The Doctrine and Deeds of the Nicolaitans
By David J. Stewart
The doctrine of the Nicolaitans, mentioned twice in John’s discourse to the seven churches in Revelation, is as prevalent in our churches today as it was then. There are two Greek root words that comprise the word “Nicolaitan.” The first word is nikao which means “to conquer or overcome,” from which the shoe brand Nike is derived. The second word is laos, which means “people,” from which the word laity is derived. If the meaning of these two words is combined, Nicolaitan means “to conquer or prevail over the people.” Unfortunately the early church succumbed to the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, instituting a papal hierarchy of priests and clergy that lorded over the flock, instead of shepherding and serving them. Today, we see the epitome of this woeful evil within the religious prisonhouse of Catholicism. We read in Revelation 2:15 of the King James Bible...
"So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate."
What exactly is the "doctrine of the Nicolaitans"? Well, whatever it is, it's not the doctrine of God's Word! Of this we can be rest assured.
This prevailing false doctrine of the Nicolaitans is responsible not only for the Bible becoming a forbidden book during the Dark Ages, but also for the practice of issuing “indulgences”, which supposedly assured the forgiveness of sins through monetary contributions to the Church. Protestant church reformer Martin Luther’s thesis, entitled “Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences”, condemned the Catholic Church’s Nicolaitan practice of issuing indulgences, emphasizing that the church’s overwhelming, dictatorial control over the laity was to satisfy their insatiable love for money.
45. Christians are to be taught that he who sees a man in need, and passes him by, and gives [his money] for pardons, purchases not the indulgences of the pope, but the indignation of God.
66. The treasures of the indulgences are nets with which they now fish for the riches of men.
67. The indulgences which the preachers cry as the "greatest graces" are known to be truly such, in so far as they promote gain.
82. To wit: -- "Why does not the pope empty purgatory, for the sake of holy love and of the dire need of the souls that are there, if he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a Church? The former reasons would be most just; the latter is most trivial."
86. Again: -- "Why does not the pope, whose wealth is to-day greater than the riches of the richest, build just this one church of St. Peter with his own money, rather than with the money of poor believers?"
89. "Since the pope, by his pardons, seeks the salvation of souls rather than money, why does he suspend the indulgences and pardons granted heretofore, since these have equal efficacy?"
The improper exaltation of clergy over laity is a great evil in the sight of the Lord, one in which clergy, motivated by a lust for money and power, intimidates, manipulates and dominates laity.
The Deeds of the Nicolaitans
It is worth noting that the deeds and doctrine of the Nicolaitans, are the only thing that the Lord says “I hate” in the entire New Testament.
Revelation 2:6 “But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.”
Interestingly enough, the Nicolaitan spirit is identifiable and characterized by the six things “the Lord hates” in the Old Testament.
Proverbs 6:16-19 “These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.”
A “proud look” or “haughty eyes” reflect a Nicolaitan attitude of supremacy, where self-exalted leaders issue an unwritten warrant of lordship, domination and control over their members and advocates. Nicolaitans surround themselves with “Yes” men, who are honored for their submission, but in truth are not serving the Lord but another master. Those who do not submit to their tyrannical reign are labeled rebels. When confronted about sin, or challenged about an issue or doctrinal viewpoint, they may become enraged, and most likely will neither receive correction nor repent. To ensure their member’s attention and devotion, Nicolaitans lead by intimidation instead of inspiration. This type of leader is rarely found equipping the saints, planting churches, or empowering and endorsing other ministries within their church. Churches and ministries that are a “one-man show” may be under the influence of the Nicolaitan doctrine.
Luke 22:25 “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them. But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves.”
Nicolaitans serve themselves instead of protecting, honoring and serving the sheep that the Lord has entrusted to them. Instead of laying their life down for their sheep, they may “shed the innocent blood” of their flock to protect themselves. When threatened, Nicolaitans may even “devise a wicked plan”, “speak lies” or bring “a false witness” forward against their sheep to defend their own position (Proverbs 6:17-19).
Ezekiel 34:2, 4, 10 “Prophesy against the shepherds of Israel . . . with force and cruelty you have ruled the flock . . . I will require My flock at their hand; I will cause them to cease feeding the sheep, and the shepherds shall feed themselves no more; for I will deliver My flock from their mouths, that they may no longer be food for them.”
Nicolaitans “sow discord among brethren” by disregarding and dishonoring their sheep, resulting in division and dysfunction in the body, which is an abomination to the Lord (Proverbs 6:19).
I Corinthians 12:24, 25 “But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism (lit. division) in the body.”