Bible Study


The church in Sardis had taken on the character of the city in which she resided.  A little background on the city will help us understand the condition of this church.

·         It was founded about 1,200 BC. Sardis was the capital city of Lydia. 

·         The original city sat on the top of a 1,500 foot high plateau.  There was one narrow road leading into the city. The other sides of the plateau were just steep cliffs.  This made the city nearly impenetrable by invading armies.

·         Sardis was the home of Aesop, who’s fables we all heard as children.

·         Gold and silver coins were first minted here.

·         The city of Sardis was famous for the industries that operated there.  Carpet, wool and dyed cloth were their primary products.  It is said that the art of dyeing was invented at Sardis.

·         At one time, Sardis had been one of the greatest cities in the world.  It reached its zenith under King Croesus. King Croesus and Sardis were famed around the world for their wealth.  In that part of the world, it is still common to hear the phrase, “As wealthy as Croesus”.

·         While Sardis reached its zenith under Croesus, it also fell under his reign.  He and the people of the city became complacent in their wealth, their power and their city’s apparent invincibility.  When that region where Sardis was located came under attack by Cyrus the Persian, King Croesus and his people retreated to their city, believing they were safe.  One night, one of the Persian soldiers saw a Sardinian soldier drop his helmet over the wall of the city.  He watched as that soldier followed a hidden path down the side of the mountain to retrieve his helmet.  When nightfall came, Cyrus and his troops followed the hidden path up the side of the mountain, entered the city while the guards slept and conquered Sardis.

·         Sardis regained some of its former wealth under the reign of Alexander the Great, but was invaded and defeated by Antiochus the Great, who also entered the city at night while the guards slept.

·         When the Romans came, Sardis was still a wealthy, powerful city, but it was just a shell of its former self.  By John’s day, Sardis was just a shell of what it had been.  The people had grown lazy, degenerate, immoral and complacent. Sardis was dying through apathy and indifference.

·         The city was proud of its past; it was proud of its reputation.  But, its reputation was all it had left.  For all intents and purposes, the city of Sardis was dead, even while it lived.


Apparently, the church in Sardis had adopted the atmosphere of the city.  The church had become a thermometer that registered the temperature of the city instead of a thermostat that changed the temperature of the city.  It is to this church that had become lazy, apathetic and complacent that the Lord Jesus comes.  Just as surely as the city of Sardis was dying, so was the church if Christ in that city.  Jesus has no words of commendation for them, but He does have some words of counsel.  I would like for us to look at our Lord’s words to this dying church.  There is a word of warning for us in these verses as well.

Let me just remind you that these letters can be viewed three ways.  1.) Practically – These letters were written to real churches with real issues.  2.) Prophetically – These letters picture the church at various stages of church history.  This particular church pictures the period between 1,500 and the Rapture.  It pictures the Protestant Reformation.  It pictures dead orthodoxy.  It pictures the state of many churches in our world.  3.) Personally – These letters have something to say to every church and every believer who comes under the sound of their message.


A.  He Comes Proclaiming His Deity – Jesus comes to this church as One Who has the “seven Spirits of God” and as One Who is holding the “seven stars”.  

The “seven Spirits of God” refer to the Holy Spirit in His complete ministry.  The seven-fold ministry of the Spirit is defined in Isaiah 11:2.  In His hand is the plentitude of the Holy Spirit. This is a reminder to the churches that we are to operate, not under the power of human skill, leadership and organization, but under the awesome power of the Holy Spirit. When the church walks in the power of the flesh, we will surely fail, but when we walk in the power of the Spirit, there will be success. There will be glory and there will be power and life instead of deadness and ineffectiveness!

The “seven stars” are the Pastors of the churches, Rev. 1:20.  They are the messengers who bring the people the Word of God.  Jesus appears as One Who has everything the church needs to succeed.  His Spirit has all the power the churches need.  His Word has all the direction His churches need. Jesus is saying, “If you will submit to me, you will find in me all you need to accomplish my mission in this world.”


B.  He Comes Proclaiming His Discernment – Jesus tells them, “I know thy works”.  He comes as One Who sees all and knows all.  He does not commend their works and He does not condemn their works.  He merely tells them that He knows everything they are doing.

He knows everything we are doing too!  He sees it all, along with the motives that drive us to do what we do, Heb. 4:12-13; Psa. 139:2.  He sees us as a whole, and He sees the individual as well.  He knows your heart.         

C.  He Comes Proclaiming His Diagnosis – Apparently, their works gave them the appearance of life.  Jesus tells them that they have that reputation.  They were a busy, working church with a great reputation among men.  From all outward appearances, this church was everything a church ought to be.  They believed the right things and they were busy to good all over the community.  Everyone who saw them  said, “That church is on fire!”              

But, things were not as they seemed!  The Great Physician placed His finger on the pulse of this church and pronounced them dead!  No matter what others thought, Jesus knew the truth. Regardless of what others may have thought about this church, Jesus knew the truth.

He tells them that even though everyone thinks they are alive, they are, in fact, dead! This word means just what it says! Like a dead man, the church at Sardis was “destitute of force or power. They were ineffective and inoperative.” They were dead! There was activity, but it was not spiritual in nature. There was busyness, but they were bringing nothing eternal to pass. They were busy, but they were operating in the energy of the flesh and not the energy of the Spirit of God. Everyone looked at them and spoke of their life. Jesus, the One Who knew then better than anyone, looked at them and pronounced them dead!

Here are some of the signs that a church is dying.

·         A dying church rests on its past accomplishments and is satisfied with its presence state.

·         A dying church is more concerned about their rituals and their formalities than they are about spirituality.

·         A dying church is more concerned about social change than seeing people changed by the power of God.

