The Confession of a Celebrationis Couple
From: Alan Morrison
To: Diakrisis Mailing List
Subject: The Lunatics Take Over the Asylum
Personal Mail to Pastor Alan Morrison:
Date: November 9, 1999 3:52 PM
It may well be that some of you think that it is very judgemental of me
to write those things about that preacher who twisted Scripture and
recommended false prophets. Perhaps you will say that I have no right to
judge fellow believers and that I should leave it to the Lord to be judge
and jury. I can assure you that I would rather that I never had to write
these things. Sometimes I just wish I could go and live on a sub-tropical
island and swim in the surf and sunbathe on the beach with a bunch of good
books and a CD collection for the rest of my days, and never have to think
again about the weird nonsense that seems to swamp the churches of today.
Life would certainly be much simpler and in many ways pleasanter. I would
be despised by far less people and be pilloried far less. But that would no
doubt be a "Jonah" solution. And I somehow cannot keep quiet about these
things. They are an affront to the faith; they are deceiving gullible young
believers; they give a bad witness to the world; and over a period of time
they begin to corrupt the entire corpus of Christian activity across the
world. This generation's misunderstanding (uncorrected) becomes the next
generation's destructive heresy.
To say that Christians have no right to judge fellow believers and that
they should leave it to the Lord to be judge and jury represents the height
of naiveté. The Lord expects His shepherds on this earth to do His judging
and jurying as far as the church is concerned. I leave it up to the Lord to
judge and jury regarding non-Christians. But he expects those in the church
who misbehave to be "judged and juried" by others in the church. As the
Apostle Paul says: "For what have I to do with judging those also who are
outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside
God judges..." (1 Cor.5:12-13).
If there's one thing I want on my gravestone, it is this: "He only
wanted to make people think". That's one of the main purposes behind these
mails -- to encourage people to think. Since the acceleration of the
Toronto Curse in 1993-4, a huge swathe of the Christian church has been
given over to the doctrines of demons. As a result, a large number of
churches today are governed by feelings and hunches rather than Scripture
and logic. Many worship services have more in common with a lunatic asylum
than with a tabernacle of the Lord. Every week I get many e-mails from
people telling me of the pitiable situation in their churches, and asking my
advice. Many have to go through a great deal of turbulence before they find
some stability in the Christian scene.
Only yesterday, I received two e-mails -- one from Seattle in the U.S.A.
and the other from Anglesey in North Wales in the U.K. Both told of
horrific situations in churches in which they had spent their formative
Christian years. These are by no means isolated examples of what is
happening in so many Pentecostal and Charismatic churches. I have been
encouraged by these two dear people to forward their stories to as many as
possible, with their identities, so that others will see that they have not
been walking on glass alone and there is light at the end of the tunnel, and
so that people will be more aware of the kinds of problems which arise when
feelings displace Scripture as the guiding force in church life. Here are
Dear Pastor Morrison,
Christians that are buying into these unholy spirit experiences are
heading for trouble. I bought into all this hubbub when I was 21 years
old, a new Christian, back in 1979. I got involved in a large Charismatic
church that prioritised the supernatural over the Word of God. There was
a constant charged atmosphere of 'revival' within each service. The
Toronto revival seems tame to me in comparison to what happened in our
church. This church had satellite churches throughout the US and in three
or four countries. I enrolled in their Bible college with the other 900
students. At first life seemed wonderful!
The pastor was a dominating figure, though he did it with such charm that
you had no idea you were being brainwashed so severely. The first thing I
can remember was the push for me to 'get filled with the Holy Spirit.' I
tried and tried and finally 'got it' in my bedroom by myself one night
late while I was praying and 'seeking' for this experience. This
experience was quite beautiful and seemed to be of God because of its
sweet emotional 'energy' that I thought was from the Holy Spirit. New
'waves' of God's so-called 'spirit' bathed our church often. We could not
pray in a prayer meeting without expecting the 'anointing,' or mysticism
of energy, to fall on us. If we did not 'feel' God's so-called
'presence,' then we were considered dry and unspiritual.
