In this message, Christ refers to Himself as “He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars” (verse 1). The “seven Spirits” represent the completeness of the Holy Spirit’s ministry (5:6; Isaiah 11:2-5), which the church in Sardis had shut out of its affairs. The lights were on and people showed up, but the power of the Holy Spirit was missing.
The other churches received praise from Christ along with His criticism. With this church there were no commendations—only condemnation. “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.” The place was full of what we today would call “nominal Christians”—Christians in name only. Christ gave five instructions for the church that is dead.
Be Sensitive to Sin — We’re not only to be awake, but to “be watchful.” From children’s classes to the pulpit, teaching must be in accord with God’s Word. Falling away from doctrine results in spiritual death.
Be Supportive of the Faithful — In every age, God preserves a remnant who need to be encouraged in their walk.
Be Submissive to the Control of the Holy Spirit — It is only by the ministry of the Spirit that we hear and receive the Word of God in a life-changing way. When the Spirit leaves, is grieved, or is quenched (Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19), a church dies. When a human spirit departs, its body dies—and the same is true of a church.
Be Subject to the Authority of God’s Word — “Hold fast” is usually tied to the Word of God. If a church keeps the Word, it means the Bible will be honored and taught faithfully. When a church abandons the Bible, it removes the Holy Spirit’s primary tool for transforming believers into the image of Christ.
Be Sorry and Repent of Sin — If you are wondering how to get back on track with God, the answer is always the same: repent. Turn back to the truth of God’s Word and turn away from sin. Churches die because of the sinfulness of their members. Buildings cannot repent, but churches atone through the repentance of their individual members.
For all its shortcomings, Christ offered hope to Sardis: The church could experience eternal life if it returned to obeying His commands (verses 5-6). There are no Christians in the area today, but archeology offers hope that Sardis repented. A Byzantine church, which now lies in ruins, was built in the city hundreds of years after John’s death.
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