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Sui Generis

• Greg Boyd

Sui Generis is Latin for being of its own genre or unlike anything or anyone else. Each of us has a deep desire to feel special in relation to our Creator and this is the kind of relationship that God wants with each of us.

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As in each of the letters, Jesus identifies himself by repeating one aspect of his initial revelation to John in chapter one. In this case, Jesus repeats that he carries a two-edged sword that comes out of his mouth. This is his only weapon because we’ve seen that the most fundamental battle in Revelation (and in our lives) is between truth and lies. Jesus slays lies to free people for the truth.

Most likely, the “throne of Satan” from verse 13 is a reference to the cult of the emperor that was most alive in Pergamum. This city is identified as the place where Satan’s throne is and where Satan lives. Antipas is called “faithful witness” who was faithful unto death.

In the next verse, there is a shift and Jesus challenges the church. Balaam is a reference to an Old Testament story found in Numbers 22-25. He enticed the Israelites to compromise by worshipping idols and fall into sexual immorality. The “teaching of Balaam” then is a symbolic reference to compromise and mixing the holiness of God’s teaching with other perspectives. The Nicolaitans were also a group that were known to promote compromise, specifically sexual immorality, in the name of grace.

Jesus calls them to repentance in verse 16 or there will be a war, a war that is waged by Jesus through the proclamation of truth. Then in verse 17, Jesus talks about “hidden manna” which may refer to a Jewish legend which said that some of the manna that fell in the wilderness has been hidden away in a cave on Mount Sinai.

Up to this point, the letter is addressed to the church as a whole. Now, John says the stone with the secret name is given to each individual. The white stone is a tessera stone, a white stone used by wealthy people to invite powerful friends to a festival. To those who are faithful witnesses, Jesus extends a personal invitation to come to an invitation-only event, the eternal kingdom of God.

However, there is an odd twist. Normally, the smooth white stone would have the invited person’s own name inscribed on it. Here Jesus says that on each stone is written a new name. This new name is sui generis, Latin for being of its own genre or unlike anything or anyone else. Those who remain faithful witnesses will receive a personal invitation to a new depth of relationship and new calling and purpose.

Jesus says this new name that is given to every individual is to be kept secret. Jesus apparently wants a relationship with each of us that stands apart from all of our other relationships. Jesus is inviting us to a relationship that is one of a kind, sui generis, and the uniqueness of this private relationship is protected by this secret, shared by the two of you. God doesn’t just love us as part of a redeemed group. God loves each person individually, as an end, in-and-of-themselves, and in an altogether unique, sui generis way.

This calls for three things. First of all, be honest. This is foundational to any relationship. When we hide, we create shame. The only way to heal is to be real. Secondly, trust that God loves you. Third, surrender. We must learn to give it all over to God.

At the core of our soul, we all long for this sense of being special and of having a special unique love relationship with another. As children, we long for it from our parents and other authorities. As adults, we long for it from important people in our lives. Behind it all, deeper than our desire to feel special in relation to other people is our innermost longing to feel special and have a special relationship with our Creator.

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Topics: Identity in Christ, Prayer, Presence of God

Sermon Series: Dear Church

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The MuseCast: February 27

Focus Scripture:

  • Revelation 2:12-17

    And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword. I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; you hold fast my name and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice immorality. So you also have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent then. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone which no one knows except him who receives it.’

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