AGCC Sun. a.m. 10/20/91
#3 (Book of Revelation Series-Addition messages on the 7 Churches)
"SWORD VS. THE SERPENT!"
TEXT:   Rev. 2:12-17
INTRO: The Human body is remarkably adaptable. One unique feature is our body's ability to tolerate pain. You can actually teach yourself to tolerate greater and greater degrees of pain by slow doses of increased amounts of pain. Unfortunately, pain medications do the same thing in our body. Pain relieving medications can be a wonderful help ... but if they are taken too frequently and close together our body becomes tolerant of the drug and so the doses must be increased in strength and frequency to continue helping. The frequent exposure can dull our response until it is withdrawn, then oh the pain! Sin can be like this, constant frequent exposure to it can make us less sensitive to its true nature until we are very comfortable tolerating sin in our own life, we may even be unaware of sin until the Holy Spirit withdraws ... then oh the pain!
One of the true great dangers to the Church and the believer is that of tolerance of sin in our own life, and the compromising heart with this world! A Church can survive many vicious attacks, but the slow gradual slide toward the world can go unnoticed.
ILLUS:Like the man who sold apple butter & cottage cheese at a farmer's market, everyday he carried his 2 large drums of cottage cheese and apple butter and scooped them out into smaller containers for customers. One day he forgot to take 2 ladles, he had but one, which he used in both for scooping. By the end of the day customers returned complaining that their apple butter tasted like cottage cheese and those with cottage cheese complained that it tasted like apple butter! By scooping both with one ladle he managed to contaminate both!
We are asked to have one heart for God. To scoop our joys from the world and mix that with God's provisions is to simply compromise the witness of the uniqueness of the Kingdom, to pollute ourselves.
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that we are to carefully guard our hearts from this world's pollution! Trying to mix Christianity with worldliness will only contaminate the Gospel of grace! Tolerating sin in our life will surely lead to spiritual ineffective-ness!
I. COMMENDATION 2:12-13
1. The City of Pergamum: (today exists as Bergama, Turkey)
a. name means "Citadel" (fortress or place of safety)
b. While Ephesus and Smyrna reigned as commercial capitals; Pergamum was the "Washington D.C." of Asia of the time, it was the political capital
c. It also was well known for its medical & educational prowess:
(1. It had a large and very prominent temple to the god Askelpios -- the cult god of healing (symbolized by a serpent around a staff.. .the same symbol still used today for doctors!)
(2. People with all kinds of ailments flocked to the temple grounds and waited for the priests to mingle through the crowds with magical cures.
(3. A large library containing parchment books was in Pergamum, in fact the word "Parchment" comes from the root name of this city
(4. the library was large and extensive: 200,000 volumes! Anthony sent this entire library to Egypt as a gift to Cleopatra!
(5. A huge altar (40 feet) was on the top of a hill. (today this altar has been excavated and now resides in East Berlin, Germany!
2. The governor of Asia resided here, he was the official "champion of justice"... and also the leader of Emperor worship.
a. he had as a symbol a sword, claiming in Latin; "IUS GLADII"… the "right of the sword"... the power to execute anyone he willed!
b. His authority by the symbol of this sword gave him absolute authority!
c. Emperor worship was nothing more than the worship of man himself!
3. The pressures to compromise as a Christian were enormous!! For a Christian to live in this political city where the compromise of ethics was common was tough!
a. the "everybody does it to get by" mentality was common!
b. "That's just the way it is" was strong
c. "If your honest they'll take you to the cleaners" mentality was invading the Church!
4. It was getting hard to be a real Christian! No matter where in town you went you were rubbing shoulders with immorality!
5. To their credit they are commended by the Lord for thus far holding firm ... but the seeds of decay were already existing in the Church, the pressure of compromises!
B. "Sword" 2:12
1. In comparison to the governor's sword (IUS GLADII); Jesus' sword is two-edged!
a. A better sword ... thus a greater authority than the governor's!
b. Two-edged meant it cut in both directions.
(1. an edge to cut away the unwanted stuff
(2. an edge to destroy enemies with!
c. or perhaps the analogy of two edges meant: to heal or hurt!
2. The two-edged sword was the largest ... and longest ... and the most feared of offensive weapons in the sword family!
3. Jesus was making a clear statement up front to a people who knew about the authority of the sword: "MY AUTHORITY IS GREATEST!"
