The Doctrine of the Nicolaitans

Revelation

The Doctrine of the Nicolaitans

September 17th, 1961 @ 10:50 AM

Revelation 2:6-15

But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death. And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges; I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth. But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
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THE DOCTRINE OF THE NICOLAITANS

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Revelation 2:6-15

9-17-61    10:50 a.m.

Now we are going to turn to the second chapter of the Book of the Revelation, and the title of the sermon this morning is The Doctrine of the Nicolaitans.   In our preaching through the Bible and through the Book and through the Revelation, we are come to the third church, the church at Pergamos.   And this is the reading of the text in Revelation 2:12-17:

And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith He which hath the sharp sword with two edges;

I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s throne is: and thou holdest fast My name, and hast not denied My faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.

But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak (the king of Moab) to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.

So hast thou also them (there) that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.

Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.

[Revelation 2:12-17]

 And the particular text: “So hast thou also them there that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate” [Revelation 2:15].

These letters to the seven churches are embedded in a book that calls itself the book of prophecy.  Therefore, I am taught that these seven messages are in themselves prophetic previews of the development of the Christian faith in the churches in the earth.  The seven churches are seven periods that represent the story, the development, and the history of the church from its founding by our Lord until the consummation and He takes His witness and His people out of the earth.

There is therefore an Ephesian period in the development of the church; there is a Smyrnian period [Revelation 2:8-11]; there is a Pergamean [Revelation 2:12-17]; there is a Thyatiran [Revelation 2:18-29]; there is a Sardian [Revelation 3:1-6]; there is a Philadelphian [Revelation 3:7-13]; there is a Laodicean [Revelation 3:14-22].  The Ephesian period of the church, represented by the message to the church at Ephesus, is the church of the apostles in the apostolic days.  The Smyrnian period of the church is the church of blood and of persecution under the heavy hand of the Roman government.  The Pergamean period of the church is the church of the establishment when it became popular in the world and was married to the Roman Empire.  Do you notice how differently our Lord characterizes Himself as He speaks to the Smyrnian church of persecution and as He speaks to the Pergamean church of establishment and worldly applause and popularity?  “Unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith [He that is] the First and the Last, which was dead, and is alive again . . .” [Revelation 2:8].

 To those so hurt and suffering and persecuted, our Lord presents Himself as the triumphant One.  After these things have passed, though dead, raised—He still lives.  But to the church at Pergamos: “These things saith He which hath the sharp two-edged sword . . .” [Revelation 2:12].  Our Lord is a God of love and mercy, but He is also the God of justice and of judgment and of visitation.  The winnowing fan is in His hand, and the axe is laid at the root of the tree [Matthew 3:10, 12].  “These things saith He which hath the sharp two-edged sword in His hand” [Revelation 2:12].  Now, as He speaks to the church at Pergamos, He says, “Thou hast them [there] which hath the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate” [Revelation 2:15].  If for no other reason than that this is twice pointed out in the second chapter of the Revelation as being a thing that God hates [Revelation 2:6, 15]—if for no other reason—it would appeal to this pastor to try to learn, to find out, to study, to discover what that thing is; and then do his best to expound upon it to his flock.  That’s what we are doing this morning.

I have tried and studied long and earnestly to find out what that thing is, that thing that God hates, which He calls the doctrine of the Nicolaitans.  Now when you read about it, you come into some of the most fantastic aberrations that theological exposition could think of.  For example, there are many who say the Nicolaitans are the followers of Nicolas who was a deacon ordained in the church at Jerusalem—one of the seven in the sixth chapter of Acts [Acts 6:5]—and that he apostasized, and these are his followers.  There’s no hint of that in secular, profane, religious or irreligious literature.  It came out of somebody’s theological imagination.  You see a lot of things like that as men expound—or supposedly expound—the Word of God.

