Jump Start #3148
Jump Start # 3148
Revelation 2:15 “Thus you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.”
Our verse today centers around the church at Pergamum. The hood was raised and the Lord was revealing some deep, deep troubles that would change the direction and even the future of that church. Just nine verses before, the church at Ephesus was praised for hating the doctrine of the Nicolaitans. God hated that false teaching. But here, the church at Pergamum was embracing and accepting that very doctrine. They were accepting what God hated.
There are a series of lessons that we ought to see here:
First, each congregation is independent and separate. How well this is illustrated with the Nicolaitan doctrine. One church hated it and another church held to it. There are lots of ideas and theories about what the doctrine of the Nicolaitans was, many lean heavily towards an early form of gnosticism. Whatever it was, the Lord hated it. The Ephesians hated it. But not the folks at the Pergamum church. They loved it.
We see right here that the organizational system of God allows each congregation to determine what they will practice and accept. There is no hierarchy, governing board, disciplinary council, or organization that keeps every congregation on the same page, going the same way. I have a friend who owns a Chick-fil-a store. He cannot fry you a hamburger and sell it to you at his store. Corporate won’t allow that. His store must follow the guidelines of the corporation or else he could lose the store. Congregations are not a franchise of some larger corporate structure. Our only bylaws are the New Testament.
This means each congregation must decide for themselves how closely and how accurately they want to follow the Bible. Some do a great job with this. Others are a bit loose on some things and still others, haven’t been close in decades. A name on a sign doesn’t mean much. What mattes is how close and serious they are about following the N.T. pattern.
Second, why would some hold to the doctrine of the Nicolaitans if the Lord hated it. That’s a great question. We are not told why. But, the same could be asked today of some of us. Why do we hold to some things that are very questionable, if not plainly out of line with the Scriptures? It may be that what is taught is comforting and allows us to keep one foot in the world. It may be that the one teaching it is someone very impressive and such a pied piper that we are under his spell and would not question anything that he says. There is a lot of strange things being said today and much too often we give someone a pass because “he is one of us.” And, that’s the greatest danger. Rather than searching the Scriptures as we ought to, we listen to the charisma of a slick and smooth speaker and before long we’ve taken one or two steps away from the Scriptures. There is a lot of emphasis upon feelings today. Feeling your body tingle as you pray, hearing God speak in your ear, seeing signs that God has shown you, these kind of statements are coming not from the world, but our own brethren, and worse, some are smiling, agreeing and accepting these twisted thoughts. A few verse taken out of context are sprinkled on top to give the appearance that this is what the Bible teaches. Does God answer your prayers by sending a tingling sensation in your body? Could you prove that Biblically?
Why do some hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans? Simply because they have allowed themselves to be swayed by a slick salesman and they haven’t searched the Scriptures as they ought to.
Third, the wisdom of God allows opposite churches to exist. Ephesus hated the Nicolaitan doctrine. Pergamum held to the Nicolaitan doctrine. If there was some super structure over all the congregations and all the congregations had to toe the line with what the official board or headquarters said, then corruption at the top would corrupt all the churches. Not God’s way. If you want to hold to the Nicolaitan doctrine you can, but you won’t be right with God, and you won’t be right with God’s people.
So this tells us that I need to get into the depth of what a church is practicing before I throw my allegiance in with them. Much too often, a family just heads to the closest church building to their home. The people are friendly. Worship seems ok. But are they holding to Nicolaitan doctrine? Serious questions and investigation needs to take place before one makes the final decision. Why does this matter? If I can worship there and the people are nice, isn’t that all that matters? Is it? Does it matter what we teach? What about doctrine? What about Nicolaitan teachings? What about the Holy Spirit? What about grace? What about salvation? What about worship? What about divorce? What about fellowship? What about closeness to God’s word? Does it matter? Is it ok to hold to something that God hates? It ought to matter to us.
Jesus didn’t give Pergamum a pass on the Nicolaitan doctrine. They were told to repent or else I’m coming and making war. Serous words for a serious problem. It does matter. It should matter.
It’s time for shepherds who lead God’s people and the faithful of God to understand that a smiling face, a charismatic presentation, and likable personality, may be nothing more than someone selling poison right before our eyes. Someone was teaching Nicolaitan doctrine to Pergamum. And, he was so good that the church was accepting it and embracing it. A pied piper then and pied pipers today.
Hating the Nicolaitan doctrine or holding to it? Are we willing to draw lines in the sand and declare that we stand with God? It’s time to think about these things. Growing crowds. Sizeable followings. Enthusiastic responses does not make Nicolaitan doctrine right. It doesn’t mean God looks the other way.
The legendary Texas preacher, J.D. Tant, ended many of his articles in the early 1900’s with the line, “we are drifting.” Are we?