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“But you have this in your favour:  You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.  The only Nicolas mentioned in Scripture is Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism who was selected by the eleven as one of the seven to take over waiting on the tables so they could concentrate on the ministry of the word and prayer.  As they made their proposal… it is written in Acts 6.5:  This proposal pleased the whole group.  There does not seem anything wrong with this proposal at all.  Indeed, it seemed wise to not allow a menial task like waiting on tables to interfere with more important tasks like prayer and the ministry of the word.

So Nicolas was only a waiter… then if he was only a waiter, how did he get to such a state of prominence that he had a following by the time of Revelation 2, which was called the Nicolaitans with their own teachings and practices?  Teachings that Jesus warned the church of Pergamum to repent of and practices that Jesus hates.  Now the word ‘hate’ is probably the most powerful word of rejection that has ever come out of Jesus, for not even about the Pharisees, Sadducees and Sanhedrin did Jesus use that word, and not even to Satan.  But those practices of the Nicolaitans the Lord hates.

Proverbs 6.16-19 tells us six things the Lord hates: 

  1. haughty eyes,
  2. a lying tongue,
  3. hands that shed innocent blood,
  4. a heart that devises wicked (God forsaking) schemes,
  5. feet that are quick to rush into evil, and
  6. a false witness who pours out lies

That immediately gives you an idea what the Nicolaitans were doing, what their practices were and what sort of teachings they had to support such practices of haughtiness, lying tongues and so on.

Now consider these things carefully in the light of what the Lord has taught us:

  1. What are haughty eyes?  They are not just proud eyes or scornful eyes, but they are eyes, which because of pride, have no love, for love is not proud.  As such they are eyes that are no good, filled with light that is darkness.  Eyes that do not look for the best in a person or to the best of a person, but look to the worst of a person.  Eyes that seek to exploit, use and subjugate those they see.  That is, eyes that lord it over others.
  2. A lying tongue is not just a tongue that lies, but rather, a spirituality that speaks about things that are not of Jesus, for Jesus alone is the Truth and only His words are truth.  They have tongues that give instructions that are not based on the words of Jesus at all, and seek to get people to practise words that do not belong to Jesus even though those words may seem good and appropriate… that is, religiously appropriate.  Tongues that teach liturgies that take the church away from listening to Jesus… tongues that say listen to this teacher or that teacher when we have only one Teacher.  Tongues that would teach the church to abstain from foods sacrificed to idols and the eating of blood, to resist an evil person, to love your friends and hate your enemies, to kill those who do not agree with your point of view, and so on and so on.  It is not merely lies as we understand lies, but rather, presenting teachings that have nothing to do with Jesus’ words… those are the worst of all lies.
  3. Hands that shed innocent blood are not just common murderous hands… no, rather they have hands without power – the sick are not healed when they lay hands, the food is not multiplied, the water is not changed to good wine, and the dead are not raised – and not only that, they promote a system of sanctification and purification based on dead works only, whilst denying the power of God, and when their positions are threatened, they will not hesitate to excommunicate, torture and kill all who challenge them.  Theirs are the very hands that would martyr the saints from within the church itself… hands that sign off the execution warrants of ‘heretics’, and hands that sign off on authorisations for war and crusades.
  4. A heart that devises wicked (God forsaking) schemes, that is, a heart which is always coming up with ways to do things that do not need the Holy Spirit’s counsel and power.  Avoiding to eat strangled meat, foods sacrificed to idols and blood does not need the Holy Spirit’s power… being able to multiply the food does.  Above all else, they have hearts that devise ways of taking people away from listening to Jesus and practising His words.
  5. Feet that rush into evil, that is, they are quick to go to the ends of the Earth, not for the bearing of the Good News, but for conquest and for riches.  They introduced Christianity into pagan lands so that they would be the new rulers, new lords and new owners of those pagan lands… like Cortez who wanted the gold of the pagans for himself and the treasuries of Spain whilst slaughtering thousands of pagans who were never given the Gospel before they were killed.  Their priests would walk amongst the dead administering last rites without raising a single one of those slaughtered.
  6. A false witness who pours out lies… lies about Jesus with many doctrines and theologies on who Christ is while denying His words, which are plain and simple and straightforward for anyone to understand.

