Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Revelation 3:4

But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Church;   Colors;   Decision;   Immortality;   Obedience;   Righteous;   Sardis;   Walking;   Scofield Reference Index - Kingdom;   Thompson Chain Reference - Fellowship, Divine;   Fellowship-Estrangement;   Few Saved;   Future, the;   Saved, the;   Spiritual;   Walking;   White;   The Topic Concordance - Confession;   Undefilement;  
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Feasts;   Sarids;   Walk;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Sardis;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Beauty;   Color, Symbolic Meaning of;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Heaven;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Banquet;   Sardis;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Dress;   Fuller;   High Priest;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Revelation, the Book of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Asia;   Magi;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Clothes;   Session;   Walk (2);   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Sardis ;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Name;   Sepharvaim;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Sardis;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Sar'dis,;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - Arment;  
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Color;   Defile;   Name;   Revelation of John:;   Uncleanness;   Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia - Banquets;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Sardis;  
Daily Light on the Daily Path - Devotion for July 8;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Thou hast a few names even in Sardis - A few persons, names being put for those who bore them. And as the members of the Church were all enrolled, or their names entered in a book, when admitted into the Church or when baptized, names are here put for the people themselves. See Revelation 3:5.

Have not defiled their garments - Their souls. The Hebrews considered holiness as the garb of the soul, and evil actions as stains or spots on this garb. So in Shabbath, fol. 152, 2: "A certain king gave royal garments to his servants: those who were prudent folded them up, and laid them by in a chest; those who were foolish put them on, and performed their daily labor in them. After some time the king asked for those royal robes; the wise brought theirs white and clean, the foolish brought theirs spotted with dirt. With the former the king was well pleased; with the latter he was angry. Concerning the former he said: Let those garments be laid up in my wardrobe, and let the persons go home in peace. Of the latter he said: Let the garments be put into the hands of the fuller, and cast those who wore them into prison." This parable is spoken on these words of Ecclesiastes, Ecclesiastes 12:7; : The spirit shall return to God who gave it.

They shall walk with me in white - They shall be raised to a state of eternal glory, and shall be for ever with their Lord.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Revelation 3:4". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Thou hast a few names even in Sardis - See the analysis of the chapter. The word “names” here is equivalent to “persons”; and the idea is, that even in a place so depraved, and where religion had so much declined, there were a few persons who had kept themselves free from the general contamination. In most cases, when error and sin prevail, there may be found a few who are worthy of the divine commendation; a few who show that true religion may exist even when the mass are evil. Compare the notes on Romans 11:4.

Which have not defiled their garments - Compare the notes on Jude 1:23. The meaning is, that they had not defiled themselves by coming in contact with the profane and the polluted; or, in other words, they had kept themselves free from the prevailing corruption. They were like persons clothed in white walking in the midst of the defiled, yet keeping their raiment from being soiled.

And they shall walk with me in white - White is the emblem of innocence, and is hence appropriately represented as the color of the raiment of the heavenly inhabitants. The persons here referred to had kept their garments uncontaminated on the earth, and as an appropriate reward it is said that they would appear in white raiment in heaven. Compare Revelation 7:9; Revelation 19:8.

For they are worthy - They have shown themselves worthy to be regarded as followers of the Lamb; or, they have a character that is suited for heaven. The declaration is not that they have any claim to heaven on the ground of their own merit, or that it will be in virtue of their own works that they will be received there; but that there is a fitness or propriety that they should thus appear in heaven. We are all personally unworthy to be admitted to heaven, but we may evince such a character as to show that, according to the arrangements of grace, it is fit and proper that we should be received there. We have the character to which God has promised eternal life.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Revelation 3:4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

Revelation 3:4

Thou hast a few names even in Sardis.

A solemn warning for all Churches

I. General defilement.

1. A vast deal of open profession, and but little of sincere religion. You can scarcely meet with a man who does not call himself a Christian, and yet it is equally hard to meet with one who is in the very marrow of his bones thoroughly sanctified to the good work of the kingdom of heaven. We meet with professors by hundreds; but we must expect still to meet with possessors by units.

2. A want of zeal. Ah! we have abundance of cold, calculating Christians, but where are the zealous ones? Where are those who have an impassioned love for souls?

3. The third charge against Sardis was that they did not “look to the things that remained and were ready to die.” This may relate to the poor feeble saints. And what does the Church do now? Do the shepherds go after those that are wounded and sick, and those that are weary? Yes, but how do they speak? They tell them to perform impossible duties--instead of “strengthening the things that remain and are ready to die.”

4. Another charge which God has brought against the Church is, that they were careless about the things which they heard. He says, “Remember, therefore, how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast; and repent.” If I am wrong upon other points, I am positive that the sin of this age is impurity of doctrine, and laxity of faith.

II. Special preservation. “Thou hast a few names.” Only a few; not so few as some think, but not as many as others imagine! There is not a church on earth that is so corrupt but has “a few.” Since there are but a few, there ought to be great searchings of heart. Let us look to our garments and see whether they be defiled. The fewer the workmen to do the work the greater reason is there that you should be active. Be instant in season and out of season, because there are so few.

III. A peculiar reward. “They shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.” That is to say, communion with Christ on earth shall be the special reward of those who have not defiled their garments. Go into what company you please, do you meet with many men who hold communion with Christ? Oh, Christian! if thou wouldst have communion with Christ, the special way to win it is by not defiling thy garments, as the Church has done. “They shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.”

1. This refers to justification. “They shall walk in white”; that is, they shall enjoy a constant sense of their own justification by faith; they shall understand that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to them, that they have been washed and made whiter than snow, and purified and made more cleanly than wool.

2. Again, it refers to joy and gladness: for white robes were holiday dresses among the Jews. Let thy garments be always white, for God hath accepted thy works.”

3. And lastly, it refers to walking in white before the throne of God. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The believers at Sardis

I. Those persons who are here spoken of were truly holy. Those men were the glory of their Church; and we might have expected that the heavenly purity of their principles and their conduct would have shed around them a highly beneficial influence, and would have induced many others to have pursued along with them a course so splendid in itself, and so happy and brilliant in its termination.

II. The passage represents these truly holy persons as only few in number. The truly holy, in every age of the world have borne but a very small proportion to the great mass of mankind.

III. These holy persons were found in a place where great degeneracy prevailed. Religion is like the snowdrop that flowers amid the colds and frosts of winter, or like the violet that blooms in all the beauties of its varied and vivid tints, and breathes all the richness of its fragrance unhurt by the foul and noxious weeds that flourish in its immediate vicinity.

IV. The few holy persons in the church at Sardis had the promise of great honour being conferred upon them. White, in the inspired volume, is frequently used to denote the holiness of the Christian character, and, at the same time, to represent the success, the prosperity, and the honour which all enjoy who possess it. (John Johnstone.)


I. The commendation and the honour which our Lord bestowed upon the few exemplary characters in the Church at Sardis.

1. Garment is put for a holy life answerable to a profession of discipleship to Jesus Christ. There were a few disciples in the church at Sardis who were clothed with the garment of humility: “as the elect of God, holy and beloved,” they had “put on bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness,” and “long-suffering,” and had been enabled “to adorn the doctrine of God,” their “Saviour,” by a holy and uniform consistency of conduct.

2. When we consider the power, the subtlety, the enmity, and the vigilance of Satan; and the innumerable sources of seduction by which the people of God are constantly surrounded; and the many sinful propensities that lodge within their own hearts, we are surprised that any of them pass through life without defiling their garments. Nothing could be more unaccountable, did we not know the cause of their preservation. They “are kept by the power of God,” or it would be impossible they could stand secure from falling, even for a moment!

II. The distinguished honour which our Lord promised to confer upon those Christians in Sardis who had not defiled their garments.

3. Our Lord gives encouragement to His faithful disciples, by assuring them of His final testimony of approbation. “I will confess His name before my father, and before His angels.” (J. Hyatt.)

Christian life has power to resist adverse influences

There is nothing on earth that has such power to destroy Christian life as a society of men who bear the name of Christ without manifesting His spirit and life. A dead Church is a mightier obstacle to Christian vitality than the influences of the world or the sneers of the keenest infidelity; it freezes the influence of truth, it paralyses the power of prayer, it lays its cold hand on the pulses of the Christian’s faith, chilling them into a death-like sleep. But yet, with that fact before us, we shall try to show that every Christian may overcome those influences which hinder his life. We shall try to show that we have no right to be weak Christians, moulded by social circumstances, but are bound to be Christians whose deep life makes circumstances its servants.

