Philadelphia, as most people know is “The City of Brotherly Love.” The original Philadelphia in Asia Minor was founded in the second century BC by a man named Attalus who, quite the contrary to cultural norms, kept his brother in a position of power and influence alongside him.
Where many leaders were suspicious of anyone who could make a claim on the throne, Attalus loved (the Greek word is phileo) his brother (Greek adelphos meaning “from the same womb”), so the city took on this name and attitude as well. After the city was leveled by an earthquake in 17 AD, Emperor Tiberius sent the funds needed to rebuild. Out of gratitude to the emperor’s generosity there was a movement to rename the city Neocaesarea in his honor. But the people liked being known for their brotherly kindness, so the name Philadelphia stuck.
At least it stuck in name only. As the first century progressed, Philadelphians bowed more and more to Rome’s influence and this city once known for kindness to all began to persecute Christians.
This reminds me of the United States of America today. Our pledge of allegiance still includes “one nation under God,” and “in God we trust” is still on our currency, and we haven’t repealed the First Amendment which gives us freedom of religion. It appears that we are a “Christian nation,” but in name only.
Many cast the blame far and wide, but as Jesus addressed the people in the first city of Philadelphia (see Revelation 3:7-13), we see the blame is on those self-professing Christians who didn’t live Christ-like lives. They were Christians in name only.
For those who “have kept My Word and not denied My name” Jesus promises a list of rewards longer than the list for any of the other seven churches addressed in the book of Revelation! Those promises are still in effect for those who will not deny Christ. More specifically for those who by their words and their lifestyle hold true to Jesus Christ.
Brennan Manning was exactly right when he said, “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”
My prayer is that Christians everywhere would be known not just by the name Christian, but by the way they hold true to Christ and His Word!
Please join me next Sunday as we look at the last of the churches in our series The 7-Star Church.