Among the seven churches, Philadelphia along with the church in Smyrna became known as a great church. Φιλεω (Phileo) means love and αδελφος (Adelphos) means brother in Greek. Philadelphia means brotherly love.
In Revelation 3:8 Jesus says to the people in Philadelphia, “I know that you don’t have much strength. But you have obeyed my word.” In its day, Philadelphia was situated about 40 km from Sardis. It was, “a small Eden”. It was beautiful. It was like a bridge that connected the East and the West. It was known as the centre of culture and trade, and was a transportation hub. Although the city was rich and wealthy, the church in Philadelphia was very small. Even though believers of the church were not rich people. God acknowledged that the church was not very strong. Many believers were women and slaves in the church although believers in the church obeyed and followed God.
In the early Christian churches, two main tasks were given to believers. Firstly, believers were to worship God through the word of God and in their prayers. Secondly, they were to spend much time on helping people and preaching the gospel to non-believers. This was God’s purpose for early churches and this should still be happening through our churches today.
The theme for this sermon is that we should proclaim the gospel through the love of God. Believers in Philadelphia were not powerful people, but they spent their time preaching the gospel to unbelievers. Believers in Philadelphia obeyed God even though their lives were hard. Jesus says in Revelation 3:9, ”Some people claim they are Jews but are not. They are liars. Their worship comes from Satan. I will make them come and fall down at your feet.” We can see that even though some Jews flourished in the end, they would be defeated by God. However, believers in Christ even though troubled at times, would succeed and be blessed by God.
As you know, it was not easy to be a believer in Philadelphia, but these people came to God with strong faith. How did they do this? Jesus says in Revelation 3:10, “You have kept my command to remain strong in the faith no matter what happens. So I will keep you from the time of suffering” When we are troubled, we are to come to God by faith. Then our Lord will help us to overcome. This is the message of God.
God chose Israel as a godly nation And, he gave the people of Israel the Law of God. It is the Word of God. To succeed in this world, they had to obey God. If they obeyed God, they would be successful in this world. If they didn’t obey God, they would be unsuccessful at all times. The history of Israel is the history of obeying and disobeying God. As a believer of God, we are commanded to obey God at all times. While we are to follow God, we are to remember that it will be hard. We cannot escape this suffering, but we can overcome it with the help of our Lord.
How can we remain strong in the faith of God in this world?
How can we proclaim the gospel more effectively today?
Rev Dr Je Cheol Cook