“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Revelation 3:1
A Tale of Two Cities
Jesus, through His revelation to John, addresses the church in Sardis; in much the same manner as He addressed the previous church in Thyatira. Many scholars agree that the church at Thyatira is representative of the Catholic Church at its beginnings and yes, to this present day. If that is the case, and I believe that it is, the church at Sardis (which means: remnant) embodies the church of the reformation, or the protestant age. And like the Catholic era, the protestant era is still with us.
In comparing the words of Jesus to both the Catholic Church (Thyatira) and the Protestant Church (Sardis), one particular item stands out–Jesus commends Thyatira on six (6) points before He rebukes and warns her, but with Sardis He has nothing positive and uplifting to say. I find that somewhat discomforting (although I am currently a non-denominational Christian), my Christian roots as it were, are Protestant.
So, What’s the Warning
When John records the words of our Lord, and used the phrase, ‘You have a name, ’ the idea there is that this church has allied herself with a ‘name’ or denomination, rather than with Christ (at the very least, Jesus is given a back seat to church doctrine). In the Greek, the word used for ‘word’ is in actuality the source for the word ‘denomination’. The problem with that is that (we) tend to associate our faith with the originator of said denomination (Luther, Calvin, etc), rather than the true head of the church, Jesus Christ. I believe this joke, which pokes fun at the Methodists, illustrates the point Jesus is making.
How Many Methodists Does it Take to Change a Light Bulb?
The answer…“Change the light bulb? You can’t change the light bulb! My great grandfather gave this church that light bulb! Now go back to your assigned pew.”
Hold Fast and Repent
The warning is for all of us; Catholic, Protestant, and non-denominationals alike—hold fast to Christ’s teaching and turn away from any teaching that deviates from God’s truth. The Apostle Paul gave us the very same warning in 1 Corinthians 6:9 (and it appears in several others places within the Bible as well. What is that word of warning?
Do not be deceived.
I further believe that Jesus first gave us this counsel in Luke 13:18-22 when He described something that had become way too big to be of much use to God.
Then He said, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.”
Our Father in Heaven never intended His church to be embroiled with men, their movements, or the monuments we tend to erect to them. Surely God can and will use these men for His divine purposes, but never-ever should the focus be taken away from His Son. May those with ears hear.