Now there are many, many scholars of great height and stature and worth who say that the doctrine of the Nicolaitans is the doctrine of Baalam.  Now the doctrine of Baalam mentioned here is very plain to understand [Revelation 2:14].  Baalam wanted to curse Israel, but God wouldn’t let him [Numbers 23:7-24:25].  So—in his hire—he told Balak, the king of Moab, how to destroy Israel [Numbers 31:16].  And Balak took his Moabitish, strange women and gave them to Israel and debauched them [Numbers 25:1].  So the doctrine of Baalam is the doctrine of lust; it’s the doctrine of sensuality; it’s the doctrine of carnality.

Now, G. Campbell Morgan, one of the greatest expositors of all time, says that the doctrine of the Nicolaitans is the doctrine of Baalam.  And it seems to me that most of the expounders of the Word of God say that.  But I don’t see that, and I cannot understand why those men say that because this is the text, “I have a few things”—plural—“I have a few things against thee, because thou hast them [there] that hold the doctrine of Baalam” [Revelation 2:14].  Then He says, “Thou hast also them [there] that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans” [Revelation 2:15].  Now, if they are the same thing, why mention it?  If the doctrine of the Nicolaitans is the doctrine of Baalam, well, then why mention the doctrine of the Nicolaitans?  It is the same thing, and He has already mentioned it.

Then also notice in the text it says, “So hast thou also” [Revelation 2:15].  Having said, “You have in your midst those that hold the doctrine of Baalam [Revelation 2:14], thou hast them kai”; and, also, added to, “beside these Baalamites, you have these Nicolaitans” [Revelation 2:15].  So to me, just expounding the text itself, I would say that they are two different things: the doctrine of Baalam, the doctrine of sensuality, of carnality, of lust, of the dirt and filth of life, that’s one thing [Revelation 2:14]; but there is another thing called the doctrine of the Nicolaitans [Revelation 2:15].

Now, there’s not anything in church history and there’s not anything in secular history that defines the doctrine of the Nicolaitans.  So we have to find its meaning in the Word of God itself.  Therefore, shut up to the Word itself, I turn to two areas to find out the meaning of that doctrine: first, in the word itself.  All of these words in the Bible have a profound meaning.  They have a significance; all of them do.  When the Lord calls Simon Cephas, petros, He had a meaning in it [John 1:42].  Well, all through the Bible the same thing.

Now, that word Nicolaitans is made up of two very simple, plain, common, ordinary Greek words.  The first is nike.  We have a nike—you pronounce it—we have a Nike missile.  And if you’ll go to a trophy shop, you can buy a nike, “a winged victory.”  For the Greek word nike means conqueror, victor, a subjugator, nike.  Now the other part of that word is laos, which is the ordinary Greek word for people.  Your English word “laity” comes from it.  Nike, laos—and put them together they make an English word Nicolaitans.  And it refers to a group who subjugate, who conquer the people.  It refers to a group who exalt themselves and lift themselves above the people, and who oppress them and subjugate them and use them.  That’s one area in which we can find the meaning of the Nicolaitans.

Now the other area is to be found in the history of the church.  We have left the Smyrnian period of persecution [Revelation 2:8-11], and now we have come to the Pergamean period [Revelation 2:12-17], when the church is married to the power and the prestige and the political thrust of the Roman Empire.  That word Pergamos has a meaning.  These astute scholars—and I tried to find out where they got it and I couldn’t—but they say that prefix “per” has a connotation of something objectionable.  And the second one is very simple.  The Greek word for marriage is gamos.  It appears in “bigamy” and “polygamy.”  So the word “Pergamos” refers to an objectionable—that is to God—an objectionable marriage.  And the Pergamean period of the church is the period when the church is married to the world.  It is established in the applause and the acceptance of all of the political leaders, and all of the imperial authorities, and all of those who curry favor and advancement.

Now, may I put them together?  What the word Nicolaitans itself means, and when it came to flower in the Pergamean period of the church; the doctrine of the Nicolaitans is therefore the exaltation of a group above their fellow men who arrogate to themselves the powers of life and of death.  They alone can forgive sins; they alone can open the doors to heaven; and they also have the obverse power of excommunication and damnation into hell.  And they are exalted in the world.  They are princes of the church.  And they curry political concordance and favor.  And as God said in James 4:4: “The friendship of the world is the enmity of God.” “. . . Which thing I hate.” Twice does the Lord say it, the doctrine of the Nicolaitans [Revelation 2:6, 15].

