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Addresses on the Seven Churches: 5: Sardis

By G.V. Wigram


      REVELATION 3: 1-6.

      THE titles under which the Lord presents Himself to this Church, in the first verse, are these: "He that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars." We find the Spirit of God spoken of in other places as the eyes of the Lord that run to and fro throughout the earth. These, and the expression "seven Spirits before the throne," are connected with power and execution. It is not the Spirit as the Comforter, but as having power to execute God's will on the earth. The "seven stars" are not power, but light. The star gives light in the night -- a candle is for the darkness. God has always had a candlestick, or candlesticks (according to the circumstances), in the temple, or in His dealings in this period. A light is set up in the place it is wanted in -- in the midst of darkness. There is a solemn thought here, because the "seven stars" are connected with what the candlestick is at the beginning. God chose the nation of Israel to show what a wonderful God, what a wonderful Being He was. All the nations were to see by them what God was. What did Israel do? They made a golden calf directly. Just so has each piece of light failed; priests, judges, kings, and prophets, all failed until at last the great Light came, and in such a state were the people of Israel, that they went and asked a Gentile for leave to put Him to death, who had been shining in the midst of their darkness. Then the Lord Jesus, who was crucified, but raised up to sit at the right hand of God, must have a testimony. His heart is towards the earth, and He must have a testimony on it. This question about a candlestick does not bear upon Rome, etc., but upon what God has set up Himself. But where is it now? God has a testimony elsewhere; but that does not alter the solemn fact, that these emblems which He set up are confessedly all gone.

      There is one thing very important to notice in reading all these epistles, and it is very prominent here. To be saved, chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, and made an heir of glory, is one thing; but to bear testimony for Him in the world is another. It is quite certain that what He did before the foundation of the world I cannot lose in time; but my faithfulness or unfaithfulness will tell its own tale in the glory. The Church and a Church are two very distinct things. Constantine was the first who brought in the thought of the visible and the invisible Church. The Romish Church under the Pope, and the Greek Church under its patriarch, are each something standing in the world, and recognized as an instrument of government, an implement of political power. Napoleon felt he must have the patronage of religion of some kind, thus confessing that man could not be governed without religion, and therefore it was a thing to be supported. This brought in the thought of the visible and the invisible Church. The child of God has both now, though the candlesticks have failed. If a ray of light from God has shone down into my heart (an heavenly light shining from the face of Jesus Christ to a poor sinner gives him life for eternity), God says, "You are mine; mine in the place where you found this light; mine in the place where you are in the wilderness; mine in the counsels of eternity for glory and the Father's house."

      One of the fallacies of the human mind, observe, is to argue thus: "I am chosen in Christ from before the foundation of the world. I am born of God. I am washed, justified, and sanctified. I have everything; do not talk to me about testimony." But will that satisfy God? No. "From the day you are mine," God says, "you are associated with Me, and you cannot shake off association with Me. You are brought into company with. the living God." The object put before me by Him is to live Christ; and if there is not fruit-bearing, there is sure to be some uncertainty in the soul somewhere. I never met with one but what this was the case. You may hedge up the uncertainty; but it will break out somewhere else. The jealousy of Christ's love is ever watching for some expression of His love to me, to flow out from me. A person cannot walk with God, without feeling the need of giving -- rendering back to God; and therefore there must be uncertainty in a person's soul if there is not fruit-bearing. Whether there are candlesticks or not, it is quite plain you have to be a light-bearer. God holds you responsible for the light He has given you, though the candlestick is removed.

      With regard to God's dealings with man from the beginning, we find man has always lost what God has given. In the garden of Eden it was found there was nothing to hope for but the Seed of the woman. Afterwards the corruption of man was so great, that God must send the deluge, and only one family was saved. Then Abraham was called out; then a kingdom was set up, and that does not stand; then it is given to the Gentiles, they fail in their responsibility, and then Christ comes. When He comes again we find that all these things in which man failed will be taken up afresh. The paradise will be the paradise of God. The government of Israel and of the nations will be in the hands of the Lord Christ. God did put the testimony into the hands of churches -- the churches failed, but that does not destroy the responsibility of individual testimony. There is something beyond; viz., the hearing ear, and the victorious power, even faith in the Son; and just when the whole thing fails, these blessings, which have an eternal character in them, come out to light. When anything has failed, God has always showed His eternal purpose through it all. He had not done with man, and He always gathered up a remnant. There were the twelve apostles, and the one hundred and twenty witnesses for Christ. It will be for loss to a soul eternally before God if there is not faithfulness to Him.

      "Be watchful, and strengthen the things that remain." I may be wrong in making the application, but I believe this has a most emphatic bearing on what in the present day is called Protestantism. Works wanting according to the profession everywhere.

