(3.3)    Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.


1.   “Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent.


a.   There are three commands given to this pastor in the first sentence of verse 3.


i)    First, there is the command to “remember.” He was directed to remember how he had “received and heard,” how he had received because of hearing. There is oftentimes a difference between those genuinely converted and those not genuinely converted, the one remembering how he had come to faith in Christ and another seeming only to remember what he had supposedly done. The Lord Jesus thinks it important enough to “remember” how one has “received and heard” to command it.


ii)   Next, once this believer has remembered “how,” he is commanded to “hold fast, and repent.” “Hold fast” translates the second person imperative singular of threw, meaning he was to keep, he was to watch, he was to guard. Being the present tense, as we find here, calls for a continual, watchful attitude by this pastor.[1] As well, the word “repent” is the very common, but extremely important verb for repent, metanoew, and means that a change in his thinking is demanded.[2] It would be wise to keep in mind that a real key to this pastor holding fast and repenting, or anyone holding fast and repenting, as Jesus has commanded, is remembering how you received and heard the Gospel.


b.   To appreciate better the pastor’s, and by extension the Christian’s, responsibility, we need to examine these two words, “received” and “heard.”


i)    “Received” is a verb that is in what is called the perfect tense in Greek. “English has no corresponding tense adequate for expressing the significance involved.”[3] Let me just say that the perfect tense of this word “received” “represents the faith as a trust and the perfect tense calls attention to the abiding responsibility of the trust then received.”[4] To give you a better idea of what I think is conveyed, the apostle Paul wrote in this same vein, “. . . we have this treasure in earthen vessels,” Second Corinthians 4.7. God has given you a treasure if you are Christian; you have a lifelong responsibility for being a custodian of that treasure when you are a Christian.


ii)   “Heard” refers to that time when faith came by hearing. Romans 10.17 reads, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Rather than thinking of this as receiving and then hearing, which does not sound chronologically correct, think of the wording here as meaning that a person’s hearing is based upon him having heard the gospel.


iii)   The Lord Jesus Christ is challenging the pastor of this church. He directs him to remember his conversion experience, how he heard God’s Word delivered to him, how he received the Gospel, thereby receiving Christ, and to remain, from that day to this, forever changed by that experience. Based upon that life-changing experience, that eternal destiny changing experience, he was directed to stand guard and repent, to be a watchman, and to change his thinking from what it had most recently been.


2.   “If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.”


a.   When the Lord moves in judgment, He is often swift. This warning has special significance for this man in that city, if you recall the city’s history. Being an impregnable fortress city with cliffs on three sides, Sardis thought itself unconquerable. Nevertheless, twice in their history the city was taken by small forces when, being overconfident and cocky, they failed to post guards.[5]


b.   So, the Savior is reminding this pastor, and by extension this church, using a history lesson from the city’s past. The effect the Savior desires to produce? Fear that will lead to action. No one wants judgment or chastisement. Yet, one of the most powerful motivations for doing right is very properly the fear of what consequences may befall you if you do wrong. That motivation is being used in this verse.


c.   “If therefore thou shalt not watch


The Lord Jesus Christ uses a conditional clause of the third class, meaning it is entirely possible that this pastor will not watch, will not be vigilant. This man is, yet, undecided about whether or not he will serve God in proper fashion. Key, in my mind, about whether or not he will snap into shape and fly right is whether he will remember how he “received” and “heard.”


d.   “I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.”


The Lord Jesus Christ indicates that He will come in judgment suddenly and without advance warning. My friend, judgment always comes suddenly and without advance warning.


4.   Let us learn from this. Let us never become so confident that we can stand without the Lord that we fail to be on guard for our spiritual welfare.  I am not an impregnable fortress, guaranteed to withstand all the assaults that Satan throws my way. Neither are you. Neither is this church. For those reasons, our faith must be anchored in the Savior, not in mere men. As well, we must constantly be on guard. Remember, it is only when you do not post guards that you will be taken, and you will fall.


(3.4)    Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.


1.   Now, the Lord Jesus speaks to the pastor of the church in Sardis about some of those he ministers to. “Thou hast a few names even in Sardis.” “. . . even in Sardis”? The Master’s evaluation of the church in Sardis must be very low for Him to make a comment like that. “. . . even in Sardis.


2.   “Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments.”


a.   Here we see the faithful remnant, the Master’s minority. This pastor is messing things all up, but there are a few Christians in that congregation who are serving the Lord and preserving their testimonies.


b.   Notice, again, how the Lord phrases His statement: “Thou hast a few names in Sardis which have not defiled their garments.” To the pastor He is saying, you have a few people who are living clean lives.


c.   This word “defiled” “recalls the inscription found in Asia Minor which announced that soiled garments disqualified the worshiper and dishonored the god. It is also often noted that since the manufacture and dying of woolen goods was a principle trade in Sardis, an allusion to defiled garments would be immediately recognized.”[6]


d.   Did the pastor not know? Was he ungrateful for these few faithful saints? Folks, I hope I am not ungrateful to God for you.


e.   The reference to undefiled garments speaks of living for Christ in the midst of idolatry and generally poor Christianity. Sometimes reference to white garments in the Revelation refers to the righteousness of Christ which is imputed to those who have trusted Him. Other times white garments refer to the righteous deeds that believers have done since they got saved. You have to pay close attention to the context in order to tell which kind of reference is being made.


