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Addresses on the Seven Churches: 7: Philadelphia Lecture 2

By G.V. Wigram


      REVELATION 3: 7-12.

      Rev. 3: 8: "I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut, it." There is often great enlargement gained in the sense, through the change of a word - none rather than "no man." In the conflict of things here, even supposing we had to lay down our lives, no one, not even Satan himself, can overcome, for it is against Him who is stronger than he. We have looked before at verse 7, where Christ in His character, and in His insignia connected with office, is put before us. He is the Possessor of the key of the beloved one (David), the Opener and the Shutter, against whom none can prevail. It is to be remarked in this address to Philadelphia, that their circumstances are mentioned before their character. The slightest change even of this kind has a meaning, though we do not always light upon it for want of being more spiritual. Verse 8 really tells of the Lord's love to the churches. Nothing marks the low state of things more than that people often attach the thought of legality with God's looking for works. It is not so at all. The poor sinner directly he has life, will surely say, "Now I must be doing." Men in their natural state will try works, anything to save themselves, rather than having to do with a living Christ; but after trying all for a foundation, and finding all fail, at last the poor sinner lights upon Christ, and then he is in danger, from the low state of things, of tossing works overboard altogether. Christ would have us rest on His finished work, but then He desires that the life He has given should appear. If you say to Christ, "I will give you no works;" He says, "You do not care for my love." If you really cared for His love you would wish to hear Him say, "I wish for this little thing and that." It is the jealousy of His love that He cannot bear that another should be in our hearts in His place.

      The first thing He takes notice of in verse 8, is peculiarly sweet in a day like this: "I have set before thee an open door: for little hast thou of strength." Israel was carried, as it were, out of Egypt and through the Red Sea, they hardly knew how. When they were out in the wilderness they had an open door before them, but they could not return to Egypt. There is the same contrast in the early and latter times with the Church. There was a time when they were seen to have the power of God with them, then they came into circumstances which try what the will is for God. In addressing this Church Christ makes them know that He keeps a little door open. He sees the use they had put the "little strength" to, they had "not denied His name." See the difference between walking with God, and walking religiously before men, and without God. Am I thinking whether the things I do will get praise from men? Paul's service was not more approved than Phoebe's might be. The question for each one is, "What has the Lord given me to do?" Faith does not set up a thing on an ordered plan, and faith will not sustain a thing so set up. In this country we see much set up, but faith has not to do with that. Remark, too, that the open door to me might be quite another thing to the open door for another. I must have a conscience towards God, and towards man, and walk with God in the path He has opened. We find constantly that God has opened one door, and we want to open another; but if God has opened one for you, and you are looking to open another, you will find Satan can shut the one you are opening for yourself. It is true for each one of us individually, in any little path of service we may have, and it is certainly true for missionaries. Christ takes notice of the "little strength." The force of the expression is, not you have a little strength (in the sense you may say to a sick person, "Now you have a little strength, only rise up and use it"), but it is, you have a little.

      Another thing comes in, too, which Christianity has set aside so much. Little is the strength thou hast, but thou "hast kept my word." If God sees that in a day when His word is thought very little of, it is very precious to me; and if when His person is little honoured, it is much set upon by me, I have His signal approval. The Word and Name are together. There is a connection between the Name and the preservation of the word in purity. If a soul is seeking honey out of the word, you always find that Christ grows before the soul as of paramount importance. "Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name." All the heresies that have come into the world have always had their root in the abuse of the name of Christ. That by which God does everything is in connection with the name of His Son. Heresies soon crept into the Church; and after the apostles left the scene, instead of the authority, "thus saith the Lord," the thoughts of men were quoted. The great assault of Satan is against the person of Christ, and your safeguard is in keeping fast that name. If you are faithful to Christ He will keep you from the error that is ready to touch your soul.

