Faith & Wisdom

Who Were the Nicolaitans?

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Date Published:
August 18, 2021

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Summary

The Nicolaitans were an organized group that defied the morals, ethics, and teachings of Jesus Christ. 

They embraced an antinomian position, which is the belief that God does not expect Christians to obey moral laws. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. God expects us to live a moral life and to follow His teachings.

This article will explore who the Nicolaitans were, their role in church history, and why our Lord Jesus Christ condemned their teachings.

We will also examine if the Nicolaitans are still among us today and if they are what we can do to protect our souls from being influenced by their sinful doctrine.

Doctrine of the Nicolaitans

When trying to decipher and understand why our Lord and Savior had such disgust for the Nicolaitans, we must first understand who they were.

There is little that we actually know about the Nicolaitans. The word itself, Nicolaitans, is believed to be Greek in origin. 

The word “nikolaos” is a combination of the word “nikos” meaning “to subdue” or “to conquer”, and “laos”, which translates to “the people.” When put together, this clearly explains the root of their doctrine.

A second theory is that perhaps the name is rooted in an individual, particularly Nicolaus of Antioch. Acts 6:5 informs us Nicolaus (or Nicolas) is a native of Antioch and was ordained as a deacon.

Church stain glass window

“And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte of Antioch.” (Acts 6:5)

Those who believe Nicolaitans rooted from the name Nicolaus saw it as a sect of Gnostics. 

This sect ties into the beliefs of following impure doctrines that preached immoral teachings, including fornication and adultery. These beliefs are also woven within the doctrines of Balaam and Jezebel of Thyatira.

There is a third school of thought. Instead of the word “Nicolaitans” being rooted in an individual's name, there are those who believe it is derived from the Greek word Nicolah, which is translated as “let us eat.” 

This motif circles around to the encouragement of eating the food offered to the idols.

No matter the true meaning behind the word Nicolaitans, one thing is abundantly clear; their practices of unrestrained indulgence were an abomination against Christ and his teachings.

The Ephesians hated the Nicolaitans, whose doctrine cast a shadow on the church of Ephesus.

Their actions were so extreme that our Lord announced in the Book of Revelation 2:6, “But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” He condemned the teachings and doctrines of the Nicolaitans, as their beliefs went against His.

Hate is a very strong word, especially coming from our Lord, who preaches love and forgiveness. He made it clear that He hated their deeds and works. Yet, our Lord separated the people who practiced these beliefs from their behaviors.

Jesus wanted to protect his flock from the false doctrines, destructive heresies, and poison spread by the Nicolaitans. 

In Christianity, we are taught to hate the evil deeds men commit and stay away from false doctrines and false idols. We are to embrace the one true God, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

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The doctrine of Balaam

There is overlap between the Nicolaitans and the doctrine of Balaam. This is seen in the letter to the Church of Pergamum, which was written by Jesus and mentions both the doctrine of Balaam and the Nicolaitans.

In Revelations 2:16, the Pergamos church is called to repent for believing in the teachings of the Nicolaitans. “Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth.”

The doctrine of Balaam also taught followers in Israel to sin and embrace perversion in many ways. For instance, they were encouraged to commit sexually immoral acts and eat meat and other food that was initially sacrificed to idols.

Furthermore, sexual relationships outside of marriage were acceptable in this society. The Nicolaitans were deeply rooted in sins of the flesh, and there is much overlap with the paganism of the time. 

They mixed the truth of God with paganism practices, which is seen as an abhorrence to our Lord and is deemed religious “syncretism.”

Table with incense and crystal

In the Bible, Numbers 31:16 states, “Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord.”

Clement of Alexandria is quoted to have said, “They abandoned themselves to pleasure like goats, leading a life of self-indulgence.”

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Nicolaitans today

While the Nicolaitans sect is not in practice today, many groups who share beliefs that go against the beliefs of Jesus Christ are thriving. 

Sexual immorality and abominations against God are still practiced in many communities. We must be aware that just because they do not go by the same name, they are still alive and well in the world. Satan goes by many names.

As Christians, we must steer clear of false idols and sinister influences outside of the teachings of our Lord, Jesus Christ. 

The best way to remain dedicated and loving Christians is by continuing our practices of God's truth and to have an intimate knowledge of the studies pertaining to the Word of God. 

Woman facing away from flames


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How to remain faithful to Jesus Christ

Having an open and loving relationship with God will also keep us away from sinful temptation and keep us in His light.

Take comfort in Revelation 22:14, where we are told, "Blessed are those who do His Commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city."

To remain faithful to our Lord and Savior, we must have faith in His word and our Christian community. We must be strong in our own individual faith and find leadership and solace in the scripture. 

As good and loving Christians, we know we will face daily temptations to sin. However, we also know Jesus is always there for us in our times of need. Take solace in His love.

For more guidance in staying faithful to our Lord, download the Pray.com app on the iOS App Store and Google Play.

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