·         A dying church is more concerned with material growth than it is with spiritual growth.

·         A dying church is more concerned with pleasing men that it is with pleasing God.

·         A dying church clings more tightly to its creeds and confessions that it does to the Word of God.

·         A dying church is one that loses its conviction that the Bible is the Word of God. 

Those are some of the signs of a dying church, here are the signs of life in a church.

·         Growth – All living things are characterized by growth. As long as you and I live in the bodies, we are maturing; we are changing; and we are growing.  When the growth stops, it means we are dead!

      The church is no exception.  When people think of growth in the church, they immediately think of numerical growth.  I think that is part of it.  But, the primary way a church demonstrates life is through spiritual growth.  A church that is alive will continue to develop spiritually.  When a church ceases to grow spiritually, it is degenerating and dying.

·         Harmony – When a physical body develops problems, it is because there is disharmony in the body.  Cancer is a good example of this.  Some of the cells become infected by the cancer and they attack other cells in the body.  If this is left unchecked, the result will be disintegration and death for that body.

      The same is true in the church.  When a church is alive and well, there will be unity and harmony in the fellowship.  When there isn’t, the body is diseased and is headed for trouble, unless the infected parts come back into harmony.  When a church becomes fractured, it is headed for disaster and death.

·         Emotion – Another mark of life in the physical realm is emotion. Because I am alive, I can laugh; I can cry; I feel pain; I feel joy; I have emotions and they demonstrate the fact that I am alive.  When a physical body dies, one of the clearest indications is the total lack of emotion.  The deceased person does not show one sign of emotion.  They can’t because they are dead.

·         Motion – Another sign of life is motion.  Physical bodies are bodies in motion.  One sure sign of death is the absence of motion.

      So it is within the church.  When there is live in a church, there will be motion.  The church will be active in the world doing the work of the Lord.

I.  The Great Physician’s Pronouncement


The church in Sardis is in sad shape, but not all is lost!  It appears that there is still hope for them to make some changes and get back where they need to be.

A.  They Are Commanded To Watch – They are told to “be watchful”. Literally, this means that they are to “chase sleep”. This church is a church with a glorious past. They have allowed their past success to lull them into a state of complacency and spiritual slumber.  His command is for them to wake up and realize that the victories of yesterday are not sufficient for this day!  We must fight the tendency to become still, satisfied, complacent and apathetic.


B. They Are Told To Work – The Lord gives this church four activities that they are to be busily engaged in. These things will help any church that has been caught napping on Jesus!

1. Revive – “strengthen the things which remain” – He tells them that not everything about them has died. There are still some things that have a spark of life in them. These things are to be revived before they die out. (Ill. The phrase, “that are ready to die”, literally means, “that are knocking on death’s door.”) This is a call for them to get stirred up again for the things of God! It is a call to revival! 

2. Remember – “Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard” – These people are counseled to remember where the Lord brought them from and what He has done for them. They are to remember the days when they served the Lord out of a glad heart and wanted more than anything to do His will! They are to remember what it was like to walk in the power of God while the fire of His glory burned in and He used them for His glory! 

3. Resolve – “Hold fast” – This church is told to hold on to the things that are still alive in their midst. They are to resolve before the Lord that they will not allow those things to die as well.

4. Repent – “Repent” – In this verse, they are confronted concerning their sin. When the things of God are allowed to die, the only recourse the church has is repentance!

What does it mean to repent? It means that we come to a place where we experience a change of mind about our sins that results in a change of direction. We turn from our sins and we turn toward God. Repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of action! How long has it been since we as individuals and we as a church have repented before the Lord for our laziness, our complacency, out apathy, our wickedness, our deadness, etc?


C. They Are Told To Wait – “I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee” – This church is told that if they will not do the serious work of changing themselves, the Lord Himself will come into their midst and take away the things that remain alive and that church will be totally and fully dead!  Like a thief, He will come in and take the best, and they will not even know when He comes and when He goes.  They will be in a state of total death.


I.  The Great Physician’s Pronouncement

II.  The Great Physician’s Prescription


A.  v. 4  His Promise To The Remnant – As bad as things were in Sardis, there were some there who were saved and seeking to serve the Lord.  They are given the Lord’s promise that they will walk with the Lord in white.  They have lived out the truth in this world, and they can be confident that they will share His glory in that world.

White clothing was worn in Roman times during festivals and times of celebration.  It was a symbol of purity, victory and festivity.  What a promise to the faithful members of that church.  Jesus says, “You folks are standing faithful.  You have not defiled your garments with the deadness that exists all around you.  You are saved and you are serving.  One day, you will walk with Me in My Heaven.  It will be a time of victory, festivity and purity.”  That is His promise to all those who are saved by His grace.

B.  v. 5  His Promise To The Repentant – Jesus tells the rest that is they will repent, and turn to Him, they will receive some precious promises.

·         the same shall be clothed in white raiment” – They will be made pure and victorious. 

·         I will not blot out his name out of the book of life” – They will be made secure in the relationship with Him.  By the way, God is not saying that He blots out names.  This verse is often used by people who try to say that Christians can “lose their salvation”.  It is not a verse that serves as a threat of loss.  It is a verse that offers a precious promise of absolute security to all those who believe in Jesus.

      There is a lot that can be said about these books.  It appears that there is a book of life that contains all the names of those living, Ex. 32:32.  It also appears that there is a Lamb’s Book of Life that contains all the names of the redeemed, Rev. 21:27.  When a person is saved, there names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.  Jesus said that this was the real reason for rejoicing, Luke 10:20.  It may be that when a person dies lost, their name is blotted out of the book of the living.  So, when the end comes, the names written in both books will match.

Victory Baptist Church 24 April 2019 victory