Sardis is number five of the seven churches to whom our Lord sent messages through John. (Rev. 3:1-7)
REVIEW: Ephesus was the church of the First Century, the ideal church until it lost its first love and disappeared from the earthly scene
Smyrna was representative of the church of the Second and Third Centuries. It was a suffering church, it was a pure church and the Lord had nothing but commendation for it, (suffering purifies) but at the end of the Third Century it passed from the earthly scene.
Pergamos was representative of the church of the Fourth and Fifth Centuries. It was a church that compromised with the world and it also passed from the earthly scene.
Thyatira appeared on the scene in approximately 500 AD, and continued in a predominant role until about 1517. It was characterized by spiritual fornication and false doctrine. It is representative of the Roman Catholic Church.
Sardis is the Reformation Church, the State Churches of Europe. It was predominate from 1517 to the 1850's.
We need to remember FIRST, each of these churches were actual historical churches that faced problems and succeeded, or failed. SECOND, each of these churches represent what, to greater or lesser degree,may be true of any church in any era of the church age. THIRD, each of these churches represent an era of church history in which that particular kind of church was dominant in that particular time period.
THE HISTORICAL CHURCH OF SARDIS.
"Unto the angel (messenger) of the Church of Sardis" Rev.3:1 Sardis was located about thirty miles southeast of Thyatira. It was a wealthy city, and a small remnant of the city remains until this day. Like the other six churches, the historical church of Sardis has long since passed off the earthly scene. "I know thy works," Sardis had started well, but when Sardis came to the full bloom of its life, notice what the Lord said about it! "Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead." After a good beginning, somewhere along the line, the Church of Sardis died.
We find that Sardis does not live up to its name, it does not live up to its reputation. The letter to the Church of Sardis contains no specific commendation whatsoever. Whatever the church had been at its inception was lost altogether. Each of the previous four churches had been commended by Christ, for certain good works. Sardis, in full bloom, had no good works to warrant commendation. (vs.2) Some of its works may have been outwardly impressive to men - but not to God!
There were some genuine believers in Sardis who were trying, half-heartedly, to maintain a testimony. Evidently they were discouraged and about to give up. The ungodly environment in which they lived and the lethargic church around them was spiritually dead'ning to them. The Lord encourages them to "Be Watchful," in verse two. He encourages them to renew their commitment to Christ.
THE PROPHETIC CHURCH OF SARDIS
Remember the setting, the church of Thyatira had continued for nearly a thousand years. The Lord had described the full ripened fruit of Thyatira as, "The Depths of Satan." (Rev. 2:24) The church of Thyatira, in its final form, is as deep in Satan's control as it is possible to go. It is filled with unbelievers, it has come under the control of oppressive, ungodly rulers. It had exercised political control over the nations, which in turn had corrupted the church. It had recognized the decrees of men as its source of direction. It had hidden the Word of God from the people.
It has led the people into spiritual fornication, worshipping Mary and pagan gods. It had sold indulgences (entrances into heaven). It had made entrance into heaven to be by good works. It had denied the efficacy of the shed blood of Christ. (Transubstantiation).
Right there, at the darkest hour in the history of Christendom, the Church of Sardis is born, born in the Reformation.
When Martin Luther nailed his 95 protests to the door of the church at Wittenburg in 1517 AD., the Reformation had begun. Those 95 objections were objections to the doctrines and practices of Thyatira (Rome).
With that came the printing press and the giving of God's Word back to the people. With it, also, came a reaffirmation of the doctrine of "Justification By Faith". "The rejection of salvation by works." " The rejection of the authority of the rulers over the church." Sardis means, "the escaping ones," men and women by the thousands escaped from the tyranny and false doctrines of Rome.
The Reformers, Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and others were men raised up by God to break Satan's power over men and women everywhere.
However, the work of the reformation was incomplete "...for I have not found thy works perfect before God." vs.2. "Perfect" = Finished= Complete. The Reformation raised up a group of people who came out of Rome. They turned away from much of the error of Rome, however, they did not go far enough. They did not make a complete break with the doctrines and errors of Rome.
For example, they did not turn from the unbiblical idea of "infant baptism". As a result before long the church was made up of unsaved people.
Another example, they replaced the State Church of Rome with other State Churches - Germany, Holland, England, Scotland, etc., all had State Churches. Consequently, out of that which began well, they ended up with State Churches that had sound doctrine, but churches that were spiritually dead. "Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead." vs. 1, doctriinally sound but spiritually dead.
See in vs.3, this church (Sardis) like Thyatira, dies spiritually, but continues to exist physically until the rapture..
We see in vs.4, even in the midst of lifeless, dead Sardis, there are a few who continue to possess true spiritual life.
God has a remnant in Sardis, at least in the early days of its history. Notice their reward, "they shall walk with Me in white." "Thou hast a few names even in Sardis." All through scripture there are two ways - The way of the many - and the way of the few. God always has a remnant.
Likewise today, in this Laodicean Age, we see compromise on every hand. I want to be a part of the little band who does not compromise.
In verses 5 & 6, again we see a few - a remnant of overcomers. We see the glorious reward of the remnant of overcomers, "He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment." Don't feel sorry for those who refuse to compromise and seem to be left on the sidelines, the last chapter in the story is yet to be revealed.
"I will not blot his name out of the Book of Life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before His angels." DON'T be a compromiser!
NEXT WEEK we will consider the practical application.