Revelation 3. This chapter deals with what John must write to 3 of the 7 churches (Revelation 1:11). It is easy reading and also fairly easy to understand. The churches in Sardis and in Laodicea receive a rebuke, but the church in Philadelphia does not.
These letters present to us a reality of church life – each and every church is different, with their own set of ‘good’ and their own set of ‘bad’. Each church is not necessarily painted with the same brush! But, the LORD of the Church is always the same. He is the JUDGE of the church and His judgment is always right, and He will always judge the bad! However, the individual believer need not lose heart because in every church, even one as bad as Laodicea, there is always a promise to ‘the one who overcomes’ (verses 5, 12 and 21)!
It’s worth noting what Christ holds against the churches, what He requires, what He commends, and what He promises those who overcome. Because, if He is the same ‘yesterday, today, and forever’ (Hebrews 13:8), then we can trust that these are still true for us, and will remain true as part of God’s character.
The church in Sardis have a ‘reputation for being alive, but actually being dead’ (verse 1) and therefore not able to complete God’s purpose for them (verse 2). The church in Laodicea is ‘lukewarm’ (verse 15) and seems to find purpose in material gain rather than in a life honouring to Christ (verse 17). God requires these churches to get back in line as followers of Christ by obeying His commands (verses 2-3) as well as discovering the true fulfilment of living a holy life in Christ (verse 18).
The church in Philadelphia is not rebuked – she is commended!
– ‘you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and not denied my name’ (verse 8)
– ‘you have kept my command to endure patiently’ (verse10)
– ‘hold on to what you have’ (verse 11)
It’s in reading these letters today, listening carefully to God’s Word as we read the Bible slowly, that we begin to see and hear what Christ finds pleasing and what He finds repulsive in His church. Therein lies the challenge for us – to examine our church and to change our ways where they fall into the realm of the things that Christ holds against the churches! If there are things that are held against the church, then it might be wise for us to avoid walking in the wrong direction and landing ourselves in a minefield.
And yet, at the same time, we can come away encouraged because we can be a church that pleases Him; encouraged because there is the hope of overcoming; encouraged by the promises God has at the end of each letter! And so let us walk together as the church in Tokai in a manner that pleases our Lord and have the hope of being declared overcomers!
Our Father in heaven, thank You for enabling us, despite our weakness, to keep Your word and not deny You. Please help us to continue to endure patiently as we battle with the world, our own flesh, and the devil. Help us to hold on to Christ and to keep trusting Him to bring us through these tests that come our way. Amen.