Who are the Nicolaitans?

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 “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write…‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands…But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate... 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.  Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth” (Revelation 2:1,6,15-16).

The Nicolaitans was one of the heretical sects that corrupted the churches of Ephesus and Pergamum (v. 15), and perhaps elsewhere. The origin of their doctrine started in the early infant church by the disputes of the false teachers which caused division and falsehood. While many attempted to oppose the erroneous teachings, some were sucked into it. To the extent that heresy had found a place in the church, and the work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:13) to change lives was thwarted (John 16:8–11; Galatians 5:22, 23; Ephesian 4:30; etc.).

A century later, the Gnostic sect called the Nicolaitans appeared. Some Church Fathers who written about this sect (Irenaeus op. cit. i. 26. 3; Hippolytus Refutation of All Heresies vii. 24) name the founder as Nicolas of Antioch, one of the seven deacons (Acts 6:5). Whether the tradition concerning Nicolas the deacon is correct, we do not know, but the sect may be the same as the one mentioned by John.

Irenaeus presented the Nicolaitans as a Gnostic sect: “John, the disciple of the Lord, preaches this faith [the deity of Christ], and seeks, by the proclamation of the Gospel, to remove that error which by Cerinthus had been disseminated among men, and a long time previously by those termed Nicolaitans, who are an offset of that ‘knowledge’ might confound them, and persuade them that there is but one God, who made all things by His Word” (op. cit. iii. 11. 1; ANF, vol. 1, p. 426).

Clement of Alexandria wrote about the Nicolaitans, “They abandoned themselves to pleasure like goats, leading a life of self-indulgence.” Thus, their message corrupted the faith and replaced the freedom of Christ with a license to sin.

Paul wrote against his wrong teaching, “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!” (Romans 6:15). To think that being under grace means that the believer is now free to disobey the moral law of God is to misunderstand fully God’s purpose in the plan of salvation. It was man’s breaking of God’s law in the first place that caused God in His love to offer His Son to die to redeem the sinner (John 3:16). To disobey God’s law is to become the servant of sin (1 John 3:4; John 8:34). Whoever refuses to allow the grace of God to help him obey the law is rejecting grace itself and opposing freedom and salvation.

And in the 2d century, followers of this sect seems to spread the teaching that works of the flesh do not influence the purity of the soul, and consequently have no bearing on salvation.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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