The Doctrine of the Nicolaitans

Luther Walker

Nicolaitans is a transliterated word; therefore, there is no English equivalent. We must look back at the original language and translate its meaning into English to understand what it expresses. Nicolaitans (Νικολαΐτης) is a combination of two words: victory (νῖκος) and people (λαός). By compounding these words, they communicate a victory over the people; therefore, it is a person who holds a position of authority over the people.

The concept of the Nicolaitans doctrine comes from the Jews and the priestly structure under the law. From the very beginning of the Church, it is a false doctrine that continually attempts to creep into the local assemblies. The apostle John writes of this doctrine while addressing the first of the seven assemblies in the book of Revelation. Those in Ephesus were indifferent to the Nicolaitans doctrine, even though some attempted to impose it.

But this you have, that you are indifferent to the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also am indifferent to. Revelation 2:3.

In Christ, the distinctions of sex, class, and race have no value; instead, it is the new creation, Galatians 6:15. This new creation is the body of the Christ, in which Christ is the head and the Church is His body, 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 1:22-23. Within the body of the Christ, there is no separation based upon any of these statuses, for we are all part of one body, 1 Corinthians 12:13. The doctrine of the Nicolaitans is distinct from the Mosaic law, which implemented a priesthood and specific classes of people. However, in the local assemblies of the Church, the Pastors and other leaders are not separated from the congregation.

In its full form, the doctrine of the Nicolaitans is found in Catholicism and her daughters. In a more subtle form, it is found within elder-ruled assemblies and those who merchandise the saints.

But I have a few things against you because you have there those grasping hold of the doctrine of Balaam, who taught to Balak to cast a scandal before the sons of Israel, eating things offered to idols and fornicating. Thus, likewise you also have those grasping hold of the doctrine of the Nicolaitans. Revelation 2:14-15.

The Nicolaitans doctrine is in direct contrast to the doctrine of the Christ. Any assembly with a board separated from the people and not fully liable to the congregation partakes in this type of false doctrine. The position of a Pastor is not as the head of the Church, for that spot solely belongs to Christ, Ephesians 1:22. Instead, he is an overseer of healthy doctrine so that the assembly comes to a oneness of the faith unto maturity in Christ, 1 Timothy 3:1. He has no authority to lord over the assembly, 1 Peter 5:1-3. A Scriptural assembly structure is managed by deacons appointed by and answering to the congregation, with a pastor serving as an overseer in doctrinal matters, Acts 6:3-4.