The May 1, 2021 Standard Bearer: Special Issue on the Letters to the Seven Churches

The May 1, 2021 issue of the Standard Bearer is the second special issue of this volume year (97) and features articles on the seven letters to the churches of Asia Minor as recorded in Revelation 2-3.

The publisher of the magazine, the Reformed Free Publishing Association (or RFPA for short), did a blog post on this issue back on April 23, when the digital issue was issued to subscribers. They featured Rev. Aud Spriensma’s article on the letter to Sardis, quoting part of it. I reference a different section of his article in this post. For the full article visit the RFPA’s webpage. And if you would like to subscribe to this Reformed b-monthly periodical, visit the SB’s homepage.

But sadly, the church in Sardis was dead. There were only a few in Sardis who had not defiled their garments! Of the majority, the flesh dominated. The Lord accused her that her works were not perfect before God. This means that the church as such, and believers individually, failed to walk in those works that are required of them. She might talk theology and search high and low if her pastor is using the right words in his sermon, but is she listening to the sermon to hear what the Spirit is saying regarding her faith and walk? Does she seek to apply the word spoken to her life? The church had a name that she lived; but she was dead. She did not let her testimony go forth in the midst of the world. She was not a light in the midst of the darkness of this present world. Rather, she, like her pastor, loved the things of the world living in sin. Therefore she could not be distinguished from the world.

What was the admonition of the Lord to such a dead church? She was called to be watchful, and strengthen the things that remain, which are ready to die (v. 2). They were to “remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent” (v. 3). There was still hope for the church in Sardis. She was still a true church. There were a few names that had not defiled their garments. Others were still alive but sleeping. There were things that remained, though they were about to die. Like the church in Ephesus, the church must remember how they had first heard and received the gospel: with joy and faith. Do you remember when you first heard the gospel?

I remember a believer who complained to me about those who joined our churches who came from the outside. This person said that these folks weaken our churches. “No,” I said, “these are exactly what our churches need desperately.” It is when the church does evangelism, and new converts are brought by God into our churches that we see an eagerness for the gospel and a zeal for living the Christian life. Their living faith becomes contagious in the church! They love what they have learned and believed. They are excited about being disciples of Christ. These are things that it is easy for those of us who have been raised all of our lives in the church to take for granted and become lethargic. It is “ho, hum.” Therefore, there is the admonition, “Be watchful, wake up! And strengthen that which is about to die!”

The situation in Sardis was miserable, but not hopeless. Most of the members had already fallen sound asleep; the rest were about to die. The congregation as such could still be changed and repent. The admonition to Sardis was similar to that which was given to the church of Ephesus. They were admonished, “Remember therefore whence thou art fallen.” To the church in Sardis the Lord writes, “Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard.” The church in Sardis is a further development of what was the case in Ephesus; the church that has lost its first love is about to die. There is something about their past that might appeal to them and cause them to repent. What profound joy was wrought in their hearts when they had heard the gospel preached to them! What enthusiasm when they took the gospel and witnessed to all around them of the grace of God and the wonderful salvation that there is in Jesus Christ. By the grace of God they walked in a new and holy life, fighting the good fight of faith. Remembering their former state, they see how far they have fallen, and repent.

Is this true of you and of me? Do we need to wake up and be aroused by what we had, and repent and return to our former state? I am saddened when there are many today who listen to sermons, not to hear what the Spirit is saying to the church, but to find fault with the angels of the church. This is not so much about correct theology, but a spirit of pride.

Published in: on May 1, 2021 at 10:34 PM  Leave a Comment  

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