I. True Christianity can conquer adverse social influences. Now here it must be granted as an obvious fact that some men are more liable to be swayed by social influences than others. Those whose character is weak, and whose feelings are strong and undisciplined, are doubtless more easily carried away by mere impulse than men of naturally strong character and power of self-control. But yet it is possible for us to gain an elevation above such influences, for in Christianity we can discern the elements of a power which will confer it. We shall perceive this by glancing briefly at the manner in which circumstances and social influences attain their greatest sway over men; and then by showing how, in a true Christian life, the sources of that power are overcome.

1. The absence of a ruling emotion is one great element in the power of circumstances. Now true Christianity is essentially the enthronement of one feeling in the heart--the love of God through Christ, and because that feeling ascends to the eternal and unchanging, it must pre-eminently give a firmness to the character that defies the force of circumstances.

2. The absence of purpose in life is the other element in the power of circumstances, for it is too obvious to need illustration, that a purposeless life must be the creature of circumstances, and at the mercy of every influence. Now a true Christian life-purpose is a life-surrender to God; it is to live constantly as in the eye of the Eternal King, to exist that we may be self-consecrated to Christ and attain a resemblance to Him; a purpose not visionary but sublime--a purpose not attained in the middle of life nor at life’s close, but going onward into the life of boundless ages. But it will be more obvious that such an aim in life must shut out the force of circumstances, from the fact that it can only be lived through an independent and individual conviction of Christian truth. We want men who are not echoes, but voices; men who draw their inspiration from prayer rather than from preaching, from individual self-consecration, and not from collected sympathy. Then should we feel less that external things can effect the grandeur and earnestness of our Christian life. And one other fact will bring all this to a personal and direct application. We must be thus conquerors over circumstances and opposing forces, for our Christianity will ever be weak. We must be men, not spiritual infants, or we shall lose our Christian mission in life.

II. This conquest contains in itself the elements of everlasting blessedness. Who does not feel it better to be alone with Christ in struggling with opposing influences than to be up-borne by the current of popularity and stimulated by the flattery or friendship of men? And when thus we gain, through our own battle, a deeper insight into the mystery of that life of Jesus, and have the consciousness of a growing fellowship with Him, we are already being clothed in the white garments of eternity, and walking with the Son of God. (E. L. Hull, B. A.)

The undefiled few

I. The undefiled few.

II. The present power of Christ’s undefiled few. It would appear to be one of the Divine arrangements that the many should be blessed in the power and influence of the few. No single phase of human life but has been lifted up into dignity for ever through the example of some noble moral hero. There are ever the few in political life who see clearly, grasp principles vigorously, and lead aright the unthinking many. There are many students in the walks of science and literature who never reach beyond the common level, and in each age there are a few men of genius like Bacon, and Butler, and Newton, and Herschell, who rise high up above their fellows, the giants of the intellectual world. The principle may even be seen working within the Church.

III. The future glory of Christ’s undefiled few.

1. They who struggle after goodness now shall find themselves then settled in goodness for ever. He who tries to reach Christlike purity daily finds his dangers growing less, his temptations becoming fewer, his struggles ever more surely ending in the victory of the good.

2. Above all, these undefiled few shall have a communion with Christ of an extraordinary intimacy and preciousness. “With Me.” (R. Tuck, B. A.)

The two garments

The words “garment,” “robe” and “raiment” are used in the Scriptures to typify character. When a man repents of sin and joins himself by faith to Jesus Christ, he is clothed with a new nature. He “puts on Christ,” so that there is not only an inward faith in Christ, but some good degree of outward resemblance in daily conduct. This may be called the garment of grace. It means Christian character. Now character is not determined by a single act, but by habitual conduct. It is a fabric made up of thousands of threads, and put together by uncounted stitches. However thorough may be the cleansing process wrought upon the heart at the time of conversion, yet no one becomes absolutely spotless. We live also in a defiling world. If we walk through certain streets in this city we must be on the lookout, or our clothes will become besmirched. A good man goes to his place of business and finds himself in the atmosphere of Mammon. It is every citizen’s duty to take a citizen’s part in politics; but when he becomes a zealous partisan there is plenty of “pitch” around in the caucus and the convention, and unless he is a conscientious man he is apt to be defiled. In social life he encounters the prevailing trend for show and self indulgence and expensive living. On a white surface the slightest spot shows painfully; and it is no easy thing to keep the spiritual raiment clean. Yet by the indwelling power of Christ’s grace there are those “even in Sardis” who keep their spiritual garments comparatively clean. If a true follower of Christ becomes soiled with impurity, he grieves over it, repents of it, and hastens to that Saviour who pardons and restores. By such processes can only the garment of grace be kept from utter disfigurement and defilement. By and by this garment of grace shall be laid aside for the garment of glory. The one is for time; the other is for eternity. The first garment is a Christian character formed by the regenerating Spirit of God in this world. The other is a Christian character completed, consummated, and glorified in that world wherein entereth nothing whatsoever that defileth. They “walk with Jesus in white, for they are worthy.” Determine that whatever others may do you will be a thorough and consecrated servant of your Master, “even in Sardis.” Determine that you will keep the garment of character undefiled. If all Sardis is infected with the lust of gold, let not the canker eat into your soul. However many in Sardis rush off into frivolities and into these scenes of folly that make deathbeds terrible, do you choose rather the joys of holy converse with the Master in the “upper chamber.” (T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)

The few in Sardis

I. The rarity of those who are the true saints on the earth. Sadly the truth presses on every mind that it is the many who are sluggish and fruitless, it is only the few who are faithful. A little band of executive Church labourers produce what each year gathers.

II. Their purity. They “have not defiled their garments.” Holiness of life is more than vividness of experience.

III. The prospect of the saints.

1. The word here rendered “walk” means to accompany around. Thence it is applied to sharing the continuous lot of one with whom we dwell.

2. “They shall walk with Me.” The companionship is that of Christ Himself, for it is He that is here speaking.

3. It is the symbol of glory hereinafter to be revealed to believers. Here are two thoughts distinctly suggested, each of which has great value. The one is that the glory of that future state is not so much in its triumphs and trophies as in its graces. The glory is its sinlessness, its perfect freedom from all pollution. So it is of much more importance what we shall be than what we shall have. Then the other thought is that holiness here is its own reward, here and yonder too.

IV. The prerogative of the saints. “They are worthy.” The significance of this statement takes its force from the connection in which it stands. One prerogative is asserted in their behalf; they are proper companions for God’s Son. (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

The duty of maintaining an unsullied character

I. Consider the great difficulty of preserving innocence amidst surrounding corruption.

1. The natural abhorrence which rises in the breast at the first appearance of its detestable form is insensibly weakened and effaced by repeated views of it. There is, besides, in the view of a multitude running to do evil, a temptation of peculiar force.

2. Amidst the universal infection of vice some men there are whose particular constitution, or want of experience in the ways of the world, expose them greatly to its deadly influence. The man of good nature, and of an easy, pliable temper, who suspects not the treachery of others, becomes an easy prey to the temptations of the wicked.

II. The dignity and excellence of that man who, notwithstanding every assault, maintains an unsullied character.

III. Enforce the imitation of christ’s example by the great motive mentioned here.

IV. The reason for conferring such honours on the good and virtuous. “They are worthy.” (J. Main, D. D.)

God’s little remnant keeping their garments clean in an evil day

I. Offer a few propositions concerning this remnant.

1. God’s remnant are a holy people. They are a set of men that study to keep clean garments.

2. God has a special eye of favour and kindness on this remnant in a sinful and declining time.

II. Show that Christ has a high value for this remnant.

1. Consider what an account He makes of them when compared with the rest of the world (Isaiah 43:4; Psalms 119:119; Lamentations 4:2).

2. That this little remnant are worthy on Christ’s account will appear if we consider the names and compellations that He gives them (Malachi 3:17).

3. Consider the endeared relations they stand under unto Him. There is a legal, a moral, and a mystical union between Him and them.

4. That they are worthy in His esteem appears from what He does for them (Revelation 1:5; Hebrews 8:12; Hebrews 4:16).

III. Inquire into what is imported in the remnant keeping their garments clean.

1. That even God’s remnant are not without danger of defiling themselves with the sins and defections of their day.

2. That foul garments are very unbecoming and unsuitable unto God’s remnant. A careful study of universal obedience unto all known and commanded duties. A holy caution and tenderness in guarding against all sin, especially the prevailing sins of the day.

