Dear Heavenly Father, as I get to know You more Lord, I am amazed the love that You have for me. Please soften my heart and please allow the Holy Spirit to guide me and help me understand everything that You have in these words. Show me how to apply this message in my life. In Jesus Name Amen

Nicolaitans:

nik-ṓ-lā´i-tanz Νικολαΐταί, Nikolaitaı́

A sect or party of evil influence in early Christianity, especially in the 7 churches of Asia. Their doctrine was similar to that of Balaam, “who taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication” (Rev_2:14-15). Their practices were strongly condemned by John, who praised the church in Ephesus for “hating their works” (Rev_2:6), and blamed the church in Pergamum for accepting in some measure their teaching (Rev_2:15). Except that reference is probably made to their influence in the church at Thyatira also, where their leader was “the woman Jezebel, who calleth herself a prophetess” (Rev_2:20; compare Rev_2:14), no further direct information regarding them is given in Scripture.

Reference to them is frequent in post-apostolic literature. According to Irenaeus (Adv. Haer., i. 26, 3; iii. 10, 7), followed by Hippolytus (Philos., vii. 36), they were founded by Nicolaus, the proselyte of Antioch, who was one of the seven chosen to serve at the tables (Act_6:5). Irenaeus, as also Clement of Alexandria (Strom., ii. 20), Tertullian and others, unite in condemning their practices in terms similar to those of John; and reference is also made to their Gnostic tendencies. In explanation of the apparent incongruity of such an immoral sect being founded by one of “good report, full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (compare Act_6:3), Simcox argues that their lapse may have been due to reaction from original principles of a too rigid asceticism. A theory, started in comparatively modern times, and based in part on the similarity of meaning of the Greek “Nikolaus,” and the Hebrew “Balaam,” puts forward the view that the two sects referred to under these names were in reality identical. Yet if this were so, it would not have been necessary for John to designate them separately.

The problem underlying the Nicolaitan controversy, though so little direct mention is made of it in Scripture, was in reality most important, and concerned the whole relation of Christianity to paganism and its usages. The Nicolaitans disobeyed the command issued to the Gentile churches, by the apostolic council held at Jerusalem in 49-50 AD, that they should refrain from the eating of “things sacrificed to idols” (Act_15:29). Such a restriction, though seemingly hard, in that it prevented the Christian communities from joining in public festivals, and so brought upon them suspicion and dislike, was yet necessary to prevent a return to a pagan laxity of morals. To this danger the Nicolaitans were themselves a glaring witness, and therefore John was justified in condemning them. In writing to the Corinthians, Paul gives warning against the same evil practices, basing his arguments on consideration for the weaker brethren (compare 1Co_8:1-13).

The Jerusalem council (Act_15:20; Act_15:29), while releasing Gentile converts from legalism, required their abstinence from idol meats and associated fornication. The Nicolaitans abused Paul’s doctrine of the grace of God into lasciviousness; such seducers are described as followers of Balsam, also in 2Pe_2:12-19; Jude_1 (“the son of Bosor” for Beor, to characterize him as “son of carnality”: bosor “flesh”). They persuaded many to escape obloquy by yielding as to “eating idol meats,” which was then a test of faithfulness (compare 1 Corinthians 8 and 1Co_10:25-33); they even joined in the “fornication” of the idol feasts, as though permitted by Christ’s “law of liberty.” The “lovefeasts” (Jud_1:12) thus became pagan orgies. The Nicolaitans combined evil “deeds” which Jesus “hates” with evil “doctrine.”

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