Just as the church in Sardis was the Lord’s reaction to the terrible situation in the church in Thyatira, so the church in Philadelphia was the Lord’s reaction to the church in Sardis, the church living only in name but incomplete in her works and dead within.
When we come to the Lord’s speaking to the church in Philadelphia we need to be sober-minded, open to the Lord, so that His burden and message would be heard and received by us, because the danger is that Philadelphia would degrade or fall into Laodicea – these two are a pair.
The Church in Philadelphia Prefigures the Church of Brotherly Love, the Church in Recovery
As a sign, the church in Philadelphia (Rev. 3:7-13) prefigures the church of brotherly love, the recovery of the proper church life; this church began from the early part of the nineteenth century and will last until the second appearing of the Lord.
The church in Ephesus was the initial church, the church in Smyrna is the church under persecution (the suffering church), the church in Pergamos is the church married to the world (the worldly church), the church in Thyatira is the church in apostasy (the apostate church), the church in Sardis is the church in Reformation (the reformed church), and the church in Philadelphia is the church of brotherly love – the recovered church.
The church in Philadelphia is in the Lord’s eyes the church that has returned to the orthodoxy of the church; it has returned to the plain according to God’s standard, to the situation and condition of what the church ought to be in the age of grace.
The church in Philadelphia is the church in the Lord’s heart, the church that the Lord wanted; this church was not there from the beginning, but it started in the nineteenth century with the Brethren.
In the early part of the nineteenth century in Dublin, Ireland, the Lord stirred up some believers who, regardless of their denomination, they started to love all the Lord’s children and began to meet according to what the Bible said.
They saw in the Bible that God wants one Body – the Body of Christ, regardless of how many sects men may divide the church into. They discovered that there’s no such thing in the Bible as clergy-laity, and there’s no “one man speaking while others are listening”; rather, the Bible calls us brothers, and we all can speak and function. Therefore, these brothers started to meet together every Lord’s day to break bread and pray.
After more than a thousand years of the Roman Catholic Church and after several hundred years of the Protestant churches, the Lord brought some brothers back to the simple, free, and spiritual worship in the Scriptures, in which the brothers love one another.
This was the beginning of Philadelphia, which started with the Brethren and continues today in the Lord’s recovery. In the world’s eyes these brothers were not known or appreciated, but they had the Lord in their midst, and the Spirit was operating.
They were small in number, but soon in every place in the world their writings reached and many gathered in a similar way. They didn’t call themselves anything but brothers: they dropped their titles, forsook their degrees, and gave up their position, having no rank in the church but brothers.
There is no “father” (as in the Roman Catholic church) or “reverend” (as in the Protestant churches) – there are only brothers, who love the Lord and love one another. Praise the Lord for the recovered church, the church of the brotherly love!
Lord Jesus, thank You for recovering us back to Philadelphia, the church of brotherly love – the church in recovery. Thank You for showing us from Your word that there is one Body of Christ, one church, and we all are brothers in Christ who love one another because Christ loved us first. Thank You Lord for bringing us back to the simple, free, and spiritual worship in the Scriptures. Lord, keep us in Your word, loving You with the first love and loving the brothers and sisters in the church to be the church You desire!
The Church in Philadelphia depicts the Proper Church Life, the Church of Brotherly Love
In Greek the word Philadelphia is “brotherly love”, composed of phileo – to have affection and love for, and adelphos – a brother. Philadelphia means brotherly love, a brotherly affection, a love of delight and pleasure. When you touch the church, you touch brotherly love, the love for the brothers.
This is what the Lord Jesus, Peter, Paul, and John all taught concerning the Christian life and the church: how we ought to love one another.
The Lord said we shouldn’t call one another Rabbi, for only the Lord is our teacher and we all are brothers. It is very special to call someone, brother; this is a very affectionate feeling, full of love and affection. We don’t call one another elders, fathers, bishops, co-workers, or serving ones: we are simply brothers.
This is what the Lord wants: He is our elder brother, and we all are brothers in the brotherhood, the family of God, which is universal earth-wide and surpasses time and space. All those who have the life of God are our brothers; they may be in Thyatira, and we may hate the system but we love the brothers.
Paul encourages us to love one another warmly in brotherly love (Rom. 12:10); we need to love one another with heat and temperature, with a lot of feeling. This is not just natural love, hugging and kissing – this love is God Himself, for God is love.
