… was a somewhat notorious city which Sir William Mitchell Ramsay, the noted Scottish archaeologist and New Testament scholar, described as “more like a robber’s stronghold than an abode of civilized men.”
Paige Patterson writes that “in the cities of Asia Minor, no city was as legendary as Sardis.”
Gordon Fee adds that: Of the seven cities to whose churches these letters are written, Sardis easily outstrips the others in terms of its antiquity and well-known history.
And Warren Wiersbe tells us that: Ancient Sardis, the capital of Lydia, was a most important city. It lay about fifty miles east of Ephesus at the junction of five main roads; so it was a center for trade. It was also a military center, for it was located on an almost inaccessible plateau. The acropolis of Sardis was about 1,500 feet above the main roads, and it formed an impregnable fortress.
Sardis was some kind of town. And the church in Sardis to which our letter in Revelation 3 is addressed was some kind of church. As it was with the church at Ephesus, if you were thinking about moving to Sardis around AD 95-96, this vibrant church would definitely have been on your radar.
They had made quite a name for themselves. Whatever they were doing—which in today’s terms would be outreach, marketing, social media, needs-based programs—must have been the right things because they had built a reputation in the area as a church that was alive.
Except it wasn’t. The church members were dead. It was a church of dead people.
—>The church at Sardis had three great needs:
They needed to realize that they were dead.
They needed to be brought to life.
They needed to embrace the vision of an overcomer.
REVELATION MESSAGE 8 – Sardis – The Alive but Dead Church Revelation 3-1-6
64 Ramsay, The Letters to the Seven Churches, 354.Patterson, P. (2012). Revelation. (E. R. Clendenen, Ed.) (Vol. 39, p. 118). Nashville, TN: B&H.
[Patterson, P. (2012). Revelation. (E. R. Clendenen, Ed.) (Vol. 39, p. 118). Nashville, TN: B&H.]
Fee, G. D. (2011). Revelation (p. 44). Eugene, OR: Cascade Books.
Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 576). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
They had the gospel wrong.
No other reason Christ would say they were dead.
The church at Sardis was dead because they had the gospel wrong. Why would I say this? Because the gospel is the only thing that makes dead people alive. If your gospel does not make you alive, then your gospel is false. You still have a gospel, just not the one that saves and makes you alive.
The life of a church is not determined by activity, size, location, demographics, denomination, programs or worship style. There is one deciding factor—the gospel. Dead or alive? Works or grace? If the church has the gospel wrong, then the church is dead.
— 2Choices 1Gospel —
Choice #1: Grace Choice #2: Works
Which Gospel? Grace or Works | Life or Death | Heaven or Hell
Works are works,whether one work such as water baptism or many works, it’s all the same, an aberration from the gospel, a deviation from grace, whether Hinduism, Humanism, Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism.
When a person filters the teaching of Scripture through the natural mind, he or she will always choose works over grace … because grace comes from the mind of God and the concept of works comes from the mind of fallen humans.
(Ephesians 2:8–9 ESV) For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
REVELATION MESSAGE 8 – Sardis: The Alive but Dead Church!
Tolerance is defined as “a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, beliefs and practices differ from one’s own.” One dictionary I consulted went so far as to define tolerance as “being patient, understanding and accepting of anything different.”
As you well know, the concept of tolerance is a very real issue in our world today. It is highly valued, treasured and taught—formally and informally—in our political systems, our schools and universities and in every corner of the workplace. Tolerance is a dominant social value. Some would in fact view tolerance as the glue that holds a society together, the oil that keeps the wheels turning, the benchmark by which all other character traits should be measured, the distinguishing quality of a truly good person.
Tolerance is a real problem in our world.
But tolerance is not just a problem in the world. Tolerance is also a problem in the church, in our times, and in ancient times in the church of Thyatira. We would say an age-old problem, going as far back as Adam and Eve’s rebellion in Genesis three.
So in a dramatic and intentional contrast to a world which practically worships at the throne of tolerance, as Jesus Christ introduces himself to the church in Thyatira, and to us this morning, he doesn’t come from a position of tolerance but from a position of supreme authority and the exacting judgment of a Sovereign Lord. And he commands John to write
Thyatira: The Loving, Faithful, Serving, Enduring but Tolerant Church!
A false teacher presumes position (Revelation 2:20).
Jezebel was self-anointed and self-proclaimed. Jezebel “calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.” No calling or commissioning necessary for the false teacher. She presumed that she was a person who could speak for God to God’s people.
A false teacher has special knowledge (2 John 9).
A false teacher presumes to have special knowledge, as in being one who better understands the secrets of true spirituality. Jezebel considered herself to have greater spiritual perception than most and, equipped with this special knowledge, she goes beyond the direct, objective confirmation of the Bible. Her ideas and opinions are untethered by Scripture. In Jezebel’s case this special knowledge was “the deep things of Satan” and this special insight enabled her to reach past the constraints of Scripture. As a false teacher she would use the Bible but would not be limited by the Bible.