IV. Inquire into the import of the consolatory promise made unto the remnant that keep their garments clean.

1. “What is imported in walking with Him?

2. What is imported in walking with Him in white?

V. Inquire into the connection between the duty and the privilege, between keeping the garments clean and walking with Christ in white.

1. Negatively there is no connection of merit, as if our keeping of clean garments did deserve that we should walk with Christ in white.

2. Positively there is--


1. Holiness is to be studied and pursued, however it may be ridiculed and mocked at by a profane world.

2. They labour under a mistake who think or say that it is a vain or “unprofitable thing to serve the Lord” and to keep His way.

3. Gospel purity and holiness is not such a common thing as the world apprehends.

4. See hence what it is that sweetens the pale countenance of the king of terrors to believers: it is this, they see that upon the back of death they will be admitted to walk with Christ in white. (John Erskine, D. D.)


In the case of the Church at Sardis, we observe--

I. The sad spectacle of spiritual declension. The Church is represented as having only a name to live. The world sometimes sees the worst side, and God the best, but in Sardis it was the opposite. The word “dead,” however, is not used absolutely, but comparatively, for there were certain rare plants in this desert of decaying vegetation that required to be watched and strengthened. Yet the faith and virtue of these were in danger.

1. There were some things ready to die. What things? Faith, love, zeal, hope.

2. Things requiring to be strengthened. Weak and incipient virtue, languishing graces, and faint desires. Things that are decaying need cherishing. Learn a lesson of the gardener, and nurse the exotics of the soul. Give thy soul room and stimulus and appropriate exercise.

3. Things that needed remembrance. Appeal to experience, to the memory of former days and old associations. We may forget our past history and so live a sort of fragmentary life.

4. Things that needed to be repented of. Dereliction of duty, loss of faith, decay of love.

II. The cheering spectacle of religious fidelity. “Thou hast a few names,” etc.

1. Redeeming features in the most sombre landscapes. There is always a green spot in the desert.

2. The saints in Sardis were in striking contrast to the society around them. They were pure amidst impurity, holy among the vile. They closed their eyes to the brilliant illusions, their ears to the flattering enticements, or corrupt pagan society.

III. The glorious spectacle of the coronation and triumph of faith. “They shall,” etc. Weigh the reward thus symbolically described.

1. Heaven’s purity for the pure on earth.

2. Enrolment in the register of heaven for those who have held fast the faith of the saints.

3. Recognition before God and the angels for those who, though scorned of men, are eternally honoured by God. (W. E. Daly, B. A.)

Purity rewarded

True, all our lives long we shall be bound to refrain our soul and keep it low; but what then? For the books we now forbear to read, we shall one day be endued with wisdom and knowledge. For the music we will not listen to, we shall join in the song of the redeemed. For the Figures from which we turn, we shall gaze unabashed on the beatific vision. For the companionship we shun, we shall be welcomed into angelic society and the communion of triumphant saints. For the pleasures we miss, we shall abide, and evermore abide, in the rapture of heaven. (Christina G. Rossetti.)

Pure amidst defilement

A writer tells of going with a party down into a coal mine. On the other side of the gangway grew a plant which was perfectly white. The visitors were astonished that there, where the coal-dust was continually flying, this little plant should be so pure and white. A miner who was with them took a handful of the black dust and threw it upon the plant; but not a particle adhered. Every atom of the dust rolled off. The visitors repeated the experiment, but the coal-dust would not cling. There was a wonderful enamel on the folds of the white plant to which no finest specks could adhere. Living there amid clouds of black dust, nothing could stain the snowy whiteness. (J. R. Miller, D. D.)

They shall walk with Me in white.--

Walking in white

I. The promise of continuous and progressive activity. “They shall walk.” “There remaineth a rest for the people of energies of a constant activity for God.” “They shall walk” in all the more intense than it was at its highest here, and yet never, by one hair’s breadth, trenching upon the serenity of that perpetual repose. And then there is the other thought too involved in that pregnant word, of continuous advancement, growing every moment nearer and nearer to the true centre of our souls, and up into the loftiness of perfection.

II. The promise of companionship with Christ. If there be this promised union, it can only be because of the completeness of sympathy and the likeness of character between Christ and His companions. The unity between Christ and His followers in the heavens is but the carrying into perfectness of the imperfect union that makes all the real blessedness of life here upon earth.

III. The promise of the perfection of purity. Perhaps we are to think of a glorified body as being the white garment. Perhaps it may be rather that the image expresses simply the conception of entire moral purity, but in either case it means the loftiest manifestation of the most perfect Christlike beauty as granted to all His followers.

IV. The condition of all these promises. There is a congruity and proportion between the earthly life and the future life. Heaven is but the life of earth prolonged and perfected by the dropping away of all the evil, the strengthening and lifting to completeness of all the good. And the only thing that fits a man for the white robe of glory is purity of character down here on earth. There is nothing said here directly about the means by which that purity can be attained or maintained. That is sufficiently taught us in other places, but what in this saying Christ insists upon is that, however it is got, it must be got, and that there is no life of blessedness, of holiness and glory, beyond the grave, except for those for whom there is the life of aspiration after, and in some real measure possession of, moral purity and righteousness and goodness here upon earth. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Revelation 3:4". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

But thou hast a few names in Sardis that did not defile their garments: and they shall walk with me in white; for they are worthy.

A few names ... This means, of course, a few persons, Christians, who despite the prevailing wickedness and deadness of the church were still faithful, but in danger of being overcome at last by the defection of the vast majority. As Barnes said, "This indicates that where error and sin prevail, there may be a few who are worthy of divine commendation."[16] When a church dies, or becomes evil, many innocent persons are always discouraged and lost as a result. Nothing can be more tragic than such an event.

They did not defile their garments ... This plainly indicates that the prevailing immorality of the pagan culture was being indulged by Christians. "While maintaining outwardly their good works and Christian activities, they were adapting themselves to the luxury and (sinful) pleasures of their pagan environment."[17] Moffatt declared that the language here is similar to that found in votive inscriptions from Asia Minor, in which "soiled clothes disqualified the worshipper and dis honored the god."[18] However the resemblance was superficial. Whereas the pagan priests were concerned with literal clothes, the apostle's letter here has reference to "soiling one's clothes" figuratively or spiritually. Committing immorality would in deed have been soiling one's clothes spiritually.

For they shall walk with me in white ... Like all the other promised rewards in this series of letters, this is a promise of eternal life stated in figurative terms. Most commentators seem to concur in this view. "This white is not the white of the undefiled robe; it is the lustrous white of glory."[19] "It would seem that walking in white is a way of describing those who are justified."[20]

[16] Albert Barnes, op. cit., p. 90.

[17] George Eldon Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1972), p. 57.

[18] James Moffatt, op. cit., p. 364.

[19] W. Boyd Carpenter, op. cit., p. 547.

[20] Robert H. Mounce, op. cit., p. 112.

Copyright Statement
Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Revelation 3:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Thou hast a few names even in Sardis,.... The Alexandrian copy and others, the Complutensian edition, the Vulgate Latin, and all the Oriental versions, read, "but thou hast a few names", &c. or "a few men", as the Ethiopic version renders it; who were called by name, and were men of renown, excellent men, men famous for holding the truth of doctrine, and for powerful and practical godliness; men of great light and grace, and who were known by name to God and Christ: these are said to be but "few", not in comparison of the world, in which sense all the elect of God are but few, though a large number, considered in themselves; but in comparison of formal lifeless professors of religion, with which this church state abounds; and which, if we were not as dead as we are, might easily be observed; there may not only be hypocrites in churches, but a majority of them: yea, these few may be understood in comparison of the greater number of true believers; for in this period of the church there are but few, even of them, that are lively, zealous, and careful, and are heartily concerned for the purity of doctrine, discipline, worship, and conversation; and a few there are, blessed be God, even in this our Sardian church state. God will have a few in whom he will be glorified in the most declining times; and the Lord knows and takes notice of these few; and for their sake the church state is kept up, the Gospel and its ordinances are continued; nor is a church to be judged of by the number of its members, nor is a multitude to be followed to do evil,

