The Letter to the Church at Philadelphia

March 23, 2022

Leadership Notes


Revelation 3:7-13


IMPERFECTLY PRAISEWORTHY


In verse ten, Jesus commends the church at Philadelphia for their "patient endurance." The word translated as “patient endurance” can also be rendered, we wait eagerly, or sustained perseverance. It communicates the characteristic of a person who is loyal in faith and devotion to Jesus even in the greatest trials and sufferings. What great things to say about a church.


A second word, found in verse seven, the true one, means the opposite of what is fictitious, counterfeit, imaginary, simulated, or pretended. This is Jesus referring to himself.


Finally, also in verse seven, Jesus describes himself as one who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. This relates to the role of Eliakim, mentioned in 2 Kings. He was finance minister for King Hezekiah. He was the gatekeeper to the king. He alone decided who could be admitted to the king's chamber and for whom the king's treasury was to be opened. This was a huge Biblical reference. Its symbolism is claimed by Jesus for the highest application imaginable. Jesus decides who gains entry into heaven.


In reference to verse nine, we understand that there are people in all religions who claim that religion but are merely using it to advance personal or financial or political or manipulative or selfish or authoritarian goals. You get the point. Verse nine is talking about people who were claiming to be Jews but they weren't. They were Jews in name only. Because truly religious Jews would have no part in persecution or harassment of followers of Jesus. There should be no hostility between the two groups. And as we've seen in later history, that shameful behavior cut the other way.


Revelation 3:10 points to future things:


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, to try those who

dwell on the earth.


As Robert H. Mounce, in his commentary, The Book of Revelation, writes, "The major question is whether Christ is promising deliverance from the period of trial or safekeeping through the trial." Clearly, their preservation in trial is the point. As they've been faithful to him, he will be faithful to them in their time of great trial. He will guard them against the forces of

evil as he guides them through their time of tribulation.


We're going to hear more later about tribulation. That will be addressed later in The Revelation to John.


The beauty of the letter to Philadelphia is the premium it places on faithfulness. Not perfection. But faithfulness to the truth of God's Word, who Jesus is, how we love each other, how we serve the needs of our neighbors, and the need for repentance when we fall short of any of these. Faithfulness. That's the key, and that's why they weren't chastised, corrected, or condemned.


One of the things I love so much about Covenant Church is our intentionality in being a Galatians 5:22-23 community of faith:


But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,

faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.


When the Fruit of the Spirit is predominate in our lives, we are the kinds of people and church God has called us to be. It must be our daily commitment to have these lovely attitudes expressed in and through our lives. Most of us here at CC, most of the time, are doing our humanly best to fulfill the Galatians 5:22-23 calling. That makes for a beautiful church.


Last week, Ben and I received a letter from a Covenant Church member. I'm keeping it anonymous because I know the humility of the writer and the most important things are the sentiments shared.


Here are a few excerpts:


This past Christmas Eve I spent a few moments chatting with the young

cello player. She told me that her family didn't do church, and that she had

been nervous because she had expected a group of strict, serious, &

uptight people. She said that she was surprised to find the people of

Covenant to be so kind…she is absolutely correct about the kindness of this

church.


The letter goes on:


This entire church - from the leadership…to the congregation - welcomed

me & treated me with such remarkable kindness & patience & love &

encouragement…The way {we} have been welcomed into Covenant has

been such a tremendous blessing. To have the opportunity to be in the

midst of such kindness…is nothing short of a joy-filled privilege.


As Psalm 133:1 says, "Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters dwell in unity." And why do you think the letter writer wrote such a letter? It is because of the person the letter writer is. People generally see things through their God-forged temperament. Praise God that He is building something wonderful here at Covenant Church!


Finally, a point-to-ponder - "Voyager 1 has been traveling faster than 30,000 mph for 43 years and it's only 20 light-hours away." Even still, we proclaim with Psalm 8, that in the expanse of this amazing universe, God deigned to create us and give us this planet to care for and enjoy. With the angels of heaven, we say, "Hallelujah and Amen!"


And now, your Moment of Spurgeon:


"BELOVED, IF WE GET NO OUTWARD PROSPERITY HERE, I TRUST

YOU AND I, IF WE LOVE CHRIST, AND ARE FILLED WITH HIS

SPIRIT, CAN DO WITHOUT IT."


TTFN,


Richard

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