And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.
2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.
3 Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.
4 Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.
5 He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
6 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches (Revelation 3:1-6).
These things saith He
that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars;
Jesus holds within Himself the fullness of the Spirit of God, and He also holds the ministers of God. This is important because we are reminded that Jesus can give the things of the Spirit to whoever He chooses and in whatever capacity that He chooses.
Jesus Has the Fullness of the Spirit of God.
“And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.” [i]
“And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.” [ii]
In the scriptures, the number seven is used to indicate perfection and completeness. It could be that the seven Spirits of God are the fullness of the Spirit of God, and this would make sense because the scriptures tell us that God gave the full measure of the Spirit to Jesus. “For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him. The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand.” [iii] This is another indicator of Jesus’s authority and equality with God.
Jesus was born of the Holy Spirit, and He is the One who the Holy Spirit identifies as the Son of God and the Savior of the world. [iv] His sacrifice on the cross pays for the debt of our sin, and His resurrection gives us the promise of life from the dead because He who overcame death can also raise us from the dead by the Spirit of God that is given to us. “If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” [v]
Here are some additional scriptures pertaining to Jesus and the Holy Spirit:
- Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us (Matthew 1:18-23).
- Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased (Luke 3:22).
- And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God (John 1:32-33).
Jesus Gives the Holy Spirit to His Servants.
Before Jesus suffered the death of the cross, He told His disciples that it was a good thing for them that He should go away, because the Holy Spirit would not come to them so long as He was with them bodily. “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” [vi]
After Jesus’s death and resurrection, He instructed His disciples to “tarry in Jerusalem” until they receive power from God. [vii] He then ascended into heaven, and His disciples received the Holy Spirit as Jesus had stated on the day of Pentecost.
“And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” [viii]
Jesus states that receiving the Holy Spirit is the same as receiving Him and the Father. He said, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.” [ix]
Throughout the scriptures, we are told that all things pertaining to the faith are given to us by God through the person of Jesus Christ. This includes the things of the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God makes us “fruitful” in the knowledge of the Lord and His righteousness. Jesus says, “abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” [x]
The giving of the Holy Spirit is a critical part of the gospel. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the “good news” of the kingdom of God. This kingdom first comes “not with observation and is within you.” This is made possible by the Holy Spirit who “writes the knowledge of God on the fleshly tables of the heart.” This is the new covenant that was spoken by the prophets stating, “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” [xi]
This is the covenant of the Christian. This is not a covenant of outward rules, regulations, and observances—but a covenant that begins in the heart, conforming the inner man to the things of God as the Spirit of God works within the believer. This is the work of Jesus within those who believe in Him, and He will complete His work.
“He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” [xii] Here are some additional scriptures that discuss the giving of the Spirit to the servants of God:
- For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? (Luke 11:10-13).
- When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:6-8).
- Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God (Ezekiel 36:25-28).
- Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls (James 1:21).
- What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
Within Jesus contains the fullness of the Spirits of God, and He gives of Himself according to His will so that His nature can change the hearts and minds of those who belong to Him as promised by the New Covenant that was bought with His blood. He died to forgive sin, and so that He could send the Holy Spirit to those who the Father has given Him. With such a high price given so that we can receive “God with us,” Let us consider what Jesus is saying about this matter within His letter to the Church of Sardis.
“And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.”
By His Spirit, Jesus reminds us that He contains and has authority over the Spirits of God, and it is He who grants the things of the Spirit to His servants (represented as stars). He who does these things has somewhat to say. First, He mentions the works of Sardis. Next, He mentions that they have “a name that thou livest.” What does this mean?
To have a name means to have a reputation. This church has a reputation for being alive in Jesus Christ. However, as Jesus states, they are dead. Why would Jesus tell them that they are dead? When we consider what we know about Jesus who holds and distributes the things of the Spirit, we might conclude that this church is one that neglects the things of the Spirit of God.
The works of this church are mentioned twice within this section of the letter. Jesus says that He knows their works, and He has not found them perfect before God. As Christians, we are not justified by our works. However, the Spirit of God within us—if we have the Spirit of God—will do many works in us and through us. If this church neglects the things of the Spirit, yet they have a name that they live, what works are they performing?