Which have not defiled their garments; the Ethiopic version adds, "with a woman", the woman Jezebel. They were not guilty either of corporeal or spiritual fornication, which is idolatry; they kept their outward conversation garments pure, and maintained a profession of Christ and his truths incorrupt; they did not defile it by an unbecoming walk, or by a denial of Christ and a departure from him, and by embracing false doctrines; they were neither erroneous in their principles, nor immoral in their practices; few there, are indeed of this sort. Defiled garments, in either sense, very ill become members of the reformed churches. Among the JewsF9T. Bab. Zebachim, fol. 35. 1. , if a priest's garments were spotted or defiled, he might not minister; if he did, his service was rejected,

And they shall walk with me in white; there is a walking in Christ by faith; and a walking before him as in his sight; and a walking worthy of him, in all well pleasing in his ways and ordinances; and here a walking with him, in a way of special and comfortable communion, both here and hereafter: and this is in white; in white raiment, meaning either in the robe of his own righteousness, compared to fine linen and white; or in the shining robes of immortality and glory; and may be expressive of that spiritual joy which such shall be partakers of, as well as of their spotless purity and innocence in the other world. White raiment was used among the Romans as a token of joy at festivals, and on birthdays, and at weddings, and such like times,

For they are worthy; not of themselves, or through any works of righteousness done by them, which are neither meritorious of grace here, nor of glory hereafter; but through the grace of God, and worthiness of Christ. The Jews have a saying somewhat like thisF11Tzeror Hammor, fol. 10. 3. ,

"they that walk with God in their lifetime, זוכים, "are worthy" to walk with him after their death;

In the Apocrypha we read:

"Take thy number, O Sion, and shut up those of thine that are clothed in white, which have fulfilled the law of the Lord.' (2 Esdras 2:40).

This clause is left out in the Ethiopic version,

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Gill, John. "Commentary on Revelation 3:4". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

Thou hast a few names even in Sardis 3 which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in 4 white: for they are d worthy.

(3) That is, who have with all religion guarded themselves from sin and moral corruption, even from the very show of evil; (Judges 1:23). {(4)} Pure from all spot, and shining with glory. So it is to be understood always hereafter, as in (Revelation 3:5).

(d) They are suitable and proper, that is, because they are justified in Christ, as they have truly showed it: for he who acts righteously is righteous in the same way that a tree bears good fruit; (Romans 8:18).

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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Revelation 3:4". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

The three oldest manuscripts prefix “but,” or “nevertheless” (notwithstanding thy spiritual deadness), and omit “even.”

names — persons named in the book of life (Revelation 3:5) known by name by the Lord as His own. These had the reality corresponding to their name; not a mere name among men as living, while really dead (Revelation 3:1). The gracious Lord does not overlook any exceptional cases of real saints in the midst of unreal professors.

not defiled their garments — namely, the garments of their Christian profession, of which baptism is the initiatory seal, whence the candidates for baptism used in the ancient Church to be arrayed in white. Compare also Ephesians 5:27, as to the spotlessness of the Church when she shall be presented to Christ; and Revelation 19:8, as to the “fine linen, clean and white, the righteousness of the saints,” in which it shall be granted to her to be arrayed; and “the wedding garment.” Meanwhile she is not to sully her Christian profession with any defilement of flesh or spirit, but to “keep her garments.” For no defilement shall enter the heavenly city. Not that any keep themselves here wholly free from defilement; but, as compared with hollow professors, the godly keep themselves unspotted from the world; and when they do contract it, they wash it away, so as to have their “robes white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14). The Greek is not “to stain” (Greek, “{miainein}”), but to “defile,” or besmear (Greek, “{molunein}”), Song of Solomon 5:3.

they shall walk with me in white — The promised reward accords with the character of those to be rewarded: keeping their garments undefiled and white through the blood of the Lamb now, they shall walk with Him in while hereafter. On “with me,” compare the very same words, Luke 23:43; John 17:24. “Walk” implies spiritual life, for only the living walk; also liberty, for it is only the free who walk at large. The grace and dignity of flowing long garments is seen to best advantage when the person “walks”: so the graces of the saint‘s manifested character shall appear fully when he shall serve the Lord perfectly hereafter (Revelation 22:3).

they are worthy — with the worthiness (not their own, but that) which Christ has put on them (Revelation 7:14). Ezekiel 16:14, “perfect through MY comeliness which I had put upon thee.” Grace is glory in the bud. “The worthiness here denotes a congruity between the saint‘s state of grace on earth, and that of glory, which the Lord has appointed for them, about to be estimated by the law itself of grace” [Vitringa]. Contrast Acts 13:46.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Revelation 3:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

A few names (ολιγα ονοματαoliga onomata). This use of ονομαonoma for persons is seen in the Koiné (Deissmann, Bible Studies, p. 196f.) as in Acts 1:15; Revelation 11:13.

Did not defile (ουκ εμολυνανouk emolunan). First aorist active indicative of μολυνωmolunō (1 Corinthians 8:7; 1 Peter 1:4), pollution.

They shall walk (περιπατησουσινperipatēsousin). Future active of περιπατεωperipateō promise of fellowship with Christ (μετ εμουmet' emou with me) “in white” (εν λευκοιςen leukois), as symbols of purity (Revelation 7:9, Revelation 7:13) like the angel (Matthew 28:3), with possibly a reference to Enoch (Genesis 5:22). For they are worthy (οτι αχιοι εισινhoti axioi eisin). To walk with Christ, not worthy in the same sense as God and Christ (Revelation 4:11; Revelation 5:9), but in a relative sense. See Revelation 16:6 for bad sense of αχιοςaxios f0).

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Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Revelation 3:4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

Thou hast a few names

The best texts insert ἀλλὰ butbetween these words and the close of the preceding verse. So Rev. But, notwithstanding the general apathy of the Church, thou hast a few, etc. Compare Revelation 3:1, thou hast a name, and see on Revelation 11:13. Names is equivalent to persons, a few who may be rightly named as exceptions to the general conception.

Even in Sardis

Omit καὶ evenDefiled ( ἐμόλυναν )

See on 1 Peter 1:4.


See the same figure, Judges 1:23. The meaning is, have not sullied the purity of their Christian life.

In white ( ἐν λευκοῖς )

With ἱματίοις garmentsunderstood. See on Revelation 2:17, and compare Zechariah 3:3, Zechariah 3:5. “White colors are suitable to the gods” (Plato, “Laws,” xii., 956). So Virgil, of the tenants of Elysium:

“Lo, priests of holy life and chaste while they in life had part;

Lo, god-loved poets, men who spake things worthy Phoebus' heart:

And they who bettered life on earth by new-found mastery;

And they whose good deeds left a tale for men to name them by:

And all they had their brows about with snowy fillets bound.”

Aeneid,” vi., 661-665

The same shall be clothed ( οὗτος περιβαλεῖται )

For οὗτος thisor the same, read οὕτως thus“shall thus be arrayed.” so Rev. The verb denotes a solemn investiture, and means literally to throw or put around.

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Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Revelation 3:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.

Yet thou hast a few names — That is, persons. But though few, they had not separated themselves from the rest; otherwise, the angel of Sardis would not have had them. Yet it was no virtue of his, that they were unspotted; whereas it was his fault that they were but few.

Who have not defiled their garments — Either by spotting themselves, or by partaking of other men's sins.

They shall walk with me in white — in joy; in perfect holiness; in glory.

They are worthy — A few good among many bad are doubly acceptable to God. O how much happier is this worthiness than that mentioned, Revelation 16:6.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Revelation 3:4". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

4 Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.

Ver. 4. Thou hast a few names] Though no thanks to the pastor, who was a mercenary eye-servant. Here the people’s praise is the pastor’s shame. These good souls were but few, their names (as one said of the good emperors) might have been written within the compass of a ring. Rari quippe boni (Juvenal, Sat. 13); Diaconos paucitas honorabiles feeit, saith Jerome. Christ’s flock is little. Few received him in the flesh, John 1:12; he wondered at one good Nathanael. At his coming shall he find faith upon the earth? Yes, sure, saith one; now he may find many faiths; such as they be; so many men, so many faiths, but few that hold faith and a good conscience together, 1 Timothy 1:19, whereby they have put on Christ, Galatians 3:27; Ephesians 4:24; Revelation 16:15.

They shall walk with me in white] That is, they shall be glorified with perfect righteousness, purity, charity, dignity, and festivity.

For they are worthy] In Christ’s account and acceptation. Like as those were not worthy that came not when called to the participation of his benefits, Matthew 22:8.

