Pergamum: The Compromising Church
One of biggest questions that I have struggled with since becoming a minister, and even before, is how wrong can a church be, and still be right? Some would say that is a simple question to answer, a church cannot be wrong at all!
This week I got a bulletin from a church talking about what it meant to ?come out of the world?. The minister said the obvious meaning of this was that the ?true church? could have nothing to do with denominations in any form. That Christians couldn?t participate in National Day of Prayer, Ministerial Alliances, humanitarian help or anything else with any other religious group but ours. Considering that there were no other Christian churches besides the true church at the time Corinthians was written, I have a real hard time believing that was what Paul meant.
Other ministers say that nothing really matter past loving Jesus. Yet, the bible clearly had issues with those who taught false doctrine and claimed to be apostles of Jesus. They would have said they loved Jesus, yet were wrong and opposed by the writers of the New Testament.
So the truth is somewhere between those two extremes and quite frankly, I don?t know the answer to the question that has dogged me all these year. What I do know, is that when a church or individual was shown to be accepting false teaching, they were expected to do something about it. That is what was happing in this letter to Pergamum.
I. Continuing Pictures of Jesus
1. Throughout these letters we have seen various pictures of Jesus.
2. Controls the future of the congregations
3. Resurrected and eternal
4. Now the Lord of judgment
B. Double edged sword
1. To those who lived under Roman rule the reference to the double-edged sword obvious to them.
2. Roman law dictated only Rome could decide someone?s death sentence
3. The governor was given ?the right of the sword?
4. When these people hear of Jesus as the one who has the sword, they realize that Jesus is the Lord of Judgment.
II. A Difficult Place
A. A place where Satan has his throne
1. There are hard places to live as a Christian
2. In some places Christian beliefs are almost non-existent.
a) In many of the areas of the Northeast and West Coast, people simply have no Christian belief.
b) They don?t need God. Man is God.
c) In Great Britain this year, more children were born to non married people than married people for the first time.
3. To be a Christian in areas like that are so difficult for several reasons
a) No one really wants to hear the gospel, and it gets very discouraging.
b) Others openly mock you for holding to such archaic and ?unenlightened? ideals as Christianity.
4. Other areas that Christians live in will kill someone simply for being a Christian
a) In most middle east countries it is a capital crime to teach Christianity.
b) People are regularly killed for profession a faith in Christ.
B. Terrible Persecution
1. This was what Pergamum was like.
2. It was dominated by the same Emperor worship as Smyrna was.
3. It was dangerous to be a Christian in this city.
4. Antipas was put to death here.
a) We don?t know anything else about him but that Christ singled him out with great honor for his faithfulness even at the cost of his life.
b) If history only records my life as being faithful to Christ then I have the most honorable mention history could ever bestow on me.
C. They remained faithful
1. Christ commends these faithful Christians.
2. In a city that was an anathema to their faith, they remained faithful.
3. In a city that killed them for their faith, they remained faithful.
4. In a city that rejected their faith and mocked it, they remained faithful.
5. Most times persecution makes Christians more faithful because they truly believe.
a) It isn?t a religion of convenience or family heritage.
b) It is too dangerous to profess a faith you are not willing to die for.
c) The uncommitted soon disappear from the gathering of saints.
III. I Have A Few Things Against You
A. Compromising the gospel is never acceptable
1. No matter how faithful these brethren were.
2. No matter how persecuted they were.
3. Even though they were 90% pure in teaching the gospel, false teaching was still unacceptable.
4. Consider the case of a 17-year-old who is nearly everything a parent could ask for in a son. He is considerate and loving toward his brothers and sisters. He chooses good friends, and he shows concern for those who are outside his own inner circle. He does his share of the work at home, and he holds down a part-time job, while keeping up his grades in his senior year. He?s active in the church youth group and appears to be developing a good sense of values. But there is one problem. He seems to become a different person when he gets behind the wheel of the family car. One day he pulls out of the school parking lot with such carelessness that he almost runs into two students standing by a parked car. Now what? What do his parents do when they hear about this? Do they overlook his recklessness in the light of all his good qualities? Or do they confront him with this flaw in his character?