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When Deeds Become Creeds (Doctrines) Part 1.

“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”

Revelation 3:20 KJV

Is there a case to be made for any Christian who really wants to follow the authority of scripture that he or she can have fellowship with the risen Christ in spite of ecclesiastical authority that keeps Christ at a distance?

“But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.”

In Revelation 2:6 we read of the deeds of the Nicolaitans. This was written to commend the church at Ephesus that they were in agreement with the Lord about practices that He hates.

These letters were written to actual churches in the area of Asia Minor that reside in roughly the area of present day Turkey. The Lord singles these churches out to describe church conditions that would have common characteristics throughout the church age. From them we learn what the Lord approves, what He disapproves and how to remedy them.

Each of these churches were real churches with real problems and solutions prescribed. They can be studied and applied today with profit to the spiritual conditions of various local churches.

Interestingly, (though not all Bible expositors agree with this application), it has also been observed by some Bible scholars that, the Spirit of God puts the analysis of each of these churches in a specific order. From this order we can see a pattern that, from our perspective, roughly describes what we observe as the historical development of the church from its inception until today.

In this application, we see the church from its inception and apostolic foundation (Ephesus); through intense persecution (Smyrna); unnatural growth and corruption consistent with the introduction of allegorical interpretation of scripture (Pergamos); the Jezebel like dark ages of biblical ignorance (Thyatira); an incomplete reformation that recovered truth through a literal interpretation of scripture (Sardis); Restoration of millennial truths and missionary zeal (Philadelphia); on to the end stage condition of a self satisfied, Christ excluding church (Laodicea).

What began with the experience of the Ephesian church as the deeds of the Nicolaitans had developed into the doctrine of the Nicolaitans that the church in Pergamos had to deal with.

So who are the Nicolaitans?…

and what are their deeds that developed into doctrines? Does their doctrine still impact the church today?

Does the word Nicolaitans refer to a movement, a leader or both? It is hard to know for sure but we get an idea of what the Spirit of God may be alluding to when we analyze the name itself. It is made up of two Greek words, ‘Nico’ meaning conqueror or ruler and ‘laos’ meaning people. Put together it conveys the thought of those who conquer or rule the people.

In the majority of Christendom today, we see a division between a small group of professional leaders called clergy and the majority of the church called the laity. This division manifests itself in various degrees of authoritarianism. The general idea is that those in clerical roles possess a special knowledge of the Word of God.that is beyond the grasp of the laity. With this structure, understanding of the scriptures can only be rightly gained through the laity relying on the clergy to tell them what God is saying.

In contrast to this practice, the Spirit of God showed us a precedent or an example for us to follow when we read the following:

“And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming [thither] went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”

Acts 17:10-11 KJV

Does this sound like a familiar experience? Or does your church experience seem more like waiting on a pastor or priest to tell you what God is saying?

If so, it is because the majority of Christendom still retains this form of ecclesiastical authority that requires the typical lay person to conform to a specific creed that a professional body of clergymen dictate, such as what became the Westminster confession. It is probably true that those who penned this confession in the church of England, did not intend to supplant scripture.

Yet, the nature of man is what it is, so the tendency to substitute personal study of the Word of God as an authority “to search the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” is supplanted by the authority of man made creeds and/or allegorical interpretations that are enforced on the laity through an ‘enlightened’ clergy.

It is this practice of denying access to the truth from the Holy Spirit by confusing the plain teaching of scripture that enables ecclesiastical authority to become centralized and monopolized by an elite few that are then able to rule over the masses. These feel that it is beyond them to understand what God is saying. Where God is about revealing Himself to His creatures, His creatures are all about cloaking the knowledge of God in their own fig leaves of righteousness.

Could it be that for this reason the Lord Jesus, who is the living Word of God, is seen standing at the door of the Laodicean church knocking and asking for admission? 

What does this mean today for Christians who regularly meet as a church body?

The next post will explore this a little more in depth…

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