When Jesus was on earth, the New Testament Church had not yet begun. The Church came into being after Jesus ascended to heaven. The reason why the Church did not start earlier was because they had to wait until the Holy Spirit came. The Church must have the work of the Holy Spirit in its midst. Ten days after the Lord Jesus ascended to heaven, on the Day of Pentecost; the Holy Spirit descended like tongues of fire, and like torrential flood waters on all the apostles; and they were filled with the Holy Spirit. On that same day, Peter preached the Word of God and three thousand people repented and were baptized. That is how the Church started. The Holy Spirit is a prerequisite for the existence of the church.
Each Church era has different needs. The era during the Church in Sardis gravely lacked the work of the Holy Spirit
THE LORD’S SELF-DESCRIPTION
1 These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.
教會有沒有生氣？有沒有生命？看兩件事：( 一) 有沒有聖靈工作？( 二) 有沒有神所揀選的工人在其中作工？我們從撒迪教會就可以看到，他們在這兩方面的嚴重缺乏。
Is the church energetic? Is it alive? Look at two things: (1) Does it have the work of the Holy Spirit? (2) Does it have people chosen by God to do the work of the church? We see that the Church in Sardis was seriously lacking in these two areas.
When Christ started to introduce Himself, He was already making clear their two kinds of needs. “Seven spirits” refers to the perfect work of the Holy Spirit. “Seven stars” refers to God’s chosen workers. These two things were what they needed the most. This church represents the dark period during medieval times, from the 14th to the 16th century, the church before the Protestant Reformation.
Although they claimed to be a church in reality they were a bloodsucking institution; using their religion to deceive people into giving them money. Only a few people were saved. Here it says: “a few people” were in the book of life of the Lamb. Only a few will walk with the Lord, dressed in white, for they are worthy. It was a dead church because it did not have the work of the Holy Spirit; it did not have God’s workers. Therefore the Lord said to them : “These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.” If you belong to me, how come you don’t possess these two things?
THE LORD’S REBUKE
1 “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.”
The Lord did not have any words of commendation for the churches of this era.
He only said: “You have a few names who have not defiled their garments; they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.” It seemed that they were better than the Church in Laodicea because the Lord did not have any words of commendation for that church at all. But in reality, the Church in Sardis was in a bigger mess than the Church in Laodicea. This was a church that was completely dead. Aren’t Christians supposed to already have life, have the Holy Spirit ? But in this church only a few people had life and the Holy Spirit. Apparently, the Church in Laodicea looked very pitiful because they can only get half of the spiritual inheritance, but at least they get half of it. The Sardis Church did not even get half of it, they got almost zero.
馬丁路德在1517 年貼了95 條指出梵帝岡錯誤的條文，他既是當時的神職人員，從他的論點，就可以知道當時教皇與所有神職人員，全犯了嚴重的錯誤。他們為了梵帝岡與眾神父能夠過富裕的生活，出賣贖罪券，告訴百姓只要買贖罪券，罪就得赦免，靈魂在煉獄中的親友，也得到赦免可以升上天堂。完全是商人賺錢手法，欺騙無知迷信的小民。
In 1517, Martin Luther wrote the 95 Theses protesting against the wrong doings of the Vatican. The disputation protested against clerical abuses, especially the sale of indulgences. From his theses we can see that during that time, the Pope and the clergy were making a very serious mistake. They told the people to buy indulgences so that their sins would be forgiven and the souls of their relatives in purgatory could ascend to heaven. It was completely the way businessmen make money; deceiving the ignorant superstitious people.
The Lord said: “I hold the seven stars. You say you are a Church that belongs to me, yet none of you are conventional workers. You don’t even have one star. How can you belong to me?” They did not teach people to repent; they only used “confession” instead of “repentance”. They thought that the priest could just say: “Yours sins are forgiven,” and the problem would be solved. Repentance is an inward activity of the spirit; it is not an outward procedure. The Lord’s workers should understand spiritual things. They handled God’s matters as ordinary religious activities, they had become secular activities.
The Lord said: “I hold the seven-fold Spirit, but you don’t have the Holy Spirit, you do not have life, how could you be regarded as my Church? They believed that as long as sinners were taught to feel guilty, they would repent. Who knows, putting the blame on someone would just drive them away. But when the Holy Spirit convicts people, they convict themselves and that is true repentance.
The Church in ancient times did not have much understanding about the Holy Spirit; you will notice this just by reading the Apostle’s Cree d. Several words follow the statement “I believe in God;” a few sentences follow the statement “I believe in Jesus Christ;” but no description follows the statement “I believe in the Holy Spirit.” Clearly they were not sure how to describe the Holy Spirit. Even though their names said they belonged to the Church in Sardis, they did not experience the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives; they were not born from the Holy Spirit, they had a reputation of being alive, but they were dead. They did not have the life of Christ in them. Their names were not written in the book of life of the Lamb.
THE LORD’S WARNINGS
2 你要儆醒，堅固那剩下將要衰微[ 死] 的，因我見你的行為在我神面前沒有一樣是完全的。
2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.
