Seven Letters, Part 5: Sardis

By Kyle Bueermann

In this series of blog posts, we’re diving into the seven letters from Jesus to the churches in Revelation chapters 2-3. As we do, we’ll discover what Jesus has to say to these churches that, with one exception, needed to be revitalized.

In this post we’ll take a look at the fifth letter – to the church in the city of Sardis. You’ll find this passage in Revelation 3:1-6. Grab a copy of Scripture and let’s take a quick look at this letter.

A critical condemnation, v. 1

This is one of two churches in the letters for which there is no praise or commendation from the Lord. Rather, He issues a pretty striking condemnation right off the bat: “You have a reputation for being alive, but you are dead.”

It’s possible this church had a lot of attendees at their weekly worship gathering. Maybe they had a vibrant food pantry or clothes closet. They probably were busy with a full calendar of ministry activities. But something was missing. There was no spiritual life to their activities.

The church at Sardis looked alive to the world, but they were spiritually dead. We are reminded that, while man may look at the outward appearance, the Lord looks at the heart. We first discovered this truth when the Lord sent Samuel to set apart the young shepherd boy David as Israel’s next king, but it rings true for churches as well.

A crucial correction, vv. 2-3

All hope is not lost. Jesus tells this church what they must do to restore life: “Be alert and strengthen what remains.” Things are not good for this church, but they can get better if they will but restore their faith in Christ.

As long as any life remains in a church, there is hope! Seeing a once-dying church come back to life may take a lot of repentance and change, but it can happen! In fact, we see this happen in hundreds of churches all over our nation. But it requires that we ask, “What are we currently doing, and what does Jesus actually want us to do?”

Jesus gives a dire warning to this congregation: If they do not repent, He “will come like a thief, and you have no idea at what hour I will come upon you.” This is an urgent matter. For the church at Sardis, repentance must take place immediately!

A committed core, vv. 4-5

“But you have a few people in Sardis who have not defiled their clothes.”

This is a striking sentence. There are a few who remained faithful to the Lord. Perhaps they prayed fervently that God would spare their church and renew her passion for Him. Perhaps they were calling their fellow church attenders to repentance and trust in Christ.

While we can’t say for sure if the other folks in the church were truly saved, what is apparent is that they weren’t living like they were saved. The Lord is giving time for this church to repent and to realign themselves with His calling for them.

King Jesus then gives a word of encouragement to this remnant: There is a reward for those who hold fast to Him! It’s possible that the lukewarm believers in Sardis were making life very difficult for those who were passionately following Christ. ”Can’t you just tone it down a bit?” “I think you’re going overboard with this whole following-Jesus thing.”

Christ’s command for these committed believers is to remain faithful. The same is true for believers today. Perhaps as you bring issues in your local church to light, you’re accused of being divisive or nitpicky. Jesus would encourage you to remain true to His Word, regardless of what the culture and nonbelievers would say, even (especially!) if they are in the church.

So, pastor and church member, if you find yourself in a church that looks like Sardis, remain strong! Call people to repent of sins and trust in Jesus Christ! Remain faithful to His Word! Preach the gospel! Pray fervently that God would make His power known among His church!

You can find the other posts in this series here:





Published October 17, 2023

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Kyle Bueermann

Kyle Bueermann is a Rural Specialist for the Replant Team. He served as a youth and music minister and as a senior pastor for nine years in New Mexico. He’s married to Michelle and they have two kids: Noah and Hailey. He’s a fan of the Texas Rangers and loves black coffee. Kyle and his family live in Lubbock, TX.