Repent: Devotional Commentary for October 10-16
This is the Word of God. May the Spirit of Truth give us wisdom and insight to receive what has been conveyed through His Word by His Inspiration.
12"And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this:
13'I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.
The letter to Pergamum is the third of seven letters written to the churches in Asia Minor. Pergamum lay inland from the coast of the Aegean Sea about sixty-five miles north of Smyrna and was the provincial capital of Roman Asia. The city boasted many grand Hellenic and Roman temples of several pagan gods and emperors, and was also home to an impressive library second only to the one in Alexandria, ancient Egypt. Pergamum is also known as Pergamos, Pergamom, and Pergamon.
Pergamum was the major political center of Asia Minor and was the seat of the Roman government for the region. Jesus affirmed that it was also the site of satan's stronghold where his throne was firmly set. It was within the boundaries of such an ungodly consortium that a small but strong church of Jesus Christ was raised by an assembly of a handful Christians.
In His letter to the church in Pergamum, Jesus identified Himself as the One Who has the sharp two-edged sword. That would be His Living Word, by which He creates, reigns, redeems, directs, teaches, heals, conquers, and judges, etc. Thus He spoke from a position of sovereign authority with an incontestable Power to redeem His elect, preserve His servants, and dispense God's judgment. He is Truth and has the Word of Life. He spoke as the Word of Truth, the Word of Life, the Word of God.
There is nothing hid from the all-surpassing omniscience of our God. He told the church in Pergamum that He knew their circumstances, where they lived, and what was taking place around them. He knew that they lived in a city of satan's stronghold and ungodly regime, and a place of rampant wickedness and spiritual perversion. It was the city of satan's domicile. It was a city where satan was enthroned. His chair was there. He was master to the city. He was the lord of the house where he set his throne. Pergamum was His dwelling place.
The Christians in Pergamum received high commendation from Jesus for being strong in faith and for holding fast to His Name in the face of rotten wickedness. They resisted any and all forces which sought to separate them from their Lord. They were neither enticed nor forcibly swayed to deny the Name of Jesus Christ. They stood their grounds by God's preserving Grace even when Antipas their Bishop was brutally killed in their presence. Antipas, the Lord's faithful witness, was ruthlessly martyred having been committed to the inhumane ceremonies of pagan rituals. They held fast in the face of intense evil and overwhelming malevolence.
14'But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality.
15'So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.
The believers in Pergamum stood faithfully and courageously against flagrant violence toward them and blatant depravity toward God. However, they were found wanting in the quality of their devotion to the basic doctrines of their faith in Christ. Most were tolerant of corruption and consequently grew weaker. Their commitment to the principal teachings of the Word of God was compromised, while a few among them were actually engaged in the practice of sexual immorality and idol worship.
There were some among them who yielded to the influences of erosive teachings which thrust them into corruption and consequential concessions in Christian principles. Such tolerant and accommodative compromises resulted in the weakening of their commitment and in the dilution of the Truth. Therefore, the majority of the believers in Pergamum found themselves guilty of tolerating the minority who actually subscribed to teachings that are offensive to God.
Jesus rebuked the church in Pergamum for their indifference toward those among them who upheld the doctrine of Balaam and the Nicolaitans whom He hated. The prophet Balaam counseled Balak—the king of Moab, to infiltrate God's people with sexual immorality and idol worship by corrupting the men of Israel with Moabite women. The Nicolaitans practiced idol worship by savoring food sacrificed to idols. So the church in Pergamum was infiltrated by those who practiced the teachings of Balaam and the Nicolaitans and corrupted some of the believers in Pergamum while the rest stood by and watched.
The church of the faithful was defiled and Jesus Christ was offended. His faithful followers were tolerant, indifferent, and accommodating to blatant depravity. It was undisguised defiance.
16'Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.
17'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.'
Speaking both to the tolerant and to the indulgent cohorts, the Lord issued a stern command to the church in Pergamum strongly urging them to repent of their corruption and defiance or face a swift judgment by the two-edged sword coming out of His Mouth; His Living Word. Jesus warned His children in Pergamum that, unless they repent, He would come forthwith and confront them with the Truth they have already heard and believed. The Truth which set them free shall hold them accountable to the One Whom they confessed Lord. Pergamum learned that impenitence is consequential; and disobedience, even more so.
The lesson to Pergamum was crucial. No one can serve two masters. One holds the one and rejects the other. The redeemed of Christ have renounced the world with all of its temptations. We have been bought by the precious Blood of the Lamb of God. We are the temples of the Living God the Almighty. We cannot take what belongs to God and commit the same to the works of the flesh. The only way out is confession and repentance. The impenitent will face the two-edged sword of the Lord's mighty Word by which redemption is given, discipline is meted out, and judgment is dispensed.
Let him whose ears are revived by the Power of the Spirit hear what the Spirit says to the churches and to those who overcome. The Lord will claim and will take possession of those who belong to Him. He will not leave His temple defiled by immorality and idol worship. He will cleanse the temple, His dwelling place in the hearts of those He redeemed.
He has prepared for us the Hidden Manna: the Bread of Life. He has given us a new name etched on a white precious stone; carved into the righteousness of our Savior. It is a name, a special name, known only to the one who receives it. Our loving Lord will never lose His own. Repent, oh child of God, because the chastisements of our loving Father are corrective and uncompromising. The Lord disciplines those whom He loves.
The highly commended assembly of the faithful was treading on tenuous grounds, frighteningly undermining its own integrity and commitment. Some of the church members in Pergamum were engaged in immorality and idol worship, while the rest quietly observed knowing that it was offensive to God. The trouble with the church in Pergamum was at least two-fold: active disobedience and quiet tolerance. Both seem detached and unconcerned about the Head of the church, the Lord of the redeemed, the One Who wields the two-edged sword.
When sinful behavior is nurtured in the protective wombs of supportive tolerance and detached indifference, the entire assembly is guilty of offending the Lord and grieving the Holy Spirit. It is sins of commission and omission come together. The same faith and commitment which was applied by the believers in Pergamum to resist the devil and to withstand persecution, should also be summoned to ward-off the allurements of immorality and idol worship. The faith of the faithful must cover the entire life of the believer without exception, so that the once disobedient would now become fully obedient.
The faithful and the committed are strongly urged to repent and to overcome the formidable influences of sin's attractive postures. We are strongly admonished to repent because God is Faithful and Just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. His mercies are fresh toward us every morning. We overcome sin and all temptations by God's Living Word. We are sanctified by God's Word, because His Word is Truth. God does not merely fix our past. He also gives us the strength of His Living Word by which we can resist all ungodly forces and draw closer to our Father.
The words of an early Puritan prayer offer encouragement to us with a simple reminder of the importance of our relationship with Jesus Christ, Who keeps us safe from the world’s derision and strong in the face of the world’s opposition:
May I never dally with this world and its allurements;Repent! For God's mercy endures forever.
but walk by thy side, listen to thy voice;
be clothed with thy grace, and adorned with thy righteousness.