The Nicolaitans were one of the heretical sects that plagued the churches at Ephesus and at Pergamum, according to Revelation 2:6, 15.
Irenaeus relates Nicolaitanism to Gnosticism: "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' falsely so called, that he might confound them, and persuade them that there is but one God, who made all things by His Word.".
From what can be found in early historical sources, the doctrine of the Nicolaitans appears to have been a form of antinomianism ("against law"), which makes the fatal mistake of believing and teaching that man can freely partake in sin because the Law of God is no longer binding, supposing that a mere intellectual "belief" in this truth had a saving and liberating power. See Hedonism.
There is also historical evidence of a Gnostic sect called Nicolaitans a century or so later.
Nicolaitans of the 2nd century seem to have continued and extended the views of the 1st century adherents, holding to the freedom of the flesh and sin, and teaching that the deeds of the flesh had no effect upon the health of the soul and consequently no relation to salvation.
Martin Luther in his Letter to Melancthon famously wrote: "No sin can separate us from Him [Christ], even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day."
"Once saved, always saved"
Today, the same doctrine is now largely taught in the proclamation that the Gospel of Christ has made God's law of no effect—that by "believing in Christ alone" sola fide we are released from the necessity of being doers of the Word, "for Christ has set us free" (Galatians 5:1). This same error is found in the doctrine of "unconditional eternal security", also called "Once Saved, Always Saved". This fundamental teaching is the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which Christ so unsparingly condemned in the book of Revelation.
See the following sources related to Nicolaitan licentiousness and the doctrine of unconditional eternal security:
- licentiousness - Roget Thesaurus (classic.net.bible.org)
- The Expository Files - Licentiousness (bible.ca)
- 18.2. Christian Liberty or Licentiousness (biblestudytools.com)
- Bible verses about Licentiousness (From Forerunner Commentary) Richard T. Ritenbaugh, John W. Ritenbaugh (bibletools.org)
- Once Saved Always Saved - Fact or Fiction? (preparingforeternity.com) Eternal Security: "Salvation in Christ cannot be lost, no matter what one does, because salvation is not dependent on works, but faith in Christ alone. 'As it is written, The just shall live by faith alone.' 'For we hold that a man is justified by faith alone apart from works of the law.' "
This is Martin Luther's reading of Romans 1:17,3:28.
See Sola fide.
- Luther Added The Word "Alone" to Romans 3:28? (beggersallreformation.blogspot.com)
- The Aquila Report - Justification by Faith Alone: Martin Luther and Romans 1:17. Justification is a righteousness that God gives freely to those who believe. (theaquilareport.com) The righteousness is a legal judgment, not a spiritual or ontological change
- Lingonier Ministries: Justification by Faith Alone: Martin Luther and Romans 1:17
R. C. Sproul describes the moment of awakening Martin Luther had as he read Romans 1:17 (video embedded) (lingonier.org)
- Martin Luther's Preface to The Epistle to the Romans pdf (newcreationlibrary.net)
- Sin boldly (Did Luther really mean it the way we use it today?) (jpserrano.com) "Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong (sin boldly), but let your trust in Christ be stronger...No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day." (Martin Luther: Letter to Melanchthon)
- Total and Complete Forgiveness (josephprince.org) "But you don't confess your sins to God in order to be forgiven. You already have total and complete forgiveness because of the blood of Jesus."
Pastor Joseph Prince boldly asserts with complete confidence a scripture-based argument that all sins, past, present, and future are already forgiven, and there is no need to confess any sin committed. Salvation in Christ cannot be lost, no matter how heinous and vile the sin might be. All of your sins are already forgiven. God will never condemn you.
He contradicts the Bible's conditional-forgiveness teaching in 1 John 1:9:
"IF we confess our sins - [ then ] he will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness". (John does not say, "he has already forgiven all of our sins and cleansed us from all unrighteousness"—and he is not addressing his letter to unbelievers he is seeking to convert, asking them to confess their sins and receive Christ as their Savior once and for all, but to Christians who already believe and have hope in him.) See also James 5:14-16 and John 20:21-23
- The Truth About Martin Luther: And Why So Few Read His Works (jesus-is-savior.com)
Martin Luther's licentious blasphemy in his own words
- Catholic Bible 101: Luther's Revolution (catholicbible101.com)
Luther opened the door to licentious behavior
- Christians Shall Be Rewarded According to Their Works Trumpet Ministries, Inc. (wor.org)
A scripture-based argument that those who have been saved and afterward act wickedly will be irrevocably condemned to hell, unless they repent.
- Let God Be True!: Once Saved, Always Saved. One heresy leads to another heresy—requiring two lies! The lie of decisional regeneration needs the lie of guaranteed eternal life to comfort the "saved" that continue living in sin. (audio play option included) (letgodbetrue.com/sermons)
- Into the Light Ministries: The Truth About Unconditional Eternal Security (intothelight.org)
The author says it is a foul doctrine.
– Eternal Security: A lie from HELL - Part 2, Part 3 (three-part video) (youtube.com)
(Part 1 is accessible from the Youtube site.)
- Catholic priest preaches on sin and salvation (youtube.com)
- Purity of Heart, Pope John Paul II, General Audience of 10 December (ewtn.com)
- The Fallacy of Salvation and Justification by Faith Alone (dream-prophecy.blogspot)
Argument from scripture and the writings of the 19th century Swedish philosopher and visionary mystic Emanuel Swedenborg founder of The New Church (New Jerusalem Church) (see Paul's warning: Colossians 2:18-19 with commentaries on 2:18).
Compare the following Bible texts:
- commentaries on Ezekiel 18:24
commentaries on Matthew 7:21
commentaries on Matthew 12:33
commentaries on Matthew 25:29
commentaries on Revelation 22:12
See article Corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
Some preachers, declaring that the actual doctrine of the Nicolaitans is completely unknown today, because the New Testament does not explain what it was, have recourse to a literalistic etymology by breaking the word "Nicolaitan" into parts according to its apparent combination of the Greek words, NIKO, LAOS, TAN, and thus derive its meaning as being "those who are victors over the people", that is, those who triumphantly dominate the people of God, the laity, by "lording it over them", domineering in positions of authority rather than service (1 Peter 5:2-3). The hierarchical system is represented as oppressing the people with rules and regulations and elaborate ritual ceremonies as requirements of salvation, similar to the Pharisees Christ condemned (Matthew 23:4, 13-15).
This interpretation provides a basis for polemical arguments in general against any church or denomination that has an hierarchy of authority, and against the authority of the Catholic Church in particular, by stating that their ecclesiastical structure is the very form of Nicolaitanism condemned by God in Revelation, and that since the time of Constantine it has pervaded and corrupted the whole of mainstream Christianity. The Churches of Christ are one example of an anti-hierarchical denomination.
- Nicolaitans - Theopedia (theopedia.com)
- What is the Nicolaitan spirit or doctrine? Who are they? (Revelation 2:6 & 15) (wordoftruthradio.com)
- Nicolaism - Wikipedia (en.wikipedia.org)
- History of the Christian Church, Volume II, § 122 by Philip Schaff
- Nicolaites or Nicolaitans - Catholic Encyclopedia (newadvent.org)
- Nicolaitans - Bible Dictionaries (biblestudytools.com)
- Who are the Nicolaitans? (biblestudy.org) The author says they are the hierarchical churches.