And to the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things said he that has the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars…
I. THE FORM OF ADDRESS. Sardis was a city of considerable eminence, nearly equidistant from Smyrna and Thyatira. It was formerly the capital of the kingdom of Lydia, and is celebrated in profane history as the residence of Croesus, proverbial for his great riches, which were seized by Cyrus in aid of his expedition against Babylon. In the usual course of all these cities, it fell, first into the hands of the Persians, then of the Macedonians, and then of the Roman empire. A village only now remains, near which are some ruins of the ancient city. The character in which Christ appears to this Church is taken partly from the dedication in the 4th verse, and partly from the vision in Revelation 1:16. This is proof that the whole book, from the commencement, is supposed to be sent with the addresses to the Churches.
II. THE REBUKE. Hero is no commendation to the Church generally. It is given afterwards, as an exception to a few. This Church had formerly been in a flourishing state. It was composed, at first, of simple-hearted and pious believers. There was life in their ministry, life in their ordinances, life in their social meetings, life in their retirements, and life in their souls. This state of things, however, did not long continue. There was a gradual and imperceptible falling away from the grace of the gospel. The Spirit's influences were less desired, and consequently less enjoyed. Zeal was not deficient, nor even fortitude to brave persecution for the sake of their religion. Their works were considerable, and, in some respects, worthy of imitation by those who are actuated by better principles. These are observed by the Saviour, but as serving only to sustain a profession of the vitality of which they were destitute. "I know thy works, that thou hast a name," etc. This is displeasing to Christ, because of its gross inconsistency, because of the false aspect which it gives to His kingdom before the world, and because of the dishonour which it casts upon the office of the Spirit of God. A further complaint preferred against this Church is, "I have not found thy works perfect before God." The literal meaning is finished, or complete. Their works were imperfect in the principles from which they emanated, and in the ends to which they were directed. They were forms without life, professions without fruit. Another feature of their declension is indirectly asserted in these words, "Thou hast a few names, even in Sardis, which have not defiled their garments." This sentence to a Church, which probably boasted most of the Christian name, and aspired most to ecclesiastical distinction, was peculiarly humiliating. Where the life of godliness fails, it were vain to look for its fruits. The name of Christianity presents a feeble barrier to the corruptions of our fallen nature. What safeguard is there in nominal Christianity against moral defilement?
III. THE ADMONITIONS. The Saviour exhorts the offenders at Sardis first of all to watchfulness. "Be watchful." Let them reflect upon their condition, rouse themselves to vigilant inquiry. They are exhorted "to strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die." Here is an acknowledgment that some genuine piety continued amongst them. This Church is reminded, "how it had received and heard," and is exhorted to hold fast its first instructions, and repent of its deviations from them.
IV. THE THREATENING: "If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come," etc.
V. THE EXCEPTION: "Thou hast a few names, even in Sardis, which have not defiled their garments." There were some, even in Sardis, who had escaped the general defilement. In the worse ages of the Church a remnant has been preserved that have kept their garments pure. The Waldenses, Moravians, and others, will be found to authenticate the truth of this observation.
VI. THE PROMISE. The threatening is to the many that have fallen, the promise to the few that have not defiled their garments. "They shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy." VII. THE APPLICATION: "He that overcometh, the marne shall be clothed in white raiment," etc.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.
WEB: "And to the angel of the assembly in Sardis write: "He who has the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars says these things: "I know your works, that you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.