In our ongoing look at the seven churches of Revelation, Jesus said to the church at Sardis, “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.” (Revelation 3:1) It is amazing that the spiritually dead there would be those who would prophesy, cast out demons, and do many wonders all in His name. But He never knew them! (Matthew 7:22, 23) They can appear very Christian like, yet fail to have a personal relationship with Him.
Even more puzzling about this church is that there was a small number of true believers – those “who have not defiled their garments.” (v. 4) They were in the midst of this body of people who believed that they were living for God, but had apparently deceived themselves.
The encouraging truth concerning the Sardis church is that Jesus says that their work is not yet complete. He desires more for them to do, to walk in the works that He prepared beforehand that they should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10) But they must repent and turn back to that which they had received and heard. Like each and every one of us, He gives them time to change.
There are many out there today like those in Sardis who believe they are spiritually alive because they are involved in works. They may be good church attendees. They may be helping in a soup kitchen or volunteering for good causes. They may even be teaching Sunday School. But they have failed to change their minds about sin and salvation. Instead, they continue to hold at arm’s length God’s offer of redemption and reconciliation through Jesus Christ. They lack the true relationship that God desires through His Son. “Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness…” (Romans 4:4, 5)