If you look at those practices of the Nicolaitans, practices hated by the Lord as detailed in Proverbs 6.16-19, no wonder the Lord Jesus hates them.  The sins of ordinary sinners pale into insignificance when the six things hated by the Lord are perpetrated by those who use His Name and church.  Indeed, having warned the Ephesians to return to loving their enemies, the Lord commended them for hating the practices of the Nicolaitans.  Now this is a very important point:  We are to hate the practices, but love the practitioners, or as some say, “Hate the sin, love the sinner.”  So that our prayers for these traitors of Christ are for the destruction of their practices and works, whilst they themselves are brought to repentance and their spirit and soul saved even if their flesh is destroyed, not by the swords of men, but by spiritual powers that we can use.  As in Paul’s case, he went as far as using Satan himself to teach Hymenaeus and Alexander a lesson.  And to the Corinthians he gave this instruction:  …hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature (that his body/that the flesh) may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.  Now Paul did not torture Hymenaeus or Alexander or the man from Corinth on the rack or iron maiden as the Spanish inquisition did… make no mistake.  Rather, he used Satan as one uses a dog on a leash without resorting to worldly means.  Paul, who as Saul used worldly powers to imprison and kill the saints until he met Jesus, learnt the lesson of the kingdom and the love of enemies to the extent of even showing proper mercy to traitors.

Our blessings for them are such that they are blessed with resistance continuously that they may be shown not to be evil, that their teachings are tested to prove their authenticity constantly and that in all things they are driven back to the Lord again and again.

Our good deeds to them are deeds that are designed to frustrate, overcome and destroy their deeds, turning what they intended for evil to good and dishonour to glory for God… so that our love for them as our traitors and our hatred for their practices will be such that all that we do, say and think of them will save them from themselves.  For persons such as Nicolaitans are condemned not by the Lord and misled not by Satan, but by themselves in the fact that they have brought forth practices that are hated, hated by Jesus; they have truly outdone Satan, for even to Satan Jesus gave this parting advice that could still have saved him, “Away from Me, Satan!  For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’  Jesus never told us that He hated the practices of Satan… to Him Satan was just someone He had to overcome to complete His work, and in a sense, it is thanks to Satan that Jesus has become Saviour of the world, Son of Man and Son of God.  Satan is an essential character that has played his part in God’s overall plan very well.

But those Nicolaitans are a different category… a category that provoked Jesus’ hatred.  Search the Scriptures and you will find Satan did not and has not been able to provoke God’s hatred… God’s anger, yes… God’s judgment, yes… but God’s hatred, no.  For in a way, though Satan is evil, he was never wicked.  He never forsook God, for he was always plotting against God.  He is the perfect adversary who has never walked away from God with disinterest, but rather, is always engaged in full interest against God’s image – man.  However, the Nicolaitans had practices that provoked the strongest of negative emotions from Jesus, hatred, as He said to the Ephesians, You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.”

It is important to love those we are commanded to love – our enemies, one another, the Lord and our neighbours – but for the Galilean congregations, it is important we learn to hate only what the Lord hates.  And if you look at Proverbs 6.16-19, the Lord hates the parts of the body, not the person.  It is the eyes, the tongue, the heart, the feet and the witness, but not the whole person.  For God is God who can cause blinded eyes to see again, the dumb to speak, withered hands to unshrivel, hearts of stone changed to flesh and cripples to walk, as well as appearing to them so that their witness is changed.  Galileans of the Lord hate the practices, not the person… never the person.

So that as much as the Ephesians were to love their false prophets, those servants of Satan, they were also to love the Nicolaitans, those traitors within their ranks, but hate their practices.  They were to confront them and treat them as tax collectors and pagans as the Lord commanded in Matthew 18.17.  The false apostles are servants of Satan, whilst the Nicolaitans are those who sin against us within our ranks.  Thus, we must learn the difference between those who oppose the Gospel and those who pervert the Gospel.  Those who oppose the Gospel demand our respect as worthy opponents, and their practices and teachings are that which we need to overcome with respect and not ridicule.  That is why even the archangel Michael did not slander Satan when they were arguing over the body of Moses, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”  But regarding those who pervert the Gospel like the Nicolaitans, we must hate their practices and treat them as we would tax collectors, that is, preach the Gospel to them with power and love so that they may be truly saved and converted.

