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. Philadelphia - The church we need to be

PHILADELPHIA - A GLORIOUS CHURCH

THE CHURCH WE NEED TO BE

 

Revelation 3:7-13 (ESV) 7 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. 8 “ ‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet and they will learn that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. 11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. 12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’


Introduction.


There was once a man who was looking for the perfect church, with the most perfect pastor. His friend aptly reminded him that if he were to find such a church that he should not join it as it will then no longer be perfect. There is no perfect church as there is no perfect Christian. And guess what? There is no perfect pastor – thought I will burst my own bubble on this one.

At Logos, we always say that we desire to be the church that Jesus intends us to be. However, we realise we will always fall short of the absolute standard of holiness that God has set, and none of us can be everything that the Lord desires, but it is still possible to be faithful, to be obedient, to be diligent, and to please the Lord as a congregation.

There are those Christians who claim that they are not part of the local church because it is full of hypocrites. They better not join then, because there will be one more hypocrite. Calling yourself a Christian and not aligning with the church of Christ is hypocritical.

Philadelphia maybe was quite close to perfection, well actually so close that like Smyrna they received no condemnation, but only commendations.

Philadelphia was 48 km southeast of Sardis in Asia Minor. It was founded after Attalus, the king of Pergamum in 189, came to that area. He was nicknamed Philadelphia because he was known as having a special love for his brother, and that became the name of the city which he founded. It was rich in agriculture, which was assisted by volcanic ash. There were elements of volcanic ash deposited in that area, Asia Minor, and it helped grow things more rapidly. The city, like so many other ancient cities, stood on a hill above a long valley.

We are told that in A.D. 17, a powerful earthquake destroyed 12 cities in the area, including Sardis and Philadelphia. And, again, in 60 A.D., an earthquake destroyed Laodicea. All of them were in this area where there were active volcanos. The emperor, the Caesar Tiberius, helped rebuild Philadelphia; he helped rebuild Sardis. So, a monument was made to him and he was worshipped there.

But let’s look at the letter.

“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:” This is a representative from that church that will carry back the book of Revelation, and in particular, this letter for that church.

 

1. Introduction of author.

The author describes Himself in four distinct ways.

‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.

 

1.1 He is Holy.


“‘The words of the holy one,”


These words do not appear in chapter 1. But they are implied, as John falls before Him as though dead, which reminds us of Isaiah falling before God in Isaiah 6 when His holiness is declared. It is a clear indication that Jesus is God. In John 6:69 (ESV) Jesus is called that: 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” In the Old Testament there is a prophecy regarding Christ in Psalm 16:10 (ESV) 10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.”

In Revelation 4:8 (ESV) we see the same living creatures as in the time of Isaiah still crying out that God is Holy. They just do not tire, do they?  8 And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”

God is holy, and Christ is holy, and here Holy God is speaking to the church of Philadelphia, and He speaks well of His church.

 

1.2 He is true.


“‘The words of the holy one, the true one,”

In Revelation 6:10, He is called “holy and true.” Two magnificent attributes of His absolute character: holiness and truth. He is holy; He is true. Remember the Words of Christ in John 14:6 (ESV) 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Jesus is the true God, not the false one. He is perfect in His righteousness, and He is true in His character and all that He says and does, therefore He speaks with authority. His evaluation of His churches is true.  His truth is an absolute standard, and against that truth is measured every lie and it falls short. He is the Holy God who can’t tolerate sin. He is the true God who has no place for error or falsehood, and still He does not rebuke this church.

 

1.3 He has the keys of David.


“who has the key of David,”


Unlike Tele Prophet Shawn Boltz who claims that the angel who is the Minister of finances in Heaven has appeared to him and given him the keys to open and shut the riches of this world. He has even written a book on it now. He now has the power to unlock riches for anybody whether it is on the stock exchange or that business you want to own.

Bad News for him:  JESUS REALLY HAS THE KEYS, Shawn Boltz does not.

Jesus is identified in verse 7 as the one who has the key of David. He is called the root of David a couple of times in the book of Revelation. Here, He possesses the key of David. What does that mean? He has the Messianic authority. In the line of David, He is the Messiah. The key is the emblem of authority, ultimate control, sovereignty. This is a direct reference, by the way, back to Isaiah 22, where speaking of Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah, who had the key to all the treasures of the king, he has authority over the royal treasury. He can open its riches and disperse them and dispense them. The key of David then is the ultimate Messianic authority over all the royal riches of heaven on all levels.

Jesus Christ then is the Holy One, the True One, and the one who has access to all the treasures of heaven, and who pours them out by His own sovereign will on His people. He has sovereign authority to open the riches of heaven to anyone. This is not just about finances but all the heavenly blessings which we have been blessed with in Christ Jesus.

 

1.4 He controls the Kingdom.


who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.”


Ephesians says we are blessed in Christ with all spiritual blessings. He advances His Kingdom and has complete control of the kingdom and its resources. He controls who enters and who does not. He is the one who said that He is the way the truth and the life and that nobody comes to the Father but by Him. He is the one who said that He is the door of salvation. According to Matthew 24:18 all authority in heaven and on earth is given to Him. According to Revelation 1:18 He has the keys of death and Hades. He has the key to heaven and to hell. This is majesty at its highest possible point.