This is a church that takes a legalistic approach towards righteousness. They have many rules and regulations—all the while claiming to be alive in Christ. Perhaps they even claim to be a Spirit-filled church. However, they are not following the things of the Spirit, but instead attempt to be pleasing to God by following their own set of standards as they try to live out their Christianity by their own power.
What does it mean, “be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.”
A church that is void of the Spirit is a dead church. Jesus tells them to “be watchful” or to wake up. It seems like a paradoxical statement to say that this church should strengthen things that should die. Perhaps what Jesus is stating is that this church needs to get stronger at identifying their legalistic ways and put these works of the flesh to death.
“Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.”
How is it that one can hear the gospel? All things are given to us by God. This church is instructed to remember that faith is a gift of God that comes from the grace of God towards man. They are to hold fast to the gospel and repent. What are they supposed to repent for? Perhaps this next statement will give some insight.
What does it mean, “if therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee?” This statement brings to remembrance something that Jesus taught during His earthly ministry. In Matthew 24, Jesus spoke about the last days and the events surrounding His return. That chapter should be read in entirety to help inform what Jesus is communicating to Sardis. Here is an excerpt:
Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.
Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.
But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming;And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 24:42-51).
This idea is reiterated in Revelation 16:
And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon (Revelation 16:13-16).
As Christians, we are supposed to become acquainted with Jesus, and our relationship with Him should grow. As our relationship grows, we will get to know Him by the Spirit that is within us. As we learn how to walk in the Spirit as a son of God (“as many as walk after the Spirit of God are the sons of God,”)[xiii] we will live in a manner that pleases Jesus. As we please Him and get to know Him, He will reveal Himself to us and He will also keep us from deception. The false christs of the world will not overtake us, and when Jesus returns, we will be ready and expecting Him.
“Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.”
How can a Christian defile their garments, and how is it that some within Sardis have kept theirs? Based on the scripture given above from Matthew 24 and Revelation 16, it would seem that defilement comes from being “drunken” and “smiting your fellow servants.”
This can occur within a spectrum of severity. Take the legalistic Christian. Some might smite their fellow-servants through rules and regulations as they cast many out as unbelievers wrongly, or as they lay heavy burdens on their congregants, pressuring them to conform to their outward observances.
This can also occur in a literal sense, which is something we might expect when the Great Whore of Mystery Babylon—which includes the apostate church that does not repent—hunts down and kills those who do not worship the false christ and do the outer work of “receiving the mark of the beast or the number of his name.”
The false christ will claim to be God, but the Spirit of God is not with him. The Great Whore is also said to be “the hold of every foul spirit.” [xiv] These might have a “name that they live” but they are dead.
How do we keep our garments? How is this true of some in Sardis? We keep our garments by properly respecting the calling that we have in Jesus Christ. This is demonstrated in Jesus’s parable of the wedding feast. See Matthew 22. Those who enter the kingdom of God “without a wedding garment” are cast out. Many are called, but few take the calling seriously. Instead of pursuing God, they are more concerned with the things of this life, as demonstrated in this parable.
This is made easier to do when a person thinks that they are “saved” (or that they live) because of some legalistic gesture. Meanwhile, they go on to live their lives without much regard for living out their faith as one who walks in the Spirit of God and not as one who is consumed by the spirits of this world.
Even in Sardis—a church that neglects the Spirit and instead goes after the things of this world, leading to all manner of being “drunken and smiting your fellow servants”—there are a few who have not defiled themselves, and they will walk with the Lord forever.
Perhaps there are some who, like Sardis, believe that they can become “saved” through some sort of legalistic practice. Perhaps there are some who, like Sardis, neglect the things of the Spirit of God. However, there is something of their faith that is sincerely seeking the Lord, loving of their fellow servants, and faithful to the calling of God in Jesus Christ.
Concern for Present-Day Ministers of Jesus
There are a few highly unfortunate teachings that come to mind when considering the letter to the Church of Sardis.
The first is the notion that a person can recite a “sinner’s prayer,” become “saved,” and be completely assured of their salvation—even if they go on to live a life that disregards Jesus.
The second is the notion that the things of the Spirit have “ceased” and are no longer active today, including the gift of prophecy, speaking in tongues, healing, and other miraculous gifts. Along with this, people are discouraged from seeking to receive the Holy Spirit in a demonstrative and powerful manner. They are instead told that they should just believe that they have the Spirit, even if nothing happens.
