The Church in Sardis: The Dead Church

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Looks can be deceiving. Some things look alive but, in reality, are dead, just like flowers in a vase and taxidermy. Often, some churches look alive on the outside, but they are already dead inside. Such is the case of the church in 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.

Revelation 3:1

Christ reproved the church in Sardis for their works.

1And 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. 2Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.

Revelation 3:1-2

The church in Sardis had tremendous accomplishments in the past but is no longer doing anything. Therefore they are a dying church. When they tell stories about their church, they consistently mention what they have done in the past. But if you ask them about what they are doing in the present or their goals in the future, there’s nothing they can say.

Since this church dwells on past accomplishments, it has already become stagnant, and there’s no more growth. And everything that becomes stagnant in the end becomes poisonous.

Another thing we see here is that because they are dwelling on past accomplishments, they have no more plans for the future. And if there’s no vision for the future, there will be no movement in the present. That’s why a church needs to have a vision for the future.

Here are the signs that we see in a dying church:

  • Dwelling on past accomplishments.
  • They have become stagnant, and therefore there’s no more growth.
  • No more vision for the future; as a result, there’s no movement in the present.

Christ reproved the church in Sardis for their works because they were no longer doing anything for the Lord. Their past accomplishments had made them complacent in the work of the Lord, just like the church in Laodicea.

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

1 Corinthians 15:58

We must continue abiding in our work for the Lord as a church. We need to accomplish our goals year after year. And then continue to reach higher goals as long as we have the opportunity.

Christ required the church in Sardis to be watchful.

Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.

Revelation 3:2

The church in Sardis was so complacent that they were no longer watchful. When the Lord Jesus Christ commanded them to be ready, they must have remembered their city’s past.

The city of Sardis was on top of a mountain with narrow roads leading into the city. That’s why Sardis was one of the cities which was challenging to conquer in the past. However, Antiochus the Great conquered the city because his army marched to Sardis at night, and they entered the city because the guards were asleep.

The same thing happened in the church in Sardis. The church was asleep and no longer did their job to be watchful because they were so complacent. That can happen to any church in the present. That’s why we can’t be asleep; we must be vigilant.

6Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. 7For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. 8But 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.

1 Thessalonians 5:6-8

The devil can infiltrate the church with false doctrines and false brethren. That’s why pastors and preachers must do their job and be watchful for the devil’s attacks.

Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

Hebrews 13:17

The pastor is accountable for the souls of the members of the church. It’s his job to warn and teach them the Word of God. It cannot be denied that the church is no longer watchful because the man behind the pulpit stopped becoming watchful.

Christ reminded the church in Sardis of their ways.

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.

Revelation 3:3

This verse shows us that this church did great things in the past. The Lord Jesus reminds them of what they have heard in the past. The preaching they have listened to and the doctrines they have received.

The Lord Jesus asks them to remember these things and hold fast. This means they no longer held on to the doctrines they had learned.

The Lord Jesus also commands them to repent of their complacency, laziness, and disobedience to the Word of God. Jesus is telling them not to dwell in the past but continue what they were doing in the past. This means there is hope for revival, even for a dying church.

4Thou 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. 5He 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.

Revelation 3:4-5

Even in the church in Sardis, there is still a faithful remnant in their service to the Lord Jesus Christ. God forbid that our church will become just like the church in Sardis.

Therefore, we must not be complacent but instead continue to abound. We must be watchful for the attacks of the devil. And if there are instances when we are side-tracked, we need to have the humility to accept correction and return to the way of truth.

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