At that time I was married to a man I will name Bob. Bob, along with
anyone that did not 'soar' in the spirit realm, was continually badgered
and pressured to become more spiritual. He felt like a constant failure
as a Christian. The more experiences you felt, the holier you were, and
thus the more prestigious position you had in the church. Being in an
intercessory prayer meeting for the pastor was the ultimate level of
super spirituality. But you had to be invited into this group, work your
way up the ladder of 'spiritual' abundance. There were other prayer
groups that were only for the 'elite' group. Prophesies and visions and
dreams were commonplace. Our pastor told us that God had taken him into
the heavenlies and he sang with the Angels and there God told him he
would be a world renowned prophet. Each service was an emotional
spiritual high that I did not want to come down from. I was sucked into
the 'glory' and riding high on the bandwagon of delusion.
Our church got into the demonic deliverance exorcism movement and it was
devastating. People were even rebuking demons of 'flatulency,' and all
kinds of ridiculous things. After awhile I found myself fighting for my
identity. Every time I got angry or doubtful or spoke frustration in any
way, I was told I had demons and needed to get delivered. The
congregation would respond by mocking, "What demon is that talking?" or
yelling right into my face like I was not there, "Get out you demon of
rebellion, in Jesus Name." It was exhausting. One young woman drowned her
five year old daughter in the bathtub to release her from demons. This
became a large news item in Seattle.
In 1985 an evil but enticing and very deceptive spiritual experience came
into our church like a tornado. The church had been dancing in the spirit
for a few months already. Everywhere, in the aisles, in the foyer, during
the worship service Christians would joyfully swing and swirl and twirl
to the Lord. One day during a retreat while a group of church members
were dancing, a 'connection' happened between the male youth leader and
another woman. This couple was not married to each other. Like a magnet,
they were drawn close physically. They were unable to stop looking into
each other's eyes. They came together, almost touching, while this
spiritual 'energy' beamed back and forth between their eyes, catapulting
them into a sphere of glory that was indescribable. The intimate display
between these two people was soon stopped by an elder. But as weeks went
by, others in the church began to get 'zapped' by this same energy-force.
Like a hex, once it happened between you and someone else, you were
unable to break away from it's strong spiritually sensual spell. The
pastor's wife 'connected' with a man 20 years younger than her and
convinced the pastor to 'let God move.' The Word of God was shuffled
aside as this strange evil phenomena swept into the church and destroyed
Because I had opened up to experiences and sought after them, I was
sucked into this deception as well. To describe the spiritual journey is
hard to do. Because the feelings were so beautiful and so flesh
fulfilling and spirit tingling that I did not want to let it go. I
ignored my gut feelings that told me to 'run' from it. I followed the
crowd and soared higher into 'glory.' I connected with another married
man, and that is when my horror began. There was literally something
moving between our eyes, an energy, a power, an evil force that felt like
love but was really a counterfeit. Once you were under this 'spell' you
were plummeted into another dimension. This is how Satan is deceiving so
many of God's people. They are following a feeling that 'feels' beautiful
and holy. They have been seduced into following another gospel.
The love that was connecting couples together (the 'connections' happened
between those of the same sex too, but the majority happened to those of
the opposite sex) was beyond anything felt on earth. It was powerful,
possessive, and consuming. I know for me, after I became 'connected' in
the dance through the eyes, I was unable to function in the everyday
normal life. I could barely go to work. I would find myself going in and
out of the spirit realm all the time. All I wanted to do was to be with
my 'connection.' I lost desire for my husband and he likewise for me.
Soon my husband quit coming home.
Within months 'connections' replaced marriages. They were dating outside
of church, driven by the spell of love. The pastor preached that the
connection doctrine would restore marriages in the long run and that we
needed to first experience Jesus' love through one another. The
eye-energy spell was just the way we were becoming one in the spirit. We
were ordered to 'release' our mates to their spiritual connections. The
feelings of jealousy almost drove some people mad. But if we did not
release our mates, we were disfellowshipped from the church. And because
we were taught that leaving the church would take us to hell, people
submitted to the unscriptural doctrine. In order to do so, they had to
let go of their consciences. The pain was to great. So, numb like
zombies, the jealous mates began to drink and fall into sin in order to
obey the command to 'release's their mates. The children were devastated
at seeing their families torn apart.
