The Letter to Pergamos
Today, we come to the third church that Jesus addressed in . Jesus commanded the apostle, John, to write letters to the seven churches that were located in Asia minor. When we started this study, I pointed out that each of these churches can be indicative of the condition of a modern day church and even apply to individual Christians as well.
It is very possible that most, if not all of these churches are represented in Adamsville First Baptist Church. Some of us have identified with the church in Ephesus, which lost its love for Christ. We saw that even while being busy for God, it is possible to neglect our relationship with Him. I feel that very few, if any, of us truly understand the suffering that the church in Smyrna experienced. Sure, we are inconvenienced and maybe even offended for our faith, but we do not face persecution to the extent that we would be killed for our faith.
After examining the churches in Ephesus and Smyrna, we find ourselves looking at the church in Pergamos. The city of Pergamos was a center of polytheistic worship. They had many idols, and false deities that were worshiped there. Pergamos was the first city in the Roman empire to build a temple in which to worship a living ruler. Eventually, the roman empire would build temples, altars, and images in Caesar’s honor throughout the empire. A law was eventually passed that required every citizen to go into a temple once a year and bow to the image while saying, “Caesar is Lord.” To prove that this loyal act had been done, a written certificate was required to be in the possession of citizens.
The church in Pergamos faced many difficulties. They were commended and condemned by Jesus. Let’s take a look at what He said to them.
“And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, ‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword: “I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth. “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 to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.” ’
The authority of Christ.
The authority of Christ.
The way that Jesus referred to Himself to each church was significant. It was especially significant in Pergamos. As said earlier, Pergamos was the center of Rome’s emperor worship. Many of the statues made of the emperor had him holding a sword known as parazonium. The parazonium was not a sword used for fighting, but was one that represented authority. Therefore, anyone that carried a parazonium was a person of significant rank. Many statues of Caesar included a parazonium in his hand and indicated that Caesar had authority.
Jesus said in verse 12:
“And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, ‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword:
Having ownership of the sharp two-edged sword reminded the believers in Pergamos that Jesus had authority. In fact, this imagery in their mind would remind them of Jesus’s supreme and ultimate authority. Jesus’s authority and power was greater than anything that Caesar had.
The sword that Jesus had was coming out of His mouth.
He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.
In the Great Commission, Jesus told the disciples that He had all authority.
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
So, Jesus has supreme authority in heaven and on earth. He had authority over Caesar and reminded the church of Pergamos of that fact.
I am afraid that many believers today need to be reminded of Jesus’s authority. Too many of us have bought into the idea of self-rule. That is exactly what some of those in Pergamos had done. They were not completely surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. They failed to submit to His authority in their lives.
If you will remember, we have discussed this sharp two-edged sword that is coming out of Jesus’s mouth. It is the Bible.
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
The Bible is our authority, not society. Our society has dictated to us what our social norms are to be. Over the past 60 years, we have seen society morph into a godless acceptance of everything except biblical truth. Society rejects the authority of the Bible and unfortunately too many church people are rejecting the authority of the Bible as well.
We need to return to a biblical understanding of scripture.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
The Bible was written by the Holy Spirit breathing into men the words that He wanted written. It is just that God wanted us to have, only what He wanted us to have, and all that He wanted us to have. It details for us how to be saved and then how to live our lives in holiness. It is the supreme authority for our lives. It is past time for us to get back to the Bible. Too many of us listen to what people say about the Bible rather than listening to what the Bible itself says. It is time for us to cease being biblically illiterate.
Worldliness was the issue in Pergamos.
Worldliness was the issue in Pergamos.
But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.
In , you can read the details of Balak hiring Balaam to curse Israel. However, God would not allow Balaam to curse Israel. So, Balaam conspired with Balak by advising him in how to get Israel out of God’s blessing.
Look, these women caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the Lord in the incident of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord.
The Lord refers to two things in Pergamos:
The Moabite women tempted the Israelite men to commit sexual immorality. This eventually led to the Israelite men committing idolatry as well. The church in Pergamos had the same issue in that there were those succumbing to immorality. They were in adulterous relationships and the church was tolerating these relationships. To our own condemnation, church people today are guilty of the same things.
We look at pornography, we are guilty of lust, and all manners of immorality. We tolerate sin because we are all unrighteous. We fail to be holy. Rather than being holy, we are so wrapped up in the lust of the flesh that we have not only given in to immorality, but have given into idolatry.
The Moabite women in Numbers and the women in Pergamos turned the hearts of God’s people away from Him by leading them to participate in idol worship. The worship of those idols included immoral acts. Our society has become one that is obsessed with self gratification. It has subtlety infiltrated the church over the past few decades and now even believers are guilty of idolatry.
We have given the things of this world preeminence in our lives. We are driven by that which is temporary rather than what is eternal. We come to worship God with divided hearts, forgetting that God demands all that we are. We are commanded to love Him with all that we are.
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment.
Our divided hearts cause us to be guilty of breaking the first and greatest commandment.
Repent, or else!
Repent, or else!
Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.
Jesus provides the church with an opportunity to repent. Now, understand something: He is not only giving the immoral and idolatrous people an opportunity to repent. He is also giving those who tolerated these things an opportunity to repent.
The judgment of Jesus was going to come on both those that committed these sins and those that tolerated them.
If you go back and look in Numbers, God killed 24,000 Israelites who committed immorality and idolatry with the Moabites. Folks, I am afraid that many of us are facing the judgment of Christ. It is time to repent.
We must lay aside our worldly pursuits, worldly affections, and our worldliness.
Then, we must pursue holiness by bringing ourselves back under the authority of the Bible
If we overcome our immorality and idolatry, Jesus will give us rewards! Don’t continue to give up the eternal rewards that await you for the sake of temporary gratification.
The invitation is very simple this morning: come and repent.
If you have not been saved - repent of your sins, believe in Jesus and be saved. I will stand down here ready to explain to you how to do that.
If you have been saved, you may need to repent of immorality, idolatry, worldliness, or even just a general lack of holiness.
The altar is open, come today and lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us.
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,