It began early, early.  It began at the beginning of the Christian story and the Christian faith.  In the Ephesien period of the church, the Lord said to the church at Ephesus, “Thou hast them [there] the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I hate” [Revelation 2:6].  But in the Pergamean period of the church: “Thou hast them [there] that hold the doctrine” [Revelation 2:15].  It has grown from deeds into a great system—the doctrine, the teaching, the way of the Nicolaitans.  Isn’t that an unusual thing?  One of the characterizations of all life and all matter and all creation is this: apart from God, the law of degeneration, corrosion, and corruption, and rust, and decay are everything in all of God’s created universe.  The sun and the rain and even the air itself are relentless arms of destruction.  Even the stars grow old and die.  And so it is with spiritual life; it has a tendency to corrode; it has a tendency to decay; it has a tendency to quiesce and to die like a flame into an ashen ember; that’s what happened to the Christian church.

There in the beginning, in the Ephesian period, there were the deeds of the Nicolaitans [Revelation 2:6].  Like the third [epistle] of John refers to Diotrephes, he lifted himself above his fellows and would not receive the apostolic emissaries from John [3 John 1:9].  And he controlled the church and used it for himself [3 John 1:10].  But by the time you come to the Pergamean period of the church, that thing that was isolated as a deed—which thing God hated back there in the beginning [Revelation 2:6]—has become a great system, and priestcraft has supplanted the preacher of the Word [Revelation 2:12-15].  And ritual and ceremony has supplanted the power of the regenerating Spirit of God.  And the church has opened its bosom and its heart to receive the world.  That great change came in the Pergamean period, and the church is no longer a company of baptized believers—a regenerated household of faith—but the church has become a channel of sacerdotal, sacramental, hypothetical salvation!  What an astonishing thing that could have developed in the churches of Jesus Christ!

In the Old Testament, in the nineteenth chapter of Exodus, in the sixth verse, God said to Israel: “If you be faithful and keep My commandments . . . Ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation” [Exodus 19:5-6].  Israel turned aside from that condition and lost their place, and it was fully realized in the Christian religion and in the Christian churches.  That’s why I had you read together these passages from 1 Peter, the second chapter:  “We . . . we are a holy house, a spiritual house, a divine, set apart, consecrated priesthood, a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar priesthood.”  Twice does he repeat those words there in that passage [1 Peter 2:5, 9].  All of us are now priests unto God, the veil is parted and any man, anywhere can go boldly up to the throne of God for himself and speak to God for himself.  No mediator except our Lord, no right of access except in His name; any man, anywhere, any time—boldly to the throne of grace, and invited by God Himself thus to do [Hebrews 4:14-16].

But within a period of less than three hundred years, all of that was changed, and the church was carried back into the day of the Old Testament priesthood, and the veil was sewn up again, and God was placed beyond the reaches of ordinary man again.  And in order to reach Him, we had to go through an ordained priesthood again—an astonishing change!  The church is established, not upon the rock of Jesus Christ [Matthew 16:16-18], but established in the favor and in the power of the world.  And the princes of the church preside over it and mediate between God and all of the people down there.  When did that happen?  It happened suddenly; it happened like a meteor that burst; it happened like the snap of your fingers; it happened in a twinkling of an eye almost, this astonishing change that came in the Pergamean life of the church [Revelation 2:12-17].  It came about in the conversion of one Roman general named Constantine.