      Rev. 3: 3. The spring of their blessing was hearing from Himself, "Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard." What a contrast is here alluded to, as to Christ's coming, with the language of the bride. (Rev. 22) Instead of coming as the expected One, He comes and takes them by surprise. Everything we do may be tried by the power of its amalgamating with the hope of the Lord Jesus' return. If the saint is really occupied with the thought of the Lord Jesus rising up from the Father's throne, everything we are doing will be tested by it. I am one of the espoused virgins, and I have to live as one who will be with the heavenly Bridegroom. Whenever I can say, "I am doing this thing for the Lord," I shall not be ashamed of it. The expectation of the Lord has a certain moral character in it, because it is that which tells of my taste of His love. Christ's leaving the Father's throne to enter the Father's house is the great expression of His love to me; and if I really walk in the enjoyment of His love, I shall not like to be doing anything which does not tell of His love. Whatever I do will harmonize with His love. There is one difficulty people make about being ashamed. (1 John 2: 28.) They say, "How can we be ashamed when in the glory, and perfectly conformed to Him?" But how can I reconcile Christ's suffering in sympathy now with His people down here? for though we know He is past suffering, we cannot doubt the fact of His sympathy with His members in all their wilderness path.

      Rev. 3: 4. Promise of white robes. Every one else may be spotted around, but I have a clean one. I have one on -- having on Christ; but what is this distinctive mark? Will not all be white? Ah! but He says, "They shall walk with He in white." This is the expression of perfect approval of them in the glory; it recognizes them as keeping themselves unspotted now in the wilderness. . . .

      Think of the Lord Jesus pointing out to one of us, and saying, "You gave me a cup of cold water; you visited me in prison" etc. This shows the uncommon largeness of God's grace to us in not only recognizing the whole, but those special little acts of service done to Christ. In it all we trace marks of Christ's sympathy with God's divine glory and His people's blessing. "You thought that because I had given you a white robe you ought to walk clean; I will make it manifest before all." The question is not only about ourselves getting the blessing, but of Christ's love being shown out in the expectation of His coming.

      "He that overcometh." Does a person then say, "If I do not overcome, shall I not get the blessing?" I would only say to such an one, "If all you are doing is for yourself, take care." If a timid person says, "I shall never be able to get it; for I am always failing," I would ask, "Do you want to meet God's mind? or do you want to get it for yourself?" I do not get any mark as to one who is fainthearted, but only of one who has faith. I get wrong here, and fail there; but, after all, this faith in Christ will overcome; and it is not I who overcome either, but He who has sat down on the right hand of God; He has won the victory for me.

      "I will not blot out His name out of the book of life." Mark, there are two books of life -- the book of the living, and the book of the life of the Lamb slain, etc.; the book of the testimony,* and a book recording salvation. There are many at different times (at such a crisis, for example, as the Reformation) who have begun faithfully to witness for Christ, but who have gone away just at the end. There was Cranmer in England, and many in Germany and elsewhere; their names were blotted out as to the place of testimony. This applies not only in a great crisis, such as that spoken of, but at any time that testimony is going on. It does not signify how feeble the service is. That has nothing to do with testimony. Paul asked the weakest for their prayers. It is never a question of what the service is, but of faithfulness to Christ. (v. 5.)

      *Some would prefer to interpret this as a book of profession. -- ED.

      Many of the promises have a moral and spiritual application now as well as future. Christ gives tokens of His favour now as well as in the glory, and makes it manifest. Many persons, and godly persons too, are apt to bring down what is divine and heavenly to what is earthly. If I look to myself to, bear testimony I shall certainly fail, and not bear fruit; but if I look to God to bear testimony through me that is another thing. He says, "If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine," etc. When Christ came into the world, the effort to do God's will was the power to recognize God's ways and actings. So Luther was seeking with prayers and fastings to please God when he found in the Prayer Book the expression, "Communion of saints," which set his soul on fire, and he heard from a poor man the pardon of sins, which he could not forget. Into whose heart did these truths come? To the man who was ready to do God's will at whatever cost. Two things are needed -- readiness to do God's will, and intelligence about the way of doing it. If a person is not bearing fruit he has not these. Sometimes there is the will; but you have to wait God's time for the light to know what to do.

      Is your life formed on this: "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" It is a most solemn question, connected with fruit-bearing, whether you are living to God in the wilderness, a place which God uses for the showing forth of the grace of Christ.

Back to G.V. Wigram index.

See Also:
   Addresses on the Seven Churches: Introduction
   Addresses on the Seven Churches: 1: Ephesus
   Addresses on the Seven Churches: 2: Smyrna
   Addresses on the Seven Churches: 3: Pergamos
   Addresses on the Seven Churches: 4: Thyatira
   Addresses on the Seven Churches: 5: Sardis
   Addresses on the Seven Churches: 6: Philadelphia Lecture 1
   Addresses on the Seven Churches: 7: Philadelphia Lecture 2
   Addresses on the Seven Churches: 8: Philadelphia Lecture 3
   Addresses on the Seven Churches: 9: Laodicea

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