And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: “The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword. I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.” (Revelation 2:12-17)
Big Idea: In this letter, Jesus lays down two ways his disciples must overcome because the battle belongs to him: professing him with their mouths and taking up our cross daily.
I. Profess with Your Mouth (vv. 12-13)
Pergamum was a city with considerable access to knowledge, healing, and political and social influence. There would have been much pressure in Pergamum to disown Christ either by overt denial or mere passivity. As a city that had gained favors from Rome for committing sacred spaces to emperor worship, it surely felt like Satan was “enthroned” there. Surrounded as they were by a culture wholeheartedly committed to honoring Caesar as lord, Christians could have concluded that Satan was the “ruler of the world” (Jn. 14:30). Everything in the Christian faith would have been out of step with Pergamum’s values.
II. Take Up Your Cross Daily (vv. 14-16)
Jesus turns from these words of commendation to words of condemnation, which are just as applicable to our Church today. As courageous and articulate as this church was with her verbal profession, she had a remarkable cognitive dissonance. Though willing to go to the stake for her doctrine, she tolerated sexual immorality and material avarice. This church was forging a bond between orthodox Christian beliefs and a morally compromising lifestyle.
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- What are some specific areas where you find your Christian beliefs “out of step” with the beliefs and practices of those around you?
- Are there opportunities for you to profess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord even if it might cost you in some way? How is Jesus both the model and motivation for living this way?
- It can be subtle the ways we may be very intentional about our doctrine yet pay less attention to our personal holiness. Are there any ways the Spirit brought conviction to you in this regard? If so, how?
- The beginning of verse 16 is short and hopeful. After naming the specific sin, John writes, “therefore repent.” The good news of the gospel is that if you are guilty of living contrary to the doctrine you carefully hold, Jesus gives opportunity to repent. Spend time praying and asking the Spirit to reveal sin in your life and enabling repentance.