The Nicolaitans are mentioned twice in the scriptures, both in the book of Revelation.  In Revelation 1:11, the Lord says to the Apostle John, “Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.”  It was in his letters to Ephesus and Pergamos that John mentions the Nicolaitans.  Let’s look at those.

We read in Revelation 2:6 in the letter to Ephesus, “But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.”  What can we learn about the Nicolaitans from this verse?  The Lord here commends the Ephesians because they hated the deeds, or actions, of the Nicolaitans.  He commended them because He too hated their deeds.  It’s always good for us to hate the things the Lord hates and love the things the Lord loves.

Now let’s read Revelation 2:15 which is to Pergamos, “So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.”  What was simply ‘deeds’ in Ephesus is ‘doctrine’ in Pergamos, which the Lord also hated!  The Lord is not commending Pergamos here, rather He is condemning this because of their tolerance of those among them who believed and taught this doctrine which the Lord hated.

Who are the Nicolaitans?  There are two main schools of thought about the identity of this group.  In the early church, some of the widows were being neglected.  The apostles instructed the multitude to pick out seven men who were honest, fully of the Holy Spirit and were wise so that they could appoint them as deacons.  Acts 6:5 says, “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.”  Some teach that the Nicolaitans were named after Nicholas, this proselyte of Antioch.  However, there is really nothing in scripture or history to support this theory.  In his book, The Footsteps of Messiah by Arnold Fruchtenbaum, he writes, “In church history there is no record or mention of this group, so clues as to its identity need to be sought elsewhere.”  I agree with this thought.  To identify the Nicolaitans as followers of Nicholas is strictly conjecture with no credible evidence given as proof.

There is another school of thought, of which I agree.  Often times in scripture, the name of a person or place is very important.  In their lives, many had their names changed to reflect the characteristic the Lord wants us to notice.  Abram’s name was changed to Abraham.  Jacob’s name was changed to Israel.  Saul’s name was changed to Paul, and so forth.  What can we learn by looking at the meaning of the word ‘Nicolaitans’?  The word is constructed of two different words, ‘nikao’ and ‘laos’.  ‘Nikao’ means to conquer and ‘laos’ means the people.  It is the same word from which we get the word ‘laity’.

If we take the meaning of this word as instructive in identifying the Nicolaitans, we can see that it refers to the earliest form of the notion of a priestly order, or what we know as ‘clergy’.  In this order, we have a man, or a group of men who rule over the people, or the laity.  These men take on the responsibility to rule, lead, and teach their congregations.  Search the scriptures carefully, you will never find this kind of structure in the scriptures.  What you will find is that the local church is led by elders, always more than one.  You will find that each person in the body of Christ has a gift to be used for the edification of the church.  While we all have gifts, we don’t all have the same gift, so we all function using the gifts the Lord has given each of us.  Church order is so important to allow the Lord to be the head of His church.

The Lord hated the deeds and doctrines of the Nicolaitans.  I encourage you to study more, learn more about church order and learn to hate the Nicolaitans just as the Lord does.  (186.5)