For you see… Nicolas was a convert to Judaism as Luke recorded for us in Acts 6.5, not a convert to Jesus.  Paul was a Judaizer who was converted to Jesus.  Somehow someone forgot to disciple Nicolas so that Luke could record for us that Nicolas, having converted to Judaism, then became a disciple like the Jewish disciples did.  He was a Gentile who became a ‘Jew’ under Judaism with its version of observation of the Mosaic Law.  So the Nicolaitans are in fact Judaizers trying to turn disciples of Christ to Judaism, and in so doing are sinning against the brothers.  Though they believe in Jesus as the Son of God and so have a right to be children of God, their practices are such that they bring disgrace to the One they claim to believe and serve.  As such, only a repeated preaching of the Gospel with power to them as if they are tax collectors or pagans will suffice. 

As for the false apostles, it is with a clear demonstration of power that overcomes and exposes them for what they are, and if they refuse to repent, they are still subject to our duty to continue to pray for them, forgive them, bless them and do good to them.

As for the Nicolaitans who refuse to repent after their sins have been pointed out… there is no prayer for them, there is no blessing for them, there is no obligation to do good to them, and there is no forgiveness even, except a continuous duty and obligation to treat them as you would a tax collector whenever they come into your presence.  If they choose to leave after their sins have been pointed out to them, if they choose to disfellowship from you, then they are antichrists, for indeed their practices, which Jesus hates, are what makes them antichrists.

This clear dissection of understanding and knowledge of who our enemies are and who our traitors are is another innovation of the Galilean congregations.  The enemies of the Gospel have their sins forgiven them continuously so that they may not receive the wages of their sins that they may live until they are brought to repentance.  The traitors of the Gospel do not have their sins forgiven them, but rather they are confronted with their sins so that they may repent, and only after repentance are they forgiven.  So then they are the ones who are responsible for keeping the wages of sin away from themselves whilst we are the ones responsible for keeping the wages of sin from those who oppose us. 

Now do you see why the Lord rebuked John and James so harshly when they wanted to call fire down from Heaven?  We keep enemies alive, but as for the traitors, whether they live or die is their problem.  Ananias and Sapphira were killed before they could repent as soon as Peter confronted them with their sin, for it did not please the Holy Spirit to give them the time to repent.  They dropped dead before either of them could make a reply.  When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died.  However, who was it that gave Nicolas such power and ability to raise up a denomination of traitors that infiltrated the churches so that not only did the Ephesians know of them, but they had members in the Pergamum church also?  It is all very well to blame Nicolas… but was it Nicolas who is really to blame?

The rationale of the eleven and Matthias, now called the twelve in Acts 6.2, was that “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.  Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.  We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”  How could such a proposal that pleased the whole group bear fruit to such a disaster as the Nicolaitans and invoke the Lord’s strongest negative emotion – hatred – around a hundred years later through Nicolas?

With our hindsight we know that on the night of the actual supper itself, the eleven were still disputing among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest.  And Jesus had to teach them about serving and not lording… saying, “For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves?  Is it not the one who is at the table?  But I am among you as One who serves.”  Serving at tables is equally, if not more important, than devoting oneself to prayer and ministry of the word, for Jesus Himself had come to serve.  They were to do both, not appoint others for the ‘lesser’ task, but rather, themselves to also serve at the table while praying and ministering at the same time, or better still, serve at the table, which is the greater thing, while those who sat at the table – the new believers and younger or more junior disciples – could practise prayer and the ministry of the word whilst the twelve walked amongst them listening, watching and correcting even as they are serving the Lord, filling the glasses and wiping the tables.

Their proposal to devote themselves to the ‘holiness’ of prayer and the ministry of the word and to delegate the lesser duty to the seven was what allowed Nicolas to have the greater authority, so that by the end of the century it was the practices and teachings of Nicolas and his disciples that caught the Lord’s attention and provoked the Lord not only to anger, but to hatred!  It is also why to this day the Nicolaitans’ teachings and practices are so rife in the Christian religion that is founded on the Jerusalem congregation.

You see, Jesus’ words are true… and since He said, “…the one who rules [is] like the one who serves…” so the teachings and practices of the One who served at the table are those who have prominence over the practices and teachings of those who set the table, praying and preparing for the ministry of the word.

The only way to stamp out the teachings and practices of the Nicolaitans is for the Galileans to be servants to all, to serve at the table like their Master came to serve, and while serving, be in prayer and ministry of the word as well.  Our leaders must be the ones who are setting out the chairs, sweeping the floor, wiping the tables down and serving the food whilst the trainers are the ones praying, healing, delivering and preaching.  The more senior you consider yourself to be in a Galilean congregation, the more you must serve at tables, for your Lord is among you as One who serves.

Amen

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