C. "Satan" 2:13a
1. "Where Satan has his throne"
a. A reference probably to emperor worship, or the worship of man! (Humanism)
b. Also a reference to the corrupt political system of immorality and poor ethics!
c. It may have also included the many cults such as the healing cult of ASKLEPIOS that was prominent in the city ... Zeus' huge altar, etc.
d. The city was steeped in immorality ... although it was very prosperous and the political capital of Asia!
2. We must recognize that evil has its grip on the world systems ... where God is mocked Satan rules!
3. This was an acknowledgement of REAL evil
ILLUS:The life of this city would have been well shown by the famous Norman Rockwell painting that adorned the Saturday Evening Post several years ago. It was a picture of a woman buying a Thanksgiving turkey at her local butcher shop. It showed her and the butcher at the scales weighing the turkey and both smiling at each other. The scene seems wonderful and warm ... until one looks very carefully at the hand of each in the picture. When one studies the painting they will notice that the butcher has a finger on the scale pushing down where the woman can't see ... and the woman has a finger pushing up where the butcher can't see ... to the casual looker the picture seems like a pleasant all American scene of a warm relationship between a faithful customer and a hard working butcher ... but behind the smiles lay deception by both!
4. How like this the world is ... and too often some Christians are like this!
a. The danger is to accept this kind of behavior just a little.
b. These subtle deceptions are the stuff of compromise ... that leads to real loss!
D. Separation 2:13b
1. To this Church's credit ... they have done well so far in keeping a clear moral path, they are commended for their faith thus far!
a. they had not compromised yet, but the seeds were there in the Church that would soon allow this to happen.
b. they had remained faithful so far, even when one of their own was put to death. His name was ANTIPAS. His name means "AGAINST ALL"!
c. This Church member had been a man unwilling to compromise and his witness had guided them to keep a straight path.
2. With Antipas gone however, other elements in the Church were arising with the teachings of compromise, these "enlightened" members were encouraging acceptance of ungodly standards to avoid clashes with the community, probably under the guise of not wanting to offend the citizens they were trying to reach!
a. the trouble with this mentality is that it just doesn't work. If we are JUST like the world then there is no reason for the world to change!
b. The trouble with "fighting fire with fire" is that even more stuff gets burned up!
ILLUS:C.S. Lewis once said, "No clever arrangement of bad eggs will make a good omelet!"
c. We can't win the lost by using unethical and immoral standards! And we can't make the Gospel more attractive by being like the world!
II. COMPROMISE 2:14-15
A. Stumbling! 2:14
1. God has some concerns about this Church, where they were heading!
a. To point out this concern now before they lost their testimony was giving them the chance to do something early, before damage occurs!
b. God loves us enough to challenge us ... even early!
2. The issue God has with the Church was their willingness to hold to the teachings of Balaam!
a. This reference was to the Old Testament "prophet" who was hired by the wicked King Balak of Moab to curse Israel.
b. the curse did not work, so this so called "prophet" shared with the Moabite king how Israel could be corrupted and thus have God Himself judge them, this would be almost as good as cursing them!
c. The plan was to send Moabite women down to the camp of Israel and flirt with the Israeli men, thus getting them to partake of unkosher food and also commit immorality with them.
d. Once they had flirted with these Moabite women God would come down on them in judgment.
e. Balaam knew God wouldn't curse them but this judgment would take them out of commission for a while and allow the Moabites to continue -- IT WORKED sadly to say!
3. The issue was simple: God's concern for this Church included some within the congregation that wanted to get rid of the teaching about sin!
a. these people wanted to be accepted by the world more than by God.
b. they didn't want to be thought of as "DIFFERENT"
c. they were beginning to encourage more toleration and less teaching about sin, to be open minded!
d. these would be the seeds of decline for spirituality within this Church if this teaching was practiced!
4. It is dangerous to compromise with the world!
ILLUS: A Russian parable goes like this: A hunter went into the woods to shoot a bear for a fur coat. When he found a bear and was about to shoot the bear startled him by speaking in a gentle soft voice, "Isn't it better to sit down and talk this through, maybe we can come to some agreement or compromise." They sat down, the bear asked, "What do you want from me?" The hunter replied, "A fur coat." The hunter then asked, "What do you want?" The bear replied, "A full stomach." The bear then said, "good, I think we can help us both" Soon the negotiations were over ... and out from the woods came the bear ... ALONE! The bear had a full stomach and the hunter had a fur coat!!! -- compromise rarely satisfies both equally!
