The Little Church That Could
Revelation Chapter 3: Verses 7-13
There is no doubt that we are living in a day and age where it seems that churches all over more and more seem to be catering more to what people want and not to what they need. More and more we find churches and pastors that are changing because of the times for all of the new gimmicks and fads that are out there. We see them changing to become more user friendly and in the process turning their back on everything that God led them to be preferring to be “hip” over being obedient.
Churches and pastors that used to be solid that have now gone contemporary, relaxed their standards, and promotes false teachers and preachers that at one time they stood against all under the guise of getting along to get along so long as the Gospel is still being preached. I’m sorry folks, but that is wrong thinking. Methods and standards still matter despite what some would have you believe!
Churches such as these are nothing more than dead, carnal, worldly, and fleshly in nature. Yes, they may look alive, growing, and on fire for God but they are building the church in a way that is not taught in the Word of God and therefore will not be blessed by God! You either do things God’s way or no way at all! It’s that simple.
Churches that are preaching a social Gospel, churches that have become more of an entertainment center more than they are a church! Churches that are feeding the carnal, fleshly, and worldly nature of people rather than the spiritual nature. Salvation is rarely presented, sin is never preached against for fear of offending somebody. These types of churches, while mighty in the world’s eyes are not mighty in God’s eyes for they are not Bible based!
Here in our text tonight we find the fifth message in Revelation by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to the church at Philadelphia, sometimes referred to as the true church because of the fact that there was no apparent criticism found by our Lord of this church. Though this church did not have great strength, perhaps in numbers or influence; they nevertheless had kept (obeyed) Christ’s Word and had not denied His name, even in the face of persecution and opposition!
They were, in all senses of the term, the little church that could for they followed God’s Word as a church and was blessed as a result! The challenge and encouragement for us as a church ourselves is that we don’t have to be a mega church or fit this world’s view of what a church should be but rather follow God and His Word and if we do that we’ll be the type of church that God wants us to be! And for a few moments here tonight, that’s what I want us to see, the little church that could; how to be the church that God wants us to be!
1. Christ’s Character (Know Who Christ Is)
Revelation Chapter 3: Verse 7
In order for us to be the type of church that God wants us to be, we need to know who Christ is and here in verse 7 we get but a glimpse of Christ’s character. Here, Jesus described Himself as “he that is holy, he that is true.” Indeed our Lord is holy.
I Peter Chapter 1: Verses 15-16 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.
He further is the personification of truth for He called Himself ‘truth’ in John 14:6. He is thus genuine, sincere, and upright. All these ideas are conveyed in the word translated as true.
John Chapter 14: Verse 6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
Moreover, He has “the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth, and no man openeth.” The reference to the key of David, no doubt, is taken from Isaiah 22:22-23 which has Messianic overtones.
Isaiah Chapter 22: Verses 22-23 And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place; and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father’s house.
The greater thought likely in referring to the key of David is of Christ’s descent of David and thus His royal character. As King, He has the power to shut or close (doors) and no man can change that. It is a poetic and eloquent way referring to His absolute royal authority as Messiah and King. Thus, Jesus here describes Himself as (1) holy, (2) true, and (3) the Messiah King.
That folks is who Christ is; He is holy, true, the Messiah, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who one day every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess just who He is! And when you get a proper view of just who Christ is, you will be the type of Christian God wants you to be and if you’re the type of Christian God wants you to be, you’ll help fill His church and in turn help make the type of church that God wants and that is a church that is holy, true, and centered upon the King, the Lord Jesus Christ!
2. Christ’s Knowledge (Know That Christ Knows All)
Revelation Chapter 3: Verse 8a
Again here in this message to the Church at Philadelphia, emphasis is laid upon His knowledge of the works of God’s people. It is significant how in each case that He did not say, ‘I know thy intentions,’ or, ‘I know thy feelings.’ The focus is upon the work God’s people have actually accomplished, whether they be good or bad.
II Corinthians Chapter 5: Verse 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
Ephesians Chapter 2: Verse 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
Revelation 22:12 And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
One of the problems it seems that Christians have is they don’t seem to believe or care or whatever the reason is that Christ does not know what they’re doing or for some what they’re not doing! Well right here, we see that Christ knows all that we do. Whether our works are good or bad. He knows our sin whether it be open or hidden. He knows and when we get to the place that we know that Christ knows our works, knows what we do, we’ll get to being the type of Christian and church God wants us to be!
Listen, when you work, you work better and harder when you know that your boss is watching you! Likewise, you’ll do what you need to do and be what you need to be for God knowing He knows all there is to know about you but what will drive you even further is the knowledge you have of His love for you! And what a thought that is!
3. Christ’s Opportunities (Christ Provides Opportunities To Serve; We Must Take Them)
Revelation Chapter 3: Verse 8b
In the second part of verse 8, Jesus declares that he had set before them “an open door, and no man can shut it.” In keeping with His description of having the key of David with authority to keep doors open or shut, He here reminds the Philadelphian church of the open door He had provided for them. This may refer to a great and uncommon opportunity to preach the gospel. They may have had the prospect for a harvest of souls other churches were not accorded. Paul seems to refer to such a blessing in I Corinthians 16:9. He also asked the church at Colosse to pray that such a door of utterance would be opened for him at Rome in Colossians 4:3.
I Corinthians Chapter 16: Verse 9 For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.
