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To the Church at Pergamum

The city of Pergamum was the most distinguished city of Asia.  So said Pliny the Younger, an ancient historian.  The city was wealthy and very focused in their allegiance to the Roman Emperor.
To this church, Jesus introduces himself as the one who has the two-edged sword.  This is an offensive weapon designed for more than intimidation.  He references the words that he speaks as weapons and this message is to the church.  His character is revealed to us as someone who sees the situation rightly and who will enforce his will.
The church had struggled with fidelity to Jesus but was prevailing.  Even while living in the shadow of Satan’s headquarters, they insisted on fidelity to Jesus.  One of their own, Antipas was martyred there and Jesus references this event.  Even when Antipas was taken, the church would not recant.  The temptation to deny Jesus is real but also subtle.  Contextually, offering a pinch of incense to the emperor could free a Christian from prison.  This church didn’t take the bait.  Nor did they succumb to fear.
However, even while flourishing in fidelity to external threats, the church had allowed internal weakness to enter.  The corporate entity allowed false teaching to take root.  Basically, they allowed the teaching of idolatry and fornication to flourish, in their midst!  While seeming clear to us, it wasn’t that clear to the church at Pergamum.  Contextually, pagan worship consisted of offering sacrifice to idols, eating the meat in a ritual of worship, and then following this up with fornication on site.  Somehow the church had convinced themselves it was ok, perhaps for outreach purposes to indulge in this activity.
The warning came down.  Either deal with this or I’m coming to make war against this group.  To the perpetrator, this doesn’t sound like a winning proposition, does it?  They were challenged to repent right away.
Finally, to those who responded rightly, Jesus promised two things:  hidden manna and a white stone.  These two things may sound archaic or strange to us.  This hidden manna would be the sustenance which he provides in himself.  The stone simply speaks to that new identity he gives us in him.  What a marvelous promise.
In conclusion, the church at Ephesus was pure in doctrine but tainted in love.  The church at Pergamum was externally good but internally compromised.  Their desire to be relevant went too far and they lost their soul.  May we be diligent to preserve sound doctrine and our identity in Jesus.

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