Indicators of Nicolaitanism in the Church Today
But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
So hast thou also them that hold to the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
I personally think the word “hate” should rarely be used. But in Revelation 2:6 and 15, Jesus used the word “hate” twice when He referred to the teachings and deeds of a group of erring spiritual leaders that were finding some success in the churches at Ephesus and Pergamum. He referred to these erring leaders as Nicolaitans. (I suggest you read pages 631-635 in Sparkling Gems 1, to learn more about the Nicolaitans and their origins.)
The word “hate” in these verses is from the Greek word miseo, which means to hate, to abhor, or to find utterly repulsive. It describes a deep-seated animosity to something that one finds to be completely objectionable. A person experiencing this level of miseo not only loathes the object of his animosity, but he rejects it entirely. This is not just a dislike; it is a case of actual hatred.
Christ didn’t hate these individuals whom He called Nicolaitans, but He certainly hated what they were teaching — which was a doctrine of inclusiveness and compromise to the Church. Unfortunately, this doctrine has reemerged in recent years. In the Christian world today, there are some spiritual leaders who, like the Nicolaitans of the past, seek a dangerous truce with the world under the guise of inclusiveness and compromise. Many of these emerging spiritual leaders once held strong doctrinal positions, upholding the Bible as true and absolute — but over time, they have shaped their beliefs to meld with the changing moral climate of society, and in the process, they have produced a Gospel very different from the one presented in the Bible.
Although the world may change, Hebrews 13:8 teaches that Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever — and truth does not change based on societal trends. Truth is truth, regardless of the particular brand of immorality society has labeled “acceptable.” Today, just as before, whenever believers take a firm stand on absolute truth, they are viewed by the world as intolerant. But when it comes to the eternal truth of God’s Word, there is no room to mitigate or adapt one’s beliefs.
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Those who practice spiritual compromise generally believe that Christ is just one of many acceptable types of faith. The big issue to them is not truth, but respect. As such, truth takes a second seat to equally honoring the beliefs of other people, even if those beliefs are diametrically opposed to the doctrines of the Bible. Ultimately, Christ is demoted in their minds, viewed as just one option among many. According to this inclusive mindset, everyone is right and no one is wrong. This modern belief system harbors dangerous similarities with both the pagan mindset of the Roman Empire and the doctrine of the Nicolaitans that Christ “hated.”
As the problem of worldly compromise continues to spread in the Church and to be promoted by some of today’s most visible Christian leaders, it is vital for believers to be able to recognize the modern signs that point to a rise of Nicolaitanism in the Church today. The following list doesn’t necessarily represent every indicator of modern Nicolaitanism. However, it provides sufficient evidence to prove a direct parallel in modern times to the spiritual error that was developing in congregations in the latter years of the First Century.
No emphasis on living holy and separated from the world.
Modern Nicolaitanism dresses itself in the guise of inclusivity. Rather than living separately from the world, those who espouse this view reason, “Since everyone is right and no one wrong both spiritually and morally, why should there be a need for separation?” Leading denominational churches have taken the position that the time has come to help lesbians and homosexuals blend into the church community and lead “holy” lives along with other church members. This sentiment mirrors the teaching of the Nicolaitans of the First Century, for these modern-day church leaders promote a message that will make them more acceptable with the multitude instead of one that will put them in opposition with the expectations of modern society.
No emphasis on the doctrinal teaching of the Bible.
Modern Nicolaitanism dresses itself in the guise of progressiveness, dismissing much of the Bible as being too restrictive or exclusive of other people’s beliefs. Instead of being a guide to absolute truth, the Bible is used merely as a reference for illustra- tions, motivational sermons, inspirational ideas, principles to build a marriage or business, and so on.
Today this trend is so rampant in the Church that the basic tenets of the Chris- tian faith are largely not known by most churchgoers, especially by those who are younger. Basic Bible doctrines such as the virgin birth, the sinlessness of Christ, sin, salvation, holiness, and eternal judgment are often unknown, inadequately taught, or considered optional. Where modern Nicolaitanism prevails, sound doctrine is replaced with social action, social justice, and an attempt to appeal to mass audiences by making people feel better about themselves. Thus, true doctrinal teaching of the Bible is diminished, replaced by different variants of watered-down, “politically correct” instruction.