Colossians Chapter 4: Verse 3 Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds:
One thing we must be careful of is that we say that we can’t be used of God. We see right here that Christ daily provides us with opportunities to serve Him! We must be willing to go through the open door Christ has provided! Sadly, many for many different reasons never go through the door! Folks, go through the door and serve Christ with all your being! When you serve, you become the type of Christian and church that God wants!
4. Christ’s Commendation (Seek Christ’s Approval Alone)
Revelation Chapter 3: Verses 8c-10
Again we see that there is no apparent criticism by our Lord of this church. Jesus commended them, “for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.”
Though this church did not have great strength, perhaps in numbers or influence; they kept and obeyed Christ’s Word and had not denied His name, even in the face of persecution and opposition.
Jesus goes further in verse 9 referring to what apparently is another “synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews and are not, but do lie” as seen in Revelation 2:9. Evidently, this church was facing fierce opposition from a local synagogue and Jesus likened it to Satan. Jesus promised that He would “make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.”
What may be in view is the conversion of these hostile Jews who would in due season worship before the church. The phrase translated as “before thy feet” can also be rendered ‘in the presence of thy feet.’ These who had so opposed God’s work in the church would in due season come to Christ and worship with them in their presence. They would come to know that God’s love was upon the church.
Jesus adds further commendation and promise to this church in verse 10. The church at Philadelphia had “kept the word of my patience.” Christ says. The thought is that they had endured and persevered as the word translated as patience implies.
Keeping the church “from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth” likely refers to the pre-Tribulation Rapture of the church when the church will no longer be here on this earth!
The clear message however from these three verses is simple. Seek Christ’s approval and Christ’s approval alone. Don’t worry about what this world thinks of you as a Christian so long as you’re seeking to live a life that is honoring and glorifying to God almighty Himself!
And you seek and gain that approval when you do as the Church at Philadelphia did and that was keep Christ’s Word, don’t deny Him, endure, and persevere for one day you will be kept from that hour of temptation, that sure to be horrible 7 year tribulation period!
When you do these things, seeking Christ’s approval by keeping Christ’s Word, not denying Him, enduring, and persevering you become the Christian and type of church that God wants you to be!
5. Christ’s Promise (Rest In Christ and His Promises)
Revelation Chapter 3: Verses 11-12
One of our greatest comforts as Christians is that fact that when it seems that all is going wrong and falling apart in this world, we can rely on, rest in, and trust in Christ and His promises for us!
In verse 11, we have the promise of His quick return when He says Behold I come quickly! That has no doubt about it folks, Christ is coming again and He is coming again soon! Therefore He He admonished the church there to hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.
This is undoubtedly referring to the rewards waiting in heaven, not the least of which are the various crowns noted in the New Testament. Implied is holding to the faithfulness, perseverance, and witnessing for which they were commended by Jesus in the previous verses! So not only do we have further challenge to keep on keeping on but we have the wonderful promise of His coming again!
In verse 12 we see Jesus promise Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out. Again, the word translated as overcometh has the sense of winning the victory and here refers to winning the victory in the Christian life. It is victory over unfaithfulness, sin, the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Such victory in the Christian life may be awarded by a special place of recognition in the Temple of God in heaven. Moreover, that blessing will be forever. The scene likely is in heaven and the awards given then for faithful service to Christ now. Some will have a special place of rank and service at the very Temple of God.
To such faithful servants, Jesus promised, And I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. For those who have faithfully served their Lord in this life, Jesus evidently promised further special recognition then.
For a select group of faithful servants of God now, they in that day will have the privilege of having three exclusive names written upon them. These will be (1) the name of God, (2) the name of the new Jerusalem, and (3) Jesus’ new name. What that latter name is, we do not know.
But it clearly will be a high reward to have these inscriptions in that day. The greater thought is, for those who have faithfully served Jesus Christ in this life, there will be special recognition and awards then.
What promises Christ has given us and how wonderful it is to know that we can rest in, trust in, and rely in Christ and those promises! You don’t have to worry about this old world because of what is promised us as God’s children and that is a glad day, some day!
Folks when you rest in Christ and His promises, you become the type of Christian and church that God wants you to be!
6. Christ’s Command (Heed What Has Been Taught)
Revelation Chapter 3: Verse 13
One of the things that we are constantly reminded of is to not only be hearers of the Word but doers as well! What you hear and what is taught and preached to you will have no effect for you or your life unless you heed what has been taught and preached!
You listen, you don’t blame God or the preacher or someone else for the results of a ruined wasted life if you don’t heed what is taught and preached from the Word of God! You must hear yet heed as well! It’s not enough to as you’re leaving the church to tell the preacher, “oh, great message preacher”. It’s only as great when you not only hear but heed! Put to use in your life the Biblical principles you’ve been taught! If you hear and heed, you become the type of Christian and church that God wants you to be!
In a day and age when more and more churches are seeking to be all things to all people, it is important to remember the Church at Philadelphia, the little church that could of Revelation 3 and be the type of church that God would have us to be. By knowing who He is; holy, true, the Messiah, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, knowing that He knows all things, taking the opportunities He gives to serve Him, seeking His approval and His alone, resting in Him and His promises, and heeding what we have been taught! The challenge to each one of us here tonight is to be the type of Christian and church that we ought to be for His honor, His glory, and to see the cause of Christ advanced! Simply put, let’s be the church that we ought to be!