And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: This is what He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says:
‘I know your deeds. Behold, I have given before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name.’ (Revelation 3:7-8)
There is no such thing as a perfect church, for the obvious reason that there is no such thing as a perfect Christian. A church is a collection of imperfect Christians. We are all imperfect. We all fall short of the absolute standard of holiness that God has set.
But having said that, it is still possible for a church to be faithful, obedient, and diligent, and to please the Lord as a congregation. That is the case of the church at Philadelphia.
This church receives a letter from the Lord Jesus. In that letter there are no warnings, no condemnations, no threats, and no judgments. This letter is free from any criticism at all. So here in the sixth church that is given a letter in Asia Minor, we find a church that is pleasing and acceptable to the Lord.
Jesus looks at this church in Philadelphia and has nothing to rebuke, nothing to condemn, and nothing to warn them about.
That is encouraging, because they weren’t a perfect church. There can’t be a perfect church. But they were a true church and they were a faithful church. Consequently, the Lord opened the kingdom to them and all its blessings.
What characterized them? First of all, He says, “You have a little power.”
It’s best to understand this as saying that they were a small church. Their power was small because they were few. It was not a sin issue that limited their power. It was not a Holy Spirit issue that limited their power. They had spiritual power, but evidently they were not very large, and so their power was small. This would be consistent with what we know about the promise of God in the design of the church.
In Scripture, we learn that the Lord chooses a few, and the Lord chooses the poor, the lowly, and the undistinguished. Such is the stuff through which power flows. A little power, like a grain of mustard seed, can move mountains.
Spiritual power was flowing in that small church. They were true worshipers and true lovers of Christ. They were holding to the truth, and they were in obedience to it.
And that’s the second commendation: “You have a little power and have kept My word.”
They were bound to the Scripture. They did not deviate from a pattern of obedience to the Lord; they obeyed. This is a mark of a true believer. 1 John basically says, “This is the acid test of a true Christian: A true Christian obeys his Lord.”
So they were characterized by power and obedience. They were also characterized by loyalty: “And have not denied My name.”
This indicates there was persecution, and we would expect that. The Lord told them they were going to be hated by the world. This is going to be life for a Christian. But they had kept the command of the Lord to endure patiently, back in Matthew 10 and 24.
Through trials and persecution, these faithful Christians patiently took it all and never wavered in their commitment to Christ. This is the true church. Not perfect, but faithful. And there are churches like that today.
Philadelphia, because of its faithfulness, was given some amazing privileges: “Behold, I have given before you an open door which no one can shut.” In other words, “I’m giving you full access to the kingdom, and no one can alter that. I’m giving you an open door to the kingdom.”
This open door also has overtones of gospel opportunity and evangelistic outreach. An open door, by the way, is a Pauline image for freedom and proclamation of the gospel. Paul talks about it in 1 Corinthians 16, 2 Corinthians 2, and Colossians 4.
That little church had an open door that those who lived in that town were introduced to. And some of them were ushered through those doors, by the grace of God, into the kingdom.
This post is based on a sermon Dr. MacArthur preached in 2015, titled “The Lord’s Word to His Church: Philadelphia.” In addition to serving as the pastor of Grace Community Church and the voice of Grace to You, Dr. MacArthur is the chancellor of The Master’s University in Santa Clarita, Calif. You can learn more about TMU at masters.edu.
The Master’s University and Seminary admit students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin in the administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.
21726 Placerita Canyon Road
Santa Clarita, CA 91321
|cookielawinfo-checkbox-analytics||11 months||This cookie is set by GDPR Cookie Consent plugin. The cookie is used to store the user consent for the cookies in the category "Analytics".|
|cookielawinfo-checkbox-functional||11 months||The cookie is set by GDPR cookie consent to record the user consent for the cookies in the category "Functional".|
|cookielawinfo-checkbox-necessary||11 months||This cookie is set by GDPR Cookie Consent plugin. The cookies is used to store the user consent for the cookies in the category "Necessary".|
|cookielawinfo-checkbox-others||11 months||This cookie is set by GDPR Cookie Consent plugin. The cookie is used to store the user consent for the cookies in the category "Other.|
|cookielawinfo-checkbox-performance||11 months||This cookie is set by GDPR Cookie Consent plugin. The cookie is used to store the user consent for the cookies in the category "Performance".|