Sunday, December 9th, 2018
Sunday Morning Worship (9:30 AM)
Sermon Text (Revelation 3:7-13)
 “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.
 “‘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.  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.  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.  I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.  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.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ (ESV)
Our text this Lord’s day is the sixth of Christ’s seven letters to the seven churches (found in chapters 2-3). Of these seven churches, this one (Philadelphia) and the church in Smyrna (Rev. 2:8-11) are the only ones who receive no word of rebuke from the Lord, but only words of commendation and exhortation.
That alone should get our attention, shouldn’t it? That should cause us to want to know the secret of their success! What was it about the church in Philadelphia that the Lord Jesus found so commendable and pleasing in His sight? What would we need to do as a church to emulate them? And this church is one that we are to see as worthy of emulation!
What was the secret of their success? First, the church in Philadelphia was a weak church.
Yes, you got that right – they were a weak church. The Lord Jesus tells them that He knows their works (v.8), and that they had “but little power” (or “a little strength” – KJV).
The secret of their success is that the true measure of success was not to be found in the things that we might normally associate with success, even in church or ministry circles.
In fact, if you want to look at those things, you need look no further than the church in Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22), who thought they were “rich” (v.17), prosperous, and in need of nothing! And yet what does our Lord say to that “successful” church? He tells them that they were “lukewarm” (v.16), and because of that He would spew them out of His mouth if they did not repent!
Laodicea, for all of their outward success, is not a church that we should emulate. And yet how many in the church today would see them (rather than the church in Philadelphia) as the model church?
What else does the Lord Jesus say about the church in Philadelphia? Not just that they were weak (or had little strength), but also that they had kept His Word and had not denied His name (v.8). In other words, they were weak, but they were faithful to the Lord!
And isn’t that the proper definition and criteria of true “success” in ministry for any Christian church?
They were faithful to Jesus in keeping His Word – they held fast to the Word of God. They believed the Scriptures. They proclaimed the Word of God. They sincerely sought to follow the Lord’s will in all things, however imperfectly.
And they did not deny Christ’s name. To borrow a phrase from a great old hymn, they were not ashamed to own their Lord! They were a faithful witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ, even in the face of opposition and persecution.
And so what does the risen & glorified Lord Jesus Christ tell them? He tells this little, weak, struggling church (sound like any church you know?) that He had set before them “an open door” (v.8).
Why did He do that? This isn’t quite as clear in the ESV translation as it is in the New American Standard, which renders v.8 this way:
“I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name.”
Because they were faithful to Christ even though they were weak, He put before them an “open door.” In other words, the Lord Jesus was going to use them for His glory in making disciples! And the open door of gospel opportunity that He had opened for them was one that no one could shut!
Do you want to know the joy of being used by the Lord Jesus Christ in evangelism? Do you want to know that your life is making a real difference? The same thing applies to individual believers in the church as it does to individual local churches as a whole. Do not be discouraged or dissuaded by your weakness. Just be faithful to the Lord in keeping His Word and bearing witness for His name, and you can be sure that He will set before you an open door as well!
What a wonderful message for any church to hear from our Savior! May the Lord Jesus grant that many a church (including ours!) might be more like this church in Philadelphia! And may Christ be magnified and glorified in using the weak ones of this world to do great things in His strength!
We hope that you will join us for worship this Sunday, as we hear the Word of Christ preached to us from this great passage of Scripture!
***No Sunday Night Bible Study this Week***