Visitors were shocked at the intimate display during worship service.
Couples were physically engaged in the dance, eyes locked, mouths almost
touching, bodies entwined close and personal. I shudder to think I was
involved in such heresy.
In time adultery became rampant and within 2 years over 250 divorces
resulted. (I have documents from the newspaper about this. It was big
news in Seattle for months back in 1986-87.) My marriage ended when my
husband left me for his connection.
At that time, before my husband moved to California with his
'connection,' God began to slowly prepare me to get out of that 'cult.' I
had fallen in love with another married man all in the guise of
'spirituality.' I knew I was in sin, and I felt powerless against the
evil pulling me deeper. But through my fall, God was able to rip me out
of that delusion. I tried hard to get my husband back. But he was gone
too far. I loved him, but could not save him from the delusion. To make a
long story short, I escaped that church devastated, torn, and lost.
After 7 years, I felt like I was starting all over again in understanding
what Christianity really was. I lived with a great couple that helped me
get back on my feet. And for the next five years my quest was to know
what the true Gospel was all about. God by His mercy showed me.
I was suicidal when I left that holocaust, and acutely depressed for a
very long time. I lost my marriage, all my friends, and my dignity. I was
branded as a rebellious dissident and banned from the church. Because I
took a strong stand against the evil teaching, my reputation was
destroyed. But I did not care, I was so relieved to be out of that
horror. The road to recovery took a long time, yet I trusted the Lord
Jesus to guide me the right way. The Word of God became my manual for
life from that point on.
It has been over 11 years, and I have walked by faith and not by sight.
I love His Word with all my heart. It is God's truths that healed my
heart and restored my life. It was experiences that almost destroyed my
I am ever thankful that the Lord has given me 'sight' as to the evils
that are flooding the church today.Today, my husband (I met Igor in
Russia in 1992) and I minister to others that have been spiritually
abused. Trusting in experiences is a deadly end. Some Christians might
say that what we got into was so way out and could not happen to them.
But, not only did our Seattle mother church get deceived, but all the
satellite churches as well (except for the one in Greece. They saw the
evil and broke away. They even tried to warn us but our pastor would not
listen). The false love and beauty behind the experience overrides
rationale. How could Satan get so many to fall for this? Well, he is good
at what he does, and that is bringing in lying wonders and signs to
deceive God's people. We see this same spirit manifesting in a slightly
different way, sweeping through churches all across the world, duping
thousands with its 'energy of love.' Look at Benny Hinn. He is using the
same deceitful spirit and getting away with it! Oh my, how dangerous it
is to follow this man.
I wish I could shout from the mountaintops to these sheep that are being
led astray! I pray daily for them.
Thank you for hearing my testimony, Mr. Morrison. The full version is on
http://www.healinginn.org under testimonies called "Blind Worship."
Please share this testimony with anyone you wish. I would go through it
all over again just to be able to 'see' the truth as I see it today. God
allowed that evil into the church for our own good. I dare say I might still
be there today swimming in the feelings whoop-de-doo if God had not allowed
the church to fall. You are right in your articles -- God's love is so great
for us that He will allow demons to pester us if it means drawing us back to
Him and His truth.
Many thanks for your continued ALERTS! As to the separate "Baptism in
the Spirit", I, too, was confused by this for a while. After a lifetime of
Hippiedom/"New Age" "spiritual" experiences, including "yoking with
Brahman", LSD, NLP /Shamanism, & seeing guru Maraji do miracles etc, & even
being deceived by the world's "greatest" false prophets, the Jehovahs'
Witnesses, for 5yrs - I finally came home to the Bible, & the patient grace
of our Lord Yeshau HaMashiach.
I was saved just 2 yrs ago in Colwyn Bay, before I even knew what being
saved was, or what to expect, responding to an sober "altar call" [before I
knew what that was, either!] at a non-Evangelical Alliance Baptist Church -
I was fairly determined not to respond to the "call", just because I wanted
to, or thought that it was expected of me. It made no difference - I was
drawn forward by the Holy Spirit, feeling wonderful, grateful, repentant, &
went down upon my knees to pray with the pastor.
