“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Sardis. This is the message from the one who has the sevenfold Spirit of God and the seven stars: “I know all the things you do, and that you have a reputation for being alive—but you are dead.” Revelation 3:1
The church at Sardis evidently had a reputation among the churches in the area and was considered a spiritual church and one that had an effective ministry and testimony for God. From the divine standpoint, however, it is considered as a church that had only a name of being alive and actually was dead as far as spiritual life and power were concerned. This searching judgment of Christ as it relates to the church of Sardis is one to be pondered by the modern church, which often is full of activity even though there is little that speaks of Christ and spiritual life and power. A church is in danger of death when it begins to worship its own past…when it is more concerned with forms than with life…when it loves systems more than it loves Jesus Christ…when it is more concerned with material than spiritual things. The church is dead when it is more concerned with numbers and money.
The reputation of Sardis was that of being an alive city. Considering their position of commerce on a major trade route, one would see them as being very much alive. Yet, they were dead in their faith. In Sardis there was a temple to the pagan goddess Artemis. It was so beautiful and grand that it became known as one of the most beautiful in the Ancient World. To a non-believer in Jesus, the question would be simply put: Why would a person choose to worship a God they could not see when they could be a follower of a goddess with such a grand temple? The people of Sardis were idolaters—they also worshipped the mother goddess, Cybele. The fragments of the temple that was erected to her honor still remain, and there are two stately columns, with Ionic capitals, which are fully 60 feet high and about 6 1/3 feet in diameter, whose bases are deeply imbedded in the rubbish that has fallen down from the citadel. Her worship was of the most debasing character, and orgies like those of Dionysos were practiced at the festivals held in her honor. Sins of the foulest and darkest impurity were committed on those occasions; and when we think of a small community of Christians rescued from such abominable idolatry, living in the midst of scenes of the grossest depravity, with early associations, and companionships, and connections, all exerting a force in the direction of heathenism, it may be wondered that the few members of the church in Sardis were not drawn away altogether, and swallowed up in the great vortex