D. A. Carson, New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), Re 3:1–6.

[2] D. A. Carson, New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), Re 3:1–6.

[3] Warren W. Wiersbe, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the New Testament (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1997), 804.

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