Simple & beautiful, but only the start of course.
Now the Hoopla started! I moved house, so went to the Bangor AOG Church to
check it out, but on hearing the manic, heavy metal look-alike drummer from
100yards down the road, knew that there was something wrong immediately. I
responded to an altar call there, also knowing that I didn't need to - but
knew why when the sorceress Pastor tried to "slay" me - by using EXACTLY THE
SAME STOMACH "CHAKRA" POWER MANIPULATION THAT ONE OF MY OLD SHAMANISTIC NLP
PRACTITIONERS HAD DONE! [which unbalances you & makes you fall backwards, if
"your Chi is not properly aligned"!] I remained upon my feet, much to her
annoyance, so she gave up, & went on to more malleable material.
I had already cringed at the bumptious testimonies of countless teenagers,
explaining how their Camp leaders had/were teaching them to speak in
"Tongues" - by just babbling repetitive gibberish!
After a final time of "worship" which consisted largely of 100+ people
bellowing that same Babylonish gobbledegook, I publicly challenged the
Pastor to provide translations, read her 1 Corinthians 14 etc - & she
responded from the stage with barely concealed hostility, "I'll see you
She didn't, but sent a very pretty acolyte to sweet talk me [who had earlier
suddenly erupted into pogoing, like some glue crazed punk, to the first
overamplified song], explaining that as I had not had a separate "baptism in
the spirit" I obviously couldn't understand what was going on! I already
knew that a separate baptism was wrong, that we all received the Holy Spirit
when we were saved, but as a "baby" Christian, didn't at the time have the
full understanding, or all the scriptures to hand, so we both remained
unconvinced by the other.
When I pointed out that her so-called pastor was also a false prophet, as
she had gone ALONE, up into the local Welsh mountains, to be raptured,
without telling her family or flock; her beautiful eyes narrowed & she
hissed & tongue lashed me! The pastor had gotten the "prophecy" from the
latest crackpot Hypercharismatic book - incidentally, Wales is being
assaulted by numerous "Prophecy" conferences at the moment, turning out the
most appalling, unbiblical, "new age" drivel, about the "spirit of the
Fathers/Land" [that's the Druids/pagan "Enochian" cromlech builders, etc!],
& tidal waves about to swamp Anglesey! ["Cool Cymru" is definitely going
back into the that old "new age" "Celtic spirituality" nonsense,
conveniently forgetting all the pantheistic/human sacrifices aspects of
The Bangor AOG church has a very high turnover, with many disappointed at
the repeated false/non-existent healings - including telling the
congregation that a dying man was only dying because THEY didn't have enough
faith! Also, one of their "prophets" told the congregation that a dead baby,
stillborn I think, would live. Needless to say, it didn't. They are taught
that their illness's are also caused by sin in their lives, as well as by a
lack of faith, & have terrified one lady by telling her that her heart
pacemaker would MELT in her body, as she would no longer need it! She does.
But they have planted small fellowships, on her matriarchal
dominance/Jezebel influence stance, to propagate the usual Hinn / Hagin /
Cerulloesque Faith / Prosperity / overealisation of the Gifts nonsense, &
the Pastor also believes that we are born WITHOUT SIN - the Pelagian
The small fellowship I attend has largely come out of that church, after
repeated pleas to them to properly study the scriptures, but the Pastor has
said that she cannot change, as she has built her ministry upon those
teachings....We continue to pray for them.
Maranatha, Lord Jesus!
Yours in Christ,
BEACH COTTAGES MALLTRAETH ANGLESEY LL62 5AT. Tel/Fax 01407 840512.
