THE CHURCHES IN REVELATION: Pergamum
Reading: Revelation 2 verses 12-17
There are three things in life that are absolutely certain, apart from the faithfulness of God:
- Income tax
- The fact that however hard you search you will never find the perfect church!
AS SOMEONE HAS WRITTEN…
If you should find the perfect church without one fault or smear
For goodness sake don’t join that church
You’ll spoil the atmosphere!
If you should find the perfect church where the Spirit has release
Then pass on by, lest joining it, you spoil the masterpiece.
If you should find the perfect church then don’t you ever dare
To tread upon such holy ground, you’d be a misfit there.
But since no perfect church exists, made of perfect men
Let’s cease from looking for that church and love the church we’re in.
Of course, it’s not the perfect church, that’s simple to discern
But you and I and all of us could cause the tide to turn.
What fools we are to spend our time in that unfruitful search
To find that where God’s people dwell
He proudly builds His church.
(Source unknown; considerably modified)
AND YET… it is God’s desire that His church, also referred to as the Bride of Christ is presented without spot or blemish
WHICH IS ONLY POSSIBLE through SUPERNATURAL MEANS… through the indwelling Holy Spirit… and lives fully devoted to Christ
THE WORLDWIDE CHURCH OF CHRIST consists of all those for whom He died… those who trust Him for salvation and look forward to His return
AS PAUL WRITES in I Corinthians 12: 27…
Now you are the body of Christ and each one of you is a part of it
CONSIDER THIS CLAIM…
- People may attend church regularly but not be part of the church
- So it is possible to belong to a local church, but not be part of the church… because we have not accepted what Jesus did for me on the Cross
SO WHEN THE SON OF GOD WRITES TO THE ANGELS (messengers… or leaders) OF SEVEN CHURCHES, he’s addressing the letter to a church that consists of people… not to organisations or denominations
- Groups of people like you and me!
And note that God is concerned with specific issues relating to specific churches…
- In the same way, He is interested in the specific issues attached to THIS church… (What are they?)
EVERY Church has its UNIQUE CHARACTERISTICS, STRENGTHS & CHALLENGES
When I first visit a church I get a “feel” for it… but my initial impressions can be wide of the mark
- Sometimes there are precious stones that lie within the apparent ordinariness of the church… special people not systems or strategies
- Sometimes there are problems that lie concealed behind the cheery manner and broad smile
- After a service, people sometimes share their concerns with me as a visiting speaker… they see me as “safe”
But God sees it all
AND JESUS THE CHRIST SAW THE WHOLE SITUATION AT PERGAMUM… an ancient Greek city… today part of Turkey
- It was a church that tried to face two ways at once
IT WAS SITUATED IN A CITY that was a centre for idolatry:
- There were huge altars to Zeus that dominated the skyline
- It was, together with Rome, the main area for Emperor worship…
For Christians, I IMAGINE IT TO BE A CROSS BETWEEN LIVING UNDER THE TALIBAN AND UNDER HITLER!
- So it was a tough place for believers to live and witness
THE CHURCH AT PERGAMUM WAS COMMENDED by Christ:
IT WAS A COURAGEOUS GROUP OF BELIEVERS who considered loyalty to the Saviour as worth more than life itself
- Consider the similar plight of many of our brothers and sisters today who are living under oppressive regimes and persecuted because of their stand for the Gospel
AND YET DESPITE THEIR FAITHFULNESS… the church seems to have been willing to compromise:
- They were witnessing as believers living in a godless world
- But the godless world seems to have been living in some of the believers!
Some of the people had found ways to ‘accommodate’ paganism into their lives…
- Eating food sacrificed to idols
- Flirting with ideas and practices that were contrary to the word of God
BUT LET’S NOT BE TOO QUICK TO JUDGE…
- Can you and I be guilty of behaving in a similar “two-faced” way? Hypocrites, even!
- Living just like everyone else… except on Sunday?
- Walking by sight not faith… not really trusting God at all
PERGAMUM WAS A CITY DESCRIBED as a place where Satan had his throne…
- An evil place that was steeped in sin
- Not the sort of city where you could allow your teenage daughter to wander along the street on her own!
AND NOT THE SORT OF PLACE WHERE THE CHURCH SHOULD HAVE COMPROMISED ITS POSITION
But how about you and me?
- Does Satan have his throne in any part of your life or mine?
Yes, of course we have to be sensitive to modern culture and alert to new ways of proclaiming the truth about Jesus Christ…
- But a willingness to allow the Holy Spirit to do a new thing does not mean that we set aside Biblical truth
Our greatest protection against evil and weapon to defeat the powers of evil reside in the Word of God made alive by the Spirit of God
PERGAMUM was, in some ways, typical of many churches today…
- A small number of highly committed people doing most of the work
- A few who were probably not Christians at all
BUT it was different in that there is NO MENTION of ‘spectator Christians’… those who turn up to church but otherwise do not play any part in its work or witness
WHERE DO YOU AND I STAND?
- Spectators? Lukewarm?
- Or wholly committed…not only to a specific church but to the Lord?
THE BELIEVERS AT PERGAMUM WERE DIVIDED… facing one way (towards God) and the other way (towards the world)
But as Joshua made clear…
If God be God, serve Him…if Baal be God, serve him… but choose this day whom you will serve and don’t go stumbling from one to the other
LET’S BE CLEAR WHAT’S AT ISSUE HERE AND WHAT IS NOT…
Jesus is not saying to the Church…
Don’t let sinners inside because they’ll pollute the place! BECAUSE JESUS IS THE FRIEND OF SINNERS
- And anyway appearances can be deceptive… one of the speakers at a Bible conference I attended looked a bit like a down-and-out!
- The well-polished person may be concealing an evil life style
IT IS EASY TO LOSE SIGHT OF OUR PRIMARY FUNCTION… to proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ to a lost world
- Yes, we must spend time building up the flock and serving one another…
- But this should not be to the exclusion of those who need a Saviour… and a loving fellowship
- It’s possible to spend a lot of time on the needs of the immediate congregation and neglect the majority “out there”
JESUS IS NOT SAYING TO THE CHURCH AT PERGAMUM…
Keep ’em out! He is saying:
Go out and bring ’em in… but make sure that once they are in they hear the whole truth and see it worked out in practice
SO WHILE WE ARE SENSITIVE TO THE NEEDS OF ‘THE UNCHURCHED’, WE MUST RESIST COMPROMISING THE TRUTH…
- However well intended
- However culturally relevant
- However tempting it looks as a means of boosting numbers
- As Jesus said: “Know the truth and the truth will set you free!”
THE PERGAMUM CHURCH HAD SO MUCH IN ITS FAVOUR…
- But it was not prepared to deal with the wrong-doing in its midst
FINALLY, NOTICE THAT Jesus promises two precious gifts to the one who overcomes…
HIDDEN MANNA, which speaks of feeding… it reminds us that we need God daily… that we need His grace new each morning…
- That we cannot depend on past blessings… that we are only as spiritual as our most recent obedience
AND A WHITE STONE… which speaks of victory
- Life is a battle…but the outcome of the war has already been decided by the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross at Calvary
SO THE CHURCH AT PERGAMUM WAS CONFRONTED with some hard truths as well as some glowing commendations… just as we are here and now
LET US PRAY
Lord God, may we all be willing to give and not count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wound, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labour and not to ask for any reward, save that of knowing that we do your will. Amen.