短短一段經文，｢死｣字出現兩次( 衰微原文是死) ，死的教會就是沉睡的教會，沒有聖靈、沒有生氣，就是沉睡，所以主叫她儆醒wake up 過來。「醒過來」出現了兩次。教會要醒過來。
In this short passage the word “die” appears twice. A dead church is a church that has fallen asleep. Without the Holy Spirit, without energy, the church falls asleep, that is why the Lord calls them to “wake up”. The words “wake up” appear twice. The Church has to wake up!
In I Thessalonians chapter 1, Paul praises the believers for having the evidence of the Holy Spirit, having joy in the midst of severe suffering. That is the evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit, because your spirit is awake, what you see is not the tribulations of the flesh but the blessings of the spiritual life.
They needed to wake up because in God’s eyes none of their deeds were good. Their teachings were wrong; they emphasized the existence of purgatory which gave people false hopes; they put importance to external rituals but did not teach the truth of the Gospel and the need for repentance. They only attached importance to economic income. They misled people by saying that it was not required to help the poor. They even lost the only merit that the Catholic Church possessed…they were a dead failure. They did not have a lifestyle of loving one another; they were not like the Lord’s Church at all. The characteristics that Christians should have are faith, love, and hope. They did not display any of these characteristics. How could they be called the Church?
THE LORD’S ENCOURAGEMENT
3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.
The first step is to remember. The Lord gave the same advice to the Church in Ephesus. Remember once again what you have received and how you believed at first. You have to return to the original teachings. The problem with many churches is that they follow traditions. Whatever the tradition says they will do. They follow fixed liturgies; they don’t allow the playing of drums, guitars or certain musical instruments. Tradition is set by people, it is not the teachings of the Bible.
The Church in Ephesus was the earliest church and even they had to remember. In the middle Ages, they had drifted far away from the original teachings; now more than ever they had to remember. They also had to “guard” (not to “ hold fast”). Guard the original teachings that Christ gave them, not to invent new theories. They invented the priest’s absolution certificates, praying for the forgiveness of sins of the dead and using money to buy indulgences.
The Church does not need new doctrines or to follow the traditions of people. They only had to guard the original truth, no matter how much the world changes, we should not change the belief that the Lord gave us, and we should guard it faithfully . The only thing that should change is us as we are transformed by the renewing of our minds, as we examine ourselves, repent of our sins and ask for forgiveness often. In this way, the Holy Spirit will continuously work in us.
The end result of being watchful or not and having the Holy Spirit working in us or not, will be very different. If the Lord returns suddenly, if the bridegroom comes unexpectedly, then the virgins without oil in their lamps will be left outside, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The Lord said to them, I will come like a thief. In fact, these words are telling us that their outcome will be very sorrowful. When the Lord returns, there will be those who claim to be Christians who will still be living a very lethargic life. The believers who do not have life will have to go through the great tribulation, because tribulations are blessings in disguise. They will return to the Lord during the tribulation. Those who are confused in their beliefs will also come back to the Lord during the time of tribulation.
God is not willing that people suffer eternally, yet a little suffering could be beneficial. Blessed are those who mourn, blessed are those who hunger, afflictions are blessings in disguise.
THE LORD’S COMMENDATIONS
4 然而在撒狄，你還有幾名[ 幾個名字] 是未曾污穢自己衣服的，他們要穿白衣與我同行。因為他們是配得過的。
4 You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.
The Lord said there are only a few names. In this passage the word “name” appears a few times. You have a “name” that you are alive, a few “names”, I will not blot out his “name” from the Book of Life, I will confess his “name” before My Father. Here it says: “a few names” which is a very strange wording.
名字，不像今天只是稱號，乃是本性的描寫。｢雅各｣是喜歡「抓住」的人，變成｢以色列｣，｢神的勇士｣，因為敢與神摔跤( 創32) 。名字描寫生命，或生命的特徵。
In ancient times, a name was given to describe the inherent qualities of a person. “Jacob” means “ supplanter ”, his name was later changed to “Israel” which means “he that striveth with God”, because he dared to wrestle with God (Genesis 32). A name represents life or a characteristic of the person’s life.
The word “worthy” refers to the evenness of both sides of a balance. John the Baptist said: “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance.” If you call yourself a Christian, you must have the life of a Christian; that is balance.
The few people mentioned here not only are called Christians but are truly Christians. They have the life of Christ and the seal of the Holy Spirit. They are the ones who shall walk with the Lord in white, who have not defiled their garments.
THE LORD’S PROMISES
5 He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.
The Lord’s promises are directed towards their shortcomings. Their names appear in the Church, but they live among the Christians who do not have life, so they worry and say: “Is my name among them or not?” The Lord promises that He will definitely not blot out their names from the Book of Life. The names that are written in the Book of Life will never disappear.
The Lord continues to praise these faithful believers even more saying: “I will confess his name before my Father and before His angels.” These are words of commendation and of approval.