The Church in Sardis made much about the name of Jesus, but it did little to live by it. Most of the members were religious, but in name only. They appeared being alive, when in reality, they were dead. They could fool the world, but not the Lord. Only a few souls were pleasing the Lord (Revelation 3:1-6). What was hindering these people from living up to the name of the Lord? It had much to do with Sardis itself.
The city was located in the prosperous Hermus Valley, which was protected by an impregnable mountain range. It was once the seat of the Lydian King Croesus (560 BC). Once the Persians and a second time the Syrians invaded Sardis when the secret passage down the mountains was disclosed by accident and by mistake. In AD 17, an earthquake demolished the city and Roman generosity rebuilt it. Otherwise, Sardis prospered economically, politically, and religiously. The river spat gold nuggets. Phrygian wool manufacturers attracted the dye and garment trade. One of their sages depicted the people as “tender-footed, notoriously easy life, decadent morals and waste of wealth.” The name “Sardis” was contempt and a byword in Asia.
None of the religions did survive in Sardis except Cybele worship. It was conducive to the easy and promiscuous life style of prosperity and religious indifference. One could believe in Cybele, make the prescribed contribution and then indulge. The Christians fell into a similar trap. As long as they believed in the name of Jesus, they felt safe and secure. Like the impregnable mountains, Jesus’ name had become their security of salvation. They were completely unaware that the enemy had already descended the secret passage and had disarmed them of the life-style that coincided with the name of their Lord. After the faithful went to be with the Lord, the Church in Sardis died. The echo of the ancient Church also rings in our ears, for we too have become Christians in name only (Romans 2:24). Fortunately, we still can repent.