AM continues: I can assure you that these are not isolated examples. I
have heard it all -- much of it unbelievable but true. From the churches
which practice "vomiting in the Spirit" to those which see oil leaking out
of their hands and gold appearing in their teeth. Every week, I get letters
from folk who have stumbled on the website who are being screwed up by the
lunatics. And the lunatics are not merely "a fringe". Lunacy is mainstream
now. When I lived in the U.K. I was inundated with mail and phone calls
from people of all church types. Many were from churches in the mainline
Anglican denomination whose vicars were giving out phoney words of knowledge
and making pronouncements about demon possession which were tearing people
apart. I remember going to give a talk in the North East entitled "When a
Church Becomes a Cult". This was at the request of an Anglican vicar who
was horrified at what his fellow vicars in the county were up to. His
bishop was apparently a spineless chap who was aware of these problems but
seemed unable to do anything about them. I was invited to stir things up.
When I write about these things, I am not indulging in gratuitous
violence! I am simply expressing my exasperation that such things should be
happening in the name of Jesus Christ and screwing up the lives of those who
think they are entrusting themselves to Him. I know that others of you are
involved in the same kind of ministry. If it wasn't for the fact that
people are being rescued as a result of our work then it would be a very
bleak prospect indeed.
So if you are looking for tales about fluffy kittens chasing balls of
wool, or teddy-bears walking to church down country lanes with bibles under
their arms, you have signed up to the wrong e-mail list! These mails are
not designed to be especially uplifting, but informative and protective,
strengthening and affirmative of the fact that it is not US who are crazy.
The asylum has been taken over by the lunatics.
I always welcome your responses. In the meantime, I remain...
Your servant, in Christ Jesus,
Diakrisis International (Relate the above article to the treatise on the Doctrine of the Nicolaitans one page below this point)
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by Al Maxey
In Rev. 2:6 Jesus praises the church in the city of Ephesus for "hating the deeds of the Nicolaitans," which our Lord then states He also hates. Later, in verse 15, He declares His displeasure with the saints in Pergamum. Why? Because "you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans." In Ephesus this group was quickly turned away, which gained the praise of Jesus Christ. In Pergamum they were welcomed, and even embraced, thus incurring our Lord's condemnation.
Who were the Nicolaitans? Where did they come from? What did they believe? These are just a few of the many questions which have been repeatedly asked for centuries, and the answers are not quickly or easily perceived, in part because this group is mentioned by name only twice in the entire Bible (Rev. 2:6, 15).
Some have stated, in a rather general way, that they were simply a small, insignificant sect within the early church who held to some rather strange beliefs. They surfaced here and there and eventually died out altogether without causing much of a stir. Others identify them as being an early gnostic group --- Gnosticism being one of the major heresies which plagued the Lord's church during the first few centuries. Still others suggest they were really just worshippers of Baal which were going by a different name to protect themselves from persecution. A few scholars even maintain that no such group ever actually existed. The "Nicolaitans" were merely a symbol employed by the Lord, and the term was not to be taken literally.
As already noted, the Bible itself says little about the Nicolaitans. To discover more about them one must appeal to the non-biblical writers of that period of time. These early church authors are often referred to as the Apostolic Fathers. Although these men were not inspired of God in what they wrote (as is often evident in their writings!), yet they are a valuable source of information and insight concerning the history and practices of the early church. Thus, biblical scholars rely rather heavily upon them for much of our knowledge about this period of church history.
To begin our study, we must try to determine the origin of this group. Where did they come from? Who was their founder? What caused such a group to be formed? As one might imagine, there are numerous theories which speculate as to the origin of the Nicolaitans. The prevailing theory, however, is that it was founded by a man named Nicolaus, the same Nicolaus listed in Acts 6:5 as one of the seven Spirit-filled men chosen to oversee a special ministry in the Jerusalem church.
Acts 6:5 --- "And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmanas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch."
Many early church writers feel it was this particular proselyte of Antioch who eventually departed from sound doctrine, and influenced others with his strange and deadly doctrine. About a hundred years after the writing of Revelation, an early church writer by the name of Hippolytus wrote:
"Nicolaus, as one of the seven (that were chosen) for the diaconate, was appointed by the Apostles. (But Nicolaus) departed from correct doctrine, and was in the habit of inculcating indifferency of both life and food. And when the disciples (of Nicolaus) continued to offer insult to the Holy Spirit, John reproved them in the Apocalypse as fornicators and eaters of things offered unto idols."
