“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. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead. I find that your actions do not meet the requirements of my God. 3 Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent and turn to me again. If you don’t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief. 4 “Yet there are some in the church in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes with evil. They will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. 5All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine. (Revelation 3:1-5)
Let's recap a little before we examine this portion of scripture from the Book of Revelation. 1) We have an accuser names Satan - he loves nothing more than to see us down ourselves because of our sin. He wants us to "feel" separation from God. By believing in his accusations that the action of sin separates us, he gets us to focus on more "works" to attempt to "be saved". Any time Satan can get us focusing on the fact that we still sin, he wins. He counts on us not being able to separate the action of sin from our sin nature. 2) The sin nature separates us from God, not the sin. The blood of Jesus was sufficient to provide an exchange of our nature.
Paul wrote to the Galation church because he was concerned about a group of individuals who were trying to add to the gospel message of grace. He called them Judaizer's - they focused on a system of works. To this group of individuals, grace was not enough, so they attempted to add to their salvation by doing works. Paul's main concern was that we cannot ADD TO grace. The question that is often raised in reading Paul's response that we cannot add to grace is to ask if it is possible to fall from grace. I think Paul was trying to show the church that if we fall into a system of works as our only hope of salvation, then that would be possible.
The natural question that follows is if we can be blotted out of the Book of Life. For that answer, we turn to the passage above. The Church of Sardis is the focus of this passage, but it can be applied across many generations, even into today's churches. They were guilty of being what we'd call "name droppers" in today's vernacular. They were accused of "having the name of Christ, but being quite dead". Today, we would think of this as the group of people that go to church week after week without really experiencing any life change. They never really have any change of heart.
Sardis was being asked to compromise - they had known an old form way of doing things - they were being called to stop compromising what they knew to be right in their lives. Their names were already written in the Book of Life - if they weren't, then why would there be a question of being blotted out of it? In order for us to understand this passage, we must understand the purpose of the Book of Life. There will be two books opened at the Great White Throne Judgment referred to in the Book of Revelation (chapter 20). The Book of Life is a record of the names of the redeemed (those who have experienced the exchange of nature in Christ). The Book of Deeds is a record of the deeds of a man's life.
The deeds of a man's life are blotted out by the blood of Jesus - all our "deeds" recorded after we are saved are those for which we will be rewarded, not condemned. For example, when we care for the poor, minister to the widows, and restore the downtrodden, we are involved in "actions" that God notices, records in the Book of Deeds, and will honor us with those words, "Well done!" when our name is reviewed. The Book of Life records our name - perhaps with a date and time when we welcomed the extended gift of grace provided to us in Christ. It is kind of like a "birth registry" - on this date, at this time, you received your new nature (you were born again).
The passage above really deals with the fact that we can drift into compromise in our life. Compromise gets us into areas where we are both actively engaging in what we know we shouldn't, and it is also can be thought of "drifting" into a place of apathy (things at a status quo). Both are dangerous places for us because they set us up to miss out on what God has designed for our lives. They both give us a reputation of "saying one thing, but doing another". God wants us to recognize that what he has declared "alive" should be truly pursuing life! Compromise is not the pursuit of the life we are afforded in Christ.
So, this passage is not really dealing with "losing our salvation" - it deals with us being more than Christians in word only - there must be evidence of our "life" in Christ. Why? Simply put, it is because our life points others to Christ. If there is reality, vitality, and morality in our lives - others are convicted and convinced of the life change and are often drawn to Christ as a result. In other words, any time we compromise, we damage our testimony! We are saying one thing, but doing another - presenting a false image of what a life in Christ should be like. For that reason, God deals with the church at Sardis - and that message applies to us today.