The Seven Churches of Asia - Philadelphia (Part 4)

Robert E. Surgenor

Again we meet in assembly capacity. Some are sitting in the room of the unbeliever that were not present last week. The saints have been successful in persuading them to "come and see." The past week was a busy one, with work at the leather and textile mills. Others were employed in the vineyards. However, after work they commenced their work for God in a missionary capacity. Doors had been visited, contacts had been made, favors had been done, thus consequently visitors were sitting apart from the circle, having been drawn by the constraints of the brethren. How different this gathering would appear to those idolators, from the temples wherein they committed revelry. This was the first step in perhaps seeing them won to Christ. Are you familiar with such proceedings in your assembly? Peter tells us to redeem the time meaning, to buy up the opportunity. One could hardly be buying up the opportunity with a golf club, or a tennis racket, or a bowling ball in his hand. The Philadelphian saints recognized that every moment of their stay on earth was vitally important. They recognized the truth of a well known poem, "Only one life, 'Twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last." The assembly had an earthly mission with a heavenly outlook and that was, to win souls to Christ. What a glorious, what a blessed occupation! There is nothing to surpass it, for its outcome is eternal! I remember many years ago while working a new place with the gospel, a Christian couple appeared on the scene. The brother told me that it was his vacation and that he and his wife had come to help with the door to door visitation. What a sacrifice, but how wise. Instead of touring the country for their own pleasure, they had purposed in their heart to give their vacation time to God. Months later, an assembly was planted and that brother was asked if he would baptize the new converts, which he did. Weeks later we sat down for the first time to remember the Lord and that brother and his wife were present. We all wept on that blessed occasion. That dear man is now in heaven and his wife still remains here, a widow, but there is laid up for them a reward in heaven for those vacation days that they sacrificed for God. How do you employ your vacation, my brother, my sister? Could it be said of you:

"I lived for myself, for myself alone.
For myself and none beside.
Just as if Jesus had never lived,
And as if He had never died."

The Lord continues His commendation by expressing this fact: "Thou…hast kept (guarded) My word. " They had manifested courage in the face of satanically inspired opposition by the Jews. They had remained loyal to Christ in spite of all the fleshly temptations of the licentious city. There was no carelessness, heresy, or lax living. They were manifesting genuine love to the Person. The Lord said, "If a man love Me, he will keep My words" (John 14:23). This assembly had a conscience that was tender, motives that were sincere, courage that was unmovable and loyalty that ran high. The Lord expresses His appreciation.

Christ continues, "And hast not denied My name." Or "Didst confess My name." Since the words, "kept" and "not denied," are in the aorist, it may be an indication that these were definite acts in the past indicating that there had been some occasion of trial through which they came out victorious, remaining true to the Lord and His word. When we consider His name we observe three expressions. (1) Lord — He is our Master to obey. (2) Jesus — He is our Mediator to appreciate. (3) Christ — He is the Messiah to consider. As the Anointed, the Messiah, we are reminded of the fact that three bestowed offices in scripture required anointing, namely, prophet, priest, and king. Christ was anointed to the office of a Prophet while on earth (Acts 7:37). Presently at God’s right hand He officiates as our great high Priest (Heb. 4:14). In a coming day God will set His King (His Son) upon His holy hill of Zion (Ps. 2:6). There is much in a name, especially the name of our Beloved, the Lord Jesus Christ!

We have taken upon ourselves His name, we belong to the party of Christ, thus we are termed Christians. As such, we are called upon to suffer. "Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf" (1 Peter 4:16). Peter himself would be well aware of what he wrote, would he not? Remember in Jerusalem how he and others preached the NAME. Consequently they were arrested, beaten and commanded not to speak in the NAME. They were let go "and they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His NAME" (Acts 5:41). It would seem that God is particular whom He allows to suffer shame for His Son’s NAME. They must be counted worthy first. Godliness places a man in the place of being worthy to suffer shame. God guarantees that "all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Tim. 3:12). Our general lack of godliness today has relieved us of the worthiness of being allowed to suffer shame for His NAME. How different as we view the little company at Philadelphia. They had suffered shame for His NAME, yet, there was a happiness, an actual rejoicing in it all. Their eyes were fixed on Christ. They were not popular with the world neither prosperous in the world, but that mattered little to them. The approval of the Lord meant everything to them. Could our Lord’s commendation to them be read and truthfully applied to your assembly?

The Vindication of Christ

Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. (Rev. 3:9).

One is reminded of Jehovah’s promise to Israel in a coming day. "The sons also of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee; and all they that despised thee shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet; and they shall call thee, the city of the LORD, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel" (Isaiah 60:14). The Philadelphian Jews considered their synagogue the Synagogue of the Lord. However, the Lord gives it the divine appraisal - "The synagogue of Satan." He makes known to His assembly that the inspiration behind all Jewish persecution towards them had its source in Satan. Are you persecuted? Consider the source! The Jews of the city were only poor, deluded puppets in the hands of the adversary - Satan. If these Jews are not true Jews in the eyes of the Lord, who then are the true Jews? Does not Romans 2: 28, 29 provide the answer? "For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God." The unconverted Jews considered themselves to be the people of God. However, the Christians in Philadelphia were very vocal in proclaiming the fact concerning the Lord Jesus, that "neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." They rightfully claimed to be the people of God. They claimed access into the presence of God and that God was their Father and Jesus the true Messiah. This irked the Jews to no end, thus the persecution. However, through the faithfulness and persistence of the saints, God was going to intervene and save some of the opposing Jews. He was about to make them bow in true repentance before the assembly confessing the Messiah’s love for the little assembly, into which they were going to be received. Later they would be receiving a letter written from Antioch by Ignatius, expressing his joy over hearing the good news of their enemies’ salvation and reception into the assembly.

Although not necessarily Jews, how often the story has been told of individuals who have been very antagonistic to the saints and to God’s assembly, totally humbled under the mighty hand of God, broken, trembling and weeping their way to Christ. Following their conversion, they have been baptized and added to the assembly as trophies of grace. Let us take courage brethren. Perhaps the assembly is very small. Let us remember the remark of Jonathan. "Come, and let us go over unto the garrison of these uncircumcised: it may be that the LORD will work for us: for there is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few" (1 Sam. 14:6). What a great God we have! Philadelphia is too enjoyable to leave yet. Please join me here (DV), next month.

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That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

Philippians 3:10