This message is a call to the congregation in the “spiritually dead” church at Sardis to wake up to the person of the Holy Spirit and thereby be made alive to the things of God. It’s the first church to which Jesus has nothing good to say.
v.1 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.”
The great but tragic problem with Sardis lay in the fact that they had the name of Christ without the quickening influence of His divine Spirit. “A name in contrast with reality”, as one commentator puts it. So let’s look at the title of Jesus and see how it applies, and keep in mind that the “seven spirits” are interpreted to mean the fullness of the Holy Spirit and the “seven stars” are the pastors (see notes Rev.1:4-6,20).
“These things says He who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars”.
The idea here is that Christ Jesus holds as His possession both the Holy Spirit (without measure and in perfection) and the church leadership (as the Authority over the church). Therefore, by Him and through Him both are indelibly joined. Whereas He has sent forth the Holy Spirit to influence and empower the church (Jo.16:13-15), He has also commanded the church to walk and live in the Spirit (Rom.8:14).
What Sardis had done, was fraudulent. They were calling themselves a church, yet denying the Person of the Holy Spirit by not teaching soundly that He is the appointed power by which Christians are brought to faith and helped in their walk with God. In other words, they were not teaching that one must be “born again”. So they had a form of godliness in that they looked like a church, but because they were denying the power of the Spirit, they had no manifestation of life by the Spirit.
By all accounts, Sardis was little more than a corpse with a name tag or as Jesus tells them “…you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.”