Philadelphia Church

And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write,

‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens”: “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.                                            

Revelation 3:7-8

I have been reading the book of Revelation, albeit slowly. My bible is a study bible, and I also almost exclusively use David Guzik’s Blue Letter Bible commentary/study guide. I’ve relied heavily on it throughout the two and a half chapters I’ve read thus far, and it has provided such great insight on the difficult concepts that Revelation introduces to us. I’m sure that there will be another devotional soon once I’ve finished all of chapter three, as the Holy Spirit seems to have planted a couple of ideas to explore in future devotionals about the seven churches.


Out of the seven churches Jesus mentions to John, Philadelphia is the only one against whom the Lord does not have a complaint. There are pressing opportunities cited in the other six, and the Lord offers the way for them to rectify their sins, but the church in Philadelphia is faithful and protected.


Jesus cites the works of the church in verse 8: “…I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.” Guzik mentions that an “open door often speaks of evangelistic opportunity”, and that Jesus points out to them that He has opened the door, through which they must go in faith. He goes on to explain that the term “a little strength” is not meant to imply weakness, but rather a recognition on the part of the church to know that their strength is not of their own doing, but of God’s. They were strong in the Lord. The remaining two parts of verse 8—“…have kept My word, and have not denied My name” is easily understood. The church was faithful to Jesus in teaching, practice, and declaration.

Guzik compels the student to “look at the features of the church in Philadelphia:

  • Evangelistic opportunity (“I have set before you an open door”)
  • Reliance on God (You have a little strength)
  • Faithfulness to Jesus (have kept My word, and have not denied My name)”

And comments that these features “should be commonplace among churches.” He goes on to cite Dr. Donald Barnhouse, a theologian from the early 20th century:           

“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.”


Friends, when I read this, it struck me square in the forehead. This—this is the answer that some of the elders and I sought while we served on Session a while back. I proudly served on a sub-committee with Rick and Jack back in 2011 to look into how we could best be organized, from Session, to the Pastor, to the congregation, and how to involve and engage everyone so that the work of the church didn’t fall on a precious few. One of the prevailing questions that we challenged ourselves to answer was “what does success for our church look like?” I can’t speak for Rick or Jack, but in my heart of hearts, I knew it wasn’t the proverbial “butts in the seats” or zeroes and commas on the bank balance. I felt I knew what it wasn’t, but could not fully describe what it was, other than it was spiritually focused, centering on the health of the congregation’s spirituality, and the fruit we produced.


But now, oh these many years later, I have found the answer (as I guess some of you have as well, and I’m just now able to grasp it). We are compelled to act on the evangelistic opportunities we are given, through the doors that the Lord opens to us. It is essential that we fully rely on God’s strength and will, and not our own. It is crucial that we are faithful as we keep His word and do not deny His name. Jesus reinforces these imperatives to the church at Philadelphia in verse 11: “…Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.” To what does the church have to hold fast? The tenets I just described.

<Cue introspection music>So…how well do you think we’re doing with all of that?


Prayer Requests

  • For the opportunity to be used by the Lord to share the good news with the lost
  • For the freedom that we possess in this great nation
  • For those whom society deems untouchable, unsalvageable, beyond salvation—may we not see through them as we pass them by
  • For those in our church family who seem to have fallen away from our church: please know that we miss you and love you dearly
  • For us to seek His will in every aspect of our individual and church lives


I guess I’ve already hinted at the topic of an upcoming devotional (or two) will be about, as I traverse through the riches of the seven churches mentioned in Revelation 2 and 3. I invite you to be prayerfully introspective through this and upcoming devotionals. To God be all the glory!



“Worship is an incredible privilege, not a religious duty.”


“We will never change the world by going to church. We will change the world only by being the church.”


P.S.: If you ever want to read up on old devotionals, they are on our website here.