They are worthy] Non dignitate sua, sed dignatione divina. Or, They are worthy, not absolutely, but in comparison of those before mentioned.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Revelation 3:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Revelation 3:4. Thou hast a few names Names are here used for the persons called by them. This symbol therefore seems to allude to the diptychs or matricula used in the primitive church, in which were registered the names of all the faithful; whence St. Luke uses this very phrase, Acts 1:15 and St. John hereafter, ch. Revelation 11:13 and this is according to the Mosaical institution in the book of Numbers, and the constant use of the Israelites afterwards, to keep exact accounts of the genealogies. The phrase, which have not defiled their garments, is a Hebrew symbolical phrase, arising from the pollutions contracted upon the garments, which rendered men defiled under the Mosaic law, and incapable to appear before God in his temple. Here therefore it signifies, that, corrupt and indolent as the general state of the church of Sardis was, these had not polluted themselves with the abominations by which so many had contracted gross defilements. The allegory is continued in the remaining part of the verse, and the reward suited to the communication just given. They shall walk, signifies here, as in ch. Revelation 21:24 shall abide, prosper, flourish, and be every way happy. The reason of this symbol is to be taken from the notion of the word Αγιος, holy; for they who sanctified themselves to perform any acts of religion, clothed themselves in white, which was also the habit of nobles and priests. With me, is fulfilled and explained in ch. Revelation 20:4.—For they are worthy: "As they have been distinguished by their fidelity and zeal, I will distinguish them bymy special favour, and raise them, ere long, to those seats of complete glory, where they shall walk with me in white robes, and be of the number of my joyful and triumphant train; for they are worthy of such distinguished honour, as they have been especially careful to keep themselves from those evils which have been generally prevailing around them." Vitringa and many others are of opinion, that here is an allusion to the custom of the Sanhedrim, when they examined the candidates for the high priesthood. To the man they judged worthy, they gave a white garment; but, if unqualified, he was sent out from among them in mourning.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Revelation 3:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

Note here, That though the greater part in Sardis were dead or dying, that is, declining or decaying, yet there were some that kept their innocency, and preserved themselves from error and false worship, from erroneous principles and debauched practices.

Note farther, That these few which keep themselves pure above the rest, are not commanded to separate from the rest. Doctrines crying up purity to the prejudice of unity reject, for the gospel calls for unity as well as for purity.

Note also, The reward promised to such as kept themselves in Sardis pure both from error and vice: They shall walk with Christ in white, like persons of dignity and honour, like kings and conquerors, who of old wore white garments; they shall have the reward of their innocency and uprightness, for they are worthy of it, according to the law of grace, which promiseth it to them: they have walked worthily, with a worthiness of meetness, not with a worthiness of merit; they are therefore meet receivers, though not meritorious purchasers, of this reward.

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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Revelation 3:4". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. 1700-1703.

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

Revelation 3:4. The accusation, admonition to repentance, and threat thus far made to the entire church, are contrasted ( ἀλλʼ), by way of limitation, in regard to individual members, with the commendation that these have kept themselves free from the general sinfulness, and a corresponding promise; cf. Revelation 2:4; Revelation 2:6.

ἔχεις. Because, as members, they belong to the entire church. Beng.: “These, even though indeed few, had not separated themselves; otherwise the angel of the church would not have them.”

ὀνόματα. “Men designated by name;”(1363) cf. Revelation 11:13; Acts 1:15; Numbers 1:2; Numbers 1:18; Numbers 1:20. Ewald. An allusion to the ὄνο΄α ἔχεις(1364) is not to be acknowledged, because there the conception is entirely different from here.

οὐκ ἐλόλυναν τὰ ἱ΄άτια αύτων. The figurative expression is arbitrarily pressed if the ἱ΄άτια be interpreted as something special, whether as referring to the bodies as the clothing of the soul,(1365) or the consciences,(1366) or the righteousness of Christ put on by faith.(1367) It is, further, without all foundation, when Ebrard, in the entire figurative expression, tries to find “a spiritual self-pollution arising from spiritual self-concupiscence,”—“spiritual onanism.” Too much also is made of the figure if the presupposed purity of the garment be derived from baptism by a mistaken appeal to Revelation 7:14.(1368) N. de Lyra already correctly abides by the general idea whereby the “being defiled” occurs by means of sin,(1369) in which sense, of course, it may be said that the ἱ΄άτια are the life itself, and actions of works,(1370) or profession and life.(1371) We have not to ask throughout as to what is properly meant by the garment; the entire figure of the defiling of the clothing is a designation of the impure and unholy life and conversation.(1372) To the commendatory recognition, corresponds also the promise of the reward: καὶ περιπατήσουσιν ΄ετʼ ἐ΄οῦ ἐν λευκοῖς (viz., ἱ΄ατίοις). Incorrectly, Aretius, who identifies the “white garments “with the undefiled garments: “They will persevere in the pursuit of good works.” The white garments, with their bright “hue of victory,”(1373) are peculiar to those in heaven.(1374) They who, in their earthly lives, have kept their garments undefiled will walk with Christ(1375) in white garments, since, thus adorned, they will live in “the state of immortal glory,”(1376) before the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the full and blessed enjoyment of his fellowship. [See Note XXXV., p. 183.] But the more definitely the promise περιπ. μετʼ ἐμ. ἐν λευκοῖς stands with respect to the testimony of acknowledgment οὐκ ἐμόλυναν τ. ἱμ. αὐτ.,—especially as marked by the addition on ὅτι ἄξιοί εἰσιν,—the more remote appears the side reference to the heavenly priesthood of the blessed which is to be indicated by the white garments, especially if, in connection therewith, the Jewish custom be thought of, that the priests examined before the Sanhedrim were clad in black or white garments, according as any defect were or were not found in their bodies.(1377)

ὅτι ἄξιοί εἰσιν. The foundation is entirely in the sense presented in Revelation 16:6.(1378) As, there, they who have shed blood must drink blood, so here, white garments are promised the undefiled because they are worthy of this. The idea, however, lying at the basis of the remuneration,(1379) leads also, in this passage, where the discourse is concerning reward, not to the Roman-Catholic idea of a merit, because, as Calov. correctly says, in substance, “Christ alone, by faith, renders them worthy.” Life itself,(1380) with all its powers exercised by those clad in white robes, is a free gift of the grace of the Lord; a meritum could be spoken of only when man, by his own powers, keeps himself undefiled. Thus, however, John designates only “a congruency between the acts and the honor rendered to them, even though the honor exceed the act.”(1381)


XXXV. Revelation 3:4. περιπατήσουσιν μετʼ ἐμοῦ ἐν λευκοῖς

Trench: “The promise of life, for only the living walk, the dead are still; of liberty, for the free walk, and not the fast-bound.” Gerhard (Loc. Th., xx. 328) finds, in the white garments, “the symbol of victory, innocency, glory, and joy, yea, even royal dignity.” Gebhardt: “The bright or white garments symbolize positive purity, holiness, or righteousness (cf. Revelation 19:8).”

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Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Revelation 3:4". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. 1832.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Thou hast a few names even in Sardis, a few persons even in that polluted place,

which have not defiled their garments; who have kept their integrity and innocency. There is a garment of Christ’s righteousness, which, once put on, is never lost, nor can be defiled; but there are garments of holiness also: hence the apostle calls to Christians to be clothed with humility. As sin is expressed under the notion of nakedness, so holiness is expressed under the notion of a garment, Ezekiel 16:10 1 Peter 5:5. Those who have not defiled their garments, are those that have kept a pure conscience.

And they shall walk with me in white: the Romans used to clothe their nobles, and such as were competitors for honours, in white garments; the priests and Levites also amongst the Jews, when they ministered, were clothed in white, 2 Chronicles 5:12. God and his holy angels are in Scripture set out to us as clothed in white, Daniel 7:9 Matthew 17:2 28:3. Those that triumphed upon victories obtained, were clothed in white amongst the Romans. To these usages, or some of them, the allusion is, and the meaning is, they shall be to me as kings, and priests, and nobles, they shall be made partakers of my glory:

for they are worthy; though they have not merited it, yet I have judged them worthy; they are worthy, though not with respect to their merit, yet with respect to my promise.

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Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture

которые не осквернили одежд своих Осквернить означает «опозорить», «загрязнить» или «запятнать», а под одеждами подразумевается характер. Немного было таких, кто сохранил благочестие характера (ср. Иуд. 23).