Paul reminds us on occasions that the Lord has given Him open doors. And so, for our lives, we need to realise that Christ has the final authority. No man, no prophet, no priest, no pastor can open and close doors for you, only Christ can.

 

2. Commendation.

8 “ ‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.”


The Lord Jesus Christ, who is God – holy, true, sovereign, powerful and who can open and close doors – looks at this church in Philadelphia and has nothing to rebuke, nothing to condemn, nothing to chasten them about, nothing to warn them about, nothing at all for which they should be threatened with judgement. That is encouraging, because they weren’t a perfect church. There can’t be a perfect church. But they were a true church and they were a faithful church.

So, let’s unpack what He says about them.

 

2.1 He knows their works.


8 “I know your works.”


Now, in verse 8, there is a divine commendation. The holy, true, sovereign, powerful Lord knows everything there is to know about them. He never says anything specific about the church in Philadelphia. He doesn’t discuss any specific issues or specific qualities. He just generally affirms that they are a church that He will bless.

As we study church after church after church, we see Him again and again saying that He knows their works. I think it is time to take note that He is watching us, that He knows what we are doing and how we are doing it. He knows whether we are serving Him for His glory, or whether we serve for our own glory. He knows!

 

2.2 He knows they have little power.


“I know that you have but little power,”


They had a little ‘dunamis’. And let’s not make the mistake that so many make to equate ‘dunamis’ with dynamite. Christian power is not like dynamite. The word ‘dynamite’ is derived from ‘dunamis’ and not the other way around. This letter is written in the first century, ‘dynamite’ only existed since it was invented by the Swedish chemist and engineer Alfred Nobel in Geesthacht, and patented in 1867. So, the power of Christians can never be equated with dynamite.

 

There is no way here that ‘strength’ in this context can mean, strong, gifted, able people. It is also not that they were some kind of feeble church. The emphasis most probably lies in the fact they were a small church or a small group of people, which eliminated them from doing much that they would have loved to do. Their power was small because they were few. It was not a sin issue that limited their power. It was not a Holy Spirit issue that limited their power.

Paul helps us a bit in this regard. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 (ESV)26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV) 9 Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

Spiritual power was flowing in that small church. That means that they were true worshippers, true lovers of Christ, that they were holding to the truth, and they were in obedience to it.

 

2.3 He knows they have kept His words.


8 “… and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.”


We can spend hours on this one.

This is the mark of a true church, we hear His word and we keep His word. We do this because we know that the Word of God is living and active and sharper than a two-edged sword. We do this because we know that it is the Sword of the Spirit and Spirit filled people love His word and obey His word. We do this because we know that the whole of Scripture is God breathed and useful for instruction, admonishing, correction and training the man of God, to bring him to maturity. This church was committed to that.

 

2.4 He knows they have not denied His name.


8 and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.”

 

God has always been very jealous of His name. This jealousy is not the kind of sinful human jealousy. Isaiah 48:9-11 (ESV) 9 “For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. 10 Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. 11 For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.” God should be jealous of His name as He cannot share His glory with any other.

 

And so, every church should protect the name of the Lord. We must not use it in vain, and we must never deny it, even to the extent to which Peter did it out of fear. Revelation 14:12 (ESV) 12 Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.” When persecution comes, it is so easy to deny His name.

This church obviously suffered persecution. They were given the opportunity to deny the name of the Lord, but they did not. They knew what Paul knew. They preached Christ and could not deny the Name of the one they preached.

 

2.5 He knows they endured patiently.


10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance,”


Another way to say that: “You have kept My command to endure patiently.”

All the churches are challenged to endure to the end, to conquer or to overcome. Philadelphia did just that. They might have tired in the battle, but they endured to the end.

 

Again, this indicates there was persecution – and we would expect that. The Lord told them they were going to be hated by the world. They were going to be persecuted, they were going to be mistreated by Jews, they were going to be mistreated by Gentiles. This is going to be life for a Christian. But they had kept the command of the Lord to endure patiently. He requires that of His own. John understood this by the way. We read in Revelation 1:9 (ESV) “9 I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.”


He knew all about patient endurance in tribulation. This is the true church, the faithful church, not perfect, but faithful. And there are churches like that today. I would love to believe that we are a church like that.

I would like to believe with all my heart that our church is a faithful church. All we are praying for now is that God will give us open doors for the gospel, that He will cause our light to shine, that His people will rise up and use their gifts for the sake of His glory and His Name.

Oh, that He will give us open doors that no man could shut.

Too many believers view open doors as purely personal and in particular physical blessings. The early church had a different view.

Paul reports it as a door of faith. Acts 14:27 (ESV) 27 And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.”

Paul sees an open door in spite of opposition. 1 Corinthians 16:9 (ESV) 9 for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.”

He asks the church to pray for open doors. Colossians 4:3 (ESV) 3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—"

I trust that we as a congregation are praying for open doors, and that we will endure patiently even if it includes persecution or facing adversaries.

 


Amen!

Soli Deo Gloria

Logos Community Church: 23 January 2022