“But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality“
But I have a few things against you
The “but” here is a strong contrast. People in the same church gave their lives for Christ and others compromised with the world. Jesus rebukes this church for tolerating a religion that promotes immorality.
because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam
Balaam was a non-Israel diviner who led Israel into idolatry and immorality. The doctrine of Balaam is the doctrine of combining idolatry with immorality. Idolatry is a justification for immorality (2 Peter 2:15; Jude 11). Corruption of doctrine and corruption of ethics go together. The church at Pergamum permitted libertine doctrine to run free. They ate idol meats and entered free sex as a show of their freedom. Religion and free sex is a deadly combination.
Balak, King of Moab, hired Balaam to subvert Israel. Balaam counseled King Balak to encourage his women [heathen] to intermarry with Israeli men (Numbers 22-25; 31:15-16). This neutralized Israel from a dynamic relationship with her God. Israel lost all divine power over this.
Balaam is famous for a debate he had with his donkey, a debate that he lost! His donkey had more sense than he had! What a reputation to carry throughout the centuries — having a debate with a donkey and losing the debate.
who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel
By entering this false teaching, Israel encountered a “stumbling block” in their walk with God. Syncretism always neutralizes dynamic Christianity.
to eat things sacrificed to idols
If the church absorbed Pergamum’s religions too closely, she would have to compromise with idol worship and immorality.
and to commit sexual immorality
The word for “immorality” here is the word from which we get the English word “pornography.” The Greek word carries the idea of sexual degeneracy no matter which kind, or immorality of any kind. The temple of Aphrodite kept prostitutes as part of their religious practices. No wonder their religion was popular!
There is a close correlation between false religion and immorality.
Although a church can have outstanding believers, the very same church can house immoral Christians.
Every generation has at least one great heathen revival. Usually, this originates in false religion. When we compromise with religion, that is the beginning of our downfall.
There is a tendency to blur theological and moral distinctions. When it becomes popular to become Christian, we probably have lost our distinctives. Conformity to standards other than the Word of God will neutralize our convictions and bring us down to a lower level.
The Devil always ruins the church from within. Immorality can do what persecution can never do. “If you can’t curse them, corrupt them.”
Toleration always compromises Christianity. When we tolerate evil, we tear the soul out of Christianity. When the church sympathizes with apostasy, she is on a downward slide that will end in destruction. This is complicity by indifference. Laxity of conviction produces laxity of life.