National Association of Christian Ministers Summary Series: Theology

Brief

The Nicolaitans are mentioned twice in the New Testament, specifically in the Book of Revelation. The references are found in Revelation 2:6 and Revelation 2:15. However, the exact nature of the Nicolaitans’ teachings is not explicitly described in the text, and there is some ambiguity and debate among scholars regarding their beliefs and practices.

In Revelation 2:6 (ESV), it is stated: “Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.”

And in Revelation 2:15 (ESV): “So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.”

Given the limited information provided in the text, the teachings of the Nicolaitans remain somewhat speculative. Some interpretations suggest that the Nicolaitans promoted a form of compromise with pagan practices and idolatry, potentially blurring the distinction between the Christian faith and the surrounding cultural practices. Others suggest that they advocated for a hierarchical or elitist structure within the church, which could have led to an abuse of power.

However, due to the scanty information available, it’s important to acknowledge that the precise teachings and practices of the Nicolaitans are not definitively known, and much of what is said about them is inferred from the context of the passages and historical context of the time -with consideration of the Greek compound words “niko” and “laos” used to describe it.

Digging Deeper

Jesus said to the church at Ephesus:

“Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” (Rev 2:6 ESV).

 

Jesus said this to the church at Pergamum:

So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. (Rev 2:15 ESV).

This must be important for Christ to mention it twice in the same chapter and to say that he hates it!  

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Dr. Tim Lahaye writes in his book Revelation illustrated and made plain: #

The word Nicolaitans comes from two Greek words: niko, meaning to conquer, or overthrow, and laos , meaning the people or the laity. They tried to establish an ecclesiastical order.  This latter heresy is known as Nicolaitanism.  This is an unscriptural idea that causes the church to become enslaved by one man or small group of men whose spiritual life can determine the spiritual success of the church. (p. 26.)

He went on to say:

Nicolaitanism is the doctrine of a strong ecclesiastical hierarchy ruling over the laity; this has never been conductive to a strong spiritual condition in the church.  Laymen were given no voice in the church affairs, but were required to obey blindly the decrees of the clergy.  The clergy then gradually seemed to gravitate to an impractical ivory tower type of existence that separated them more and more from the people.  Whenever a minister loses contact with the people, he ceases to be an effective tool in the hand of God. (p. 41.)

Dr. Jack Van Impe writes in his book Revelation Revealed: #

Not only were the people of the first church of Pergamos worldly, sinful and idolatrous, but they also shared in the wicked practice of the Nicolaitanism as did the church at Ephesus.  This, again, is ecclesiastical Hitlerism.  It is when the minister says, I am the head, and you have no choice in the matter, allowing laymen no voice in the affairs of the church. (p. 35-36.)

Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave (Mat 20:25-27 ESV).