Meliton of Sardis is the author of the earliest preserved Christian homily, written around 160 after Christ and delivered on Easter. Information about the author is scarce, limited to a few short passages in the work of Eusebius of Caesarea. But who was Melito of Sardis? And what is the history of Sardis Church in the Bible?
Saint Melito of Sardis
He calls him “distinguished,” “a pillar of the Church and her tradition,” and Blessed Jerome considers him “a prophet.” He seems to have served as Bishop of Sardis between 160 and 190 after Jesus Christ, the approximate date of his death. Some scholars consider him a Jewish convert to Christianity at a young age.
Melito created harmony between the empire and Christianity
Regarding the critical role, Saint Melito represents in mediating the existence of Christianity within the Roman Empire. Thus, Meliton of Sardis approaches the issue of persecution against Christians differently from most apologists and the style usually used. He begins by considering the emperor a just person, worthy of respect and caring for the welfare of his subjects.
He then criticizes the greed of the majority for unfairly using some of the laws issued to take away the Christians’ property. Finally, the fundamental aspect of the Apology lies in its original historical treatment of the attitude of Marcus Aurelius’ predecessor emperors and how they did well for Christians. Meliton of Sardis therefore recalls:
‘The only emperors of all, persuaded by some malicious men. Wanted to put our teaching in a bad light, were Nero and Domitian. Since then, the lie of denunciation has spread against such men by an irrational habit.
But your pious forefathers set the ignorance of those in order by often rebuking in writing many who dared to make changes concerning Christians. Your grandfather Adrian wrote, among many others, to the Procons of Asia, Fundanus; your father wrote to the cities.
At the time when you ruled all affairs with him, not to innovate anything concerning us, among them the inhabitants of Larisa, Thessalonica, Athens, and all the Hellenes. As for thee, who hast the same opinion of these Christians as they have, and yet one more loving to men and wisdom, we trust that thou wilt fulfill all that we ask of thee.”
The Church of Sardis
The Church of Sardis was founded in the city of the same name, which for a long time was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia. It was a city situated on a high plateau with only one road. Surrounded by deep valleys, the city of Sardis was impossible to conquer. This strategic position led the inhabitants of Sardis to have false confidence, considering themselves safe from danger.
Each time, however, the conquerors took the city’s inhabitants by surprise. A group of soldiers scaled the mountain and fortress walls and opened the gates for their colleagues. Who sacked the fortress and tore down the imposing buildings. After these incidents, the defense of Sardis church in the Bible continued to be inhabited, but it never reached its former glory and fame.
The temple of the goddess Artemis, built in 300 before Christ, was located in Sardis. It was one of the largest Greek temples. It was twice the size of the Pantheon. After being renovated in the second century after Christ, it became an imperial temple where Caesar worship was practiced.
The situation of the Church in Sardis
The church’s problem in Sardis was that it was “dead” and that the Lord Jesus Christ had not found the perfect works of this church when he searched for them. The church in Sardis abandoned its first love by keeping a facade. By which it deceived itself and others but not the One who has the seven Spirits.
God sent out into all the earth, and before Whom all is empty and unveiled. The calling of every church is to be salt and light in the place where God has placed us. The church in Sardis did not prove to be salt and light to the inhabitants of the city of Sardis. They only had a form of godliness.
To the church in Sardis, Jesus says, “Your name goes that you are alive, but you are dead” (Revelation 3:1). With this statement, Jesus reveals a very severe diagnosis that the Church of Sardis is spiritually dead.
The statement “the seven Spirits of God” expresses fullness, for seven is the number of perfection, and the seven of God speak the complete work of the Holy Spirit. The seven stars represent the churches in the hand of God and are well known to the Lord in this state.
What is the meaning of Sardis?
Sardis means “the saved” or “those who have come out.” Although this name was still used to identify this church, the life of the church members was far from living up to this name because behind the label and the surface things, in Sardis, there was “death”! Keeping in mind the observation made by the most authoritative person, we can say that all that is left of the church of Sardis is only the name.
Christ is the One with the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars at His disposal. Jesus says that the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars are at His disposal for the work God has entrusted to Him. We know that these seven stars represent the seven angels of the seven churches. The seven angels in God’s hand are like instruments. He used to carry out the work of salvation entrusted to Him by God.
History of Sardis
Sardis was one of the oldest cities in Asia Minor, having been founded over a thousand years before Christ. It was built on a mountain plateau, surrounded on three sides by deep, inaccessible, rocky precipices carved out by the bed of a river over time. Access to the town was only by narrow paths on the south side.
The purpose for which this site was chosen for the construction of Sardis was to make it an impregnable fortress. In the context of the many wars fought between empires over the centuries. The geographic context provided Sardis with a natural. The unassailable barrier of protection before any military army. In addition, the river surrounding Sardis brought significant quantities of gold with its sand, which led to its considerable enrichment.
How does Christ present Himself to the Church of Sardis?
To the Church of Sardis, Jesus presents Himself. As the One who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars. The number seven plays a vital role in the book of Revelation. We have seven churches, seven Spirits, seven candlesticks, seven stars, and seven lamps of fire.
Also, seven seals, seven horns, seven eyes, seven angels, seven trumpets, kings, and plagues. In Revelation, the number seven symbolizes wholeness and completeness.
What does Christ condemn to Sardis church in the Bible?
Because Christ finds nothing good worthy of praise in the Sardis church in the Bible, we must turn our attention to the things He condemns. We have already noticed that Jesus calls this church spiritually dead. If you read the letter, you will find relevant information about the manifestations of a dead church, Sardis church, in the Bible. Or the characteristics by which it can be identified.
The remedy proposed by Jesus for Sardis
“Watch, and strengthen the remnant that is dying, for I have not found your works perfect in the sight of my God. “To those who will overcome and walk in obedience and purity, the Lord Jesus communicates excellent promises. If those who have lost their spiritual life are in sin, have their garments soiled. And await the judgment and punishment decreed by God.
The Word assures the overcomers of the Lord Jesus. They will walk with Him, wearing a white robe, and have their names preserved in The Book of Life. And confessed before the Father and the Heavenly Host.
If you have lost your life from God, heed the wake-up call of Jesus. Wake up, search, repent and walk in the garment of righteousness. In this way, you will escape God’s judgment, and punishment and share in all the blessings promised to overcomers.
The promise is valid for those who will confess their sin. Repent and turn back to the fulfillment of God’s Word.
Biography of Melito of Sardis
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Take care of your heart!