7 “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. 8 I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. 10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.
11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. 13 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
In the Book of Revelation, Jesus dictates letters to Seven Churches. To all but one He has something He’s not pleased with. It seems to me we need to consider carefully the attributes of the one church that He had no problem with. In fact, He kept before them an open door. They were a church of evangelism. It’s Jesus who is the open door and He will direct those who seek him to places where He can be truly found. Although this church had little strength, it kept His word and did not deny his name. Doesn’t sound like a lot. Yet all the other churches relied on their own strength in some way. Instead of holding to His word, they in some way added to it or subtracted from it. In some way the other churches denied the Name that is above all names. Holding to His word means being faithful to what He said. Not denying His name, means staying true to who He is, not denying His character. The church in Philadelphia didn’t make those mistakes. It held on. It endured. It stayed faithful and true.
In these days when the church is being challenged, when it seems no longer relevant, a historical oddity, it’s hard to stay faithful. It’s so tempting to become relevant, to adapt, to conform. One of the commentators has described it this way: “The church of Philadelphia is commended for keeping the Word of the Lord and not denying His Name. Success in Christian work is not to be measured by any other standard of achievement. It is not rise in ecclesiastical position. It is not the number of new buildings which have been built through a man’s ministry. It is not the crowds that flock to listen to any human voice. All of these things are frequently used as yardsticks of success, but they are earthly and not heavenly measures.” (Barnhouse)
Success as a church means denial of our own strength, reliance on Jesus, holding faithfully to what He said and who He is.