Revelation 2:12-17 NIV
To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. I know where you live – where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city – where Satan lives.
Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: there are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.
Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.
This church received both a commendation and a rebuke from Jesus. They had stood strong in the faith, even though their city was in the grip of Satan’s oppression – to the degree that Antipas was executed for his faith.
Yet this enduring church had allowed both heresy and immorality to creep into the church.
How did this happen?
Perhaps they had given way to the pressure of the prevailing ungodly culture. Evidently they had tolerated the teaching of the Nicolaitans (a powerful group of heretical preachers), because Jesus said he would come and fight against the Nicolaitans with the sword of his mouth (the double-edged sword of his word). However it happened, this seemingly strong church became infected with false teaching.
While we don’t know exactly how this happened, we do learn how to fix the problem: we need to return to the truth of Scripture. The cure is to re-align our thinking from man’s opinions to God’s words.
This letter also makes it clear that Jesus is concerned about our behaviour as well as our doctrine. This is not a new thought (e.g. Mark 9:42 NIV “And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.”) While we are saved by grace alone and not by works, our deeds DO matter to God. Jesus came to rescue us from sin – so to return to sin (and worse, teach others to sin) is to reject (even oppose) his work!
These two rebukes actually go together; if we tolerate unbiblical teaching, we open the door to teachings that undermine Biblical ethics and morality.
What we believe ultimately affects how we live.
For example, if we are taught that immorality is OK, we are far more likely to behave immorally. The problem is far greater than one of doctrine; it is about how we actually live. We would be wise to learn from this church – to guard our doctrine. It matters to Jesus and it should matter to us!
Many of us are privileged to have the Bible readily available; we would be wise to get to know what it teaches – and put these things into practice!