Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Pergamum – the Compromising Church

“You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam” (Revelation 2: 14)

The church in Pergamum – to which this third of Christ’s ‘letters’ is addressed in the book of Revelation – was challenged not only by a temple to Caesar, but by a highly pluralistic belief-system, involving Zeus, Athena, Dionisus and Aslepius.

Yet - comes the message from heaven - “You remain true to my name” (v. 13); indeed ‘Antipas’, one of their number had actually been a martyr.

What, then, was this ‘teaching of Balaam’ which was attracting some of their number? Balaam, of the Old Testament, had a prophetic gift but in his relationship with the heathen king Balak compromised it with licentious and idolatrous advice (Numbers 25 and 31:16; also 2 Peter 2:15 and Jude 11). The ‘Nicolaitans’ (v. 15) were evidently a New Testament sectarian version of Balaam.

This teaching was spurious in its nature (a compromise of the Gospel), sectarian in its operation (‘some’ - not all - of the church had been taken in); and diabolical in its source (‘Satan’ was at work in the city, v. 13).

How can Christ’s disciples stand against an ideology? The answer is by attitudes of humble repentance (v. 16) and diligent attention to the true teaching of the Spirit (v. 17). And the reward is more of Christ – for He is ultimately the promised ‘manna’ (John 6: 30-35), and it is He who is the fulfilment of the ‘white stone’ that had been part of the breastplate, giving godly direction to the former high priest (Exodus 28:30). And ‘white’ in the book of Revelation always refers to Jesus!