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Friday, May 21, 2010

The Word

John's Gospel begins "In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the Word was God." A few verses later it says, "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (1:14). And in Ephesians it says the "sword of the Spirit" is "the word of God" (6:17). Finally, in Revelation, the risen, glorified Jesus appears to John, a Christian in exile on Patmos Island. The Resurrected One is said to have a sharp, two-edged sword coming from his mouth (Revelation 1:16).

Jesus is the word, and the word is sharp, cutting, pruning, and also judging. In Revelation 1, Jesus is described in spectacular images. Then in chapters 2-3, there are 7 messages to 7 churches located in Asia Minor. At the beginning of each message, Jesus restates and self-identifies some aspect of the spectacular description from chapter 1. To Ephesus, he is the one who holds the seven stars in his hand (1:6 / 2:1); to Smyrna he says, "these are the words of the first and the last" (1:17 / 2:8). This parallel of self-identification to a description from chapter 1 begins each message to each individual church.

To Pergamum Jesus says, "there are the words of him who has the sharp, two-edged sword" (1:16 / 2:12). Why is Pergamum the church that receives the depiction of Jesus related to him being a man of penetrating words? Maybe it is because words were so important in that city and the city was proud of its collection of words and its ownership of words. One of the greatest libraries of ancient times was in Pergamum. It rivaled the great library Alexandria. Book production was so prolific there that the name of the city is where the word "parchment" comes from. Denizens of the city may of thought all words worth remembering begin in their town.

The problem in this city of knowledge and city of words is the Roman Emperor was worshiped, and Christians were persecuted. They may have felt superior for their knowledge, but they were oblivious to the source of transcendent knowledge and eternal truth. They worshiped a false God and tried to silence the truth of the real God preached by followers of Jesus.

As I read that Jesus threatened to make war with the "sword of [his] mouth" (v.16), I wondered if the same ominous divine threat hangs over centers of human knowledge today? I find it necessary to state and restate that I am an advocate of education. I have 22 years of formal education. I am believer in study and in human beings knowing as much as they can and as many words as can be known. Many of my friends are people with PhD's (in a number of different fields). They are humble people who bow before Jesus and who try to excel in scholarship in order to bring honor to the Lord.

Are we in danger of (or in need of) the cutting, pruning, convicting word of God? I think so, because when Jesus speaks, the words are truth. His truth will purify our pursuit of knowledge and learning. The main sin at Pergamum was the tolerance of false teaching (Balaam, v.14 and the Nicolaitans, v.15). Jesus, who is the way, the truth, and the life, was set alongside other gods and philosophies.

We cannot set Jesus alongside the humanism of our day. We strive for knowledge knowing in humility that He is the source of transcendent knowledge. We reach for the stars and at the same time stay on bended knee doing our obeisance before the King of Kings. Our ambition must be held in check by humility.

If we can keep Jesus first and listen to Him over and above all other voices, then our perspective will be in order. We will get to hear our Lord say to us what was said to the Pergamum believers who persevered - "To everyone who conquers I will give a white stone, and on the white stone is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it."

Do we want a new name, given by the Lord Jesus? I guess that depends on whether or not we trust His knowledge and his words.

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