The Compromising Church. Pergamos was nicknamed “Satan’s City” because of its paganism and idolatry. Christ’s reference to “Satan’s throne” (verse 13) may have alluded to the city’s altar of Zeus. Built on the Acropolis, it was the most famous and ornate altar in the world—100 square feet, 40 feet high, with sculptures surrounding its base. Some historians have suggested that this altar was implemented in the martyrdom of Antipas (verse 13).
Professing faith in Jesus Christ carried severe consequences in this bedrock of pagan activity. The church demonstrated conviction and courage by its mere existence, yet idolatry had crept into its congregation. They had yoked the Gospel with paganism, drawing Christ’s stern rebuke: “Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against [the promoters of Balaam and the Nicolaitans] with the sword of My mouth” (verse 16).
This blending of beliefs has plagued God’s people since the days of early Israel, and it still exists today. Many churches have crumbled under the banner of toleration. Whatever Satan cannot curse and crush, he seeks to corrupt through compromise. Christians are not called to be combative or antagonistic, but there is a better way than that chosen by Pergamos.
Maintain a Distinct Identity — Today’s Church has become so fixated on being relevant that it has become irrelevant. People in the world find little in local churches that is different, so they remain disinterested. Living out the Gospel will draw antagonism from some, but God will use it to save the rest (2 Timothy 2:8-10).
Speak the Truth in Love — Wherever corruption or compromise seeks a foothold, we need to be vigilant, sober, on guard, and to speak the truth in love (1 Peter 5:8; Ephesians 4:15). Our goal in confronting sin is not condemnation, but reconciliation. A day is coming when Christ will judge every soul. Until then, we have a responsibility to lead people to the cross. Paul called this “the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18).
Remember the Lesson From Pergamos — Guard against the dilution of true doctrine. If that makes us intolerant in the eyes of some, then so be it. We cannot define truth by our own preferences. It exists outside of popular opinion and does not bend to popular demand. If we hold fast to sound doctrine, Christ will commend us just as He did Antipas, His “faithful martyr.”
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