“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16:11)
“And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God” (Rev. 3:1–2).
Sardis was in the region of Lydia in Asia Minor, and was the regional capital. It is the next church of the seven, and according to the message they received, it was in a dire condition. The church was apparently a busy place, for it had a good reputation and that good reputation was connected to their works. But the Lord Jesus says that He knows their works, and in His judgment, their works were imperfect. This is yet one more instance of men being impressed by something that God was not impressed with at all. God told Samuel centuries before that man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart (1 Sam. 16:7). Jesus put it even more bluntly. “And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15, ESV).
We may conclude from what is said here that the church at Sardis was virtually dead. I say virtually dead because we may put two things together. The first is that they are told they have a reputation for life, but they are, putting it simply, “dead.” At the same time, the situation is not beyond hope because in the next breath they are told to strengthen the things that remain, that are ready to die. Putting this all together, the church corporately was dead, but there was apparently a faithful remnant there, a remnant about to die, but still capable of hearing these words of exhortation. The words that they were to obey were these—“strengthen what remains.” Christians who find themselves in a similar predicament should do the same. Strengthen what you have, and don’t try to do anything with what you don’t have.