For you see, at the beginning of the fourth century AD, the Caesar died.  And his succession was left in dispute.  And there was an able legionnaire by the name of Constantine who had had some sort of a nominal introduction to Christianity.  And in October of 312 AD, a great battle was to be fought for the Milvian Bridge near the city of Rome.  And on one side camped the forces of Constantine, and on the other side camped the forces of Maxentius.  And that night, Constantine said: “If I am victor; I will become a Christian.”  And the next day when their forces met, tradition says that Constantine saw a sign in the sky above the brightness of the noonday sun, and it was a cross.  And then two languages are described in it, and I can’t find out what words he did see.  Some of them will say he saw en touto nika.  That’s Greek, “In this conquer.”  And then others say he saw it in Latin: “In hoc signo vinces,” “In this sign conquer,” the cross.  However it was, Constantine won the battle, and Constantine became an unconverted and an unbaptized Christian.  It was an astonishing reversal: for one day the Christians were persecuted and hated, and the next day, the Christians were popular and accepted.  And they were like a child in the midst of heavy drinkers whose head is turned away with the wine of the world.

Caesar is a Christian!  Now the priests of Venus, and Aphrodite, and Adonis, and Iris, and Osiris, and Dionysius, and Bacchus, and Jove, and Jupiter, and Venus, and Mars, and Poseidon, and Mercury and all the rest of them, they were paid out of Caesar’s purse.  But now, Caesar is a Christian!  So the priests of Poseidon, and Mercury, and Venus, and Diana, and all of the priests immediately rushed to their baptism, and they changed their idol temples into churches.  And they bowed down, not before the graven images of Poseidon and Neptune, but they then bowed down before the graven images to whom they gave the names of saints.  Worshipping the same images, worshiping the same idols, they renamed them in honor of the martyrs and the saints of the church.  And they took their ritual, and they said: “We are now celebrating the glorious reverential honor of the true queen of heaven.”  And the church overnight took that place of the great idolatrous worship of the Greco-Roman Empire, the most astonishing thing this world has ever seen—nothing like it on the pages of recorded history.

Heretofore the Christians had met in a kitchen, or in a catacomb, or in a humble dwelling, or in a dungeon.  And it echoed with the quiet hymns of the faithful, which sometimes were turned into the shout of the martyr as the Christian was led to the arena.  All that is past; the Christian now has dropped his rags of persecution, and he’s clothed with the raiment of the silk of the court.  And he’s no longer despised and outcast; he stands by the side of the Caesar himself.  And he walks in the glory and the political might and authority of the empire.  It was to them the millennial age.

What about that conversion of Constantine?  Eusebius, who to me is a gullible historian, the early church historian; Eusebius says it was a miracle of God.  Edward Gibbon—who was the greatest historian of our modern age—Edward Gibbon, in his incomparable volumes on The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, looks upon it as a fable and ridicules it as senseless.  All right, may I make a comment about it?  Constantine was the shrewdest politician that the Roman Empire ever produced—unless he was excelled by Julius Caesar—and Constantine saw that the old gods of Greece and Rome were decaying.  And Constantine saw that the faith of the Christian disciple had permeated the entire Roman Empire.  And Constantine pulled one of the most astute political maneuverings this world has ever seen.  That same Edward Gibbon said that to the people all religions alike were true; all religions alike to the philosophers were false.  But to the politicians all religions alike were useful, and Constantine became an unconverted and an unbaptized Christian—a political maneuver.

“Now, how do you know that; or why do you think that, pastor?”  For these reasons: one, he never gave up his pagan, idolatrous, heathen superstitions; that’s one.  Second, he tried to amalgamate the worship of Christ and Apollo.  On his coins, he’ll have the picture of Apollo and the name of Christ.  Another thing, in the famous decree of March 321[AD], when he set aside Sunday as a reverential day of worship, he did it in the name of Dies Solis; “the Day of the Sun”; had nothing to do with Christ.  And he wasn’t baptized until the day of his death in order to wash more of his sins away.

And can you imagine Constantine calling the great Council of Nicaea in 325 AD?  And he attends that conference of all of the pastors of the Christian world, and he attends it dressed in garments of gold and glittering with precious gems, and they stand up in awe as Constantine walks through their midst.  And after he is seated, they are seated.  And he went to that conference at Nicaea to preside over the churches of Jesus Christ—not only unbaptized, but he went there from the brutal murder of his eldest son who was one of the finest, most capable generals and Roman citizens that the empire ever produced. That is Constantine, “the Christian.”  It was a political maneuver, and he was wise and shrewd in bringing it to pass.  But in him, Nicolaitanism triumphed—no longer in question or in abeyance—but the doctrine, the system of the Nicolaitans now controls the then-known Christian world.  And the heavy hand of Roman government was upon the [Pergamean] church.

