The Word – The Sword – The Spirit
The church is a battleground. It is a battle in which various forces are trying to conquer. This is the picture that Jesus paints in his message to the church in Pergamum. And we must be aware of the battle and true conquering also.
Jesus Christ himself, the risen Lord of the church, is the true Conqueror. He has a sword, a sharp, two-edged sword, that proceeds from his mouth. He conquers in the church and in the world through his word of power. He speaks and that word conquers – he cuts right through to the very heart of the matter and he subjects people to his rule one way or another. The word of Jesus Christ is the end of all history.
There are those outside the church that also seek to rule and conquer. They use not word but force, power, law to try to force the church into fearful silence, into the denial of faithful obedience to Jesus Christ. The Pergamum Christians lived in a hostile environment – “where Satan’s throne is… where Satan dwells.” One of the beloved ones, Antipas had been an example of faithfulness to death in the face of this hostility.
And then there are “Nicolaitans” – literally, “conquerors of the people of God.” They are those false ones, claiming to belong to Christ but actually teaching a way that Jesus Christ never taught. The sword from their mouth is the false word. In Pergamum – as in our time – God’s people are being conquered by teachers who promote sexual immorality and participation in the idolatry of our age. This might even be presented as a mission strategy – but then there’s the hard fact of Jesus’ utter rejection of it. There is no place for this in the mission of the gospel. Jesus calls those in Pergamum who have turned their ears to this teaching to repent. To not do so means that the sword of the word coming from his mouth will war against them. Jesus, the Lord of the Church, will deal strongly with them.
And then there is the conquering church. To conquer is to hear the word of Jesus Christ, to hear the word of the Spirit to the churches. And to hear is not simply to pay attention but to obey that word. The church in our time and place must repent of its capitulation to the idolatries of sex and autonomy, the idols of our age, and turn again in faithfulness to Jesus Christ.
A wonderful promise is given to those who conquer thus. Firstly there is the sustaining by the hidden manna – the bread of life, the word which proceeds from the mouth of God. And, secondly, a white stone on which is a new name known only to the recipient – the gift of your true identity, who you really are in Jesus Christ, a beloved one made fully like him.
Next week: Revelation 2:18-28