Today we completed reading the letters to the 7 ecclesias that are featured in chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation. Each letter begins with the declaration by Christ, “I know your works”
The ecclesias which received the greatest commendations for their works are the ones experiencing the greatest trials! This is ‘food’ for careful thought: let’s meditate on the processes of human nature, when life is without its’ challenges, are we still fully motivated to serve our Saviour? Challenges – either sweep us away – or make us stronger.
We should be careful about human assessments of the strength of our spiritual reputation: consider the letter addressed to the church at Sardis [3 v.1] starts, “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive …” But this is the human perception as to their reputation! The divine perception is “but you are dead.” That is, dead spiritually! But they were not entirely so, the next verses tell us, “Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy” Jesus says of these, “I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.”
The translators are in a dilemma whether to translate the Gk word onoma into English as ‘name’ or ‘reputation’ – the context shows which is best. Jesus – in ‘confessing’ (making known) the names of those seen to be worthy, is actually saying – what character they have developed – what reputation – as worthy (or not) brothers and sisters who have taken on his name – and therefore have shown – his reputation.
The letter to Philadelphia (v.7-13) praises the works of the members there, for although, Jesus says “I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.” [v.8] – their way of life has not tarnished the reputation of Christ!
Verse 10 has an application to some believers today, such as those in Iran for example. Jesus tells them, “Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world.” Jesus especially encourages them to “Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.” [v.11]
Can we each ‘hear’ Jesus telling us, “I know your works” ? We can – if God’s word comes alive in our minds as we read it – and read it every day! By this means we maintain – indeed, increase – our sense of commitment to live every day in ways that show we are spiritually alive – and truly bear the name of Christ in truth – and he will say on that day (and how soon is it now?) “I knew your works.”