These first two notions seem to go together among the “cessationist” churches. However, the “charismatic” churches have misconceptions as well. Many within the charismatic churches believe that a person will no longer be able to sin after receiving the Spirit. There are also charismatic churches that do many “signs and wonders” that are not of the Spirit of God, and there are many false prophets among them.
As a consequence of neglecting the Spirit, both the cessationist and charismatic churches have troubles with legalism—which neglects the things of the Spirit of God in favor of laying outward rules and regulations onto their congregants.
These rules and regulations can encompass many things, including manner of dress, foods, holidays, use of music in worship, observance of particular Sabbath days, and more. Rather than trusting in the Spirit of God to do the work of God within the heart of each individual Christian according to the timing and will of God, they attempt to usurp the Spirit through faithless acts of the law and of the flesh.
The gospel is simple. Jesus, the Son of God, died for the sins of mankind. His sacrifice on the cross pays the debt of our sin. We believe in the “good news of the kingdom of God.” This is a kingdom of righteousness, and since we have sinned, we need forgiveness so that we can live with God and receive everlasting life. Jesus also sent the Spirit of God to dwell in the heart of the believer, bringing to us that kingdom that comes “not with observation” and is “within you.” As we learn to walk after the Spirit of God, we reside in that kingdom even now. The laws of this kingdom are written in our hearts, and we are changed into the likeness of Christ overtime as the Spirit works in us. This is His work.
We cannot be as those who are “drunken” and “take the Kingdom by force.” This is a spiritual kingdom of the Spirit of God and not the structures of man. This is a real kingdom too, and Jesus will establish it when He comes to overthrow the false christ.
All teachings that neglect the covenant of Jesus Christ are of Sardis. These might have a name that they live in the Spirit or that they are “saved,” but without due respect for Jesus and the Spirit that brings life, there is no life in them. Legalism will not get you there—in any of its forms—of which there are many indeed.
Strengthen your understanding so that you might find your own areas of legalism and faithlessness, repent, and die to those fruitless teachings and works of the flesh that take you and those who you lead towards bloody, defiled ends.
Concern for Present-Day Christian Brethren Generally
For Christians in the West, it seems that the ways of Sardis abound in great measure. Whether you are of the charismatic mindset or the cessationist mindset, legalism robs you of the liberty found in the Spirit of God. Seek the Spirit of God—who is still very much active today. Jesus said that He would send the Spirit to those who seek to obey Him. If you want to live according to His righteous standards—standards that make one part of His everlasting kingdom—then He will send the Spirit to do that work in you.
This is Jesus in you, and you are in Him. You will learn to walk in the Spirit, which means that your heart will not be defiled by the sins of this world as you grow in true righteousness overtime that results from an actual change of nature—not rules, regulations, or other manner of so-called Christian living or churchgoing. Laws and rules do not make a person righteous. This is why Jesus came to give us a new and better covenant than that of the Jews.
He came to die for us AND to raise us again! His Spirit is the beginning of that resurrection. His Spirit is the seal of God that lets us know for sure that we are His, and He will do His work in us. [xv] Our strength is never enough. Our works never save us. He will do all things! Trust in Him. Trust in His blood to cleanse your sins. Trust in His Spirit to renew your heart and mind. Trust in Him to breathe Life back into you when Jesus returns!
Being a Christian is not about going to church, tithing, taking communion, making confession, reciting special prayers, or doing any other outward thing that man says you must do. This is about getting to know Jesus, so when it is time for Him to return, you will be ready. He will not come as a thief, and your garments will be white as snow because His blood cleanses you and you remained faithful as one who walks by faith in the Spirit and not by sight according to the law.
Get to know Jesus, and as you do, you will see your sin. You will see that you do not in any way measure up to the standards of His Kingdom—standards of the heart and spirit and not standards of the flesh. When you see this, acknowledge that His sacrifice is sufficient to forgive your sins, and ask for the Holy Spirit in the Name of Jesus also.
You do not need to recite a special prayer or go to a certain church to receive the Holy Spirit. Jesus has the fullness of the Spirit of God, and He can give Himself to you and in whatever measure He deems. He might not give you the Spirit the first time you ask, and maybe not the hundredth time. Keep asking. He will come to you when it is time. Do not let anyone rob you of the Spirit of God that makes you free and leads you into a real relationship with Jesus.
