Friday, 2 October 2020
Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Revelation 3:2
The Lord just addressed the insufficiency of the church at Sardis. They have a name as if they are alive, but they are dead. Because of this, He says, “Be watchful.” The Greek is a present participle. It should say, “Be waking.” Having been called “dead,” He is telling them that they are as if in a deadened slumber. But they were rather to stay awake and attentive. A good word to signify the intent is to remain vigilant. They are to be constantly on guard. Further, He says, “and strengthen the things which remain.”
Not only were they to guard against those things that can come in and infect a church, but they were to bolster those things within the church that were of right quality and worthy of commendation. In the case of Sardis, it is a veiled note of commendation, without over-complementing them. They had things that were still of value, but they needed to shore them up for the long-term health of the church.
In this, the Lord doesn’t tell them what is to be strengthened, but in a couple of verses, He will provide a note that there are still people of proper faith and conduct in the church. In order to strengthen the things that remained, it would be good to consult those people and find out what they are doing right.
Of those few things that remain, the Lord next says, “that are ready to die.” There is little left even in the good things they are doing. The embers of the fires are almost extinguished, but with a little breath brought upon them, they will begin to glow. In this, more of what is right and proper can be added, and the fire that had once been strong and active can, once again, be brought back to life. But for now, they were all but dead. As Jesus says, “for I have not found your works perfect before God.”
The word translated as “perfect,” here, signifies being fulfilled or completed. Their works failed to meet the appropriate end for which they were intended. God is the standard of all things. His perfection demands our perfection. His completion of things demonstrates our need to bring things to completion. Whatever was not being accomplished at Sardis needed to be brought to a satisfactory end.
If they were telling people about Jesus, they needed to then introduce the gospel – conveying the fact that their audience needed to believe in Jesus. If they were telling people that God is holy, they needed to then explain to the people that they too needed to be holy. Whatever the church at Sardis was doing, they failed to close up the loose theological ends. They produced no sufficiency of theology, and no soundness of faith.
Life application: All hope is not lost for those at Sardis, but they had really let things slip. Jesus warns them to:
Be watchful – they were relying on past deeds and not looking for new opportunities to move the church forward in a Christ-honoring way. They were also obviously not looking out for trouble that could infiltrate their worship, their doctrine, and their congregation. As the psalmist said so long ago –
“I rise before the dawning of the morning,
And cry for help;
I hope in Your word.
My eyes are awake through the night watches,
That I may meditate on Your word.” Psalm 119:147, 148
The psalmist would rise early, petition God for help in his walk, put his trust in God’s word, and stay alert even in the night, always watchful for the enemy’s troubling attacks.
Strengthen the things that remain – there isn’t much good left, but they can at least shore up the walls of the few things they were getting right. Churches that have let things slip will normally still be strong in one area or another simply because they feel their works will justify them. They won’t of course, but these works aren’t wrong in and of themselves. They just need to be redirected to the honoring of Jesus instead of some supposed self-justification.
In his closing, Jesus notes that He hasn’t found their works perfect before God. This in no way indicates Jesus is less than God. As a member of the Godhead, He is subordinating Himself to it in this phrase. He is the second member of the Trinity and therefore He has a right to evaluate and make judgments on the works of His church and its members.
Lord Jesus, thank You for watching over our congregations and correcting us when necessary. On our own we tend to stray and get misdirected. So please keep us on the right and proper path which will honor You and keep us from personal boasting. To Your glory! Amen.