About two hundred years later, John Cassian wrote:
"We need never .... wonder that some bad and detestable men have secretly found their way into the number of the saints. If we bear in mind that Satan was chosen among the angels, and Judas among the apostles, and Nicolaus the author of a detestable heresy among the deacons, it will be no wonder that the basest of men are found among the ranks of the saints."
Thus, we soon discover that many of the early church writers held to the view that this previously highly favored man, who had been appointed by the apostles to a position of responsibility and trust in the church, had not lived up to his calling ..... and, indeed, had become an apostate! Though he is condemned by many, the evidence basically comes from a single source --- a brief story told by Clement of Alexandria (about a hundred years after the writing of Revelation) and recorded for us by Eusebius:
"This man (Nicolaus), it is said, had a young and lovely wife. And when he was reproached by the apostles, after the ascension of the Saviour, for jealousy, he brought her into their midst and bade anyone marry her who wished. For this action, it is said, was in accordance with that saying (of his), 'One ought to abuse the flesh;' and, as a matter of fact, the members of his sect have followed both example and precept absolutely and without question, and commit fornication freely. But for my part, I understand that Nicolaus had intercourse with no woman except his wife; and that, as regards his children, the daughters grew old in a state of virginity, while his son preserved his chastity. Such being the case, when he brought the wife, whom he jealously loved, publicly into the midst of the apostles, it was to renounce his passion; and it was self-control, in the face of pleasures men eagerly seek, that taught him to say 'abuse the flesh.' For, I imagine, in accordance with the Saviour's command, he did not wish to serve two masters, pleasure and the Lord."
As one can see from this ancient account, Clement defends Nicolaus and his actions, declaring that it was his passion for Christ, not the flesh, that led him to do what he did. Now, whether Nicolaus ever actually performed such an act or not is impossible to say. But, even if he did, this is no proof that he founded such a group as the Nicolaitans, which apparently practiced acts of immorality. Indeed, Clement argues that he did not!
If indeed the above described act occurred, it is possible that some who may have witnessed it, or who perhaps later heard the story recounted, may have interpreted it to mean that immorality was acceptable. After all, here was a "Spirit-filled Deacon" in the church offering his wife to the congregation! Thus, it must be OK!
It is also possible that as this early heretical group grew and developed, perhaps adopting other questionable practices as well, that it may have adopted for itself the name of Nicolaus. It was a common practice among early heretics to take the name of an apostle, or one of their associates, in an effort to try and gain respectability for themselves and their doctrines and practices. This is probably the case with the Nicolaitans, as a great many early church writers suggest. Eusebius, for example, says that "these persons made their boast of Nicolaus." Ignatius of Antioch (martyred in Rome just twenty years after the time of Revelation) twice makes mention of the Nicolaitans as impostors, saying they are "falsely so called."
After examining every reference to this heretical group in the writings of the Church Fathers, and weighing the evidence, it is the conclusion of this author that the Nicolaitans were not directly founded by the Nicolaus mentioned in Acts 6:5. Rather, the evidence suggests this group adopted his name in hopes of lending a degree of respectability and acceptance to their doctrines and practices.
THEIR BELIEFS & TEACHINGS
What was it about this group that caused them to be so detestable in the sight of the Lord, and also in the sight of the church at Ephesus? What exactly did they believe and teach and practice that generated such feelings of abhorrence? Although the early church writers disagreed on who founded the Nicolaitans and how they came by their name, there is little to no disagreement on what they taught and believed.
Apparently, they were very similar to the Balaamites of the OT, in that they committed acts of immorality (fornication) and they ate meat that had been offered to idols. In Rev. 2:14-15 the Lord makes this connection plain: "You have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit acts of immorality. You also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans."
It is also likely that Jezebel, whom Jesus condemns in the epistle to Thyatira, was a member of the Nicolaitans, for Rev. 2:20 says, "she teaches and leads my bond-servants astray, so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols." These are the same offenses earlier condemned as practices of the Nicolaitans.
