In the second and third chapters of Revelation are letters from Jesus to seven of the first-century churches in what is today Turkey. While I believe these letters were addressed to real churches of that day, I also believe they have great application to our churches today. The third of these was to the church of Pergamum. Pergamum is the third of these churches, the compromising church.
“To the angel of the church in Pergamum write:
These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.
Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.Revelation 2:12-17 NIV
Holding to Faith in Christ
The church at Pergamum apparently lived in a place of great evil, where Satan had his throne. And they had experienced the execution of one of their own, apparently because he was a faithful witness of Jesus. Yet in spite of the pressure they must have been under to deny their faith, they remained true to Christ; at least most of them did. It’s easy to be faithful when life is easy. But the believers in Pergamum were faithful even in the worst of circumstances.
Yet Guilty of Compromise
However, all was not well within the church at Pergamum. There were two groups within the church there who held to teachings that were contrary to the gospel message that the church was founded on. One of these groups is identified with Balaam. He was an Old Testament opponent of Israel during their approach to the promised land. And the second group is simply identified as the Nicolaitans, sometimes associated with a deacon named Nicolas, but really unknown. One of these groups is accused of advocating immorality, and the other is simply charged with false teachings.
Based on what is said about Pergamum itself, it is quite possible that both of these groups were attempting to make the teachings and practices of the church more appealing to the culture they found themselves in. How better to reduce the conflict between the church and the surrounding culture than to compromise with it? In addition, a compromise might enable you to reduce the offense of the cross. And thus becoming a more inviting congregation that would be attractive to those unwilling to leave their old life behind. Rather than stand for the truth, and suffer for it, embrace the culture and become more acceptable to the world at large.
The Church and Its Culture
I am so glad that the church of today does not compromise the truth for the sake of getting along with others. Allowing it to become a more inviting environment. At least I wish that were true. All too many of our churches are adapting to the culture they find themselves in. Looking to fit in, whether to avoid conflict or to attract more people. I would sure hate for Jesus to show up at the front door of our building some Sunday morning with a sword to deal with the compromisers. Better that we should face the disapproval of our culture, than the disapproval of our Lord.
- Ephesus: Losing Their First Love – Revelation 2:1-7
- Smyrna: The Faithful Church – Revelation 2:8-11
- Pergamum: The Compromising Church – Revelation 2:12-17
- Thyatira: The Tolerant Church – Revelation 2:18-29
- Sardis: A Dead Church With A Reputation – Revelation 3:1-6
- Philadelphia: The Enduring Church – Revelation 3:7-13
- Laodicea: The Lukewarm Church – Revelation 3:14-22