The church in Pergamos, the church in union with the world, held the teaching of Balaam and the teaching of the Nicolaitans; what started as the practice of the Nicolaitans in Ephesus now became a teaching in Pergamos.
The Lord’s speaking to this church as recorded in Rev. 2 is applicable to our situation today. Today the world may not persecute us – as it did with those in Sardis, but rather it may welcome us and want to hear us, and it may even want to “join our church”.
Satan’s strategy changed from persecuting the church to welcoming her, and starting from Constantine the Great’s welcoming in the third century, this has ruined the church, causing it to become worldly.
All kinds of worldly and pagan activities, people, and things are now in the degraded Christianity, and we as believers in Christ need to see this under the Lord’s shining light in His word.
Furthermore, the worldly things in the church are related to idol worship, for worldliness is always associated with idolatry; we may not have an idol that we physically worship but if there’s anything in our being that we love more than the Lord, that is an idol.
One of the greatest idols on earth which both poor and rich worship is money; the poor desire it and the rich want more of it. Mammon, money, stands in direct opposition to God; if we desire money and if we’re not saved from the love of money, we will lose our purity and be mixed with worldly things and idol worship. Oh Lord Jesus!
May the Lord make us the Antipas of today, those who are an anti-testimony against the trend of worldliness in the church today, those who have a spirit of martyrdom to stand for the Lord’s testimony! May all the local churches be golden lampstands as pure expressions of the Triune God in their locality, having no connection with the world!
May we stand against all that the worldly church would bring in and practice, and may we be the Lord’s pure testimony on earth, even having the spirit of martyrdom for the Lord’s sake today!
Rejecting the Teaching of Balaam by Holding the Faith and Enjoying the Lord
The Lord had a few things against the church in Pergamos, the first of which was that there were some who held the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat idol sacrifices and to commit fornication (Rev. 2:14-15).
Balaam was a Gentile prophet in the Old Testament who was hired by king Balak to curse the people of God; Balak offered him money – and Balaam wanted the money, but God in His sovereignty didn’t allow Balaam to curse Israel but rather caused him to bless them four times (Num. 25:1-3).
However, Balaam really wanted the money, so he devised a scheme to bring in mixture among the Israelites: the Midianites and Moabites came in to seduce the people of Israel to offer idol worship, and then they brought them into fornication; as a result, Israel became a mixed multitude.
God had to judge and purify that, so He sent a plague and 24.000 died; the plague stopped when Phineas, the son of Eliezer the high priest, killed the Israelite who publicly brought into his tent a Midianite woman.
Balaam was a gentile prophet who for wages enticed God’s people into fornication and idolatry; in the worldly church some began to teach such things. Idolatry always brings in fornication (Acts 15:29), and when the worldly church disregarded the name, the person of the Lord, she turned to idolatry, which issues in fornication.
The [error of Balaam is the] error of teaching wrong doctrine for reward, while knowing it to be contrary to the truth and against the people of God, and abusively using the influence of certain gifts to lead the people of God astray from the pure worship of the Lord to idolatrous worship (Num. 22:7, 21; 31:16; Rev. 2:14). Coveting for reward will cause the coveting ones to rush headlong into the error of Balaam. (Jude 11, footnote 3, Recovery Version Bible)
Satan’s strategy through Balaam is to cause the people of God to eat something other than Christ, to take in another source, and produce another kind of expression that will bring in mixture.
Among the believers today there is much degradation coming in through the desire for gain. There is ministry for gain, prophecy for pay, and doing a work for the Lord with the result that the ministers get rich.
There’s another case of this in 2 Kings 5:20-27 where Elisha healed Naaman but rejected his reward, so his attendant Gehazi went after Naaman and asked him for some reward…and he suffered leprosy as punishment.
The Lord wants to purify us and purify all the saints in the local churches so that He may have a recovery purely and wholly of the person of Christ. God uses the failures and turmoil among His people to purify them.
We need to reject the teaching of Balaam by holding the pure faith of Christ and by enjoying the Lord in purity. We need to eat only Jesus and reject anything that is not Christ.
May the Lord recover us back to Christ, back to the common faith given to all the believers, so that we may be the Lord’s pure testimony, being purified from any spiritual fornication.