The troubles within the Church of Sardis seem to be summarized as stagnant, dead faith. There are two camps of Christian thought that we might attribute to this problem today.
One is the idea that a person can recite a certain prayer or make a one-time commitment to Jesus then claim that their salvation is assured, even if they do not go on to live a Christian life from that point on, but instead go about living their lives as they please without committing themselves to Jesus’s service. They claim to be alive in Christ by the blood of Jesus, but there is no fruit of their faith.
Some hold this idea and do live a generally upright life. However, they reach a place of righteousness that they deem acceptable then stop there, failing to continue to grow because their lives are cleaned up outwardly enough to create an appearance of being a good Christian. Yet, their inner world is sinful, and they use the blood of Jesus to justify themselves without repentance or care for their state or for service that goes beyond legalism, going to church, and doing good to be seen by others.
Another is similar to the first. There is a notion among some who are of the holiness mindset that a person is not capable of sin if they follow Jesus sincerely. They consider themselves to be without sin, not merely by the blood of Jesus, but in their day-to-day lives.
How are these similar?
These are similar because they create the same outcomes: a failure to be honest about sin, a failure to repent from sin as it manifests in their life, and a failure to grow in the things of God given of the Spirit of God through Jesus Christ. Both claim to be sinless. Both claim to be alive in some capacity, yet the fruit is not life but stagnancy and death. What’s worse is when we add rules upon rules, assume that we are righteous because of these rules, and then accuse others of sin wrongfully if they do not abide by our legalistic standards.
How do we overcome the troubles found within the Church of Sardis?
Let’s consider the first camp of thought.
We need to recognize that being saved from sin and death through Jesus also means entering His service. We cannot expect to live as we did before, without regard for sin or for seeking Jesus so that we can be gifted in the Spirit and made useful for His purposes and for our brethren in Christ.
Although our salvation is freely given by the grace of God, grace does not leave a person bound to a life of servitude to sin but makes us free from sin in a tangible way according to the measure of grace we received, the service we are given, and the amount of time that we have available to live out our lives as Christians and grow in righteousness.
We were bought with the precious price of the Son of God. Though freely given to us, the cost is extremely high. God became a man and died for us in a brutal and humiliating manner. We owe Him everything, even our own lives on this earth. That is the least we can do. As Paul the apostle stated, giving up our lives for Jesus is our “reasonable service.”
If we give our lives for Jesus, then He will work in us, change our sinful nature so that we are more like Him, and give us things to do that will honor His name and help people grow up in Him—and there is always more growth to seek. We might clean up our act to a large degree, but that should not keep us from continuing to seek the Lord so that He might search out the sin in our lives and help us overcome. We cannot be negligent and stagnant.
If we neglect our salvation and count the blood of the Son of God as some light thing that we can take advantage of, then our faith is dead, and we are not saved. If we have faith in Jesus, then we will want to get to know Him. We will learn about Him. We will see that He expects us to live uprightly. We will learn that He promised to send us the Holy Spirit and to work His righteousness in us in this present life. This is His work in us, not our works. He will do it because He is faithful, and we put our faith and trust in Him.
It is hard to have faith that Jesus can change us. We see how sinful we are and we feel hopeless. Maybe we even love our sin and we feel ashamed about that. If we are honest about our sin and approach Jesus, He will not despise us or reject us. That is the first step. We must be honest about who we are and know that Jesus is the only way.
We also need to forge a real relationship with Jesus through prayer, learning the scriptures as we are able, and continuing to seek Him despite the challenges we face with sin or with troubles in this life. We also remember that performing outward rituals or good works is not the same as a real relationship with Jesus.
As we get to know Him and spend real time with Him personally, we will see His work in us and our faith is made stronger. We will not defile our garments because we trust in Jesus to cover our sin because we are no longer servants of this world and of sin, but of the Kingdom of God through Jesus Christ.
Now, let’s consider the second camp of thought.
As Christians, we want to live without sin. We do not want to bring shame to the name of Jesus. Because of this, it can be tempting to claim to live a sinless life, especially when we see a drastic change that is so far removed from the life that we lived before.
However, if we believe that a Christian must be without any sin in this world to truly be saved or to have received the Holy Spirit, we might begin to justify our sinful actions to retain the illusion of being sinless.