в белых одеждах Белые одежды всех искупленных (ср. 6:11; 7:9, 13; 19:8, 14) говорят о святости и чистоте. Такие белые одежды приготовлены для Христа (Мф. 17:2; Мк. 9:3), святых ангелов (Мф. 28:3; Мк. 16:5) и славной Церкви (19:8, 14). В древние времена белые одежды в основном носили по случаю празднеств и торжеств.

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Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

Not defiled their garments; not embraced error or indulged in sin.

In white; a state of purity and blessedness.

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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Revelation 3:4". "Family Bible New Testament". American Tract Society. 1851.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

‘But you have a few names (people) in Sardis who did not defile (spoil) their clothing, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy.’

Sardis was a centre for the manufacture and dyeing of woollen garments. They knew what it meant for clothing to be ruined in the process of manufacture and dyeing, and that is what the church themselves have done with their spiritual garments. They have totally ruined them. They are useless. No longer are they concerned to be clothed in the righteousness of Christ. No longer do they seek to live as He directed. Their whole lives are spoiled spiritually.

Yet even here there are a few who still enjoy unspoiled clothing, and in the future they will enjoy the finest. Walking in white is always the symbol of purity and acceptability to God (see Revelation 6:11; Revelation 7:14; Revelation 19:8), and is distinctive of heavenly beings.

So there is no live fellowship in Sardis, but, here and there, there are scattered Christians who are still living clean, pure Christ-like lives, and are still worshipping Him and experiencing the Spirit’s presence. God does not condemn the few because of the many, for there is nothing they can do about the situation. Sin can be cast out but not coldness. They need not fear. They will not lose out because of their solitary state. They will receive their due. Perhaps the mention of ‘names’ (which here simply means ‘specific people’) has in mind that they are remembered before God, because their names are in the Book of Life. Though they seem to be forgotten He knows them by name, and their names are recorded (v. 5).

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Foy E. Wallace's Commentary on the Book of Revelation

5. "Thou has a few names even in Sardis . . . that are worthy"--3:4.

The statement that there were a few even in Sardis is a commentary on the condition of the city, as mentioned, and the like condition in the church. Notwithstanding the moral and civic state of the city of Sardis and the spiritual declension of the church, there was even yet a nucleus of faithful members.

The garment is the symbol of character, or the vestures of righteousness with which Christians must be clothed. The word "defiled" means contaminated. The term white denotes purity. The word pure means unalloyed, and is inherent; but defilement is contamination from without. There were a few in the Sardis church who had maintained an unalloyed state before Christ, and were undefiled by the degenerate and decadent outside surroundings. This teaches that moral qualities are essential to doctrinal recognition and spiritual acceptance by God and Christ.

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Wallace, Foy E. "Commentary on Revelation 3:4". "Foy E. Wallace's Commentary on the Book of Revelation". 1966.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Revelation 3:4. Sardis was not wholly given over to evil, and the Lord does not less mark and approve the good than condemn the evil that was in her.

But thou hast a few names in Sardis which did not defile their garments. It is impossible to miss the play upon the word ‘names’ as compared with ‘thou hast a name’ in Revelation 3:1. A few had resisted the temptations to licentiousness so prevalent around them, and had maintained their Christian life and character in a manner corresponding to the pure and lofty aims of the faith which they professed.—Hence the promise, again leading us back to the grace to which it is attached: they shall walk along with me in white. The grace which clothed them even here as a white robe shall become a robe of glory. Their glory shall be the very glory of their Lord, for there is force in the preposition ‘along with;’ they shall be sharers in what the glorified Redeemer is.

For they are worthy (comp. for contrast, chap. Revelation 16:5-6).

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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Revelation 3:4". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". 1879-90.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Revelation 3:4. Yet thou hast a few names — That is, persons; even in Sardis — Corrupt and indolent as the general state of the place is; who have not defiled their garments — Who, notwithstanding the common corruption, have preserved their purity, having neither spotted themselves, nor partaken of the guilt of other men’s sins. These persons, though few, had not separated themselves from the rest; otherwise the angel of this church would not have had them. Yet it was no virtue of his that they were unspotted; whereas it was his fault that they were but few. They shall walk with me in white — In joy, in perfect holiness, in glory. “It is well known that white robes were worn on occasions of great joy, and sometimes in triumphal processions; to both which there is probably a reference here. Priests also were clothed in white; and the addition of that dignity may likewise be implied as certainly coming within the scheme of Christ with regard to his people: see Revelation 1:6. Some think here is an allusion to the custom of the sanhedrim, when they examined the candidates for the high-priesthood; if they judged the candidate worthy, they gave him a white garment; if unqualified, he was sent out from among them in mourning.” — Doddridge. For they are worthy — A few good among many bad are doubly acceptable unto God. O how much happier is this worthiness than that mentioned Revelation 16:6.

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E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

Thou. The texts read "But thou".

even. The texts omit.

have, &c. = defiled not.

defiled. Greek. moluno. Only here; Revelation 14:4. 1 Corinthians 8:7. The noun Occurs only in 2 Corinthians 7:1.

garments. Greek. himation. First of seven occurances: (see App-197) in Rev.

worthy. See App-197.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Revelation 3:4". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.

'Aleph (') A B C,Vulgate, prefix 'nevertheless' (notwithstanding thy spiritual deadness), and omit "even."

Names - persons named in the book of life (Revelation 3:5), known by the Lord as His own (John 10:3). These bad the reality corresponding to their name; not a name among men as living, while really dead (Revelation 3:1). The gracious Lord does not overlook exceptional saints among unreal professors.

Not defiled their garments - their Christian profession, of which baptism is the initiatory seal, whence the candidates used in the ancient Church to be strayed in white. Compare Ephesians 5:27, and Revelation 19:8, as to the "fine linen, clean and white, the righteousness of the saints," in which it shall be granted to the Church to be arrayed; and "the wedding garment." Meanwhile she is not to sully her profession with defilement of flesh or spirit, but to 'keep her garments,' for no defilement shall enter the heavenly city. Not that any keep themselves here wholly undefiled; but, as compared with hollow professors, the godly keep themselves unspotted from the world; and when they contract defilement, they wash it away, so as to have "robes white in the blood of the Lamb" (Revelation 7:14). Not 'stain' [miainein], but 'defile,' besmear [molunein] (Song of Solomon 5:3).

They shall walk with me in white. The reward accords with the character of those rewarded: keeping their garments undefiled through the blood of the Lamb now, they shall walk with Him in white hereafter. On "with me," cf. Luke 23:43; John 17:24. "Walk" implies spiritual life; for only the living walk: also liberty, for it is only the free who walk at large. The grace of flowing garments is seen to best advantage when the person 'walks:' so the graces of the saint shall appear fully when he shall serve the Lord perfectly hereafter (Revelation 22:3). They are worthy - with worthiness (not their own, but that) which Christ has put on them (Revelation 7:14; Ezekiel 16:14). Grace is glory in the bud. 'The worthiness denotes a congruity between the saints' state of grace on earth, and that of glory, which the Lord has appointed for them, and is estimated by the law itself of grace' (Vitringa). Contrast Acts 13:46.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Revelation 3:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(4) The best MSS. commence this verse with “But,” or “Nevertheless.” The case of the Sardian Church was bad, yet the loving eyes of the faithful witness would not ignore the good. There were a few who had not defiled their garments. These had not succumbed to the oppressive moral atmosphere around them. The words cannot, of course, be understood of absolute purity. Their praise is that, in the deathlike, self-complacent lethargy around, they had kept earnest in the pursuit of holiness, and had not forgotten Him who could cleanse and revive. (Comp. Revelation 7:14.)

They shall walk with me in white.—This “white” is not the white of the undefiled robe; it is the lustrous white of glory, as in the promise in the following verse. (Comp. also Revelation 2:17.)