Now the heavy hand of the Nicolaitans is on the true church of Christ.  And the blood spilled by the Roman government against the Christians is a drop compared to the floods and the oceans of blood, shed by those who belong to the system, who hold the doctrine, which thing God says: “I hate!” [Revelation 2:15].  It’s not a system of error dug up by the pastor two thousand years ago; but it is a monstrous system that holds most of the Christian world in its bloody grasp today.

Now, briefly to summarize it, the doctrine of the Nicolaitans: it is the exaltation of a group, a group above the people.  And this exalted group, who refer to themselves as princes of the church, this exalted group arrogate to themselves the power of life and of death, of excommunication and damnation, the keys to heaven and to imprison in hell.  And they hold over their subjected people powers of fear and tyranny beyond any way for a man to describe it; for if they violate the precepts of the Nicolaitans, they are damned, unforgiven in sin, excommunicated in hell.  And the power and the terror that they hold in having the forgiveness of sins in their hands, and the power of salvation committed unto them is without end; for it not only extends in this life, but it extends in the life that is yet to come; “The doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate,” says God [Revelation 2:15].

No man is a prince in the church, and no man has the power of the forgiveness of sins.  And no man is a mediator between God and man, save the Man Christ Jesus [1 Timothy 2:5].  “The doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing,” God says, “I hate” [Revelation 2:15]; the exaltation of a group above the people.  And it is the system of idolatry that enmeshed itself in the world.  All of the idolatry of the Greco-Roman world, and all of its ritual, and all of its images, and all of its icons, and all of its architecture; all of it was taken bodily into the bosom of the church.  And these days, wherein they used to celebrate the reverential honors to their gods, they placed in the calendar as days to celebrate saint’s, names, and all of those things.  They just changed the name of it—kept the exact time; kept the exact way; kept the exact ritual; kept the exact ceremony—just changed the name.  And instead of a bloody sacrifice on the altar to Jove, they changed it—in the smartest religious maneuver that mind could conceive of—they changed it into the bloodless sacrifice of the mass.  And continued it on with the same incense, with the same robes, with the same service, with the same ritual, with the same images, with the same gods, with the same statues, with the same idols—just gave it a different name.  “Which thing,” God says, “I hate!” [Revelation 2:15].  “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.  Neither shalt thou bow down thyself before it” [Exodus 20:4-5], the doctrine, the system of the Nicolaitans [Revelation 2:15].

And the power of regeneration was dismissed out of the hands of the presence of God in conversion.  And a man became, quote, “a child of Christ and a member of the kingdom of God” by ritual, by ceremony.  We are baptized into the faith and we are baptized into the church and we become members of the church by act of Parliament. What a stupendous thing!  A man is born a citizen of the state, and a man is made a member of the church by christening at his birth.  There’s no figment—there’s no fiction of theological doctrine in this earth that could deny that you identify the world with the church and the church with the world when you do it.  No longer is a man born again by the Word of God [1 Peter 1:23].  No longer is a man saved by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit [Titus 3:5].  No longer is a man forgiven of his sins by repentance and confession and trust in Jesus [Romans 10:9-10], but he does so by mechanics, manipulated by those who are exalted above us.  By the sacerdotalists, by the ceremonialists, by the ritualists, we become a member of the kingdom of God.

