Summary: Nothing corrupts a church any quicker than worldliness. Pergamum was a corrupted church. It is a picture of a church that is married to the world.
Would you agree that worldliness corrupts churches? There are 4 things that cause a church to become worldly.
1. The church begins to participate in worldly functions.
2. The church allows worldly activities to take place in the church and even in the homes of its members.
3. The church begins to baptize and accept people as members who have not truly repented and turned from the world to Christ. (That’s a hard one because how can we truly know if someone is for real in their repentance?)
4. The church allows false teaching and preaching.
Nothing corrupts a church any quicker than worldliness. Pergamum was a corrupted church. It is a picture of a church that is married to the world.
READ VERSE 12. Again the letter is written to the minister of the church in Pergamum. The minister is responsible. If the church becomes worldly, the minister is at fault.
Pergamum had three claims to fame.
1. It was beautifully situated with an air of royalty about it. It sat on top of a mountain that rose up out of beautiful valley. You could see the Mediterranean Sea 15 miles away.
2. Pergamum was one of the cultural and religious centers of the world. It had been a capital city for 400 years. It had a library that was second only to Alexandria, Egypt. Temple after temple had been built to all types of pagan gods. So the church knew what it was to live in a pagan society, as though Satan’s throne itself was there. They also knew what it was like to be persecuted. But they also knew what it was to place their faith in Him with the double-edged sword. READ verse 13.
3. Pergamum was also famous for being the imperial and administrative center of Asia. It was the first city in Asia to openly worship the state and its leaders. The Christians were martyred when they refused to bow and worship Caesar. So the church knew what Christ meant when He claimed to be the one with the double-edged sword. They took great confidence in the fact that He knew where they lived. They knew what it was to live where Satan has his throne and what it was to suffer martyrdom because they refused to deny Christ.
A church that is corrupted by worldliness is committing a very serious crime against Christ. When false teachers and preachers are allowed to teach and preach in a church, it does nothing but corrupt the church even further.
Christ describes Himself as the One who has the double-edged sword in His mouth. This can mean at least two things:
1. The sword of His mouth means His Word.
-The Word of God is sharp. It will cut through the most worldly and hardened heart. It will separate the sinner from his sin.
-The Word of God is double-edged. It proclaims the law of God and the necessity of living a righteous life or else face the judgment and destruction. But on the other hand it proclaims the love and grace of God to those who separate from the world and follow Christ. As Matthew Henry once put it, there is an edge to make a wound, and an edge to open a festered wound in order for its healing.
2. The sword of His mouth means the power and judgment of His Word. The believers in Pergamum were being persecuted and some were even martyred for their faith. Government officials were misusing the power of the sword. They were slaying innocent people. Christ was saying that the power of His Word is far greater than that. He holds the power of life and death over all men.
We should note here that this is a great promise to believers. If the Word of Christ is all powerful, then Christ can look after and take care of us no matter what confronts us. His Word is able to strengthen us. Do you find strength in God’s Word? Examples?
In verse 13 we see that the church at Pergamum is commended for three things.
1. The church was loyal to Christ’s name despite the environment. This tells us that no matter how hectic, how desperate, how tragic things seem to get sometimes; we always need to remain loyal to Christ no matter what. Have you ever wanted to give up on God?
2. The church was pure in doctrine. They had not renounced their faith in Christ. So the Word of God was still strong in this church. We need to keep in mind that the Word of God should always remain our strongest defense.
3. The church stood fast in persecution. We know that Antipas had been martyred. Tradition says that he was placed inside a brass bull and slowly roasted to death. But this did not alter what the church stood for.