The Revelation to John 3: 7-13 (NIV)
To the Church in Philadelphia
7 “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:
These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no-one can shut, and what he shuts no-one can open. 8 I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no-one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars – I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. 10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.
11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no-one will take your crown. 12 Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
In this note and the note which will follow it, we consider two of the churches addressed by the Lord through John. The church in Philadelphia was commended. In contrast, the church in Laodicea (see 18 November’s notes) received condemnation.
The letters to the seven churches share a common structure. Each address begins, “To the angel of the church in …” and is followed by, “These are the words of …”. In each the Lord has said, “I know your deeds,” or has informed them that he knew of their circumstances. In each the Lord delivered a promise to “him who overcomes” and then counselled, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Five of the seven churches were rebuked. The churches in Smyrna and Philadelphia were the exceptions, receiving instead praise and encouragement.
We may use these letters as warnings. We may also use them to guide us along paths that we know are pleasing to our Lord. For example, we consider his words: “I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.”
Who at times does not feel weak, vulnerable, isolated and even powerless? Yet these feelings, our realising that we “have little strength”, should not render us impotent as people of God. Even during imprisonment, the Apostle Paul claimed, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4: 13). The Lord, aware of their human weaknesses, nevertheless commended the church of Philadelphia because they, “kept my word and have not denied my name”.
Despite criticism and persecution, the church in Philadelphia, “kept my command to endure patiently”. We are to do likewise. “Hold on to what you have,” the Lord instructed them, “so that no-one will take your crown.” We too, regardless of circumstances, must hold on to our faith in him.
O Lord, help us to overcome all that is not of you.