No emphasis on absolute truth or absolute biblical morality.
Modern Nicolaitanism dresses itself in the guise of being open-minded. It cries that it is unfair and unjust to assert that beliefs alone are the absolute foundation for truth. Even if we believe what we believe, it makes allowances that we may be wrong or that others are equally right but with a different approach. To demonstrate how deeply this damaging influence has already permeated the Church, it is a statistical fact that more than half of evangelical Christians do not believe in absolute truth. These statistics — which reflect a general change in society and in the Church — are growing at such an alarming rate that they will no doubt be out of date by the time the first issue of this book is published. To understand where this trend is headed, just hold an honest conversation with young people under the age of 25, and you will learn firsthand that many young people, even young Christian men and women, hold a negative view of people who adhere to absolute truth or absolute morality.
No exclusionary belief that Christ alone is the Way to Heaven
Modern Nicolaitanism dresses itself in the guise of tolerance, asserting that everyone has a piece of the truth. It ultimately levels the playing field and makes Christianity simply “a truth” among other truths. If the doctrine of Nicolaitanism is followed to its logical conclusion, it eventually leads to universalism, which is the belief that everyone and everything — even Satan and hell — will ultimately be reconciled to God. In fact, it is a pagan premise that there are many roads leading to the same eventual destination in the afterlife and that every person should therefore be able to find his own way.
According to this mindset, to categorically declare that Christ alone is the way to Heaven to be nonsensical and intolerant. Christians who adhere to some Nicolaitan principles have not usually followed this teaching to its ultimate conclusion and would be shocked if they did. Yet the doctrine of universalism is the inevitable destination at which this doctrine must eventually arrive. A recent survey conducted among one of the most Bible-based groups reveals that more than one-third of young Christians in America believe that adherence to the teachings of Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, and other religious leaders all lead to Heaven. We are often reminded that young people are the leaders of the next generation. If this is so, what then are the implications of these statistics for the next generation of the Church?
There are many other indicators of modern Nicolaitanism, but these are the primary signs. These faulty beliefs reveal doctrinal ignorance and result in a powerless, weakened version of Christianity where sin is tolerated, separation is ignored, and the need for ongoing repentance is disregarded.
Jesus was repulsed by the teachings of the Nicolaitans and loathed their presence in the churches at Ephesus and Pergamum. While He loved them as individuals, He found their teachings to be utterly objectionable.
Although the Bible instructs us to love everyone, we must think like Jesus thinks when it comes to any teachings that result in a diluted, powerless, compromised version of Christianity. If we are to be like Jesus, we must think like Jesus — and what Jesus hates, we also must hate. Now, that’s something for you to think about today.
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, I know that we are living in the last times, and during these days, false teachers will arise that will lure many people into compromise with the world. I ask You to heighten my spiritual discernment, make me sensitive to what I see and hear, and keep my spirit alert so that I will not consume strange doctrines that can only produce powerlessness and weaken my spiritual life. Help me love what You love and loathe what You loathe. As You do, I choose to have a loving attitude toward every person, and I draw on Your love in me to love people even if I loathe what they represent and teach.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I have nothing to do with teachings that will lure people into a powerless, weakened version of Christianity where sin is tolerated, separation is ignored, and the need for ongoing repentance is disregarded. I love everyone, but like Jesus, I do not appreciate or tolerate teachings that suggest there is no need for repentance or that we never need to change or be transformed. Holy Spirit, I know that You are calling us to be different from the world, and I declare my intention to You to cooperate with Your sanctifying work of holiness inside me. My deepest desire is to be like Jesus and not to tolerate the things of the world in my life.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Based on what you have read in today’s Sparkling Gem, do you recognize anyone who is teaching and leading others in the error of the Nicolaitanism?
- How will you pray for those you think may be teaching or following this error?
- Think of those whom you allow to influence you. Do they encourage you to live a life of holiness, separation from worldly attitudes and actions, and repentance? Or do they suggest that these qualities are unnecessary? Your answer to this question is very important, so think deeply about it.