Summary: Adapted in part from Warren Wiersbe (and others)...a look at the letters Jesus dictated to specific churches...with the ensuing question, "what would He write to us?"
WHAT KIND OF CHURCH ARE WE?
“The Compromising Church” – Pergamum
> William Wilberforce is a name that is well known in Great Britain. Today there is a movie about the life of this man. For over 20 years, he was the parliament leader to the opposition of slavery in Great Britain. A month after his death on July 29, 1833, Parliament finally passed the Slavery Abolition Act, which provided that every slave in the British Empire was to be set free within four years. This was a man that endured hardship, trial, and struggle because of his beliefs and never backed down. He never compromised those beliefs.
> In asking the question, “What kind of church are we?” we are considering the 7 churches of the Revelation to see if we can discover where we fit in the mix. Turn to Rev. 2.
> Already we have studied the church at Ephesus, the careless church and the church at Smyrna, the crowned church. Tonight, let’s consider the church at Pergamum, The Compromising Church and let’s pray that this is not the description placed on this fellowship. Let’s Read.
> It might help us to understand a little background. Ephesus, Smyrna, and Pergamum had an ongoing battle about “who was ‘the’ city in Asia. Certainly, Pergamum had some impressive credentials. It was a very wealthy city, an upscale center of commerce. It was a very religious city, holding first place for a center of worship. However, these temples were to false gods. Aesculapius, Zeus, etc and even one to Augustus and Rome. Not only was the city wealthy and religious, but it was wicked. Because of all the cults, false gods, doctrines and beliefs, the city was entrenched in immorality and other wickedness. In this environment, this church stands and this letter is written.
1) APPROVAL -
> Let us begin by remembering who it is that gives the approval, it is Jesus Himself. It is worth noting that He hold a sword. Consider the imagery and the fear (in that day) of the one who possessed a sword.
> I know what you live is a statement of affirmation.
> It is kind of like, “I understand what you are going through because you live where Satan rules.” Because of all the wickedness, Jesus says YOU LIVE in the shadow of Satan’s huge work, I know and understand.
> Furthermore, I know that you are holding on to my name. The “holding on” is translated “holding fast”, “stayed true”, “remained loyal”, it literally means to lay hold and hang on to it. One of the great tragedies for the church which has compromised is the loss of the use of Jesus. The name is the name which saves us, at which one day every knee will bow, and which divides us. Why is it that we can pray in public, but we are asked not to use Jesus’ name. When we back off, we compromise. The church at Pergamum held on to the name.
> The results of holding on to the name were they remained faithful even in the face of persecution. How do we know this? Because one of their members, Antipas, was killed because he wouldn’t compromise his beliefs.
> Can you imagine the attendance next Sunday in this place if tonight one of us were to be executed because of our beliefs? Would we win God’s approval?
2) ACCUSATION – There are basically 2 accusations that the Lord brings against this church.
> First, we see that a “faction” of the church embraces the teachings of Balaam. For your review, go home and read Numbers 22-25, but know that the teachings of Balaam referred to here is all about a true prophet prostituting His spiritual gifts for money. Although not written in scripture, it is obvious that Balaam wanted to gain riches by the use of his “prophet status.” How do we know this? God told Balaam to go to Balak (after the 2nd request) and then was “incensed” that Balaam did that. This tells me that there was more there than meets the eye.
> Next, we see another faction was of the Nicolaitans. Interestingly both Balaam in the Old Testament and the Nicolaitans in the New Testament has an inference of “lording it over others”. Arguable these people come from the group of the original 7 in Acts 6. Seems to me that there was at least one of the early deacons who abused His position and sought for prestige.
> Let me offer a personal word to all of us about these accusations. First, these did not happen quickly, they sort of slipped in, kind of like King Balak did when he discovered that Balaam couldn’t curse the Israelites. Next, a little leaven permeates the whole, entire loaf.