What on earth have we done with the teachings of Jesus?
We are continuing on with our studies into the letters to the Seven Churches in the Book of Revelation. Yesterday we covered the letter to the persecuted church. Today we commence with the third letter to the Compromising church in Pergamos, now a city called Bergama in modern-day Turkey ~
I will come to you quickly
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 those there who hold the doctrine of Balaam. They 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.
I will give the hidden manna
“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.” ’
Henry says – Pergamon was a place where Christ had called for a gospel church. This came by the preaching of the gospel and the grace of His Spirit making the Word effectual. It was Jesus who describes Himself as one that hath the sharp sword with two edges (Rev. 1:16), out of whose mouth went a sharp two-edged sword. In the several titles of Christ in these letters there is something suited to the state of those churches.
Turning and cutting every way
The church of Pergamos was infested with men of corrupt minds. They did what they could to corrupt the faith and behaviour of the Christians. Christ resolved to fight against them by the sword of His Word and so takes that title. The Word of God is a sword. It is a weapon that is both offensive and defensive. In the hand of God, able to slay both sin and sinners.
It is a sharp sword and able to cut through the hardest of hearts. Dividing between the soul and the spirit. That is, between the soul and those sinful habits that by practice seem to have become important to the soul. It is a sword with two edges; it turns and cuts every way.
Opportunities for duty
There is the edge of the law against the transgressors, and the edge of the gospel against the despisers of it. Christ takes notice of the trials and difficulties this church encountered with: I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, etc., Rev. 2:13. What added very much lustre to the good works of this church was the circumstance of the place. This church was planted in a place where Satan’s seat was. Our great Lord takes notice of all the advantages and opportunities we have for duty in the places where we dwell. He also takes notice of all the temptations and discouragements we meet in the places where we dwell.
The people dwelt where Satan’s seat was, where he kept his court. His circuit is throughout the world, his seat is in some places that are infamous for wickedness, error, and cruelty. Some think that the Roman governor in this city was a most violent enemy to the Christians. Thus the seat of persecution is Satan’s seat.
Count it to you honour
He commends their steadfastness: Thou holds fast my name, and hast not denied my faith. These two expressions are much the same in sense. The former signifies the effect and the latter the means. “Thou holds fast my name. You are not ashamed of your relation to me but count it your honour that My name is named on you.
“That which has made you faithful is the grace of faith. They had not denied the great doctrines of the gospel, nor departed from the Christian faith. So by that means they had remained faithful.” Our faith will have a great influence upon our faithfulness.
Impure worship leads to impure practices
Here our blessed Lord overstates the fidelity of this church from the circumstance of the times. They had been steadfast even in those days wherein Antipas His faithful martyr was slain among them. He was a faithful disciple of Christ and he suffered martyrdom for it. Though the rest of the believers there knew this, and saw it, yet they were not drawn away from their steadfastness. This is mentioned as an addition to their honour.
Yet He reproves them for their sinful failures (Rev. 2:14): But I have a few things against thee. Because thou hast there those that hold the doctrine of Balaam, etc., and those that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. There were some who taught that it was lawful to eat things sacrificed to idols, and that simple fornication was no sin. By an impure worship they drew men into impure practices, as Balaam did the Israelites.
Drops from the storm fall on the whole
The filthiness of the spirit and the filthiness of the flesh often go together. Corrupt doctrines and corrupt worship often lead to a corrupt conversation. To continue in communion with persons of corrupt principles and practices is displeasing to God. For they become partakers of other men’s sins. Though the church, as such, has no power to punish men for heresy or immorality, yet it has power to exclude them from its communion. If it does not then Christ, the head and lawgiver of the church, will be displeased with it.
He calls them to repentance: Repent, or else I will come unto thee quickly, etc., Rev. 2:16. Repentance is the duty of saints as well as sinners. It is the duty of churches and communities as well as particular persons. Those who sin together should repent together. When God comes to punish the corrupt members of a church, He rebukes that church itself for allowing such to continue in its communion. And some drops of the storm fall upon the whole.
They will have a new name
No sword cuts so deep, nor inflicts so mortal a wound, as the sword of Christ’s mouth. Let the threatenings of the Word imbed upon the conscience of a sinner. For the word of God will take hold of sinners, sooner or later, either for their conviction or their confusion.
At the conclusion of this letter there is the promise of great favour to those that overcome. They shall eat of the hidden manna, and have the new name, and the white stone, which no man knows, except he that receives it, Rev. 2:17.
The hidden manna, the influences and comforts of the Spirit of Christ in communion with Him, coming down from heaven into the soul. For its support and to let it taste something how saints and angels live in heaven. This is hidden from the rest of the world—a stranger intermeddles not with this joy. It is laid up in Christ, the ark of the covenant, in the holy of holies.
Absolution from the guilt
The white stone, with a new name engraved upon it. This white stone is absolution from the guilt of sin. This alludes to the ancient custom of giving a white stone to those acquitted on trial and a black stone to those condemned.
The new name is the name of adoption. Adopted persons took the name of the family into which they were adopted. Yet if he perseveres he shall have both the evidence of sonship and the inheritance.
Adapted from the Matthew Henry Commentary
- Churches are formed by the preaching of the gospel and the grace of His Spirit making the Word effectual
- Know that Christ resolves to fight against corruption by the sword of His Word
- Know that the Word of Christ is a sharp sword able to cut through the hardest of hearts
- Christ takes notice of the trials and difficulties of His people
- We are not to be ashamed of our relation to Christ but to count it our honour that His name is named on us
- That which makes us faithful is the grace of faith.
- Be careful not to deny the great doctrines of the gospel, nor depart from the Christian faith
- To continue in communion with persons of corrupt principles and practices is displeasing to God Do not become partakers of other men’s sins.
- Remember that repentance is the duty of saints as well as sinners
- If we overcome we shall be given the hidden manna, the influences and comforts of the Spirit of Christ.
The Pain of Compromise This is My church You can’t do this, Remember, the Son of Man Was betrayed with a kiss. Are we producing sons? Or mere slaves, Battered about by the wind and the waves. There’s only one path That we should be walking, There’s no need for hour Upon hour of talking. When we’re content To relinquish our role, Then the Lord Jesus Christ Can assume control. When a church tries to be All things to all people, Every ant hill Becomes a steeple. There continues to be The most terrible pain, Unless we submit To allow Jesus to reign. So let’s put behind us All thoughts of compromise, Then the clouds will be open To clean blue skies. When Jesus is in the centre Of a glorified church, Man will no longer need To continue his search. Dare we now look forward To that wonderful day, When all the pains of compromise Are clearly blown away. By the late Andrew Feakin [passed away 16th March 2019]
Prayer: Father, I come to You. Thank You for Your Word that is a sharp sword able to cut through my heart. May I never be ashamed of my relation to You, but count it an honour that Your name is named on me. Fill me with the grace of faith, that I may remain faithful to the end. Help me to stay true to the great doctrines of the gospel and not ever depart from the Christian faith. May I ever have a repentant hear, that heaven’s door always remain open. And make me to be a faithful witness to all You’ve done for me that I might lead many sons to glory. In Jesus name I ask. Amen.
To the Compromising church!
Download a free copy of Jo Feakin’s book, “What have we done with the Teachings of Jesus?” here.