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Revelation 3:4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.
11:13; *Gr: ; Acts 1:15
1 Kings 19:18; Isaiah 1:9; Romans 11:4-6
7:14; 19:8; Isaiah 52:1; 59:6; 61:3,10; 64:6; Zechariah 3:3-6; Jude 1:23
5,18; 4:4; 6:11; 7:9,13; 19:14; Esther 8:15; Psalms 68:14; Ecclesiastes 9:8; Zechariah 3:4; Mark 16:5
Matthew 10:11; Luke 20:35; 21:36; 2 Thessalonians 1:5
Reciprocal: Leviticus 13:48 - thing made of;  Song of Solomon 5:2 - my dove;  Isaiah 24:13 - there;  Zechariah 3:7 - places;  Matthew 10:37 - not;  Matthew 22:8 - but;  Matthew 22:11 - which;  Matthew 28:3 - his raiment;  Luke 7:4 - worthy;  Luke 12:8 - Whosoever;  Luke 15:22 - the best;  John 20:12 - in;  Acts 1:10 - two;  2 Thessalonians 1:11 - would;  Revelation 14:4 - which follow;  Revelation 16:15 - lest;  Revelation 22:19 - and from

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Revelation 3:4". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge".

Walter Scott's Commentary on Revelation


Revelation 3:4. — "But thou hast a few names in Sardis, which have not defiled their garments, and they shall walk with Me in white, because they are worthy." In Thyatira the "rest," or remnant, and in Sardis the "few names" undefiled, formed a company in whom the Lord could delight. In principle and practice they were separate from the evil which they deplored; they walked apart from it. The weight of influence and numbers was with the popular side. The "few names in Sardis" had not defiled their garments. The mass had a name in the world, the "few" were unknown, and had no official standing, but each one of the company was personally known to Him Who "calleth His own sheep by name." How ample the gracious consolation: "They shall walk with Me in white." They had preserved their integrity here, they would walk with Him there in robes made white in the blood of the Lamb. We shall enjoy many a delightful walk and talk with our glorified Saviour and Lord (compare with Luke 9:30-32). In that coming day of ample reward, and of holy companionship with our ever blessed Lord, no thought of personal unworthiness as now shall ever cast a shadow across the soul, for, adds the Lord in His wonderful grace, "They are worthy." Truly it is the reckoning of grace, for each one of the distinguished and honoured number is in himself as to worth but a "brand plucked out of the fire," one rescued from imminent judgment justly deserved.

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Scott, Walter. "Commentary on Revelation 3:4". "Walter Scott's Commentary on Revelation".

E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

Hast a few names means there were a few persons in Sardis who had not become defiled. We have already seen that God does not hold anyone responsible for what he cannot prevent ( Revelation 2:24); so it was with these few names in Sartlis. Walk with me in white. White is an emblem of purity and is always so used in the Bible when taken figuratively ( Psalm 51:7; Isaiah 1:18; Revelation 19:8). This promise looks beyond the day of judgment to the eternal association with Jesus in the home of the soul. However, it does not wait until then for its fulfillment in every sense. It also includes the fellowship with Christ that a faithful disciple may claim and enjoy in this life. "When we walk with the Lord in the light of His word; What a glory He sheds on our way!" (See 1 John 1:7.) Thou art worthy. We sometimes hear brethren criticize a familiar phrase "save us if worthy," and they will object that "none of us can ever be worthy." Jesus says we can, but he does not say that it is through the merits of our deeds. The worthiness consists in our relationship with the Lord as shown in the passage cited in1John above.

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Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Revelation 3:4". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. 1952.

Hanserd Knollys' Commentary on Revelation

Revelation 3:4

Revelation 3:4 Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.

This verse contains a word of consolation, and encouragement unto this angel and church from Christ; which consists of three parts. First, a description of the persons in this church whom Christ would comfort. Secondly, the promise that he makes concerning them: And, Thirdly, the reason Christ gives why he makes this gracious promise.

The persons were some eminent and noted men among the ministers and members of that church; therefore "names" are here put for persons, or men of name, to wit, some in this church, which were more excellent for grace and holiness than the rest in Sardis. Lot and Job, in their generation, or such as Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, who were the chief men among the brethren, { Acts 15:22} and so the word names is put for persons or men of name Among the disciples of Christ, there were above five hundred brethren met together at once, that Isaiah, at one time, and in one place, unto whom Jesus Christ did appear after his resurrection, { 1 Corinthians 15:6-7} where, of them a hundred and twenty, { Acts 1:15} were the number of names or number of the men of name. So those persons here in this church of Sardis, though very eminent above others, yet they were but few. A few Names, the special notice of them, for the encouragement of this angel and church, as well as for their particular commendation.

"Thou hast a few Names even in Sardis".

And for a minister to have but a few members in the church, who are eminent for grace and holiness is more commendable, and more comfortable, than to have many that have a name to live, and are yet dead, and a few that are indeed alive, but their works, duties and gifts, withering, decaying, and ready to die.

"Which have not defiled their garments".

By "garments" we may not understand their outward profession, and form of godliness only, (no, nor chiefly), for in that respect, there were some formal professors in this church, who seemed as religious, and were eminent for gifts and parts; for they had a name to live, although some of them might be hypocrites, { Isaiah 33:14} and denied the power of Godliness, and so defiled the garments of their profession, etc. But by "garments" here is meant their white robes, even that inward purity of heart, and that spiritual power of Godliness in their life, which is called the brides array of fine linen, clean and white, which is the righteousness of saints, { Revelation 19:8} to wit, of Christ's righteousness, of justification, sanctification and holiness; the saint's garments of salvation, { Isaiah 16:10} which these "few" kept undefiled, unspotted, uncorrupted, unpolluted, that Isaiah, pure and clean by faith, { Acts 15:9} not only in the sight of men, but also in the sight of God. Not that these few eminent saints in Sardis lived without sin in the sight of god, or that they kept their garments of fine linen so white and clean, that they were never defiled in any respect; but they were not polluted, corrupted, nor defiled with such enormities as others were, which were not the spots of God's children. {Deuteronomy 32:5} And, if at any time they contracted any filth of sin upon their fine Linen, then they washed their Robes, and made them white in the blood of Christ. { Revelation 7:13-14}

"And they shall walk with me in white".

Here Christ promised those saints in Sardis two things. First, communion and fellowship with himself, signified by walking with Christ. { Song of Solomon 2:4-6} He brought me into the Banqueting-house, and his Banner over me was love;( compare Colossians 2:6 with 1 John 1:3). In which walking and communion with Christ the saints enjoy his spiritual presence in his word preached, and in his holy ordinances administered unto them, which fills them with joy and peace through believing. { Psalm 16:11} In thy presence is fullness of joy. Secondly, conformity unto Christ; Christ was cloathed in white raiment { Matthew 17:2; Revelation 19:8; Revelation 19:14} and his saints shall be cloathed also in white, { Revelation 19:8; Revelation 19:14} that Isaiah, they shall be like Christ. What marvelous love is this- that we shall be like him? { 1 John 3:1}

"For they are worthy"

Not in themselves, with respect to any merit of their own; for when we have done all, we are unprofitable servants, because we have left something of our duty undone; and also, because we have done our Master's will no better. The saints can merit nothing of God, { Job 9:15; Job 9:21; Job 35:7} but yet they may be accounted worthy, First, through God's gracious acceptance of their persons and services in his Son Jesus Christ; in which respect, as the saints are said to be righteous in Christ, so they may be said to be worthy in Christ, that Isaiah, so accounted of God. Secondly, through that meetness which is found in the saints to partake of Christ's favor and free-grace, to walk with him in white, Christ having granted them to be clothed in fine linen, clean and white, { Revelation 19:8} and they being watchful to keep their garments undefiled (as these few did), he is well-pleased to account them worthy, that is meet to walk with him in white. And the Greek word here used, is translated meet, { Matthew 3:8} meet or suitable unto repentance. And indeed, there was in some proportion a meetness in those few saints in Sardis, even in Christ's own gracious and righteous judgment, to walk with him in white who had kept their garments undefiled.