None of the earlier church writers (or later ones, for that matter) have anything good to say about the beliefs or practices of this group. The Constitutions of the Holy Apostles states that "those who are falsely called Nicolaitans, are impudent in uncleanness." Tertullian (with regard to marriage) says, "The Nicolaitans, in their maintenance of lust and luxury, destroy the happiness of sanctity." Irenaeus writes, "they lead lives of unrestrained indulgence," and teach "it is a matter of indifference to practice adultery, and to eat things sacrificed to idols." Ignatius brands them as "lovers of pleasure, and given to slanderous speeches." He also says that they "affirm that unlawful unions are a good thing, and place the highest happiness in pleasure."
A question which comes immediately to mind at this point is: How could a group of individuals in the early church hold to such beliefs and practices and still profess to be followers of Jesus Christ?! Would they not see the inconsistency? The answer apparently is that, like Balaam, they were self-deceived and self-deluded. This caused them to gloss over their obvious wickedness, and to dress it up so as to make it more acceptable to both themselves and those around them. Contributing to this state of self-deception is the fact that they may also have been misinterpreting a passage from one of the epistles of Paul --- "ALL things are lawful for me" (I Cor. 6:12). Paul later writes:
I Cor. 8:4, 7-8 --- "Therefore, concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. However not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat."
The Nicolaitans, having possibly misunderstood this and other related passages ..... or perhaps having intentionally perverted them ..... declared themselves free in Christ to do as they pleased, regardless of who it hurt or who was offended. This even included committing acts of immorality! After all, hadn't Paul said, "ALL things are lawful for me"?
This may all seem rather absurd to us, even hard to believe, yet one won't have a great deal of difficulty finding those in the Lord's church today who, at least in principle if not in fact, hold to these same Nicolaitan beliefs! These are those who see nothing wrong with a certain amount of compromise with the world about them, with becoming more and more worldly in nature and practice, while still claiming to be faithful disciples of Christ! Such compromise is nothing short of that ancient Nicolaitan heresy raising it ugly head in a modern setting!
A scholar by the name of Fiorenaz makes the following observation:
"Whereas the Nicolaitans considered themselves free to participate in idolatrous feasts because of their salvation in Christ, the author of Revelation emphasizes that salvation and Christian existence has to be proved in the rejection of both idolatry and participation in the Roman civil religion."
In the same way, our salvation in Christ, and our faith, is not truly demonstrated to others or made stronger by trying to prove that we can wallow in the world and still come away appearing to be clean! Rather, it is displayed by rejecting the activities of the world, and by living in such a way that we might be presented to the Bridegroom as a "pure virgin" (II Cor. 11:2).
CIRCUMSTANCES LEADING TO NICOLAITANISM
Another question which arises at this point is: Were there possibly certain circumstances in these cities of Asia Minor which may have given rise to these doctrines ... or made it profitable and even advisable (from an earthly perspective) to embrace them? Although this heresy didn't catch on in Ephesus, it did in Pergamum and Thyatira. What was there in these two cities which may have been conducive to the growth of Nicolaitanism?
When one examines a map, it will become clear that Pergamum and Thyatira are only about thirty miles apart. Both are located in the northern part of the land, and are separated geographically from the other five cities mentioned in Revelation. The real key, however, is that these two cities were extremely trade-guild oriented. These guilds were similar to the labor unions of today. The guilds were very pleasure oriented, idols were worshipped during their meetings, they ate food offered to the idols, and there were also very wild, immoral parties for the members, so that they could "loosen up" and become happier, more productive workers. Ramsay, in his book The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia, writes:
"It may be regarded as certain that the importance of the trade-guilds in Thyatira made the Nicolaitan doctrine very popular there. The guilds were very numerous in that city, and are often mentioned in great variety in the inscriptions. It was, certainly, hardly possible for a tradesman to maintain his business in Thyatira without belonging to the guild of his trade. The guilds were corporate bodies, taking active measures to protect the common interests, owning property, passing decrees, and exercising considerable powers. In no other city, save Pergamum, are they so conspicuous. It was therefore a serious thing for a Thyatiran to cut himself off from his guild."
