The Twenty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time

Revelation 2:12-17

Letters to the Churches: Pergamum

There’s a trick that has been played by Christians since the very beginning, but it’s one in which they only fool themselves.  The trick of which I speak is called “rationalization.”  It happened first in the Garden: “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate” (Genesis 3:6).  No matter that God said, “You shall not eat [of it]” (2:17), Eve had her own designs of which to attend.  And so Christians have made a stock and trade of this wicked commodity, justifying their sins for some “noble” purpose—like getting along in the world without sacrifice.

In all of these cities, the imperial cult was in high regard, if for no other reason than to get into Rome’s good graces.  Swearing by the genius of Caesar, calling him, “Lord,” or placing a pinch of incense before his altar were all gestures of patriotism and a social obligation (NIGTC, 249).  And many Christians thought, “What harm is it?  We know that Jesus is Lord.  We do not believe in their deities.  We simply go along to get along.  And you’d better do the same if you wish to live a life without harassment—or worse!”

That’s what was happening in Pergamum.  Note that to this church, Christ introduces himself as the one “who has the sharp two-edged sword” (1:16), a reminder that he is judge of his churches.  Some in the church are commended for their faithfulness in a city under such Satanic dominion; one of their own, “Antipas,” even sealed his testimony with blood.  But despite these godly ones, others in the church were doing exactly what we described above: Compromising with the world.  They ate food sacrificed to idols and probably in the pagan temple where they shared the table with demons (1 Corinthians 10:14-22), and perhaps practiced sexual immorality.  Both of these sins are reminiscent of Balaam’s teaching (Numbers 25; 31:16; 2 Peter 2:15) and the cursed Nicolaitans—an antinomian group of false teachers.

Like the Ephesians, they are called upon to repent lest Christ himself war against them!  Did you hear that?  But let us not overlook the blessings for the one who conquers so beautifully depicted by our Lord: Hidden manna and a white stone with a new name thereon which no one knows but the one who receives it.  We know that manna was the food the Israelites ate in the wilderness and so symbolizes eternal sustenance.  As for the stone, I will only say that it is the personal and intimate relationship with God symbolized by the gift that matters. 

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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