Are You Living Like a Nicolatian?

Greg Laurie

(Photo: Unsplash)

When God talks about a nation being revived, He gives a road map to recovery in 2 Chronicles, where He says, “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (7:14 NKJV).

In its initial context, these words were given to the nation Israel, but in principle, they apply to any nation, including our own. God was saying, “Before I talk about the problems in the country, I want to talk to My people, the church.”

The same is true in the book of Revelation, where, after the first chapter, Jesus spends quite a bit of time talking about what is important to Him as far as the church is concerned. Yes, He talks about the future of the world, but first He wants to talk to His church.

Before He tells us about the cataclysmic judgments that are coming and how the world, as we know it, will effectively come to an end, He first wants to talk to His own people. He focuses in like a laser beam on the church.

We’re living in a time when a lot of people are very critical of the church. Some say we need to reenvision or redesign the church for today. I beg to differ. I don’t think we need to reenvision the church; I think we need to rediscover it. I don’t think we need to redefine what God has already defined. Instead, we need to get back to the church as it was in the beginning, the way Jesus initially established it, because that is the church that turned the world upside down.

Christ’s Words of Warning

Jesus is really into the church. And if we are His followers, then we should be too. Prior to His ascension Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15 NKJV). I find it interesting that the first two letters of the word gospel spell go. And that is what Jesus told His disciples to do.

But they didn’t go. They stayed in Jerusalem. They were having this great holy huddle, and no one wanted to break ranks. Then along came Saul of Tarsus, who hunted down Christians like wild animals. Others persecuted the church as well, and Christians spread around the world.

So instead of destroying the church through persecution, the devil effectively helped to strengthen it. Historically, by the way, the church has been stronger when it has been persecuted than when it has been patronized.

However, I think the devil operates by the old adage, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. That’s what we see happening with the church in Pergamum. The devil essentially joined the church and infiltrated its ranks.

Jesus told a parable about a man who planted a crop of wheat. But during the night, the man’s enemy planted weeds, also known as tares, or darnel seeds, among the wheat. Initially, tares look just like wheat. But as they grow, the tares ultimately uproot the wheat and kill it.

In the same way, the devil recognizes that he needs to simply infiltrate and flood the market with cheap substitutes. We see this happening all the time with anything that becomes popular. If one style of music catches on, there are always imitators of it. If a certain style of clothing gains popularity, everyone jumps on board with their version of it. If a certain electronic device becomes popular, everyone imitates it.

In His assessment of the church in Pergamum, Jesus said, “I know that you live in the city where Satan has his throne, yet you have remained loyal to me. You refused to deny me even when Antipas, my faithful witness, was martyred among you there in Satan’s city” (Revelation 2:13 NLT).

Pergamum, the capital of Asia at that time, was a spiritually dark place. And at this particular time, Satan was hanging out there.

However, there were Christians in Pergamum who were serving the Lord, and Jesus actually commended them for it. But He also said, “I have a few complaints against you. You tolerate some among you whose teaching is like that of Balaam. . . . He taught them to sin by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin. In a similar way, you have some Nicolaitans among you who follow the same teaching” (2:14–15 NLT).

Don’t Be a Nicolaitan

Who were the Nicolaitans? Their founder was Nicolas, one of the seven chosen to be deacons in the early church (see Acts 6:5). But apparently Nicolas fell away from the faith and began to lead people astray. He was telling people they could be Christians yet still offer sacrifices in the pagan temple and engage in acts of immorality.

Because he was one of the original deacons in the church, his opinion carried a lot of weight. So a movement grew up around him, and followers of his teaching were known as the Nicolaitans. The Nicolaitan philosophy that was endangering the church of Pergamum (and remains a danger to the church today) is simply this: You can get away with a lot of stuff and still be a Christian. You can live pretty much as you please, and God will understand.

What is the biblical response to that view? Romans 6:1–2 says, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (NKJV).

In other words, you can’t have it both ways. The philosophy of the Nicolaitans was that a little idolatry or a little immorality wasn’t doing any harm. But that’s the problem with compromise. Little things turn into big things. Compromise is the devil’s most effective tactic. He seeks to bring Christians down through a series of small, seemingly insignificant temptations. So don’t lower your guard and fall for this trap.

Of course, you can choose to live your life any way you want to. But if you’re living a life of compromise, you will face the repercussions of it eventually. If you ask for God’s forgiveness, He will forgive you, but you still will have to face the repercussions. And ultimately, you will reap what you sow.

Used with permission from Greg Laurie.

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