Monday, 7 September 2020
But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. Revelation 2:6
Here we have the second outer layer of the sandwich. Christ complemented the Ephesians in verses 2:2 and 2:3 (a slice of bread). He then rebuked them in verses 2:4 and 2:5 (distasteful inner filling). He now compliments them in this verse (the second slice of bread). In this, He is encouraging first, exhorting through warning next, and then encouraging last. In this second encouragement, he begins with, “But you have this.”
This is set in contrast to the words of verse 4. There he said, “you have left your first love.” He set that forth as of the most importance, and He even gave a dire warning if it was not heeded. But, to end on a positive note, and to show them that they were not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, he now provides these words.
In other words, “You absolutely must change this behavior here, but in the process, don’t take it to an unintended extreme and start allowing this thing over here.” And that thing is, “that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans.”
There is a great deal of speculation concerning who the Nicolaitans are, and what deeds they were doing. Charles Ellicott notes that “The existence of a sect called Nicolaitans in the second century is attested by Irenæus, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria.”
The word comes from two words, nikos, meaning “to conquer,” or “victory,” and laos, “the people.” Vincent’s Word Studies notes that there are two main explanations for who these people are. One is a sect which arose from the teachings of Nicolaus who is mentioned in Acts 6:5. It is said that he departed from the truth and became the founder of a heretical sect following Antinomian Gnosticism. Vincent’s says –
“They appear to have been characterized by sensuality, seducing Christians to participate in the idolatrous feasts of pagans, and to unchastity. Hence, they are denoted by the names of Balaam and Jezebel, two leading agents of moral contamination under the Old Testament dispensation.”
The second view holds that the name is symbolic and replaces the Old Testament figure Balaam (Destroyer of the People) who is found in the book of Numbers. In this, the name Nicolaitans would have the same connotation – Conquering of the People. They followed the same type of practices as Balaam, who sought to overcome God’s people, using the same type of temptations as he placed before Israel.
The second interpretation dismisses the seemingly historical and literal nature of the Lord’s words. Further, in 2:14 and 2:15, Jesus will refer to these people again, and he will put them in a separate category than that of those who followed the practices of Balaam.
With these things understood, it is possible that – even if the first view is correct – the name Nicolas may refer to a completely different person than the one noted in Acts, or it could be that his name was chosen by a group to simply identify with someone mentioned in Acts, even if he did not actually apostatize from the truth. To malign him without strong evidence is not justified.
It is true that many sects and offshoots of Christianity have been derived from the name of its original proponent. Even today people identify as Wesleyan, Calvinist, and so on. Whatever the nature of the Nicolaitans was, and whatever their “deeds” ultimately were, Jesus notes that they are things “which I also hate.”
The church at Ephesus hated the things they did, and Christ also hates them. In correcting their deficiency, Christ did not want them to think they were on the wrong path in regard to the Nicolaitans and suddenly jump onto that heretical highway.
Life application: This particular verse has been debated, manipulated, and distorted at times over the centuries in order to meet the specific agenda of individuals or groups. A good example of this would be the commonly promoted doctrine that this is referring to churches, such as the Catholic Church, that have established hierarchies.
By dividing the word “Nicolaitans” into individual root words – nikos and laos (mentioned above) – the idea is that these people have taken over the laity of the church and compelled them to submit to the arbitrary dominion of men. Analyses of this type are always set forth as a polemic against individuals or denominations. The problem with this particular analysis is that Revelation was written approximately AD90 and the hierarchies in churches such as Ephesus were those established according to the model set forth by Paul.
Irenaeus, a Church Father, who wrote about a century later, said the Nicolaitans were people who lived lives of unrestrained indulgence. Regardless of the etymology of the name, and there are other attempts to reconcile this name with other promoters of sexual misconduct, the deeds are what the Lord hated.
Sexual sin is particularly destructive. Paul explains why in 1 Corinthians 6:18 –
“Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.”
Sexual sin can destroy the sinner – whether by disease, destruction, loss of reputation, and so on. Let us, therefore, attempt to live holy lives for the glory of the Lord and abstain from the deeds which He finds so offensive that He states emphatically that He “hates” them.
Heavenly Father, please help us in our personal conduct towards others and to never fall into sins of the flesh. It is our desire to be wholly pleasing to You in all ways and we ask for strength and fortitude as we face trials and temptations in this, or any other manner, which could result in sinning against You. Amen.