3.   “and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.


a.   This seems to be another verse in the Bible that indicates that, no matter what the circumstances or the excuses, Christians can live like and are expected to live like Christians, and will walk with the Lord in heaven.


b.   Many, however, who say they are Christians, do not live as if they are, because they are not real Christians, and will not be in heaven.


c.   John Gill comments on this final portion of verse 4: “. . . not of themselves, or through any works of righteousness done by them, which are neither meritorious of grace here, nor of glory hereafter; but through the grace of God, and worthiness of Christ.”[7]


(3.5)    He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.


1.   Again, the overcomer is the true and genuine child of God. God has ordained that His children be overcomers.


2.   Let us address the white raiment in heaven. In heaven the saint, or the believer, will be given a white robe. The white robe is symbolic of the pure righteousness of Jesus Christ being imputed to us, or given to us as a gift. Spurgeon writes on this verse: “This is a choice reward.  We are to be clothed like our Lord and to be owned by him.  Who will not fight on till he conquers when such a prize is set before him?”[8]


3.   As for “the book of life,” I will read from the Mac Arthur Study Bible and from the Tim LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible:


a.   “Book of life. A divine journal records the names of all those whom God has chosen to save and who, therefore, are to possess eternal life (13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27; 22:19; cf. Dan. 12:1; Luke 10:20). Under no circumstances will He erase those names (see notes on Ex.32:33; Pss. 69:28; 139:16; Heb. 12:23; Phil 4:3), as city officials often did of undesirable people on their roles.”[9]


b.   “This promise is very significant! At the Great White Throne Judgment, this “book of life” will be used as a final check to see if a sinner should be cast into the lake of fire (20:15). All true believes will be raptured, and their names will remain in the book of life forever! These names will be confessed by Jesus before the Father, which is the ultimate guarantee of salvation for ALL who call on the name of Christ.”[10]


4.   Look at the last portion of the verse: “but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.” It is amazing to me that the Lord Jesus Christ will someday confess my name before the Father in heaven, and before all His holy angels. Is that not amazing? Brother, that’s grace.


(3.6)    He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.


1.   What must we learn as a church? What must I learn as a Christian man in a leadership position? Several things:


#1  It is possible for me, you, and us, to be so gloriously used of God that we might think about resting on our laurels and living in the blessings of our past. Let us make sure we do not do that at Calvary Road Baptist Church. Amen? And to ensure that we do not do that, we need to be open enough with each other that someone can be confident that if he deals with you about something, even if you disagree about whether or not you are in the wrong, you will humbly and meekly listen and consider what your brother has to say to you. That is partly what they are there for.


#2  It is possible to build up something great for God and live long enough to see it torn down before our very eyes, if we do not hold fast to the truth. All our efforts to do a work for God will end in rubble and our own personal testimonies will be soiled, unless we maintain our testimonies. Perhaps a ministry, perhaps a personal reputation, perhaps a church, or perhaps a family that gets trashed because you dropped the ball. “Pastor, when can I ease up about maintaining my testimony and reputation as a Christian?” When you die and go to heaven.


#3  The Savior’s chastisement can come suddenly into the life of a Christian who is not living right. Now, perhaps the chastisement will not fall immediately. Perhaps there will be some space of time. But in the case of a genuinely saved person, according to Hebrews 12.6-8, the chastisement will come. And the longer it takes for chastisement to fall the more reason the person has to be fearful that his conversion may not have been genuine.


2.   Folks, God is blessing us here at Calvary Road. But precisely because so many of you are being blessed you face spiritual danger. Why? Because sometimes Christians think that while they are active and serving God things cannot go wrong. “God won’t let anything happen to me,” you might mistakenly think. Be careful. Things can happen, and you can be vulnerable, even when you are actively serving God.


[1] Fritz Reinecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 819.

[2]  Ibid.

[3]  Ray Summers, Essentials of New Testament Greek, (Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press, 1950), page 103.

[4]  Quoted in Reinecker, page 819.

[5] John Walvoord, The Revelation Of Jesus Christ, (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1966), page 81.

[6]  Reinecker, page 819.

[7]  John Gill, The John Gill Library, (Paris, AK: The Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc., 2000)

[8]  Charles H. Spurgeon, Spurgeon Devotional Commentary, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), bible@mail.com

[9]  See footnote for Revelation 3.5 from John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 1996.

[10]  See footnote for Revelation 3.5 from Tim LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible, (AMG Publishers, 2000), page 1369.

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