The Nicolaitans
By Rev. Jack Barr


1. These may or may not be the same as the false apostles. according to second century tradition, the Nicolaitans believed in a heavenly Christ but downgraded the earthly Jesus as a mere man.

They also emphasized the immediate inspiration of the Holy Spirit over the apostolic teachings of Paul, Peter, and John.

They held a belief, popular at the time, that matter is evil and only spirit is good. Some who believed this became rigid ascetics, but the Nicolaitans apparently decided that anything one did with one's body was acceptable as long as one's spirit was united with God. This meant that a Christian was free to do immoral acts. Second century sources say the Nicolaitans shared all their goods, including their wives.

2. An alternate understanding is that Nicolaitan comes from nikeo (to overcome, to conquer) and laos (the people, the laity). Some interpreters think Jesus nicknamed "Nicolaitans" those who promoted the idea of the clergy or hierarchy ruling over the people instead of being shepherds who served the people.

3. According to some of the early church fathers, "Nicolaitans" refers to those who, while professing themselves to be Christians, lived licentiously.

4. Their doctrine was similar to that of Balaam through whose influence the Israelites ate things sacrificed to idols and committed fornication. A sect of Nicolaitans existed among the Gnostics in the third century. as is known from church fathers of the time.

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