Verse 8:"I know your works; behold, I have put before you an opened door which no one can shut, because you have a little power and have kept My word and have not denied My name."
"I know your works." This is a special word. It is different from what the Lord told the other churches. Here the Lord is not inspecting their works, but telling the suffering and weak believers that He knows their works and is satisfied with them. It is not the case with the other churches; the Lord there was examining the nature of their works. He told Sardis: "I have found none of your works completed before My God" (v. 2). Here, however, He does not have such penetrating searchings. He knows our works and is satisfied. If He requires completion from us as He has required of Sardis, will we not find it hard to meet His demand? All mixed motives, lack of faith, laziness, and self-love will cause us to bow our heads before Him. Actually no work of ours can match the grace that we received. There may be a lot of natural activities, and there may be much praise from man, but how much of God’s pleasure is there generally? We have to praise the Lord! Indeed if we pay attention to the condition in the world and the church, our hearts will sink and we will forget that Christ knows everything. However, the Lord does not say that these ones have nothing. He says that they have still kept His word and have not denied His name.
"You have a little power." Here, as in other places, the Lord first mentions the commendable things. He draws attention to their having "a little power" and praises them for this. There is not much power, only a little of it. Here we do not see the power and gift of Pentecost. Here we do not have the great faith that removes mountains. "The day of small things" constitutes the last page of church history, in the same way that it did at the time of Judah. The days of Ezra can never be compared with the days of David. It is impossible to have the original condition in the latter days. It is good enough if one has the first love. Although eternal life and the power of the Holy Spirit never diminish, we are inevitably bound to the age in which we are living. Of course, we should not be affected by it. However, we are not without blemish in this age. The Lord is here telling us the condition of the faithful little flock at the end of the church age. What the Lord sees is a little power. There is no promise here of a revival to the prosperity of the apostolic age. Although there is only a little power, the Lord approves of it.
The Lord knows what to approve. Although there are no miracles and works of wonders of Pentecost, the Lord finds enough to approve of. The age of the outward filling of the power of the Holy Spirit is over. The Bible has not promised that there will be a revival of the original condition in the last days. What Philadelphia has now is only a little power. Weakness has become their mark. This must necessarily be so; because she exists at the same time as Thyatira and Sardis, she must bear the character of a remnant. The fleshly ones and those who have not been deeply perfected in the Bible will surely admire the manifestation of the power of the former days. But those who understand the way the Lord works today will realize that what the Lord approves is but a little power. Our present responsibility is to keep the Lord’s word and to exalt His name. We are not here to bring in a new Pentecost. Philadelphia has nothing to boast of before the world and before the other believers. Our conduct should not be different from the character of Philadelphia. We should not seek for conspicuous works. Rather, we should be satisfied with the Lord Himself.
Although there is no manifestation of extraordinary power today, despite much imitation of Satan, the Holy Spirit is still with us. Praise God that there is not one day when the church is without the Holy Spirit. Even in the dark age of the Roman Church, the Holy Spirit was still with the church. Of course, He was not there justifying sin, nor approving of rebellion. His presence was there to vindicate the reality of the Lord’s word: "The Father...will give you another Comforter, that He may be with you forever" (John 14:16). It is wrong to look to the Holy Spirit to come upon us. This is the hope of the Jews. If the church prays in this way, it proves that the church is not the church. Of course, we have to admit that we have too often grieved Him. Surely we should confess our sins before God, because we behave as if we have never received Him. But let us praise God, because He is not only living in us, but has joined us together to be a habitation of God. We admit that the outward form of this is already broken down, yet the fact still remains. This is like saying that a man may fall because of circumstances; nevertheless, he remains a man. The church has the Holy Spirit already. Yet she can still fall! This will cause us to humble ourselves. Many say that if we have another Pentecost and the Holy Spirit comes again from heaven, we will not fail again. However, man has had Pentecost already. This is a wrong hope. God has not called us to new gifts but to wait humbly before Him and to confess that although we are Christians, we are still rebellious. Although the Holy Spirit dwells within us, the golden calf has been erected again and again, so that there is now as much sin as there was among the Israelites. This is what the Lord wants us to realize.
The Lord may not want to bestow outward glory on a defeated church. Yet He is still dispensing the necessary grace and power to sustain personal spirituality. There is no shortage of nourishment from the life issuing from the Head to the Body on earth. For example, in the church the miraculous gifts such as tongues and healing may have decreased, but the gifts received from the Head for the edification of the members will never decrease, because "no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ also the church" (Eph. 5:29).
Ephesians is a book that speaks specifically about the church as the Body of Christ. We see there that the function of the gifts are "for the perfecting of the saints unto the work of the ministry, unto the building up of the Body of Christ" (4:12). However, the book of Ephesians does not mention the miraculous gifts. In Corinthians we see the gifts of healing, tongues, interpretation of tongues, etc. In this way, we see the Bible dividing gifts into two kinds. One is the miraculous gifts, which as recorded in Corinthians are the works of miracles manifested by the church before everyone for the purpose of helping the church to testify to an unbelieving world. The other is the gift which flows out from the Head for the nourishment of His whole Body. This distinction of the gifts is clearly depicted in the Bible—1 Corinthians 14:22 is the most obvious verse. The miraculous gifts, possessed only by a few, can pass away, but the nourishing gifts will remain forever. Sometimes they come from outward testimonies. Sometimes they come directly from the grace given by the Lord. No matter how it comes, the supply from the Head can never stop. This is what we see from the church in Philadelphia. Her nature is weak and powerless. Yet she is closer than the other churches to the powerful Lord. She loves the Lord more and has a more intimate fellowship with the Lord. Even the Lord’s promise to her is a close union with Himself.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 05: The Christian (3), Chapter 3, by Watchman Nee)