The Perilous Pitfalls of Compromise
By Mark A. Finley
We are on a journey of discovery to the seven churches of Revelation. As we examine the spiritual condition of each of these churches, we will uncover principles that apply to our lives. Although the messages to the seven churches span Christian history from the first century to the end of time, the message to each church contains life-changing lessons for Christian believers in every generation. This month’s Bible study focuses on the church at Pergamos.
The word “Pergamos” means “exalted.” Pergamos was a provincial Roman capital for a time. Temples to Roman gods were erected there. The city was characterized by its wealth, its love of pleasure, its sophisticated populace, and its educated elite. It had a famous library second only to the one in Alexandria, Egypt. Evidently a small Christian church in Pergamos struggled because of compromise with godless, materialistic influences.
After the deaths of the disciples and the persecution of Christians in the early centuries, Satan shifted his strategy. In the fourth and fifth centuries the Roman state and Roman church united. Many Bible students have identified this period as the Pergamum period of church history. Compromises flooded into the Christian church. Let’s explore a few of these compromises and discover how to stand for Jesus and His truth when we face compromise.
1What was in the hand of the Being who gave the angel His message to the church at Pergamos? What does a two-edged sword represent? Read Revelation 2:12 and Hebrews 4:12.
Shaped by the culture around it and immersed in compromise, the church at Pergamos certainly needed the corrective influence of God’s Word. Like a two-edged sword, the Word pierces our hearts. It still speaks to us today, leading us from the folly of our own ways to the bastion of divine truth.
2Did God have faithful followers in Pergamos who did not deny His name? Read Revelation 2:13.
The fact that there were those in Pergamos who “did not deny My [Jesus’] faith” reveals this powerful truth: through the power of Christ you and I can be faithful anywhere we find ourselves. Faithfulness to God is not based on our surroundings; it is based on our trust in Him.
3Notice the two false doctrines mentioned in Revelation 2:14, 15.
Balaam was a false prophet who led Israel astray by uniting with the heathen King Balak, contrary to God’s instruction. The Balaam/Balak alliance represents an ungodly union to the spiritual detriment of God’s people. The Nicolaitans evidently introduced the false idea that spirituality allowed them to disregard God’s law and cast off the so-called restraints of obedience. Grace does not lead to disobedience; it guides us to a greater desire to obey God.
4What did the apostle John teach in his Gospel and elsewhere in Revelation about the necessity of obedience? Read John 14:15, Revelation 14:12; 12:17; etc.
5Each message to the seven churches carries a common refrain. What is it? See the first part of Revelation 2:17.
Each of the messages to the seven churches contains a promise to overcomers. The angel assures believers that in whatever situation they find themselves in, it is possible to overcome.
6Read Revelation 2:17. List each promise the angel gives to those who overcome, and reflect on the significance of each promise.
The hidden manna represents Jesus, the Bread of Life. He satisfies the deepest longings of our hearts and nourishes the hidden hunger of our inner spiritual lives. The white stone represents acquittal or freedom from the slavery and bondage of sin. The new name represents an intimate relationship with God known only to the believer and Christ.
7As you have studied the message to the church at Pergamos, what lessons speak to your heart?
Compromise with sin is incredibly dangerous. The church at Pergamos had some believers who were drawn into a creeping compromise and lost their souls. Others remained faithful to Christ and were overcomers. Echoing down the centuries is our Lord’s appeal to be faithful in the face of any circumstances we face. The grace of God is still “sufficient” for us. n