Read Revelation 3:1-6

—> What is the contrast between reputation and reality in Sardis? What dangers exist for Christians in resting on an image instead of nurturing a genuine spiritual life?

—> What is your reputation in your church? In your community? With your family? How accurate are these reputations? How would you like to see them changed? Why?

—> How alert is your present spiritual state?
—> How does this passage apply to you? What will you do now?

Expository Notes

Sardis was the first city to mint coins in silver and gold. The Temple to Artemis in Sardis was much smaller than the Temple to Artemis in Ephesus, but it was exquisitely and expensively adorned. Sardis had the reputation as an unconquerable fortress. However, the city had been destroyed twice through the carelessness of its sentinels. Only one avenue gave a smooth approach to the city and was easily defended due to its steep ascent. Other avenues to the city faced vertical walls virtually impossible to scale. No one could conquer the city by scaling the walls unless the guards did not do their jobs. Twice the city was conquered through lack of vigilance and carelessness by those who were assigned to protect the city.

3:1 the seven spirits of God refers to the Holy Spirit, and the seven stars refers to the seven messengers or perhaps pastors of the seven churches of Asia Minor. See 1:4, 20

This letter has no good word for the church at Sardis. There was no indication that heresy existed in the church at Sardis. There was no evidence of the presence of false teaching or false teachers. Heresy is evidence that a church has at least tried to find the truth. There was no searching for the truth at Sardis. The church was undisturbed by heresy.

There were also untroubled by persecutions from outside opposition. There were no pagan attacks or Jewish slander to face in Sardis. Sadly, the church at Sardis was lifeless and not worth attacking! A faithful church where the power of the Holy Spirit is active will always be under attack. Such a church is always politically incorrect and a thorn in the side of a godless culture. But this was not a problem in Sardis.

Sardis was a wealthy city and the church had no shortage of money. It was busy with many activities and had sufficient means to do them with excellence. In one swift sentence, the Lord destroyed the popular reputation of the church and revealed its spiritual bankruptcy. You have a reputation for being alive, but you are dead.

3:2-3 Five demands follow like the sound of a machine gun: Be alert…strengthen… remember…keep it…repent. God is always in the process of calling the church to action.
Impregnable Sardis had been conquered twice because its watchmen had not been alert. The things God has given us must not be taken for granted. Be alert, pay attention, wake up!

Do we have a name without a reality, a reputation with no heart to live for God? When external things lack internal force, they will decay and crumble.

Remember and Repent are both imperatives—commands—to the Lord’s church. This church was drifting with the culture.
what you have received was part of what needed to now be strengthened. They had received the gospel—they had experienced biblical orthodoxy but lived dead orthopraxy (the practice of faith).

It is when the first movement of God in a church is forgotten that a church begins to die. The Sardis believers previously had been living lost in darkness and God brought the glorious light of salvation to them. They had once lived in untruth, then they knew the truth. Every church was born with the blessing of God upon it. That is how churches begin. When that blessing becomes institutionalized and the presence of God becomes the patronage of men, death begins to set into a church. The church at Sardis had forgotten why they were a church. Church is not about us, about our needs, preferences, likes, or dislikes. When we focus on ourselves and our comfort and concerns, we dishonor the Lord Jesus Christ. Church is about Him. Outward activities do not guarantee inward vitality.

3:4-6 There was a bright spot even among the ungodly in Sardis. In the midst of a culture of worldliness in the church, there was a fresh breeze of life form the Holy Spirit present in the Master’s minority—the faithful remnant.