Agonizomai: Rev 3:4-6 - Sardis the Counterfeit Church<br>God Saves for Himself a Remnant

Monday, June 08, 2009

Rev 3:4-6 - Sardis the Counterfeit Church
God Saves for Himself a Remnant

Play in your default mp3 player

Rev 3:4-6 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. 5 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.’

What view can one take of Christianity here, when it once more seems that a person must actually perform in order to be assured of salvation? In some ways, it is not surprising that the Roman church gravitated to including good works as not just an adjunct - not merely the fruit - but as an actual necessity for salvation. On the face of it this once again seems to be what is being stated here.

But once more we need to understand what it is that causes a person to walk unspotted from the world. If you believe, as many do, that it rests within a man of himself (that is, in his natural fallen state) to find love for God and to be obedient to the heavenly command then you will go down the wrong sort of Roman road. You will effectively be a cohort of that twice condemned heretic, Pelagius.

No! The gospel unequivocally states that a person must be born again of the Spirit of God, and supplements that requirement by the teaching that this birth is entirely due to the supernatural working of God Himself. We repent. We believe. But we do these things on account of God Himself and His elective grace at work in us. In this way, a man who does not repent cannot blame anyone but Himself for his damnation (he cannot blame God for not saving him because salvation is a matter of grace, not of justice) and a repentant sinner cannot take the credit for his repentance and faith.

Once a person is born again he does have a responsibility to grow in grace and to learn obedience - but he will soon enough discover that every step of the way he must rely upon His God to lead, direct, empower and guide him. His ears are opened by God to hear the heavenly directive and to receive it with understanding. His heart is inclined by the indwelling Spirit to seek and to follow his Saviour. He has both the right (exousia) and the power (dunamis) to be a child of the King though, like all children, he must learn how to walk in them.

Yet this walking is unlike anything he has become accustomed to through walking in the world. In the world every man is a law unto himself. He serves himself. By and large, he pleases himself. He knows nothing else. He makes a direct correlation between what he does by dint if his own effort and intelligence and what effect and/or reward he garners in the world. The kingdom of God is not like that. There are rewards - yes. There is the requirement to perform and to obey and to achieve - yes. But the way in which it all transpires is foreign to the nature we have inhabited since birth. This is why we are born again - so that we unlearn (die to) the old way and learn as little babes the heavenly way of living.

And the heavenly way of life is not in doing, but in being. It is not in first doing, but in first being. But this is not a self-existent "being." It is you being in God and He being in you. There is personality, but it is expressed in unity. We are reborn and remade in the image of God, living and being in the Spirit in the same way that God lives and is in the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity. We are not God. We shall never be God. But we share His life. Rather, He shares His life with us, through Jesus Christ. This necessarily involves submission, obedience, worship and love.

So, when we are found obedient it is the sign that we are one with God for it is only in His Son that true obedience was found amongst men. And we are one with God in His Son, Jesus Christ - who is both God and man, forever. Our obedience is in Christ. It is only as we abide in Him that we are found obedient. This is not simply in a judicial way, where Christ’s obedience is accounted to us as righteousness through faith - but in an experiential way wherein, on His account and by His grace and in His power, we learn righteous living. This is why Jesus asked the religious leaders, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone." {Mr 10:18} Irony, yes - but also a revelation of the Way. He also said, in answer to the question of what they should be doing to be doing the work of God, "This is the work of God - that you believe in Him Whom He has sent." {John 6:29}

So, the faithful at Sardis who have not spotted their garments are found that way only because they have all along been faithfully abiding in Christ, who is their righteousness. They are worthy, not in their own right, but on account of the One in Whom they abide. They obeyed. They watched. They abode in Christ. But they did so on account of the same grace by which they were first saved. Every instance of obedience to God, if it is not at once given back to He Who is its source anyway, becomes an unholy boast. God has designed our new lives in such a way that He must ever and always be both the source and the object of our righteousness, our love and our life.

So they presently walk in unsoiled garments (verse 4) and yet they will, in the future, be clothed in pure white. Presently they abide in Christ, their righteousness, in an incomplete way - for their spotlessness is not yet glorified holiness. But it will be. "...and those whom He justified He also glorified..."{Ro 8:30} They will be worthy - not because of their own worth (for apart from Him they never had any) but on account of the worth of Christ in Whom they have been abiding.

The steadfast who trust in Christ, their Salvation and their Power, to overcome, will indeed be conquerors - conquerors who cast all their wreaths at the feet of their Redeemer, their God and their friend. These are those given to Christ by the Father before the world began - those for whom He came to die - whose names cannot be blotted out from the book of life - not because they can prevent it by dint of their own efforts, but because God is in them to perform what He purposed to do from eternity.

If you, or anyone else (and there are many who may) come into the presence of Christ at the last holding forth your own performance, your own unspottedness, your own cooperation with the divine will as in any way contributing to your justification before the judgment seat of a thrice holy God then there is a big surprise awaiting you. It is God that justifies. {Ro 8:33} It is God that brings to completion in His elect that good work which He started at the Day of Jesus Christ. {Php 1:6} His sheep hear His voice and they know Him and follow Him. He knows them by name and they follow Him. {John 10:4,27-30} Woe betide you if you did not strive to enter in at the narrow gate. But your striving of itself carries no weight for your acceptance with God. Your striving is your duty as a creature. Your acceptance is only, and all, of grace.

The conquerors whose names are confessed by Christ will be shown to be the names of the very same people who were given to Christ before the world began. The lost ones whom He came to seek and to save, and for whom He died. No wonder they will therefore be confessed! It was the will of the Father from the beginning - a purpose fulfilled in the Son and applied by the Spirit - all of the One True God, the Three Persons in the perfect unity of the Godhead. It was impossible that He should fail and it will be seen that He accomplished all that He purposed to do - to the praise of His glorious grace for eternity.

The message is, therefore, "for he who has an ear". The true sheep still hear His voice and they still follow Him. Which are you?


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home