The Lord’s word to the church in Sardis is heavy on my heart this morning.
He wrote to a people who had a reputation for being alive, but who in fact were dead. He knew they were dead because he knew their deeds. While a few members of the congregation had kept themselves unstained by the world, most had not. He promised that those faithful ones ultimately would overcome and “walk with him in white.” Because they had not denied him before the world, he would confess them before the Father and the angels.
He promised that the names of those few would not be erased from the book of life.
On the other hand, the majority of the church was in serious danger. Their deeds were not complete in the sight of God. (v.2) They thought they were alive, but they were dead. It reminds us of James’ words that “faith” is useless if it is not accompanied by works. Dead faith cannot save. (James 2:14-26) The faith that saves, that keeps a person unstained by the world, is found in those who do things like visit orphans and widows in their distress. (James 1:27)
The church at Sardis was warned to not just talk about faith while leaving their works of faith incomplete before God. What little remained of their saving faith was about to die. While their fellow church members would be welcomed by Jesus and see their names remain in the book of life, the “faith without works” crowd would find themselves suddenly and unexpectedly confronted by Jesus the Righteous Judge.
They would not be in the group whose names remained in the book of life.
The Lord warned then, and warns now: “So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. … He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ (3:3,6)
“To the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. ‘Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. ‘So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you. ‘But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. ‘He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” (Revelation 3:1-6 NAS)