The church at Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17) received a mixed report from Jesus. Like much of the church today, and like many of the congregations that believers fellowship in, there were some good things about their mission, but enough of a deficiency to receive a stern warning from the Lord.
The church at Pergamum had held fast to the name of Christ, even though their circumstances were oppressive. The hostility they faced was such that Jesus described them as living “where Satan’s throne is.” These believers hadn’t insulated themselves behind protective walls, or in the better neighborhoods, in order to avoid contact with “sinners.” Instead, they stayed put and relied on Jesus, even when one of their fellowship was martyred for the name of Christ.
Would believers today receive this commendation? Or do we make every effort to avoid unbelievers and the suffering that witnessing Christ brings?
Pergamum fell into the teaching of the Nicolaitans (a New Testament power perspective) and of Balaam (an Old Testament pagan prophet). Generally speaking, Jesus rebuked them for tolerating conflict among believers and for adopting the world’s idolatries.
Tim Keller gives a good assessment of modern idols, to which even believers can fall prey:
Each [culture] has its shrines — whether office towers, spas and gyms, studios, or stadiums — where sacrifices must be made in order to procure the blessings of the good life and ward off disaster.
The Christian church is rife with conflict. Petty bickering and selfish manipulation stain the witness of the gospel.
And Christians are almost indistinguishable from the world in our idolatrous pursuit of “the good life.” This idolatry is frequently described by God as marital infidelity, such that the idolater “plays the harlot” against the Lord’s favor.
Those who continue in this Christ-less pattern of behaviors will be dealt with: Jesus will war with them with the sword of his mouth.
But for those who “conquer” — prevail against intramural conflict and over extra-marital concupiscence — he will provide hidden manna and give a new name, revealing their value and character consistent with their position in Christ.
Listen to Sermon Audio here:
Unless we resist the world, Jesus will come with a sharp Word
- Jesus Brings a Word to Commend
- Their Dwelling
- Their Devotion
- Jesus Brings a Word to Confront
- Compromise with the World
- Conflict with Believers
- Jesus Brings a Word to Comfort