Although it is not mentioned by name, it seems the clerical system is referred to in the book of Revelation.  John the apostle, writing to the church at Ephesus wrote in Revelation 2:6, “But this thou hast, that thou hatest the DEEDS of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.”  There were those there who were recognized as Nicolaitans, and the Ephesians hated the things they did.  Who were these Nicolaitans?  Some say there were some who were following the teachings of a man named Nicolas of Antioch, but there is little or no evidence to support this thought. 

If we look at the word ‘Nicolaitans’ and find the meaning of the word, I believe this will help us understand who the Nicolaitans truly were.  The first part of the word, Nicol, means to rule over.  The second part of the word, laitans, means the people.  It is where we get the word ‘laity.’  Combining the two parts, we see the meaning means to rule over the laity.  In other words, the Nicolaitans were a group of people who exercised authority over the common people, or the laity.  Even today, we read of the CLERGY and the LAITY, referring to the leaders of a church and the general congregation.

We read of the Nicolaitans only once more in the Bible.  When writing to the church in Pergamos, John wrote in Revelation 2:15, “So hast thou also them that hold the DOCTRINE of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.”  What had been described as deeds in the church of Ephesus had grown into a doctrine in the church of Pergamos.  This indicates that the deeds and teachings of the Nicolaitans had stopped being hated and now were accepted doctrine.  In both instances, the Lord expressed that HE HATED the deeds and doctrine of the Nicolaitans. 

What is so wrong with this system of the Nicolaitans?  First, it divides the body of Christ into two separate classes…the leaders and the congregation.  We do need leaders, but not in the sense that they have authority to direct people in the direction they choose.  Every believer in the body of Christ has gifts from the Lord to use to serve Him in the functioning of the body of Christ.  Ephesians 4:7-8 tells us, “But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.”  In a body of believers, all should be able to learn, grow, and use the gifts the Lord has given them…as the Lord leads.  The Lord is the head of the body, the church.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica a distinction between clergy and laity developed in the 2nd century. Over the centuries, the distinction between clergy and laity was emphasized by special privileges granted to the clergy, including those granted by the Roman emperor Constantine the Great.  So, it was at this point that the clergy/laity system became official in the professing church.  It was then that the ordination of and the payment to these particular men became commonplace among the people of God.  As to this system, I will repeat the Lord’s words, “which thing I hate.”  (CC)  (559.6)