King's Business - 1949-09


Sixth in a Series of Messages on the Churches of Revelation

T HE letter to Sardis / Rev. 3:1-6) presents the sad fact that a church may be doctrinally sound but spiritually dead. However, as we turn to the letter to Philadelphia (Rev. 3:7-13) we find a much brighter picture. Christ says of this church: “ Behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it,” so we may well characterize Philadel­ phia as the church with an open door. 1. The Address. “ And to the angel of the church in Phila­ delphia write—” (verse 7a). Philadelphia was founded in 189 B.C. and was therefore not so ancient as the other cities of Asia Minor mentioned in these chapters. It was destroyed by Tamerlane in 1403, but was subsequently rebuilt. The town today bears a different name from that which it formerly had. The name Philadelphia means brotherly love. As in the case of the other churches, it seems that the name of the town has a typical meaning with reference to the character of the church established there. The attitude of this church was indeed one of brotherly love. God grant that this might like­ wise be the case with your church and my church. “ By this shall all men know that yë are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35). 2. Description of the Lord. “ These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth” (verse 7b). Here indeed is a beautiful description of our Lord, which is rich in spiritual application. First, He is spoken of as the One who is holy. An outstanding attribute of Deity is perfect holiness. “ Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isa. 6:3). “ Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity” (Hab. 1:13). If our God is then so holy, what is the message of His holiness for us who throügh faith are His children? Clear comes the answer: “ But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation ; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:15,16). Our Saviour is also called “He that is true.” He is ever faithful and true. We too should be true to Him, and always hold fast to His truth. The Lord Jesus further describes Himself as “He that hath the key of David.” The allusion here is to Isaiah 22. In that chapter we read of Shebna, an unfaithful treasurer of the house of David. A curse is pronounced upon this treacherous man. Then we read of quite a different type of man—Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah. Eliakim apparently took over the office of treasurer when Shebna proved false. Unlike Shebna, he was a true man of God, who proved to be absolutely faithful to his trust. So of this good man the Lord says : “ And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place; and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father’s house” (Isa. 22:22,23). The only key to the royal treasure house was in the possession of Eliakim, who thus had the sole authority to open and shut the door. What a beautiful type of our blessed Lord! He is the sole possessor of the key to the divine treasure house, and entrance to the marvelous blessings of God can be secured only through Him who said : “ I am the way, the truth, and the life : no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). We have no merit of our own by which we can claim even the least of God’s mercies, and yet every divine blessing is ours because “He hath made us accepted in the beloved” (Eph. 1:6). A slightly diffèrent application of this familiar text may also well be made. Our Lord Jesus likewise holds the key to the doors of service and opportunity. If we are yielded to His Page Six

will, He will surely guide us to the place where He would have us to serve Him, and the utmost efforts of human beings to keep us out of that place will be all of no avail. On the other hand, He can close the door before us even as He did with Paul (Acts 16:6,7) and if He does, it is useless to attempt to press forward though the prospect seem ever so inviting. 3. Commendation of Good Works (verse 8). There is a three-fold commendation of this church by our Lord. Leaving out for the moment the parenthetical portion of verse eight, this commendation reads as follows: “ I know thy works . . . for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.” “ Thou hast a little strength.” At first glance this may seem to be small praise, but the longer we consider it the more striking it seems. After all, of which of ns could the Lord say: “ Thou hast great strength” ? So it is indeed a magnificent commendation when Christ can say of frail, weak human beings: “ Thou hast a little strength.” There was nothing about Philadelphia to attract great attention, nothing sensa­ tional to capture the newspaper headlines, but there was a quiet faithfulness that plodded steadily forward to accomplish real things for the Lord. Rest assured that the Son of God sees and appreciates such faithfulness whether in a church or in an individual life. “ Thou . . . hast kept my word.” Here undoubtedly lies the secret of this church’s accomplishments. They accepted the Word of God, but they went farther than that. They studied the Word of God in order to learn His will, but they did not even stop there. They kept the Word of God. Today we see many churches that do not even accept God’s Word—the Bible. Then again we see churches, like Sardis, which accept God’s Word, but pay no heed to it. Oh for more Philadelphias where God’s Word is so precious that it is “loved, honored, and obeyed!” Note that the singular word is used rather than the plural words. In a very real way God’s revelation is one and if it is not accepted* as a whole, then to all intents and purposes it is rejected. T H E K I N G ' S B U S I N E S S

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