And the last thing inevitably follows; and the church became a pawn in the chess and in the game of the high authoritarian powers who sat in Caesar’s place and where Satan has his throne, as God says here [Revelation 2:13].  And the church was used for personal preferment and for personal advancement.  And it dickered with states, and signed concordats, and entered into political favor or disfavor; and carried on wars of persecution and bloodshed as unscrupulous men came into the places of the princely seats and turned God’s people into fanatical murderers and slaughters of men—waging war.  The bloodiest pages of time and history you’ll find written in the story of the churches of Jesus Christ.  The doctrine of the Nicolaitans, those who exalted themselves above the people: Simony!  Simony!  Simon, in the Book of Acts, offered money for the gift of the power of the Holy Spirit [Acts 8:18].  “Simony” is the word for those who buy office in the church.  And for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years, a man bought the office of a bishop with money.  And a man bought the office of princely concordance and acceptance with money, “simony,” buying our exaltation before men.

Then we fall into the story of Cesare Borgia, or a Cardinal Richelieu, or of a Rasputin.  And don’t forget that Stalin was trained as a priest for the Orthodox Greek Church.  And there came a time when men rose up and said: “And we hate God; and we hate the system; and we hate the prelate; and we hate these who exalt themselves above us.”  They took violent and agnostic and atheistic hands, and they took the church and they pulled it down; and they trampled on it; and they ground it in the earth.  The greatest enemies of the church today are those who grew up to despise its authoritarianism, to despise its arrogant authoritarian precepts by which it arrogates to itself powers that God alone keeps for Himself.  And we live in that kind of a world.

What we need—what we need to combat that awful revulsion, and that terrible atheism, and that indescribable and horrible hatred against the church of Christ—what we need is the proclamation of the pure simple faith of the Lord our Savior.  Here, here, here, all of us are sinners alike [Romans 3:23], no one lifted above his fellows; all of us are sinners alike.  This godly man needs to repent and to ask God for forgiveness of his sins and to confess his faith in Jesus and be a humble disciple of the Lord [Acts 3:19; Romans 10:9-13], and this godly man, and this man, and that godly man, and that sainted woman—all of us alike, sinners in His sight [Romans 3:23].  And we need to repent for ourselves, and to come in humble, humble penitent importunity, and beseeching, and asking that God will forgive us our sins.  And all of us alike, equal brethren in the household of faith.  If one is called to be an evangelist, he’s just called to be made an object of prayer that he might win others to Jesus.  And if one is called to be a pastor—not called to lord it over the flock [1 Peter 5:3], but to be a fellow member of the household of faith, loving his brethren, and encouraging by word and by example in the humble way, in the love and mercy of our Lord.  And all of God’s people, fellow heirs [Romans 8:17], fellow citizens of the household of the saints [Ephesians 2:19]: which thing God says: “I love.  I love.”  This is the faith of the Book; and this is the faith of the Bible; and this is the faith that can save our world.

No man hates another man for loving God; no man hates another man for serving Jesus; no man hates another man when that man’s heart is filled with the goodness and the mercy and the preciousness of his Lord and Savior.  That’s the faith!  I can see how men hate it when it’s arrogant and lifted up, and authoritarian, and oppressive, and would seek to destroy it.  Even in some countries, our Baptist people are labeled officially communists because we are anti-clericalists.  I can see how men would hate it.  But I can also see how the Christians of the [Pergamean] church won the empire: they out-lived, and they out-loved, and they out-died the world.  And that’s what we need today, that’s the faith of the Lord.  That’s the faith that needs to be preached, proclaimed, lived, exhibited to the world.

And may God grant that He find a colony of heaven in this precious and blessed communion, exhibiting to the world the humility, the reverence, the goodness, the holiness and the mercy that shined in the life and in the face of Jesus Christ [2 Corinthians 4:6].  And it’s to that faith we invite you to come today, putting a humble trust in Jesus our Lord, identifying yourself with the household of those whose hope is in the sacrifice and the blood and the forgiveness of Jesus.  You, somebody you, while we sing our hymn of appeal, in this balcony round, in the throng on this lower floor, accepting our Lord as Savior, or coming into the fellowship of the church, “Pastor, this is my wife, and these are our children, all of us coming.”  As God shall make appeal, would you make it this morning?  Would you make it now?  On the first note of the first stanza, come, come, come.  While we stand and while we sing.