Undoubtedly, many members of the early church made their livings at a trade which required that they be members of a certain trade-guild. And to be a member meant attending the meetings, and taking an active part, so as not to be viewed unfavorably by the guild. To be viewed unfavorably could lead to dismissal from the guild, which meant loss of one's profession and source of income. A person could literally go from riches to rags depending on how he or she was viewed by the guild. Thus, Christians were faced with a problem; a problem compounded by the fact that at these meetings not only were there sacrifices made to idols (and all members were required to participate), but there was also drinking and open sexual activity. It was considered the duty of the members to participate.
From a worldly point of view, these guilds were just trying to help their members be better employees. It really wasn't viewed as sinful or immoral. In fact, these acts were viewed as being religious acts. Sacrifices to various gods were made during the meetings, and the services of temple prostitutes were even engaged.
What was the Christian worker to do?! Many, obviously, quit their guilds, and in so doing lost their ability to earn an income. They were willing to make this sacrifice, however, in order to remain faithful to their Lord. Some, however, were not willing to go that far. Thus, they needed to find a way to rationalize their continued involvement in the practices of the guild. This they did by proclaiming themselves "free in Christ." Many perhaps reasoned: If we stay in the guild and continue our association with these people, we might even be able to influence them to accept Christ. Others began to teach that it was really only the physical body (the flesh) which was actually engaging in the immoral practices anyway, and so as long as they remained pure in spirit then God would accept them. This latter view was a definite reflection of the Gnostic teaching of the first century, and perhaps also reflects a twisting of Paul's statement in Romans 7:14f about the conflict of the two natures.
With all of this "logic" at their disposal, their consciences were eased, and they viewed themselves as members in good standing both of the church and of the guild --- and apparently the church in both of these cities did not strongly enough disagree with this view, for Jesus not only condemns those who were involved in this compromise with the world, but He also condemns the congregations for tolerating it!!
The evidence, both biblical and extra-biblical, seems to clearly point to the fact that the group known as the Nicolaitans arose from a perceived need of some early Christians to conform to their society to a certain extent for their own survival, and in a willingness to pervert certain passages of Scripture in an attempt to try and justify their conformity. Perhaps this group can best be described, in the words of Fiorenaz, as "a Christian libertine group within the churches of Asia Minor." They viewed themselves to be at liberty to compromise with the world.
It appears that this group did not long survive ... at least, not in as open and recognizable a form as it had been at first. According to Eusebius, the Nicolaitans "arose for a very brief time ... and in less time than it takes to say it, were completely extinguished."
The word "Nicolaitan" itself, however, lasted for many centuries. In time, it came to be freely applied to those who were the object of the user's contempt. It came to have much the same connotation as "Judas" has for some -- characterizing one as a traitor.
In the Middle Ages, for example, the word was used by the Roman Catholic Church to describe those priests who approved of clerical marriage. Hastings, in his dictionary, writes:
"In the disputes as to the celibacy of the clergy, again the term was applied to the married priests by the opponents of clerical marriage. It appears to have been first used in this connection by Cardinal Humbert who described the 'Nicolaitan heresy' as consisting in the justification of clerical marriage; and in that sense it obtained official recognition in the canons of the Council of Piacenze in March, 1095 AD."
Even today the term has not died out completely. Occasionally one will still hear the term applied by one opponent to another. Recently, for example, one church leader castigated all "liberals" as being "Nicolaitans." Nicolaitanism, thus, was equated to Liberalism. Another religious leader recently condemned the celebrating of Christmas as being the "Nicolaitan heresy." His logic was that this holiday is associated with "St. Nicolas" -- or Santa Claus!
It is this author's belief that the "Nicolaitan heresy" never truly died. It still exists in the church today just as much as it did in the early church ... if not more! The belief among some in the Body of Christ that they are free in Christ to engage in sinful practices, that they can successfully serve two masters, that they can acceptably compromise with the world and still be "Christians in good standing," has never really left us! And such compromisers still attempt to twist God's Word to try and justify their sinful practices. And, sadly, we, in the church, still too often continue to tolerate them in our midst.
In Christianity there can be NO compromise with the world about us, regardless of what sacrifices one may be called upon to make! The message to the early church by our Lord applies just as much today as it did in the first century .... for the danger is just as great!
"Thus you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Rev. 2:15-17). Revelation 4 - 7 Throne Room Visions
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