SBTS chapel live blog: R. Albert Mohler Jr. — Rev. 2:12-17

Communications Staff — September 17, 2009

Preacher: R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Text/title: Revelation 2:12-17; A New Name Written on the Stone – The Letter to the Church at Pergamum.

Pergamum the city was dedicated to the imperial cult. There were altars to Zeus, Athena and other Greek gods.

Power, sexuality, intellect and health were idols in Pergamum that also translate into our present-day context.

The idolatry of power is strong. So is the idol of sexuality. In every decade it seems, we have a new set of realities in sexuality, so that more grotesque and sinful expressions of human sexuality are realized as the years progress.

The worship of intellect is found in some circles and I can’t help but be reminded of the apostle Paul’s words, that God uses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. We worship health and the idolatrous practices of Pergamum would be all together to familiar today.

The letter to Pergamum

The deciding issue in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ is Scripture. We used to pay far more attention in our churches to the Bible as the Sword. Jesus — the Davidic King, the Messiah, the King of Kings — speaks to His church through this Word. The one who speaks is the one who has in his mouth the sharp, two-edged sword (Rev 2:12; Cf. Rev 1:16).

To know this church is to know where Satan dwells: Satan’s throne was in this church. The letter to this church lets us know that it is impossible to be both a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ and a partaker of pagan, idol-worship, ritualistic traditions.

Context is important in ministry. If you don’t understand the context in which you do ministry, you will not be understood. You will not communicate what you intend to communicate. But at the same time, the message does not change, the Gospel does not change, no matter the situation or circumstance.

The church belongs where many people say it should never be. I am sure there are those who would say that there should not be a church at Pergamum. But, we need more churches where Satan’s throne is, not fewer. We need churches that hold to the Gospel.

The church at Pergamum is valorized for holding fast to Christ’s name. For holding fast to the truths that are the very heart of the Gospel. They did not undermine or subvert the truth. They upheld the faith once for all delivered to the saints. And they did so under the most excruciating persecution. The Gospel comes with a cost. This was seen by the church at Pergamum in the death of Antipas, a martyr for the Gospel (Rev 2:13).

But in v. 14, Jesus moves from commendation to condemnation. He says that there were some in the church at Pergamum who held to the teaching of Balaam. Back in Numbers, Balaam suggested to Balak that he persuade the Israelites to participate in pagan sexual practices. And they did so.

There were practices of idol worship and sexual immorality that some believers in the church at Pergamum were participating in. Some who believed you could syncretize your worship. This was a public disgrace to the church at Pergamum.

Jesus goes on to say that there were some who held to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. There were some in the church at Pergamum who did not hate what the Lord hates (the teaching of the Nicolaitans). We don’t much about the Nicolaitans, but we do know that they were accomodationists. They believed that you could follow in the ways of pagan idolaters and still hold fast to the way of Christ and be a follower of Christ.

But Jesus Christ Himself says this is impossible. And the Lord’s judgment here is rendered in unmistakable terms. And the judgment was on the entire church. This is a reminder that the church cannot tolerate the subversion of the Gospel from within. The demands of love, of fellowship, of the Gospel do not require that people compromise on truth.

Jesus’ exhortation is clear: repent. This is clear and short: repent. Jesus calls the church to repent for He is coming quickly with the sword in His mouth. The sword in His mouth is the sword of His Word and it is the sword of His judgment that He will carry out on the Last Day. Jesus is returning as the Davidic King to save His people and He is coming to bring judgment on those who are not.

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