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Sunday School Lesson August 9

Christ’s messages to the churches.

Pt 2...Revelation Chapter 3

(1) This lesson is the second part in our exploration of the letters to the churches of Asia Minor, and it covered letters directed at Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. In each case, the Lord used examples from life in the city to illustrate His message.

(2) Sardis boasted of vibrancy but was slumbering and about to be overtaken. Philadelphia was weak but enjoyed the favor of our strong Lord. Laodicea claimed abundance but was in reality wretched. In each case, the Lord called upon them to look to Him and gave promises to the overcomers. Seek ways to draw parallels between contemporary issues and that of these churches. Then listen to what the Spirit has to say to the church!

(3) There are several repeated features in each letter covered in this letter. Jesus describes Himself in terms of the vision from Revelation 1.

The church is commended for faithfulness. The church is rebuked for an area of failure. Jesus charges the church with a response. Jesus promises blessing to the overcomers. The church is commanded to hear the Spirit.

(4) We‘be all been fooled by appearances. Maybe it was a dull-looking book that turned out to be a great read. Or a house that looked nice on the outside only to be in disrepair inside. As we read the letters to Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea, we are struck by the Lord‘s vision contrasted with the state of the church. The Spirit was about to reveal the truth of their situations.

(5) Jesus changed the order from His previous letters by placing the rebuke first. The church at Sardis had a reputation for liveliness, but Jesus declared them spiritually dead, based on their deeds. ( Revelation 3:1). They lacked the vitality of true spirituality.

(6) Commentators have noted that Sardis the city thought more of itself than was deserved. The citizens boasted of their long history, wealth, and strategic location. Perhaps this attitude had infected the church. Jesus commanded them to wake up and realize their desperate situation. If the Sardis Christians did not wake up and lay hold of life in the Spirit, judgement day would come upon them unawares. (Verse 3; see also John 15:1-6)

(7) Despite the rebuke, some in the Sardis church remained faithful. These Christians had given attention to their lives and kept their “garments“ clean. That is, they had listened to the Spirit with regard to the ongoing work of sanctification. ( see also James 1:27)

(8) As Pentecostals, it’s possible to fall back on our history to assume the presence of the Spurit in our churches today. Ask the Spurit to examine your heart this week, awaken you, and fill you afresh.

(9) Jesus praised the Philadelphia church, and He had no rebuke. He opened His letter by describing Himself as the One who is holy and true. In Greek, this reads, “ The Holy One and The True One.” Throughout the Old Testament, the God of Israel is given such titles

(e.g., Jeremiah 10:10, Habakkuk 3:3)

Jesus’ claim to these titles of divinity that elsewhere are given to the Father reminds the church that He is indeed God.

(10) Thus description would encourage a church described as having “little strength”. (Revelation 3:8). The church faced persecution from the local synagogue that had rejected Jesus. (verses 8-9). Though this church lacked strength in the city, the Lord had opened a door for them that no one could shut.

(11) In verse 11, Jesus commanded the believers to hold to their faithfulness. This included a warning about their crown. If they maintained devotion and endurance in Christ, their crown would be secure. It could not be taken from them and would only be lost if they turned from their faithfulness.

(12) There are times that we might feel like the Philadelphia church. Spiritual forces and cultural pressures in our communities can make us feel vulnerable and weak. We are encouraged to not despair. Jesus comes to the aid of His Church. How can the assurance of Jesus’ presence and strength impact your life?

(13) Jesus called the Laodicean Christians to seek the spiritual reality they thought they had. (verses 18-20). From Him they should buy the gold that had been purified, the garments that had been washed spotless, and the salve that’s healed the eyes to restore spiritual vision.

(14) We might wonder, “What is the current economy of Jesus? With what should we buy these things? The acknowledgment of the truth of Jesus’ witness and the cry for His help is sufficient. God will not despise the sacrifice of a broken and contrite heart. (Psalm 51:17). His harsh words were motivated by His love. Love for His people compels Him to discipline them so they might rise out of their miserable state.

(15) In keeping with His promise to fellowship with those who give Him entrance, Jesus spoke of raising the overcomers to sit with Him on His throne. These can seem like startling words, given Jesus‘ earlier reference to Himself as the Ruler over all Creation. It likely refers to sharing in the honor of Christ’s exalted position, for because of His exalted place, His people have great hope. That is, the opportunity to receive royal prerogatives by God‘s grace.

(16) Consider this quote from Dr C.C. Tracy, visiting the ruins of Sardis in 1911: “ When I think of the myriads of various nationalities and advanced civilization for whose evangelization these churches were responsible, the messages to the Christian communities occupying the splendid strategic centers fill me with awe. While established amid the splendors of civilization, they were set as candlesticks in the midst of gross spiritual darkness. Did they fulfill their mission?

(17) This is a thought-provoking question for us today. We have opportunity to respond faithfully to the Spirit’s message. Only then can we honor the divine mission given to us.

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