THE DOCTRINE OF THE NICOLAITANS

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Revelation 2:15

9-17-61

I.          Introduction

A.  These letters to the seven churches are in a book of prophecy

1. These messages are prophetic previews of the development of the Christian faith

a. Ephesian period – church of the apostles in apostolic days

b. Smyrnian period – church of martyrdom, persecution under heavy hand of Roman government

c. Pergamean period – church of the establishment when it was married to the Roman Empire

B.  The Lord characterizes Himself differently as He speaks to Smyrna and Pergamos

1.  To Smyrna, He is the triumphant One (Revelation 2:8)

2. To Pergamos, He is the God of justice and judgment (Revelation 2:12, Matthew 3:10, 12)

C.  Twice is it pointed out God hates the doctrine of the Nicolaitans(Revelation 2:6, 15)

II.         What is this thing the Lord hates?

A.  The fantastic aberrations some avow

1.  Say Nicolaitans are followers of Nicolas, a deacon ordained at Jerusalem, who apostasied(Acts 6:5)

B.  Many great scholars, like G. Campbell Morgan, say doctrine of the Nicolaitans is the doctrine of Balaam

1. Doctrine of Balaam is that of lust, sensuality, carnality (Numbers 25:1)

2. If they are the same thing, why name them separately?(Revelation 2:14-15)

a. Expounding the text I would say they are two different things

C.  We find definition of the doctrine of the Nicolaitans in Scriptures

1.  The word Nicolaitans made up of two common Greek words

a. Nike – “conqueror, victor, subjugator”

b. Laos – “people”

2.  The history of the church

a. Pergamean period – marriage of the church to the world

b. Some scholars say “per” has connotation of something objectionable; Greek gamos is “marriage”

i. Pergamos refers to an objectionable (to God) marriage

3.  Doctrine of the Nicolaitans is the rise of a ruling order over the people, who arrogate to themselves the powers of life and death

a. Use the church for worldly preferment, advancement(James 4:4)

III.        The doctrine of the Nicolaitans

A.  Began early, at beginning of Christian faith

1.  Degeneration the law of life apart from God

2. From Ephesian to Pergamean period, deeds of Nicolaitans had grown to a system of doctrine(Revelation 2:6, 15, 3 John 1:9)

a. Priestcraft supplanted preaching of the Word

b. Ritual and ceremony supplanted the power of the Spirit

c. Worldliness made its way into the bosom of the church

B.  Old Testament priesthood(Exodus 19:6)

1. What was conditionally offered to Israel became fully realized in Christianity – a kingdom of priests(1 Peter 2:5, 9, Hebrews 4:16)

2. In less than 300 years, priesthood, sacramental religion installed again(Matthew 16:16-18)

C.  Constantine

1.  Early 4th century Caesar died, his succession in dispute

2. Great battle between Constantine and Maxentius

3.  Constantine said if he won he’d become a Christian

4. His vision of a cross in the sky

5.  He won the battle, became an unconverted Christian

6.  Priests of pagan temples baptized, idol temples changed into churches

D.  What of this “conversion” of Constantine and the sign in the sky?

1. Church historian Eusebius says it was a miracle of God

2.  Edward Gibbon looks upon it as fable, ridiculous

3.  I think it was a shrewd political move

E. Why I think Constantine’s “conversion” was a political maneuver

1.  He never gave up his pagan, idolatrous, heathen superstitions

2. He tried to amalgamate the worship of Christ and Apollo

3.  His decree to ordain Sunday as a day of worship was honor the sun

4.  Delayed his baptism until his deathbed to wash more sins away

5. In him Nicolaitanism triumphed

IV.       The system holds most of Christian world in its grasp today

A.  Power of damnation, life, death, excommunication in the hands of the priest, the princes of the church

B.  Church assumed the place of the old Greek-Roman idolatry(Exodus 20:4-5)

C.  In forms of ritual, sacraments, a person is made a member of Christ

D. The marriage of the church to the world brought the use of the church for political purposes, worldly preferment, personal advancement

1. Simony – buying church appointments (Acts 8:18)

2.  Rasputin, Cardinal Richeliue, Cesare Borgia

E.  The call and purposes of God