We must remember that the righteousness of God is very deep and broad, even searching the intentions of the heart and the thoughts of the mind. The righteousness of God cannot be attained by doing outward things only, and those who want to be holy often hold themselves to high standards in their manner of dress, worship, church attendance, and the need for community outreach.
The outer works are great, but what about the hidden things that are easy to neglect? What about vanity? What about pride? What about greed and covetousness? What about addiction to luxurious living? What about misjudging people and falsely accusing them outwardly or in the heart?
There is always going to be more to gain in Jesus, no matter how righteous we think we have become. We must remember what Jesus said about the Pharisee and the tax collector. An honest sinner is more accepted by God than a person who calls themselves righteous.
There is another problem that both camps of thought have in common.
Both tend to accuse other Christians of being false, fake, or possessed by evil spirits.
Take the first camp of thought. Those who believe in a one-time declaration of faith, also called “faith plus nothing” often accuse those of the holiness mindset, who are often charismatic Christians, of supporting works-based salvation or of falsifying spiritual experiences. They look down on those who are of the holiness mindset, esteeming their faith to be superior. Many also get consumed by the sins of others because they fail to look at their own sin honestly.
Take the second camp of thought. Those who believe in holiness often accuse other Christians of being false, part of the Great Whore, or otherwise in league with Satan. They look down on those who are of the “faith plus nothing” mindset, esteeming themselves superior. Many also get consumed by the sins of others because they fail to look at their own sin honestly.
Claiming to be without sin is dangerous, especially if we start to condemn others while we hypocritically live in sin ourselves. Refer again to Matthew 24 and Luke 12.
We do not want to be found “drunken” with our false sense of sinlessness and superiority and our condemning of others who we see as lesser Christians, or worse yet, not Christians at all. We are all in differing stages of growth, and we do not know what the Lord might do with any of us.
It seems that we can defile our garments in two ways, though they are connected. We can defile our garments by taking the blood of Jesus onto ourselves without proper respect, service, and regard for the things of God and true relationship with Jesus. We can also defile our garments with the blood of others who we self-righteously hate, accuse, and condemn.
Both require us to turn a blind eye to our own sin and to repent as we keep the first and great commandment: “Thou shalt love thy Lord with all thy heart, soul, and mind.”
If we keep this commandment, then we will naturally progress in the right things. We will not defile ourselves with love of sin and murderous intents towards fellow man.
In summation, when Jesus returns, we do not want to be found in a state of stagnancy, worldliness, false accusations, slanders, and hatred of our fellow servants. We also do not want Jesus to come as a thief and stranger, but as our friend. We must get to know Him and serve Him faithfully as we look to our own sin, grow in the Spirit, and serve one another as He would have us to do—which means we live for Him and not ourselves, our greed, our gain, our vanity, our pride, or anything else that our modern Christian society deems acceptable. We belong to Him and Him alone.
When He returns, we will hear, “well done, good and faithful servant.” Our name will not be blotted out but written in heaven forever.
Additional Scriptures when Considering the Letter to the Church in Sardis
The entirety of the New Testament is relevant to the troubles of the Church of Sardis, because this church is far removed from the message of the gospel through their negligence of the Spirit and through the laws by which they substitute Him. Below are some specific scriptures, but these are only excerpts. The entire chapter or book is highly useful, so please consider the full context as you are able—particularly pay attention to John 14-16 (not listed here because it’s too much to cover), Romans 8, and Galatians.
- Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit (John 3:3-8)
- There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his (Romans 8: 1-9).
- This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another (Galatians 5: 1-26).
- For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do. And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves. Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men. Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:4-19).
- All of Galatians
- All of John 14-16
- Revelation 16
[i] Revelation 5:6
[ii] Revelation 4:5
[iii] John 3:34-35
[iv] Luke 1, John 1
[v] Romans 8:11
[vi] John 16:7
[vii] Luke 24:49
[viii] Acts 2:1-4
[ix] John 14:18-20
[x] John 15:4-5
[xi] Jeremiah 31:33, Hebrews 10:16
[xii] Philippians 1:6
[xiii] Romans 8
[xiv] Revelation 18:2
[xv] Ephesians 1
Previous Chapter: These Things Saith He Unto the Angel of the Church in Thyatira
Introduction explaining the purpose behind These Things Saith He
Method of Interpretation Used within These Things Saith He
Brief Explanation of Symbolism Found Within the Letters to the Churches