Sermon # 4 Christ’s Warnings To the Churches
Title: Christ’s Letter To
The Church At Pergamos
Text: Revelation 2:12-17
Readings: Office: Bobbie Estes Auditorium: Larry Criss
Date: Tuesday Evening - April 27, 1999
Tape # V-25a
Pergamos means “exalted, lofty, or elevated.” It was a city in Asia Minor which was built on a huge rocky hill. The Romans made it the capital of the province. In Pergamos Aesculapius, the god of healing, was worshipped. The emblem of this god was a serpent, which to the people of God is the very emblem and symbol of Satan. Therefore, our Lord called Pergamos the place “where Satan’s seat is.”
The great altar to the Greek god Zeus was in this city also, as were many other pagan altars to pagan gods. In addition to these things, Pergamos was also the center of emperor worship. Temples were dedicated to the worship of Caesar.
All men, including the disciples of Christ, were expected to offer incense to the emperor’s image and say “Caesar is Lord.” Those who refused to do so suffered great hardship and persecution for their fidelity to Christ. One example was a man named Antipas, a faithful man, who suffered martyrdom because he would not deny Christ.
The majority of those who were members of the church in Pergamos were faithful. They held fast the name of Christ and would not deny his faith. But there were a few, even there, who tried to straddle the fence. Though they claimed to be Christians, they were willing to compromise with the pagans.
They followed the doctrine of Balaam. In order to avoid persecution they tried to remove the offense of the cross by incorporating the worship of pagans into the worship of Christ. They would offer incense to Caesar, eat meat in the temple of Aesculapius, pay homage to Zeus, and then come to worship with the people of God on Sunday.
Others in the church went beyond the doctrine of Balaam. They followed the licentious practices of the Nicolaitanes. These Nicolaitanes were base antinomians. They openly taught and practiced fornication and adultery, and shared their wives with one another. In a word, they lived and acted like pagans, but called themselves Christians.
Now notice the character under which our Lord Jesus Christ presents himself to the church at Pergamos. “Those things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges” (v. 12). Christ stands before the door of his church with a sword drawn and ready to do battle. The sharp, double edged sword with which the Son of God does battle is the Word of God. There are two reasons for this picture.
1. Christ will destroy those who defile his name.
He speaks to those in the church who hold the doctrine of Balaam and the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, and says, “Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth” (v. 16).
Notice he says, “I will fight against them.” Not against my church, but against them who are in my church but have forsaken me. There is a parallel passage in Matthew 3:12. John the Baptist tells us that Christ’s “fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
Christ’s love for his church is manifest by his judgment against the traitors within her walls. The Word of God is a sword of judgment and destruction to hypocrites. By the preaching of the Word, our Lord disciplines his church, separates the wheat from the chaff, and binds up the tares for the burning (Matt. 13:30). He turns his sword against those within the church who have no right to be there. Such a sight should make every hypocrite tremble; but nothing makes hypocrites tremble!
2. Christ presents himself here as a man of war, with his sword drawn, to comfort and defend his church.
He is saying to the faithful, “I will defend you, I will fight off those who attack you, I will destroy your enemies, and I will purge you of all those wicked men within who would defile you.” Jesus is our Joshua. He will chase the enemy before us, and lead us onward, conquering and to conquer.
Proposition: In this letter our Lord is encouraging us to persevere in the faith of the gospel.
Divisions: I want to show you four things in this letter to Pergamos:
1. The name of Christ and the faith of Christ are one.
2. There are many who deny the faith.
3. True believers hold fast the name of Christ and will not deny his faith.
4. If we persevere in the faith and hold the name of Christ to the end we shall be saved.
I. First, this passage shows us that THE NAME OF CHRIST AND THE FAITH OF CHRIST ARE ONE.
Our Lord says, “Thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith.” These two things are identical. They can never be separated. The faith of the gospel has Christ for its center, Christ for its circumference, and Christ for its substance. The name of Christ, that is his Person, his character, his work, and his teachings, is the faith of the gospel.
The great doctrines of the gospel are all intimately connected with the Lord Jesus Christ himself. They are the rays; and he is the Sun. We never hold the faith of Christ, except as we hold Jesus Christ himself as the center and object of that faith. In the faith of the gospel Jesus Christ is all and in all.
· Election is God’s choosing us in Christ before the world was made.
· Redemption is God purchasing his elect out of the hands of his own law by the blood of Christ.
· Regeneration is God giving dead sinners life in Christ, and Christ living in us.
· Forgiveness is God pardoning our sins through the blood of Christ.
· Justification is God clothing us with and imputing to us the righteousness of Christ.
· Sanctification is God forming Christ in us, imparting his righteousness to us.
· Resurrection is God raising us up by the power of Christ.
· Glorification is God conforming us to the image of Christ, to which end we were predestinated in the eternal purpose of his grace.
To the Jews the law was never in its proper place until it was laid in the ark, and covered with the mercy seat. And it is still true with us. We never see the law properly until we see it fulfilled in Christ.
