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Summary: The Pergamum church was accommodating those within its body that taught doctrines and lived lives which offended God; their open-minded, laissez-faire attitude was a cancer on the church.

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AMERICAN IDOLS: LOOKING AT OURSELVES AND OUR LOYALTIES THROUGH THE EYES OF JESUS

THE IDOL OF LAISSEZ FAIRE: PERGAMUM

REVELATION 2:12-17

Sermon Objective: The Pergamum church was accommodating those within its body that taught doctrines and lived lives which offended God. Their open-minded, laissez-faire attitude was a cancer on the church.

Supporting Scripture: 2 Corinthians 6:17; Acts 4:12; Matthew 6:24; James 4:4; Proverbs 24:11; Galatians 6:1; 2 Corinthians 2:11; Luke 12:4-5; Ephesians 6:12

Series Intro

We began a series earlier this month called “American Idols: Looking at Ourselves and Our Loyalties Through the Eyes of Jesus”

There are two categories of idols:

{1} an image or other material object representing a deity to which religious worship is addressed.

{2} any person or thing regarded with blind admiration, adoration, or devotion.

Our concern is with the latter. There are a myriad of “things” which could be classified as an idol … they are limited only by the passions of the individual in question. But there are certain dispositions or demeanors that our culture serves and pursues as an end in themselves … they have become idolatrous.

What we discover in “The Revelation” is that they are not just limited to our culture but that others have also pursued these with “blind devotion”. We have looked at Ephesus’ fallacy of superiority and Smyrna’s temptation to shop for a more convenient faith, others will include:

• Tolerance – The Church in Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29) • Leisure – The Church in Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6) • Stoicism – The Church in Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13) • Independence – The Church in Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22)

Today we will look at the church in Pergamum and the danger of a Laissez-Faire attitude. It is found in Rev. 2:12-17.

Intro

It sets inland from Ephesus and Smyrna about 65 miles. What it lacked in way of commerce (no harbor) it clearly made up for in culture and power. Pergamum was the capital of Asia-Minor; it had retained that title for some 400 years. It had guarded that role and responsibility very rigorously.

Culturally, Pergamum was a powerhouse. It boasted of a library with over 200,000 parchments (second only to Alexandria), many fabulous statues, a gladiator arena (which also doubled as the place for executions), a beautiful view of the Caicus valley, and more temples than any other of the seven cities. IN FACT, IT WAS CLASSIFIED AS “THE TEMPLE WARDEN” AND WAS THE CENTER OF THE EMPEROR CULT.

In Will Durant’s work, “The Story of Civilization” (Vol. 2) he describes this:

“At the center and summit of …the city was the shrine of the city god; participation in the worship of the god was the sign, the privilege, and the requisite of citizenship. In the spring, the Greek cities celebrated the Athesterion, or feast of flowers, a three-day festival to Dionysus [a chief deity at Pergamum!] in which wine flowed freely and everybody was more or less drunk. At the end of March came the great Dyonysia, a widely observed series of processional and plays accompanied by general revelry. At the beginning of April various cities … celebrated [Aphrodite’s] great festival, the Aphrodisia; and on that occasion, for those who cared to take part, sexual freedom was the order of the day” (The Story of Civilization [New York: Simon and Schuster, 1939], vol. 2, Life of Greece, pp. 75, 185).

Civically and politically Pergamum had no rivals. It had long ago set its sights on being the most pro-roman city in Asia Minor. It succeeded. It was a royal city. IT WAS CALLED “THE EASTERN THRONE OF ROME.” AS CAPITAL IT HAD ALL THE BENEFITS AND RIGHTS THERETO. IT WAS IN PERGAMUM THAT COURT WAS HELD FOR ALL OF ASIA MINOR. ONLY PERGAMUM HAD THE STATUS OF “THE RIGHT OF THE SWORD" (IUS GLADII) WHICH MEANT THAT ONLY HERE COULD A PROCONSUL SENTENCE ONE TO AN EXECUTION WITHOUT FIRST APPEALING TO ROME. IN FACT, IT WAS IN PERGAMUM THAT THE OTHER CITIES MADE THEIR APPEAL TO ROME. PERGAMUM HAD THE POWER OF LIFE AND DEATH AND IT USED IT. THE SWORD WAS ITS INSIGNIA.

In Smyrna, the opposition to the Christians came from the citizens. In Pergamum it came from the highest of levels of government. And this government was intimately connected to its religion; and this did not bode well for the counter-cultural Christian community. Pergamum’s coalescence of religion and government is probably the reason why Jesus says it is “the throne of Satan” and “where Satan lives.” There was no check on its power to ravage its opposition. It was here, more than any of the other cities, that the Domitian’s hatred for Christians was incarnate and violent.

Let’s read the words of Jesus:

Revelation 2:12"To the angel of the church in Pergamum write:

These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. 13I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives. 14Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. 15Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. 17He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.

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