We can love only with God as our love, and any other love is natural, honey, and corrupts. Only the love of God, God Himself as love, can be the true love we love the brothers with; this love ministers God, being the very nature and inner substance of God.
The greatest of all the laws in the Old Testament is to love God and love our neighbour as ourselves, and in the New Testament it is to love the Lord and love one another in the Lord; Philadelphia fulfills the law by the true love (Rom. 13:8-10). We need to love the brothers.
God’s teaching, His injunction and inward teaching, is to love one another (1 Thes. 4:19). We need to let brotherly love continue (Heb. 13:1).
The most excellent way to do anything and be anything in the church life is love (see 1 Cor. 13); love is not jealous – we are full of jealousy, but God as love is not jealous. Love is not puffed up or provoked, it doesn’t take account of evil, but rejoices in the truth, covers all things, believes in all things, and hopes all things; love will never fail.
Peter also speaks of brotherly love, as he spoke of the virtues we should have, saying that the climax is brotherly love and love; godliness is not the top virtue – brotherly love is the top virtue. A real expression of God in our daily life should find its expression our loving one another.
We are the brotherhood, the house of God with all the brothers, the aggregate of all the brothers in space and time (2 Pet. 2:17); we need to love the Lord with the first love and love the brothers. We need to love the brothers in a tender way, filled with sympathy (1 Pet. 3:8).
By this shall all men know that we are the Lord’s disciples, if we love one another (John 13:34-35). Even in the context of fruit bearing, we need to love one another with affection, with much emotions and feelings (John 15:16).
In godliness, which is the expression of God, this love needs to be supplied for the brotherhood (1 Pet. 2:17; 3:8; Gal. 6:10), for our testimony to the world (John 13:34-35), and for the bearing of fruit (15:16-17).
The church in Philadelphia depicts the proper church life, the church of brotherly love, the recovered church. We know that we have passed out of death into life because we love the brothers; he who doesn’t love, abides in death (1 John 3:14).
As we seek to abide in the Lord, we need to love the brothers; our abiding in the Lord is conditioned on our loving the brothers, and abiding in the Lord is a condition to God abiding in us. Loving the brothers is a matter of life or death: if we love the brothers, we are in life, but if we don’t, we abide in death.
To pass out of death into life is to pass out of the source, the essence, the element, and the sphere of death into the source, the essence, the element, and the sphere of life. This took place at our regeneration (John 3:3, 5-6; 5:24), and we daily need to experience being in life by loving the brothers with God Himself as love, to be the church of brotherly love, the church in Philadelphia.
Thank You Lord for commanding us to love You and to love the brothers. Thank You for loving us first and for putting in us love for You and for the brothers. Lord, we want to love You with the first love and love the brothers ardently, full of affection, and with a lot of feeling. Increase our love for You, and may brotherly love prevail among us. Save us from any natural love, the love which spoils and corrupt; we want to experience You as love, the true love that ministers God and carries God. Lord Jesus, we want to remain in life and abide in You by loving the brothers!
References and Hymns on this Topic
- Inspiration: the Word of God, my enjoyment in the ministry, the message by brother Minoru C. for this week, and portions from, Collected Works of Watchman Nee, vol. 47, pp. 61-71, as quoted in the Holy Word for Morning Revival on, Returning to the Orthodoxy of the Church (2016 fall ITERO), msg. 7 (week 7), The Church in Philadelphia.
- Hymns on this topic:
# Now Philadelphia comes at last; / That which she has she should hold fast / The brothers’ love, the name, the word; / This church has satisfied the Lord. / We as the brothers all are one; / We’re one by life, and life alone. / If we His word and name do keep / A glorious building God will reap. (Hymns #1274)
# Oh, this perfect way of gladness, / Brotherly love! / No more fear, imparting sadness, / Brotherly love! / Now is our sure affirmation, / Life and Spirit our foundation, / Building up, the consummation— / Brotherly love. (Hymns #1277)
# Not to all the seven churches / Did the Lord speak in this way; / To the church in Philadelphia / Did He choose these words to say. / Philadelphia, Philadelphia, / Church so full of brotherly love, / You’re the church to bring the Bridegroom / Back to earth from heav’n above. (Hymns #1276)
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