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Psalms 40 - Scott Richardson

Seven Churches Part III - Scott Richardson


October - December 2011 Fall Series At Jackson Drive.


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August 14, 2011


Seven Churches — Part 3


Sardis was one of the oldest and most important cities of the province of Asia. It was positioned about two miles south of the river Hermus, with the Pactolis river flowing at its walls. This places the city about 60 miles northeast of Smyrna. The soil around Sardis was highly fertile. Another geographic feature that was important to Sardis was the fact that the sands of the Pactolus river contained gold.

The ancient city was noted for its fruits and wool. It is said that the art of wool dying originated here. Because of the richness of the soil and its location at the intersection of major travel and trade routes, Sardis also became an important trade mart. It was here also, that gold and silver coins were first struck.

The goddess, Cybele, was the primary object of worship in Sardis. Artemis was held as the other principal deity of the city. The temple of Artemis lies at the foot of the acropolis. It was the fourth largest Ionic style temple in the ancient world. There was a large Jewish presence in Sardis from at least the times of Antiochus III. The remains of the Jewish synagogue reveal that it was the largest one in existence. Many of the Jews were wealthy citizens and some held high office as members of the city council, etc. According to Josephus, Jews of Sardis were granted various privileges during the time of Julius Caesar, including the right to send temple tax to Jerusalem, to have a communal life and conduct suits among themselves, and to receive provisions of ritually clean food.

The Letter to the Church at Sardis — Revelation 3:1-6

Consider the good things known about this church. Only one good thing is mentioned. He knew that there were a few at Sardis who were faithful. There was nothing further said about good things, as was usually the case. How sad!

Consider the bad things known about this church. He knew that even though men said this was a live church, it was actually a dead church. We learn from this that men have different standards to measure greatness from what God has. If a church is a large church, men may say it is a live church, but the power is sometimes with the small number. Ten righteous people would have saved Sodom (Genesis 18:32). However, a small church may be dead, too. Evidently size does not have much to do with it. If a church has a lot of money to spend, it may be considered a live church; but this is not necessarily so. A poor church is not a live church either just because it is poor. If a church has prominent members, it is sometimes said to be a live church, but prominent members may be ungodly (3John 9). These may be used to draw big crowds which make people think it is alive; but the gospel was given to draw people (2Thessalonians 2:14). If a church has a lot of social activities, some think it is really a live church. Nearly always a church is judged to be alive by many if it is a part of “good” organizations, no matter whether or not they are really authorized. We don’t know what made people say the church at Sardis was alive. Whatever it was, they were wrong about that.

Consider the requirements which were given. They were to watch. Recall what great emphasis Jesus had formerly given to this theme (Matthew 24:36-51). They were to strengthen that which did remain. That comes through the word (2Peter 3:18). They were to remember that which had been done for them. They had been blessed as much as any. We, too, have been equally blessed. They were told to hold fast. They were also told to repent. It takes repentance to remove sin (Acts 8:22).

Consider the promises which were given. They were told that Christ would punish the evil doers. At the same time these were reminded that Christ will reward the faithful. He promised that He would not blot out the names of the faithful. This tells us that some will have their names blotted out of the book of life. Finally, the promise is that Christ will confess these faithful before the Father.


The city of Philadelphia was located in Lydia within Asia. It was approximately 25 miles southeast of Sardis and 105 miles from Smyrna. There is a great plain which rises from about 650 to 952 feet above the sea. This was the plain on which Philadelphia was found. It was one of ten cities of the plain; another name that was used of the city was Decapolis, because it was considered as one of the ten cities of the plain. One of the main highways leading to the interior of Asia passed through Philadelphia.

The city was situated on somewhat of a terrace with volcanic cliffs rising behind. Due to the proximity of volcanic activity, earthquakes were frequent to the city. The opposite side of the city was very rich and fertile.

A third name used during the 1st century AD was Neo-kaisaria (Neo Caesarea) in honor of Tiberias who helped rebuild the city after one of the many earthquakes; it appears upon the coins struck during that period. During the reign of Vespasian, it was called Flavia. In addition to all of these names it sometimes was called “Little Athens” because of the magnificence of the temples and other public buildings which adorned it.

The city of Philadelphia was thoroughly Greco-Roman, not having been founded until after 189 BC. The panoply of their gods was worshipped here as in other cities of the area. There is not much historical information, but it is known that because of the grape and wine production of the fertile plains around Philadelphia, that the god Dionysus (the god of wine) was probably favored.

The Jewish population was well above the number needed to establish a synagogue. The members of the synagogue are ill-spoken of in the book of Revelation (Revelation 3:9) as those who opposed the truth.

The Letter to the Church at Philadelphia — Revelation 3:7-13

This church does not occupy a prominent place in the New Testament. Her establishment is not mentioned. Her relationship with any apostle is not noted. If this church ever had problems with worldliness or with a perverted gospel, we are not told. Still, this church had a glorious history and is a source of great encouragement today to people who are trying to do right.

Consider the good things which Jesus knew about this church. He knew that this church had an open door. They had opportunities which no man could deny them. We, too, have opportunities and will be held accountable for how we take advantage of them (Galatians 6:10). He also knew that they had a little strength. Most of us have little strength as compared to some others. Most congregations have little with which to do as compared with many other church and religious groups. But we have some strength, and we will be held accountable for using what we have (Matthew 25:23). David had little strength, of himself, as compared to the giant. Elijah had little strength as compared to King Ahab. The apostles had little strength as compared to the chief priests and the scribes. But the Lord knows all of this. The Lord knew that this church had kept His word. They had not compromised, they had not added, they had not taken away, and they had not substituted. This had been the undoing of some of their neighboring churches (Revelation 2:14; 2:20). How unlike Philadelphia was to many churches of Christ today. What a tribute is paid to this church! The Lord also knew that this church had not denied His name. Even with troubles and trials they had held fast. A church can be true to the Lord. Philadelphia is an example of one which did.

Now consider the bad things Jesus knew about this church. Lo and behold! nothing is said about this. What an example this church is to those who want to do right.

Now consider the promises made to this church. The Lord promised that He would humble the enemies of this church. The Lord’s people will be victorious even though those who oppose them may seem to hold sway. Those churches which have no criticism from without should examine their relationship to the Lord. The Lord then promised to keep them from temptation. This must refer to some great temptation, as all are tempted (James 1:1215). Christ is in charge and keeps us as long as we sincerely try.

Now consider the requirements which the Lord made. These are so unlike instructions given to some of the other churches. The requirement is simple. It is our requirement, too. Overcome—be faithful—keep going. Blessings will follow.

—S. Scott Richardson Sr.

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