Jesus who sent this letter to the church, describes Himself in the first part of verse 1.
“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.”
He is the one who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. What are the seven spirits of God? In Isaiah 11:1-5 the prophet describes Jesus.
“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
2 And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
5 Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,
and faithfulness the belt of his loins.”
Look at verse 2 as Isaiah describes the Holy Spirit on Jesus. The Holy Spirit when completely and perfectly manifested as He was in Jesus because He is one God, not three is revealed in seven ways. He is displayed in wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge and fear of the Lord. The Holy Spirit and Jesus are the same God and so Jesus perfectly demonstrated and expressed the Holy Spirit. As we mature and are transformed into the image of Christ, who is the perfect image of God, (Colossians 1:15) we too will more completely manifest the Holy Spirit. Throughout the Bible He is referred to with as His various attributes, Spirit of Wisdom, (Acts 6:3) Spirit of Truth, (John 14:17) Comforter or Counselor, (John 14:26) Spirit of Power, (1 Corinthians 2:4) Spirit of Knowledge (Exodus 35:31, 1 Corinthians 12:8) and Fear of the Lord. (Proverbs 16:6).
The seven stars as you may recall are the seven angels of the churches. (Revelation 1:20). Those fierce ministering messenger beings belong to Jesus. What they do and the messages they give are from Him. The number seven has great significance in the Bible, it represents completion and perfection, it is always associated with completion such as resting on the seventh day, perfect forgiveness (seven x seventy) or completion of the plan in Revelation (seven trumpets, seals, thunders, angels, churches…). And Jesus problem with the church at Sardis is about their incompletion. The second part of verse 1-2 reads,
“‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.”
It was as if they had begun to walk with Jesus, but never bothered to be filled with the Spirit. They looked good to the world. They had a church, they read the scriptures like this one sent to them by John, but they were not filled with the Spirit. Everything they did was by their own flesh and not by the Spirit. They looked alive but they were spiritually dead or asleep. They were in a deep coma. Paul warned the church in Ephesus about the same thing in Ephesians 5:13-21.
“But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
Notice that waking up involves being filled with the Spirit and manifesting Him through wisdom, understanding, goodness, self-control, fear of the Lord, and love. Jesus told the Sardians their works were not complete. Their testimony was only partial. They had accepted Jesus Christ, otherwise they would not be the church, but they had not been filled with or sealed by the Spirit. He was not in most of them. The few people who had been filled with the Spirit were not getting enough fellowship for iron to sharpen iron. The Spirit-filled condition not only manifests through fellowship of speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with our hearts, it helps us remain filled. The few that remained were about to die. In verses 3-5 Jesus tells the church to repent.
“Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. 4 Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy.”
They received and heard the Gospel, they just didn’t take it any further than that. Jesus said, remember it, keep it, and repent. He warned them that if they didn’t wake up, that they like the world would miss His coming and when He came it would be against them, not to take them home. The faithful Spirit-filled servant will be serving, will be manifesting the fruit of the Spirit by actively loving, doing good works, and otherwise serving the Lord. In Matthew 24:42-51 Jesus said,
“Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 47 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know 51 and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Being ready requires we are appropriately dressed. In the parable of the wedding feast in Matthew 22:1-14 Jesus told us that we would all be invited, but we had to put on the wedding clothes in order to go with Him. Zechariah 3:3-5 clarifies the garments Jesus gives us,
“Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. 4 And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” 5 And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord was standing by.”
Our new clean and white robes are the forgiveness of our sins washed in the blood of the lamb. We are to put on of the grace of Jesus Christ, we are to display His grace by overflowing the Spirit to all those around us. Ephesian 2:4-10 says it this way,
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Ask yourself how you do those good works? What are those good works we were created for? We do them with the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. We do them by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23). We do them by exercising our gifts such as prophecy, teaching, pastoring, knowledge, serving, healing, and prayer. In other words we show the grace of Jesus Christ through the overflowing of the Holy Spirit. Verses 5-6 read,
“The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. 6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Praise the Lord. Is your testimony whole? Are you walking dead, looking alive, but not indwelled with the Breath and Life of God, The Holy Spirit?