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Pergamum: The Measure of Truth



Pergamum was an interesting church. Located about 55 miles north of Smyrna, it was known for education, housing the second largest library in the world at that time. It was also a place of religious pluralism. There were six major temples in Pergamum, three devoted to the gods of Greek mythology and three dedicated to Roman emperors. In the midst of the ideas and ideology of this progressive center stood a band of believers faced with a unique challenge. Should they remain orthodox in their faith? Or should they synthesize the common cultural beliefs into their religious practice?

Write this letter to the angel of the church in Pergamum. This is the message from the one with the sharp two-edged sword: “I know that you live in the city where Satan has his throne, yet you have remained loyal to me. You refused to deny me even when Antipas, my faithful witness, was martyred among you there in Satan’s city. But I have a few complaints against you. You tolerate some among you whose teaching is like that of Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to sin by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin. In a similar way, you have some Nicolaitans among you who follow the same teaching. Repent of your sin, or I will come to you suddenly and fight against them with the sword of my mouth. Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it” (Revelation 2:12-17, NLT).

What is truth? That’s the question that first spilled from the lips of Pontius Pilate during the trial of Jesus. If I may, let me offer a working definition of the word.

Truth is a pure and reliable reality created and revealed by God that is embraced by faith.

Let me unpack that definition. Truth is pure in the sense that it is unadulterated, unmixed, and absolute. In this sense, something is either true or it is not. Truth is reliable in that it is changeless. If truth is fluid or dynamic, it ceases to be truth in the sense of the definition. Truth is reality. This one is tricky because we have been educated to think of reality as limited to the material realm. We can comprehend material through our senses and verify its existence through the scientific method. But in God’s economy, spiritual reality is as real as matter, even though it cannot be measured or weighed.

The pure and reliable reality that I speak of is created by God. All truth is God’s truth. We do not invent truth; rather we discover it. For example, 2+2=4. We would agree that that equation is “truth.” But did we invent that? Or simply discover it? What about the law of gravity? Was gravity invented? Or was it discovered? The things that we hold as truths are not invented in laboratories. They are discovered as we venture through life.
The truth that God created is understood because God has chosen to disclose or reveal it to us. This is especially the case regarding spiritual reality. We may open our Bibles to seek spiritual truth, but we only comprehend it as the Holy Spirit of God reveals it to us.

Regardless of the truth, ultimately it must be embraced by faith. Much of life is lived by faith whether we choose to attribute it to faith or not. Suppose you were to walk into a restaurant. The server seats you at a table and offers you a menu. Perhaps the server explains the daily special. You take your time and look over the menu. The server returns and you place your order. After an appropriate amount of time the server returns to your table with your order and places it before you. You place your napkin in your lap and take your silverware and begin to eat, all the while assuming that the food is not spoiled and the meat has been cooked at the proper temperature. You enjoy your meal not questioning whether the chef has Hepatitis or your server washed his hands after using the restroom. You eat and drink, assuming the tableware has all been washed and sanitized to health department standards. Scientifically you are aware that there are health department standards for restaurants. But it is by faith you assume they have been followed.

So what do we do with this? Tomorrow I’ll give three ways that we are to walk in truth.

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