B. Scandal 2:15
1. They had another group with a similar philosophy: they were free from sin's power therefore they could do anything, even sin!
a. this group was called the "Nicolaitans" probably after it's main teacher.
b. this was within the Church!
c. this teaching emphasized the "FREEDOM" in Christ Paul had taught but took it to the extreme.
2. This group basically was pushing freedom above restraint!
3. Like some today that talk about us being a FREE country; pornography, hate speech, etc. should be freely expressed -- etc.
a. This freedom however can put you in bondage!
b. freedom without limits is NOT FREEDOM!
ILLUS: When a man is released from prison, he is NOT free do now do anything he wishes, he is free to NOW obey the law by choice. If he uses his new found freedom to break the law he will find himself back in prison again! So it is with Christ, when we were set free from sin we were freed so that we can KEEP GOD'S LAWS, not disregard them. To break God's laws will only send us back into spiritual bondage!
4. Christians that think they are so spiritually strong that they can break God's laws are fools ... and will end up in spiritual bondage again! This was Paul's argument in Galatians, we are free to serve Christ, not sin!
5. It would be sad if the folks in this Church encouraged each other to start living again like those in the community who were immoral. Christ's power to deliver would then be mocked!
Ill. CONVICTION 2:16-17
A. Switch! 2:16
1. "Repent therefore!" Strong and emphatic language!
a. The time to change was right now before damage occurs.
b. It was very straight forward, not a debate on philosophy, action!
c. "turn around" was the idea.
2. The tone is emphatic, so must the action be!
3. The threat in the verse was that if they ignored dealing with these teachers of compromise God would deal with them!
b. the sword! (remember the sword of IUS GLADII. The authority to kill at will by the governor, the symbol of the sword used for this!
c. the idea was God's judgment ... and even then it would be to turn them around!
ILLUS:The shepherd who breaks the leg of the constant wayward sheep. It would not come when called and it was leading the other sheep to do the same. After healing this sheep would be the model sheep, staying close to the shepherd, and thus leading the other sheep to do the same!
B. Sustained! 2:17a
1. To those who heard, God promises "hidden manna!"
a. this may have been soothing to those who had to break off social engagements at the local pagan temples where feasts were held in honor of the gods.
b. to stand up to their faith meant losing out on the social scene, isolation.
c. God promises them something better than material bread ... bread that will feed and nourish their spirit!
2. Not only will the "Hidden manna" nourish them but God's presence would make up for the loss of this world's presence.
3. they wouldn't be alone!
C. "Stone" 2:17b
1. The "white stone" may have been the "TESSERA HOSPITALIS"
a. a white stone that was broken in half ... each party wrote their own name on their piece then they would exchange with each other. The meaning was: "a new name given them, that of their host." If they presented the piece of white stone with their host's name they were entitled to everything their host owned!
b. They literally had in their possession all that their host's name had ... like a major credit card without payments!
c. these were only given out to the very best of friends ... because it gave them the right to everything you possessed!
2. Another possibility was the verdict stone, also a white stone used in courts of law (remember, this is the political capital -- including court!)
a. If a person was being tried by a jury or judge they would be presented with one of two stones at the end of a trial …
b. if declared "Not guilty" a white stone would be given them.
c. if declared "Guilty" a black stone was given them.
3. the "new name" seems to push the first possibility more since the name of the host was only known by the one who held the stone.
4. Jesus offers us, His best friends a "TESSERA HOSPITALIS." All that is His is ours in Christ! or He declares those who hear in the Church "NOT GUILTY" if they respond!
5. The call to compromise with this world and adopt their standards and ethics must be resisted by the Church of Jesus Christ. We are to adopt standards of RIGHTEOUSNESS!
6. The pressures to be like the world are real and powerful, and sneak up on us if we are not on guard -- watch and take inventory!
CONCLUSION: The pressures to compromise our faith are all around us! The Church in Pergamum was in a gradual process of becoming "worldly." Unchecked, this process would dim their fire and witness for God. Already, they were tolerating in the Church the teachings of indulgences, it wouldn't be long before the practices followed! Which dir-ection is your life moving in?