Keep My Word
We finish up with three churches: Philadelphia, which is a model along the lines of Smyrna, and Sardis and Laodicea, both of which could use some work. We’ll begin with Sardis and Laodicea.
Sardis is described as having a reputation for being alive, but is actually dead. The Laodiceans think that they are rich but are instead wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. How wrong we can be about our own spiritual affairs! We are not told what the specific sin in Sardis was, only that they are to remember what they had received and heard, keep it and repent. The Laodiceans are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, just a complacent bunch of Christians who are quite satisfied with themselves. It should be rather instructive for us how self-congratulatory we can be, thinking we have arrived. I have heard on several occasions Christians refer to other Christians as “spiritually immature,” leading me to wonder about their own spiritual maturity, which then led me to wonder about my own. We are so prone to think that we are on a higher spiritual plane than someone else, when in reality we are all just treading water. Paul reminds us, “If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know” (1 Corinthians 8:2). The answer to such self-delusion is heavy doses of the word of God. Thus, the refrain, “Remember,” “Repent,” and “Keep.”
With the church in Philadelphia, we have another small yet powerful church. What had they done that Sardis and Laodicea had not? They had “kept [his] word.” And it was the keeping of Christ’s word that enabled them to withstand the persecution from those in the city. They had patiently endured, and because they had, Christ would deliver them from the coming trial which would engulf the whole world. No doubt, unlike the churches in Sardis and Laodicea, these Philadelphians didn’t think that they were anything special. Humility is naturally blind to itself. All they did was remain faithful to what they had received. After that, they let the chips fall where they may.
And so the two weakest and smallest churches of the seven – Philadelphia and Smyrna – were the strongest and greatest of the bunch. It should not surprise us, for “God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong … that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29). May we be so faithful that we may be so strong.