young man was traveling by train to Nashville,
Tennessee to seek a job as a news reporter. When the conductor asked for his ticket, he named a newspaper company in Nashville and reminded the conductor that news reporters
did not need a ticket. The conductor told him that the editor of that newspaper was riding in the rear of the train. If the editor could identify him as a reporter of the newspaper,
he could ride for free. When they arrived, the editor did indeed identify the man as a reporter of the newspaper. The man was surprised. After the conductor left, he asked the
editor why he lied for him. The man responded with, “I am not the editor. I am traveling on his pass and I was afraid you were going to give me away.” Deception!
Neither man was what they appeared to be. They were both phonies.
Looking Spiritually Alive. The church in the city of Sardis was phony too! It looked like a spiritual power house. The church looked spiritually healthy to the other churches
in Asia Minor. It had a reputation of being alive. The pastor may have been a strong Bible teacher. The church may have had great home Bible studies, a wonderful children’s
Sunday School, or even a large outreach ministry to the community. We are not sure, but we know that everyone thought this church was alive, real, and spiritually healthy. But
God had a different opinion about this church, He did not think the church was alive or that it had wonderful ministries. He had this to say,
I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. (NASB) Rev. 3:1
They were a dead church! The other churches were deceived. Sardis was not spiritually alive, growing, healthy, or a model church for anyone else to follow. They were dead!
City of Sardis. The city of Sardis was surrounded by other significant churches like Philadelphia, Smyrna, and Ephesus. God had only good things to say to the churches in
Philadelphia and Smyrna, but not to this church. It was not like Ephesus, Thyatira, or Pergamum. In spite of their problems, they were alive, but Sardis was like a chocolate
bar filled with little worms.
The church was located in a famous city. Sardis was famous, since it was once the capital of the Lydian empire. It was built on a cliff that was 1,500 feet (457 meters) above
the Valley of Hermus. It once produced gold and silver coins and was a center for the mining of gold and silver. In A.D. 17 a significant earthquake destroyed most of the city,
and Rome helped rebuild the city.
Today all that remains of this once famous city that had a name are ruins. All that remains are the ruins of the acropolis, the Temple
, a gymnasium, and the tumuli or burial place
of the once proud Lydian kings.
The city was known for its pursuit of eternal youth. They wanted to be young, to be alive, and not be dead. The hot springs which are located about 2 miles (3.2 km) from the
city were believed to be the key to youthfulness. This was wrong. It is sad, but we will find out in a few verses that many in the church were deceived, too, and thought the
church was alive.
Dead or Alive? About twenty years ago there was a large church, located in a large city, with a seating capacity for 600 persons, but only six people attended. A group of
strong Christian leaders and a pastor started a new church in the area. This new church had grown to about one hundred people and needed a larger place to meet on Sunday morning.
So they asked the six people who were attending this older, large church if they could meet in the church on Sundays in the early afternoon. These six people said, “No,
not unless we are included in the leadership of your church.” Those six people wanted to be in control. What a disappointment that was to this new growing church. One
church was alive and another was dead. Most of us would agree that the old church was dead.
Some of us would not agree that a church with active ministries, a charismatic pastor and with many people in attendance could be a dead church. One measure of an “alive” church
that we use is usually “how many people are coming?” We have been captured by the world’s idea of success. It is how many come. Church leaders make decisions
by “how many come.”
We start or drop ministries by how many come. We view success by the response of others. Based on that criteria evangelism should be dropped, since few want to do that and
even fewer do. But God has a different standard of success - “being spiritually alive.”