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Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Revelation 3:4. But thou hast a few names in Sardis, who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white garments, for they are worthy. On the expression, "thou hast," Bengel says, "These, from being so very few, had not withdrawn themselves, otherwise they would not have belonged to the angel of the church. Yet they did not owe it to him, that they had not defiled their garments, but it was a matter of blame to him that there were so few of them." According to the passages, Numbers 1:2, Numbers 1:18, Numbers 1:20, Numbers 3:40, Numbers 3:43, Numbers 26:53, Acts 1:15, Revelation 11:13, it might be thought, that by the names here simply persons were meant. But, 1. This mode of speech is found elsewhere only in numberings and lists, in which persons are taken account of only in respect to their names. 2. It is a natural supposition, that the names here have respect to the declaration: thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead, in Revelation 3:1. It is better, therefore, to suppose, that the few names, which had not defiled their garments, the few in whom the name had its foundation in the reality (for to be a Christian is, at the same time, to keep one's self unspotted from the world), stand here in reference to the great number of those who might adopt the saying, Nos numerus sumus. Names enough! but only a few among them, of which the bearers did honour to their names; whereas there should have been as many true Christians as there were names in their church. The defiling perhaps alludes to the name Sardis: Sardes has become Sordes. "These are they who have not denied themselves with women," in ch. Revelation 14:4, corresponds as to the meaning. For there women are figuratively used as a name for sin. Upon the garments as a symbol of the state, see on ch. Revelation 7:14, where it is said of true Christians, "They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." Hence with the early Christians the pure state of the baptized was represented outwardly by the white garments they wore. Because the saints have not defiled their garments, but washed them and made them white, therefore they are to receive white garments for a reward, ch. Revelation 6:11, Revelation 7:9. The appropriation of forgiveness and life in sanctification is followed by blessedness and glory. On the words, "for they are worthy," Bengel remarks, "Oh how much more blessed is this worthiness, than that which is spoken of in ch. Revelation 16:6!" Comp. 2 Thessalonians 1:5.

Vitringa is disposed to conclude from this verse, that at Sardis also the heresy of the Nicolaitans had obtained a footing, which is also probable on this account, that they had made such devastations in the neighbouring churches. But neither here, nor at Laodicea, is there the least reference to the Nicolaitans. The reproach of very extensive sinful defilement, which is brought against the church at Sardis, cannot be regarded as such. It is not to be overlooked, that what was sinful in Gnosticism proceeded from the general corruption that pervaded heathen life; and that this could not fail to press into the Christian church under different forms, wherever Gnosticism was in process of formation, and the love of the world or the service of Mammon had obtained a footing. It is very remarkable, that precisely the two churches, which are represented as the moat debased, the most complete contrasts to faithful Smyrna and Philadelphia, Sardis and Laodicea, had no Nicolaitans in them. A warning lies concealed here, that amid the dangers arising from speculative errors, we should not overlook those which are still greater. In speculative errors there still is always a spiritual element, however unspiritual or counter-spiritual it may be. The conflict with it quickens, while common worldliness and indifferentism naturally exerts a deadening influence. For the followers of false doctrine itself the spiritual excitement not rarely forms a transition to spiritual life.

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Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Revelation 3:4". Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

4.A few names—Recorded, perhaps baptismally, upon the Church parchments, (the earthly counterpart of the heavenly book of life,) and so here the word denoting the blessed owners of the names.

Defiled their garments—As if one were walking with clean skirts through a dirty world, where the utmost care is necessary to “keep himself unspotted.” James 1:27.

Shall walk with me—Along the golden pavements of the New Jerusalem, Revelation 21:21.

Walk with—As in a public procession, or as two associates, in public view.

In white—Not here indicating priesthood, although white was the colour of the priest in officiating. But the white of both the priesthood and the saints is an emblem, based on the natural idea of white as identical with purity. The white background presents the strongest contrast to all spot; and the white is associated with the cheerful and exhilarating colour of light, splendour, glory. All these stand in conceptual opposition to blackness, foulness, impurity, iniquity, wretchedness, woe. Hence in the primitive Church the candidate for baptism was dressed in white to indicate the professed purity of his Christian life. To live worthily was to preserve the whiteness of his robe; to commit sin was to stain it with a spot. Here the promise is, that the white garment of a well-sustained earthly life shall be exalted into the white garments of future glory.

Are worthy—Justified by grace, and walking worthily of their high vocation, the Lord pronounces them worthy. Not that the best of our doing entitles us to heaven, but when we meet the conditions of grace, grace graciously pronounces us worthy. Note on Romans 3:27.


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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Revelation 3:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Revelation 3:4. . . “quasi paucos nominatos, i.e., bonos qui nominatione digni sunt” (cf. the use of = persons or individuals, in Clem. Rom. and Ignat.). . (cf. Fragment of Uncanonical Gospel, Oxyrhyn. 2 cent. A.D., line 16 , . . .) the sullied garment an emblem of moral stains, including but not identical with that of (Revelation 14:4, cf.Sirach 22:1-2). The language reflects that of the votive inscriptions in Asia Minor, where soiled clothes disqualified the worshipper and dishonoured the god. Moral purity qualifies for spiritual communion (note the dramatic contrast of this [cf. on Revelation 2:16] with that of Revelation 16:6); the apocalyptic beatitude is: blessed are the pure in life, for they shall join God (see on Revelation 14:14, Revelation 19:8). Note here only in the seven messages an eschatological promise unintroduced by the phrase , although Revelation 3:5 really repeats the same idea, = “as being victor” (i.e., accordingly). The idea of heavenly raiment is distinctively Persian (Brandt, 575, 580; Lüken, 122), but permeates Jewish eschatology from Enoch (lxii. 15, 16, the elect clothed after the resurrection in eternal “garments of glory”) down to Slav. En. xxii. 8; 4 Ezra 2:39, 45(cf. Herm. Sim. viii. 2) and Asc. Isa. iv. 16 (garments = spiritual bodies in which the saints are vested at the last day, stored up in seventh heaven; cf. 8:26, 9:24 f., uidi stolas multas et thronos et coronas jacentes). . . ., like Joshua (Zechariah 3:3 f.); or (as others suggest) like priests acquitted before the Sanhedrin, who were robed in white. In the Apoc., as in En. lxxxv.–xc., white is the colour of righteousness, associated with innocence (and joy? Ecclesiastes 9:8), just as black with evil. In Apoc. Pet. 5, the dwellers in Paradise are clothed in , whilst the angels who (Revelation 3:6) chastise the wicked are robed in black. All such metaphors reflect the primitive notion that clothing somehow could form almost a part of a man’s personality, corresponding to his identity and character (E. Bi. 1140, 1141), rather than the Roman custom of assuming a white toga uirilis to mark entrance upon manhood’s privileges (“uitae liberioris iter,” Ovid).— , this favourite symbol of the Apocalypse which goes back even to pre-exilic Judaism (Isaiah 4:3, cf.Exodus 32:32 f., etc.; for the Babylonian background, cf. Jeremias, 69 f.), had through the influence of Dan. (Revelation 12:1) a great vogue in apocalyptic dreams as an apt image no longer of a share in the temporal felicity of God’s reign but of personal salvation. For a name to be erased from the book of life (one’s deeds not corresponding, upon scrutiny, to one’s position; cf.Revelation 20:12, Jub. xxxvi. 10) meant condemnation, or exclusion from the heavenly kingdom. To have one’s name retained (“and never will I blot out,” etc.) on the list of heavenly citizens was by this time a current metaphor for eternal fellowship with God and his people, and (by a natural inference drawn in Revelation 13:8) for predestination, the belief in which formed then as always a vivid inspiration in distress and conflict. For the erasure of names from the civic register, consequent upon their owner’s condemnation, cf. Dio Chrys. xxxi. 336 c, , ; Xen. Hell. ii. 3, 51, and Arist. Pac. 1180. Also Dittenberger’s Sylloge inscript. Graec.2 43920 (iv. B.C.) , , and Orientis Græci Inscr. Sel. 218129 (iii. B.C.) . The special comfort of this verse is intelligible when one reads the prayer offered in contemporary Jewish worship (cf. Shmone-Esreh xii. Palest, recension): “for apostates let there be no hope, may the kingdom of the haughty quickly collapse in our days, and may the Nazarenes and the Minim suddenly perish, may they be blotted out of the book of Life and not enrolled along with the righteous”.

The message to Sardis, the most vehement of the seven, has some interesting resemblances to that addrtssed to Ephesus; cf.Revelation 2:1 = Revelation 3:1, Revelation 2:5 ( .) = Revelation 3:3, Revelation 2:5 (visitation) = Revelation 3:5, Revelation 2:6= Revelation 3:4. The hope described in Revelation 3:5 is burlesqued by Lucian (Peregr. xl.) who describes his pseudo-Christian hero as seen after death , . The metaphorical references to raiment gain point in view of the local trade in woollen goods and dyed stuffs.



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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Revelation 3:4". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.

The Bible Study New Testament

4. But a few of you. God had some few who were still faithful to him. These were “lights” in the darkness. Clothed in white. Symbolic of the victory of God’s people (see Isaiah 61:10; Revelation 19:8).




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Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Revelation 3:4". "The Bible Study New Testament". College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.