Through the New Testament in a Year

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Revelation 2:18-3:6 – Wake up!

What reputation does our fellowship have? What reputation does it have among Christians? What reputation does it have among the community where it is placed?

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Churches need more than a reputation for being lively, they need the living presence and power of the risen Saviour.

The church at Sardis had a reputation for being alive, but Jesus, the Lord of the church, declares that it is dead, or all but dead (Revelation 3:1). He issues them with a wakeup call to strengthen what remains before there is nothing left alive (3:2).

How was it that such a church had a reputation for life? It is difficult for us to offer any answer from the perspective of nearly two thousand years. But it does challenge us to consider the reputation of our own churches and whether that reputation is deserved. What reputation does our fellowship have? What reputation does it have among Christians? What reputation does it have among the community where it is placed? Is that reputation a reflection of what the church has been in the past, or of what it now is? Is its reputation deserved? How do we assess life?

There are many ways of assessing the quality of a church. Some would ask about the soundness of its doctrine – the church at Ephesus would have done well on such an assessment. Others may look at the liveliness of its worship. Others still might judge a church by the range of its activities, while others might look at the strength of its evangelistic programme and its impact upon the community. But how do you measure life?

The life of a church is the presence of the risen Saviour in the power of the Spirit. I'm not sure that this answers the question of how life may be measured, but it is certainly the only way that life may be genuine.

The church at Thyatira was marked by such life. The one whose eyes are like blazing fire commends the church saying, “I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first” (2:19). What a commendation to receive from the Lord! Nevertheless, they too are tolerating error amongst them. The presence of false teaching, idolatry and immorality will sap the life of the church as it draws people away from single-minded devotion to Christ. Like the church at Sardis, this church too needs to wake up to what needs to be put right.

Jesus promises that those who follow him faithfully – who hold on to what they have in him until the day of his appearing – will share in his reign; “To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations – that one ‘will rule them with an iron sceptre and will dash them to pieces like pottery’ – just as I have received authority from my Father” (2:26-27). What is prophesied of Jesus in Psalm 2 is promised also to those who follow him. We shall reign with him and judge the nations (see also 1 Corinthians 6:2).

What does this mean? It is difficult for us to understand now all that shall be ours at Christ’s coming, but we know that it will be unimaginable glory. Something of the glory of the coming kingdom is to be seen now in the fellowship of God’s people as the risen Saviour lives and walks amongst us.

Lord, give us more than a reputation; give us life. Help us to be a people marked by love, faith, service and perseverance. Help us to love those who are lost and to seek to bring them to you. But help us also to hate every teaching that draws people away from love and devotion to you, for you alone are the source of our life.


Peter Misselbrook