Lord Jesus, purify Your recovery, Your testimony, so that You may have a recovery purely and wholly of the Person of Christ. We want to reject the teaching of Balaam, the teaching of wrong doctrine for gain or using the influence of gifts to lead people away from worshipping God! We just want to keep the faith of the Lord Jesus and enjoy Him as our unique life supply. Save us, Lord, from taking in anything else besides the Lord as our life and life supply. Bring us back to Yourself, back to the person of Christ!
Rejecting the Teaching of the Nicolaitans by Functioning as Members in the Body
In the church in Pergamos there were some who held the teaching of the Nicolaitans; in Ephesus this was a practice, but in Pergamos it became a teaching.
The teaching of Balaam distracts the believers from the person of Christ to idolatry and from the enjoyment of Christ to spiritual fornication, and the teaching of the Nicolaitans destroys the function of the believers as members of the Body of Christ.
Church history doesn’t say anything about these “Nicolaitans” or their teaching, but based on the meaning of the name, the teaching of the Nicolaitans was to practice hierarchy, a higher class of “professional priests” and a lower class of laity, the common people.
Today both in Catholicism and in Protestantism the Nicolaitan hierarchy prevails in both practice and teaching. Even among the evangelical, charismatic, and independent groups and churches, there’s a prevalent practice of one man or a few professionals leading, and the rest following.
The teaching of Balaam disregards the Head and distracts the believers from Christ, and the teaching of the Nicolaitans seeks to destroy the Body of Christ; the subtle intention of the enemy in all the religious teachings is to disregard Christ and annul the function of the members, to destroy the Head and the Body of Christ.
First, the Nicolaitans practiced the hierarchy in the initial church, and then they taught it in the degraded church.
Today in the church life in the Lord’s recovery we may not practice hierarchy, for none is above the others, but we may have the thought that the elders, co-workers, and those serving the Lord full-time are a special class of people somehow a bit more professional and more qualified to function.
This matter of hierarchy in the church is something that Satan raises up in each one of us; we may not practice this but in our attitude we may regard some people as higher than others, esteeming them of a higher class because they serve the Lord full-time.
In the Lord’s eyes, Christ is the Head and all the members of the Body are equal – they all share the same Christ, enjoy the same grace, and learn to function in their measure.
It is right to say that not all members of the Body have the same function but rather some are more active and visible while others are more hidden and not so seemingly active, but all the members of the Body are needed in their function.
We need to reject the teaching and practice of the Nicolaitans by learning to function in our measure as members of the Body of Christ.
We need to see a vision of Christ as the Head and all believers as members, and we need to realize the vital importance and need for each and every believer in Christ; instead of having an organization with hierarchy, we need to have the living and functioning organism of Christ, the Body of Christ.
In the church meetings we need to give all the saints the opportunity to function for the building up of the church.
Lord Jesus, save us from having the attitude that some saints in the church are a higher class or on a higher level and thus they are the “professional priests” who should function more while we don’t. Oh Lord, expose the teaching and practice of the Nicolaitans among us, and recover the function of all the members of the Body! May we all learn to function in the church life for the building up of the Body of Christ. Amen, Lord, save us from the thought of hierarchy in the church and cause us to realize and build up the organism of the Triune God, the Body of Christ!
References and Hymns on this Topic
- Inspiration: the Word of God, my enjoyment in the ministry, the message by brother Mark R. for this week, and portions from, Life-study of Revelation, pp. 146-149 (by Witness Lee), as quoted in the Holy Word for Morning Revival on, Returning to the Orthodoxy of the Church (2016 fall ITERO), msg. 4 (week 4), The Church in Pergamos.
- Hymns on this topic:
# The faith which once for all was giv’n / Unto the saints of old, / Has been committed unto us / To guard, defend, and hold. / And we know whom we have believed / And are persuaded that He is able / To guard, through the Holy Spirit, / Our deposit to that day. (Hymns #1285)
# Riches of Christ we should enjoy / And then His fulness we will be; / Partaking of His very self, / His testimony men will see. (Hymns #820)
# As members of the Body / Christ we would manifest, / Each learning how to function / His fulness to express; / We would not be spectators / But each as members move, / None bringing death or damage / But each our profit prove. (Hymns #867)
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