The same is true of the gospel. The gospel is the golden ring of our faith; but Christ is the diamond setting in the ring. Christ is the author and finisher of our faith. He is the sum and the substance, the top and the bottom, the Alpha and the Omega of the faith of the gospel. When we hold fast the name of Christ we have not denied the faith.
II. But, secondly, our Lord tells us that THERE ARE MANY WHO DO DENY THE FAITH.
In Pergamos there were some who held the doctrine of Balaam and the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes. And in doing so they had both denied the name of Christ and the faith of the gospel. This is a painful fact, but it is a fact, and one that we have to deal with. In every local church there are some who will, for one reason or another, deny the faith. How is it that men and women deny Christ and his faith?
A. Many let go of Christ’s name and deny his faith by simply refusing to confess it.
Secret disciples are always suspect disciples. Those who confess Christ and the faith of the gospel only among his friends have, by their silence, denied him (Matt. 10:27, 32, 33). Those who know the truth, but refuse to confess the truth in the teeth of Christ’s enemies, deny the truth.
I know, people say, “I do not think we should offend people, or try to shove anything down their throats. We must try to get along.” Are you of that opinion? Hear the words of Christ to you:
“I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34). “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad” (Matt. 12:30). “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple” (Lk. 14:27).
If we are Christ’s disciples, sooner or later, he will see to it that we confess him before men, even before his enemies.
Examples: Nicodemus - John 7:50-51
Joseph of Arimathaea - John 19:38
Peter - Acts 4
B. Others let go of Christ and deny his faith by embracing false doctrine.
In Pergamos some had embraced the doctrine of Balaam and others the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes. Neither was an open denial of the gospel, but both were a practical denial of it.
The doctrine of Balaam was the acceptance of and compliance with false religion. It was an attempt to say, “We do not have to denounce the religions of men in order to hold to the truth of God” (Num. 25:1, 2; 31:16).
The doctrine of the Nicolaitanes said, “Faith in Christ does not require godliness and obedience to Christ.”
How does this apply to us today? If we embrace error regarding Christ’s person, work, or doctrine, if we believe what our Lord did not teach or refuse to believe what he did teach, then we have denied his name and his faith.
NOTE: People tell me all the time, “Don, we have to preach practical Christianity, experimental religion, and doctrinal truth.”
1. Christ is the Way we must follow. That is practical Christianity.
2. Christ is the Truth we must believe. That is doctrinal Christianity.
3. Christ is the Life we must live. That is experimental Christianity.
It matters not whether you talk about practical godliness, doctrinal truth, or experimental religion, all must be found in Christ, and all must come from Christ. We cannot be right in any area, unless Christ is the sum and substance of all.
Our religion is Christ. Apart from this there is not true religion. Any doctrine divorced from Christ is heresy. Any precept divorced from Christ is legalism. Any religious experience divorced from Christ is fanaticism.
C. There are some who deny the faith by lives that are contrary to the gospel.
Paul said to Timothy, “If any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (I Tim. 5:8).
Morality will never produce faith; but faith always produces morality. This was the error of the Nicolaitanes. They held the truth in creed, but denied it in life. It matters not what I say I believe, if my manner of life is contrary to the gospel, I am an infidel, an unbeliever.
D. And some let go of Christ and deny the faith by actually forsaking Christ and the gospel (John 6:66; I John 2:19).
Some deliberately choose to forsake the gospel, while others are gradually overcome by the deceitful charms of the world; but all who forsake Christ, all who forsake the gospel of the grace of God, have denied the faith. And by their actions they prove that their faith was false.
III. Thirdly, I want you to see that ALL TRUE BELIEVERS HOLD FAST THE NAME OF CHRIST AND WILL NOT DENY THE FAITH OF THE GOSPEL.
It is true that some, like Peter, fall at times and deny Christ for a season, but none of God’s elect do so permanently and totally. In the tenor of their lives, God’s people are faithful. All true believers will persevere in the faith to the end. This is clearly the teaching of Holy Scripture (Jer. 32:37-40; John 10:27-30).
How do we hold fast the name of Christ and the faith of the gospel? How is it that God’s elect persevere in the faith?
A. We must, in our hearts as well as in our heads, hold fast the faith of the gospel.
The gospel is the message of God’s free grace to sinners in Christ. It is the message of full atonement and free justification by the obedience of Christ as the sinner’s Substitute. It is the message of salvation by grace alone without the works of man. It includes electing grace, redeeming grace, regenerating grace, and preserving grace. The grace of God in Christ is sovereign, free, irresistible, effectual, and saving. This is the faith of the gospel (Eph. 1:3-14; II Tim. 1:9-12).
1. We hold the faith by the full consent of our minds.
God deals with the heart, but he does not by-pass the mind. When Christ speaks our minds assent to what he says, and our hearts consent to his revelation. Our motto is, “Let God be true, and every man a liar.”
2. But there is more, we not only agree to the truth of the gospel, we have received the love of the truth. We hold the faith of the gospel in the affections of our hearts (II Thess. 2:10-12).