      Rev. 3: 9. He shows them about the trial of their faith -- "I will make them of the synagogue of Satan that say they are Jews, and are not," etc. There are often mistakes made on this subject; but, as Leighton said, "Gold must be tried;" and so, if God has given faith, it must be tried. If God has set this Church, there will sure to be something also set up with pretension only. God has set up something, and Satan imitates it. You say, "How am I to know which is of God? Ought it to trouble me, that I do not know?" If you do not know what you should follow, stand still and wait. God will put your heart to the test; it is not a question of intelligence, but dependence and subjection of will. Simple faith will sit down quietly and wait. If there is self-will and human energy, there will be nothing but restlessness. "If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine." You may have to come to your wits' end -- a very good place to come to -- but God will not leave you without light. Christ is not responsible for the building of the synagogue, but He is responsible for His people's overcoming it. All the evil sweeps around Christ as the centre, and catches the evil that is in the man, and pushes what is for Christ nearer. What is not for Christ will be humbled and broken down; but what is for Him will be strengthened. Christ says, "I will not leave you until it is manifest who is on My side, and who is not." You often find people adopting after a time the very thoughts and expressions used by those they oppose, which is just a recognition of them. "I will make them of the synagogue of Satan to come and worship before thee."

      Rev. 3: 10: "I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation," etc. In connection with the testimony of the churches, the Lord passes on to show what they on the earth would have to pass through on the earth. There is a time coming to try them that dwell on the earth, but they are promised to be kept from it. There is a time of trouble coming; if you are willing to suffer trouble, you shall not go into it. If you are willing to yield to Me in everything -- your heart above though your feet are on the earth, "I will keep you." There is a sweet word to those in trial, and who know there is nothing but trial before them, "Behold, I come quickly." It is very precious to see the connection between His people's delight in Him, and the promise of what joy they shall have in glory. What will be so sweet to you as to see Him? Well, He desires for you to see Him, and it will be an expression of His reward for your faithful service. "Behold, I come quickly." He will (live you a chaplet of victory such as He Himself has to bestow. There are different crowns spoken of -- the royal crown, which all will have, and the chaplet of victory are distinct; and there are chaplets of victory in different things -- running, wrestling, fighting. A man may have a dozen crowns. That in which we have been victors will stand forth to His joy and His people's in that day. Do you think of the joy it will be to Christ to see you stand forth then? You ought to think of it. He will have perfect delight in seeing His whole Church, and in seeing each believer perfect. When a painter has put the last touch upon his picture, he sees it complete, and he dare not add to it; another touch would spoil it. Not only is the joy reciprocal of the Church meeting Christ, and Christ the Church, but His joy will be the greater. The one is finite, the other infinite.

      Rev. 3: 12. The thought conveyed in "the pillar" is stability, in "the temple" worship. There will be no more going out; but that is not enough for Christ. He says, "I will write upon him the name of my God," etc. "I will write upon him my new name"Christ's new name! What is in the Lord's mind here, I believe, is to contrast the thought of their little strength and the little door (instead of running here and there, and doing a great deal, passive suffering, and holding fast, and not letting go) with the large sphere He would set before them." You see the evidences of what I have; now I give it you." There is one thought which in our selfishness we forget -- the largeness of the expression of Christ's love in giving to us what God has given to Him. We think of the suitability of the glory to meet all our felt wants now; but as we get on as Christians we ought to be learning more of His love in desiring us to share His glory. It will be seen how in Christ was the establishment of everything connected with God's counsels in glory. It is a blessed thing to be pushed by the armies of Pharaoh out of Egypt, but it is more to have the heart opened to admire what is Christ's. Not my getting a place in glory should occupy me, not something good for me (it is that), but the largeness of the expression of God's love for Christ, and His love in not being there without giving me to share it. This is connected with the gospel of peace to my soul. Christ is on the throne at God's right hand; but He is only satisfied with that until He comes to usher His people into the Father's house. There are two points to the blessing -- the end that touches God, and the end that touches me. It is a blessed thing for me to have pardon, but it is a more blessed thing that God has joy in me.

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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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