What is a Faithful Church? Part 1 :: By Steven Pace

Message to Philadelphia

“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this: ‘I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name. Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie–I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you.

“Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches'” (Revelation 3:7-13 NASB 95).

Exhortations from Patmos

The Apostle John was exiled to the island of Patmos during the cruel reign of Domitian. John’s crime was that he proclaimed and shared the saving message of the Lord Jesus (Revelation 1:9). On Patmos, John received a prophetic revelation concerning not only the future but also seven letters to seven churches that existed in that time in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). These letters are filled with correction and encouragement not only for the believers in those days but also today.

In Jesus’ letter to the church in Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13), the Lord provides four criteria that identify a faithful church. In these two posts, we will explore each of these criteria as described in verse 8, where the Lord commends the church.

Going Through the Open Door

Jesus begins by stating that He had provided them with an “open door.” This term means to provide an opportunity for the work of ministry (see Acts 14:27; 1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12; Colossians 4:3).

Charles Swindoll writes, “As the geographical gateway to the East, Philadelphia sat at the crossroads of several languages, cultures, and people groups. From an evangelistic and missionary perspective, this dynamic, diminutive church had great opportunities for ministry.”[1]

The Lord gives each church an opportunity to do the work of ministry. However, will the members go through the door and take advantage of the opportunity? Warren Wiersbe once wrote, “Unbelief sees the obstacles, but faith sees the opportunities.”[2] The Philadelphians were exhorted to remain faithful by using the ministry opportunities the Lord had given them.

Are you taking the opportunities the Lord gives you to share the gospel and to serve Him? Perhaps this is in your local church, place of work, or any number of other opportunities.

The first characteristic of a faithful church is that it takes advantage of the opportunities that the Lord provides them. But the Philadelphians have a problem. How will they fulfill this if they have little power?

Relying on the Lord’s Strength

The church is also described as having “little power” or “strength” yet commended for its good works. What is the Lord referring to? Robert Thomas summarizes this well by stating that “little power” must refer to the church’s limited influence because of its numerical smallness.”[3] In other words, even though they were small numerically, the Lord provided the power they needed to serve and remain faithful to Him. The second characteristic of a faithful church is that it recognizes that its power comes from the Lord, not from itself.

“Numerically, the church was not very strong, but God had infused this faithful group with spiritual power enabling them to be true to His name in the midst of satanic opposition. God does not need naturally gifted vessels for His service (1 Corinthians 1:26-29), but yielded people through whom He can minister (2 Corinthians 4:7). Effective service does not depend upon the size of a church but upon its availability to be used.”[4]

Too often, we assume that if we have few people and limited resources, we cannot achieve anything significant for the Lord. The world may not find a church (or individual) with little strength appealing. However, the Lord teaches us here that He takes pleasure in weak vessels that are surrendered to Him.

The second characteristic of a faithful church is that it relies on the Lord for strength. What are you relying on?

“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NKJV).


Dr. Steven F. Pace

Senior Pastor
Decatur Bible Church


[1] Swindoll’s Living Insights – NT Commentary – Revelation, pg. 73.
[2] Warren Wiersbe. The Bible Exposition Commentary, Ephesians – Revelation.
[3] Robert L. Thomas. Revelation 1-7 – An Exegetical Commentary, pg. 279.
[4] David M. Levy. Revelation – Hearing the Last Word, pg. 55.