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Devotionals

The Church in Pergamum (Part 1)

The third letter is to the pastor of the Church in Pergamum. Some people Church hop with the intension of finding the perfect Church. The reality is that there is no perfect Church. If you had to be totally unbiased, take a sheet of paper and pen and write down everything you could find in you that is worrying, troubling and does not match up to the Bible. It might be the pastor who is not altogether orthodox on certain matters or the Church Board who seems a little legalistic or Mrs. X or Mr. Y really thinks they own the Church. Slot in all the ministries and who leads them, Church numbers, finances, etc. Is your Church perfect? No … and none are. The pastor and congregation received their letter … our Lord commends them for some things but then He says in verse 14 … “I have a few things against you.” This will be true of any Church anywhere. The City of Pergamum dates back to the Third Century BC when it became the center of the Attalid Kingdom. The will of Attalus III (133 BC) decreed that his kingdom be handed to the Roman Empire. It became the Roman Province of Asia with Pergamum automatically becoming the capital. She was a huge city built on a hill some 800 feet high. Many temples were scattered on this hill, with the biggest dedicated to the Asclepios, the supposed god of healing. The city housed a huge library containing some two hundred thousand books. Christian life in Pergamum was extremely pressurized. That world was hostile because it had largely abandoned God, His Laws and His Values. A temple was dedicated to emperor Augustus and Rome. The city became the center of the imperial cult throughout the region. (Emperor Worship … in opposition to Christianity, this cult decreed that “Caesar is lord” where Christianity declared “Jesus is Lord”). Today we have many, many religions housed in many places of worship with some meeting under trees or in fields. Unless a country is declared a Christian, Islamic, Buddhist, etc. country … all religions are supposed to be equal in the democratic world … with Christianity becoming less equal as time passes. This does not mean this or that religion is more right or less right. They are all the same … worshipers who live in darkness and blind and deaf to the truth of the Eternal God. Get this … Christianity is the religion appointed by the One, True, Living God who is Creator, Sustainer and Savior. He alone is LORD or as John says … Lord of lords and King of kings. The text reads

Rev 2:12 “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. 13 I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives. 14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. 15 Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.
16 Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. 17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.

1) Remember each letter is addressed to the pastor. He is the shepherd and is responsible for his flock. He needs to know the things that please the Lord and don’t please the Lord so that he can teach and model a holier life for those under his care. Today we have a far larger letter … it’s called the Bible. Just as this pastor needed to understand the content of his letter, every pastor today needs to understand the content of the Bible. You cannot pastor a Church without knowing the story line of the Bible and the doctrines it teaches.

2) The real author of the letter is God. These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. In Revelation 1v16 we have “out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword” which is repeated here. Words come out of the mouth … but this is not just any mouth. It is God’s mouth meaning it is God’s Word! Some feel the two sharp edges symbolizes good and bad. I have another take on it. The extra sharpened double-edge sword was a dangerous military weapon. It would penetrate an enemy doing maximum damage. The purpose of God’s Word, described as the sharp, doubled-edge sword has a penetrating intention. It digs deep into the heart to capture maximum attention!

Heb 4:12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Like with each of the Seven Pastors letters, the Lord Jesus describes Himself in such a manner as to stamp His supreme authority as the Living, Reigning Lord and King of His Church. The point is that God’s Word is powerful and authoritative. When God speaks, His Word’s penetration reaches the hardest heart, the most distant rebel including the softest heart. As I often say … you cannot separate God from His Word or His Word from Himself. As He speaks His Word which we have written down in the shape of the Bible … His Word is Sovereign Truth. Refuse or reject it and you will suffer the consequences … yet receive and accept it and obey it and you will receive all the blessings promised in the Word. Allow me to be probing and provocative because the written Word is the only tangible thing God left us. We don’t know where the tomb is (even though some tour guides are “certain” they know). We have no remnants from the Cross (even though some might say they have a nail or piece of wood). Because the Christian Religion is by grace through faith … we trust what God says in His Word. We love the Word and apply it daily. Now … is this true of us … of you? As important as it is to have daily devotions and to read the Bible … understanding is key. When a pastor works diligently to grasp and understand the passage he will preach from, his people will understand the passage too. Having said that, God’s people need to go further than just a daily devotion. We need to buy books and commentaries (Reformed and Evangelical) to use as we work through a Book of the Bible. When we “understand” what God is saying, the power and authority of sharp double-edged sword becomes real and active.

Lord Jesus, help me to understand Your Word. Amen.

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