Nicolaitans

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The Nicolaitans were one of the heretical sects that plagued the churches at Ephesus and at Pergamum, according to Revelation 2:6, 15.

Gnosticism

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.".[1]

Antinomianism

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.

2nd century

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:

Compare the following Bible texts:

Matthew 7:15-27
Romans chapter 6
1 John 3:4-18
James 1:16–2:26
John 15:1-10

See also:

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.

Domineering authoritarianism

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.

References

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