A false teacher is a fixer (Ezekiel 13:10).
The people in Thyatira had a real problem, and Jezebel fixed it. If the members of this fellowship completely fulfilled their obligation to the trade unions, then they would violate the teaching of Scripture and jeopardize their standing in the church. But if they wholeheartedly obeyed the word of God and refused to take part in the idolatry and the sex that was part of the idolatry, then they would jeopardize their jobs. Jezebel “fixed” this by increasing the tolerance levels of idolatry and immorality past the prescribed levels approved in Scripture. Problem solved.
A false teacher brings death and destruction (2 Peter 2:1).
The wide road always leads to destruction. Always. There is no other destination for someone on the wide road. We may be incredulous as to how these people fell into such blatant sin, and in doing so we would reveal our own faulty standards. We would make the mistake of judging one sin or “indiscretion” above or below another. How? Because in doing this we would reveal our reliance on our own personal man-made standard of compliance. The deceived person believes that their “tolerance levels” are acceptable, even if they are not aligned with the word of God. Simply stated: “Your sin is worse than their sin.”
“Thyatira: The Loving, Faithful, Serving, Enduring but Tolerant Church!”
◼︎ False teaching had compromised the church at Pergamum, and Christ was calling them to repent!
(Revelation 2:14-15) But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.
“Some there who hold the teaching of Balaam … also some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.”
They are several theories as to what the false teaching of Balaam was but none really seem to be conclusive. And this is even more true concerning the false teaching of the Nicolaitans. So a good course of action would be to focus on what we do know.
◼︎ What we do know!
One: False teaching is sin and tolerating false teaching is sin. Compromising the teaching of God’s word is always sin. Christ calls them to repent of their sin and confronts them with the gravity of their situation. They had better hear his words now as he stands before them with his double-edged sword.
Two: As humans, our tendency is often to rationalize, especially in an attempt to avoid confrontation, especially in the church it seems. But “turning a blind eye” to any form of false teaching dishonors God and his word of truth.
Three: God gives us windows of grace, windows of opportunity to make the right choice. But he will bring us to a moment of decision. For the church at Pergamum that time was now. God has recognized their faithfulness and loyalty but now is the time to deal with the false teachers if they are to remain faithful and loyal.
Four: The people in the church at Pergamum were in imminent danger of a war with Jesus Christ.
Five: This is a common challenge for the Church in all ages. Why do I say that? Because we are given this for an example and a warning. Our Lord specifically chose these seven churches in Revelation 2-3 for us to learn from.
Six: Wonderful rewards come to the one who overcomes. One being, secret food—hidden manna. See John 4:32 for a possible hint.
The church in every era has difficulty in dealing with heresy and immorality. A portion of the reason for this can even be remotely construed as noble. Often the church does not want to deal with those problems because most people in the church are very much aware of their own sinfulness and cite passages such as the instruction of Jesus “to take the plank out of your own eye” before you attempt to “remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:4). Who are we to sit in judgment on another? Furthermore, invariably dealing with either heresy or immorality in the church never wins friends, introducing as it does a measure of confrontation, conflict, and uncertainty into the life of the congregation. This may well have been exactly the case at Pergamum. Therefore, John characterizes the teaching and practices of these people as being that of Balaam and argues that the church must take action if it wishes to be the recipient of the blessings of God. [Patterson, P. (2012). Revelation. (E. R. Clendenen, Ed.) (Vol. 39, p. 106). Nashville, TN: B&H.]
Message Title: “Pergamum: The Faithful but Compromised Church!”
(John 14:27 ESV) Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
(John 16:33 ESV) I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
Reality check: In the world you will have tribulation. But you already know that, don’t you? This world can be a troubling place: Agonizing, painful, heart-breaking, tragic and frightening. I am pretty sure that you agree with me that this world is a mess, and I am happy that we agree, so don’t misunderstand … but everybody sees that. You don’t even have to know God to know that this world is a mess. It’s like the Geico commercial: “Everybody knows that.”
As a truck driver I know would put it, “That ain’t nothin!’” He was always one-upping the guys as they were story-telling on their CB radios. Someone would have a story, and he would chime in, “That ain’t nothin!’” So it became kind of a catch phrase around the gravel pit and the quarry. “That ain’t nothin!’”
So I’m telling you … just because you can recognize that this world is a mess … “That ain’t nothin!’”
Do you want to know what is something? Hearing the voice of God in the word of God over the noise-makers of the world. And what does our God tell us? “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation.” God is in touch with the reality of this sin-wrecked world. “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.” His intent and purpose with these words is our peace. So let’s get very pointed in this conversation. Do you believe him? Do you believe Christ as he speaks to you in the middle of your anxiety and fear that in him you may have peace?
He continues: “But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Christ will notonly get us through the difficult times in our lives, but he gives us ultimate victory over the world. Everybody knows things are a mess but too few of us hear the promise of victory in the midst of the mess.