Many acknowledge the truth, but few love the truth. God’s people love the truth.
· Divine Sovereignty
· Covenant Love
· Effectual Redemption
· Imputed Righteousness
· Almighty Grace
· Blessed Security
3. And we hold the faith when we hold forth the faith of the gospel in the teeth of all opposition.
Those who believe the gospel do not hide their colors. They raise the banner high. If men resist, we hold it higher still. If they oppose, we hold it high and wave it in their faces. If I believe the gospel, I am not ashamed to confess the gospel. Men may count me a fool. Men may ridicule me as a fanatic. Men may denounce me as a instigator of strife. But I am honored to be counted a fool, ridiculed, and despised by men for Christ’s sake.
Count the cost, my friend, if you are not willing to bear the cross for Christ, go your way to your farm, your merchandise, or your wife. But let me ask you one thing before you go, “What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”
B. If we would hold the faith of Christ, we must hold fast the name of Christ.
We must, like those disciples to whom our Lord said, “Will ye also go away?” reply, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God”(John 6:67-69).
1. Ever hold fast the deity of Christ’s name.
We rejoice to know that our Savior is a man. but let us never forget that that man is “the mighty God” (Isa. 9:6). He is Immanuel, God with us, God in human flesh. When you put the finger of faith into the nail print in his hand, always cry with the heart of faith, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).
2. Ever hold fast the royalty of Christ’s name (Rom. 14:9).
Our Savior is THE LORD Jesus Christ. He reigns as King over all things and must continue to reign as King of kings and Lord of lords until he has put all of his enemies under his feet.
· We bow in submissions to Christ’s kingly throne.
· We trust his kingly power.
· We submit to his kingly will.
· We obey his kingly rule.
3. Ever hold fast the greatness and grandeur of Christ’s name.
· “His name is great in Israel” (Ps. 76:1).
· I will “praise thy great and terrible name, for it is holy” (Ps. 99:3).
· “There is none like unto thee, O LORD; thou art great, and thy name is great in might” (Jer. 10:6).
· “I am a great King, saith the LORD of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen” (Mal. 1:14).
I cannot, for the life of me, understand why, but in this day many who claim to be the servants of Christ have become contentious, saying that we make too much of Christ and preach too much about Christ. Have they forgotten that Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, and that he is all and in all?
a. The whole Bible was written to set forth his name (Lk. 24:27).
b. The covenant of grace was ordered in his name
c. All the promises of God are yea and amen in his name.
d. All the blessings of grace are received through his name.
e. We are saved by faith in his name (Acts 4:12; Rom. 10:13).
f. We prevail in prayer through his name.
g. We are sent to preach his name.
h. We find all comfort in his name.
Jesus, the name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease,
`Tis music in the sinner’s ears,
`Tis life, and health, and peace.
4. In the name of Christ, only in the name of Christ, we have a confident hope of victory (Rom. 7:24-25; 8:35-39).
Constantine once had a dream in which he imagined that God showed him the cross of Christ, and he took it as his emblem, with this motto, “By the cross I conquer!” We care nothing for Constantine, nor for his superstitious idolizing of the sign of the cross. But we hold forth and hold fast the doctrine of the cross, the doctrine of the gospel and the name of Christ in it, and we say, “By Christ we conquer!”
IV. I have one more thing to show you - IF WE PERSEVERE IN THE FAITH AND HOLD FAST THE NAME OF CHRIST FIRM UNTO THE END WE SHALL BE SAVED (Matt. 10:22; Col. 1:21-23; Heb. 3:6, 14,; 10:35-39).
This is our Savior’s promise: “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it” (v. 17). This is what that means -- “If in the midst of much opposition from the world, the flesh, and the devil you hold fast my name and depart not from the faith of the gospel, you shall overcome your enemies and I will receive you into my heavenly kingdom.”
A. The hidden manna which Christ will give us to eat forever is the very manna which we now eat by faith - It is Christ himself (John 6:32-35).
As today we live by feasting upon the merits of Christ’s righteousness and shed blood (John 6:54), even so in heaven our souls shall live forever, feasting upon him.
B. The white stone which Christ will give us is the stone of complete absolution in the day of judgment (Jer. 50:20).
The allusion here is to the common practice of the Romans in judgment. After a man had been tried for a crime, if he was found guilty, the judges would cast a black stone into an urn, which meant condemnation. If he were found innocent, they would cast in a white stone, which signified that he had been acquitted and absolved of all guilt.
C. The new name which Christ will give us, which no man can know but those who receive it, is “The Lord our Righteousness” (Jer. 23:6; 33:16).
We have been made so perfectly righteous and holy by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us that our everlasting name shall be “Jehovah our Righteousness!” (Isa. 56:5; 62:2).
1. Now I urge you to believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. And I want to encourage you who do believe to hold fast the name of Christ and the faith of the gospel.
· If you give up the faith, what will you get in exchange?
· If you deny Christ, to whom shall you go?
Illustration: Voltaire’s Dying Son
“There’s nothing to hang on to!”