Do you know the Bible well enough to see false teaching? Can you tell when something is essential vs preference?
The churches of Pergamum and Thyatira were infiltrated with false teachers. This area of Asia Minor is where Paul, 40 years prior, had very successful apostolic ministry, and they probably gravitated to his teaching in this area. It is likely that the false teachers are twisting Paul’s words – they are saying it is ok to eat food sacrificed to idols (which is like participating in the idol worship). Paul said in the Corinthian letters that it was ok to eat food in the marketplace (which might have been to idols) – but with a clean conscience, and as long as you don’t ask – you don’t eat it if you find out it is to an idol. Paul was very against sexual sin (he actually advised being single, but not as a command). The false teachers are taking the norms of Roman society – sex with slaves, prostitutes, and mistresses – and twisting Paul’s words about freedom in Christ.
The Christians in these cities are being led astray – and yet they deeply love Jesus. One man, Antipas, was even killed for Christ. The believers in Pergamum are described as loyal; those in Thyatira as loving, faithful, serving and patient. Deeply loving Christ, truly serving Him – does not guarantee that you will not follow false teaching. We have to know His Word, and have wisdom to discern it – to know what is essential and what is preference. We must stand for the essentials, be ok with differences on preference, and in all things have love.
What do you think? What are the essentials that are non-negotiable? What does it mean to “hold tightly” to the truth?