Of the absence of heathen adversaries there has been occasion to speak already; but more noticeable still is the fact that there neither appear here nor there Nicolaitans, as at Ephesus, or Balaamites, as at Pergamum, or Jezebelites, as at Thyatira, or those who say they are Jews and are not, as at Smyrna and Philadelphia; seeking to seduce Christ s servants, and constraining them earnestly to contend for the truth.1The world could endure the churches at Sardis and Laodicea because they were not only in the world, but of the world. Consistent peace with the culture is a clear indication that the believer is not separated to God, but is considered one of the worlds own: If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you (John John 15:19). This road to peaceful coexistence with the culture is typically paved with a series of incremental compromises.
The Jerusalem conference had in its decree brought into juxtaposition the eating of εἰδωλόθυτα [eidōlothyta] and indulgence in sexual impurity (Acts Acts 15:20, Acts 15:27), and John had not lived in a Greek city without becoming aware that these two things were in fact closely bound up together. . . . From participation in a pagan guild-feast to licentiousness was but a step.2
To effect a reasonable compromise with the established usages of Graeco-Roman society; they taught that Christians ought to remain members of the pagan clubs, and that they might do so without disloyalty to their faith. Such a course involved nothing worse than the abandonment of an obsolete decree. The Jerusalem decree had been issued at the first beginning of Gentile Christianity; it had been circulated by St Paul in Pamphylia and Lycaonia (Acts Acts 16:4), and doubtless had reached Ephesus. But St. Paul himself had permitted at Corinth some modification of the ban against εἰδωλόθυτα [eidōlothyta] , recognizing the liberty of Christians to partake without question of meat which was sold in the markets or set before them at a friends table, which he insisted that charity to weaker brethren should preclude them from eating an εἰδωλόθυτον [eidōlothyton] which had been declared to be such or from taking part in a banquet held in a pagan temple (1Cor. 1Cor. 8:10; 1Cor. 10:25 ff.).3As the church becomes comfortable with the culture, its witness is compromised and it begins to forfeit the favor of God.
By enticing Gods people into an idolatrous practice, Balak got them out of Gods favor, compromised their testimony, and caused internal chaos and griefthis is what compromise with the world does to the Church. II Corinthians 2Cor. 6:17 makes this same point of separation from the world by repeating Isa. Isa. 52:11. Clearly, God requires Christians to be different from the world.4
But if anyone says to you, This was offered to idols, do not eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for conscience sake; for the earth is the LORDS, and all its fullness. Conscience, I say, not your own, but that of the other. For why is my liberty judged by another mans conscience? (1Cor. 1Cor. 10:28-29)Compromise has always been a chief tool of Satan.
1 Richard Chenevix Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1861), 206-207.
3 Ibid., lxxi.
4 Monty S. Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John (Dallas, TX: 3E Ministries, 1987), Rev. 2:18.