A Hierarchy In Which Some Set Themselves to Rule Over Others
In Rev. 2:6 the Lord said, “But this you have, that you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” The church in Ephesus hated what the Lord hates — the works of the Nicolaitans. As far as virtues were concerned, this church was good, pure, right, and normal.
The Lord hates the works of the Nicolaitans. If you want to understand what the works of the Nicolaitans are, read Brother Nee’s book, The Orthodoxy of the Church.
The works of the Nicolaitans refer to a hierarchy among the saints in which some set themselves to rule over others. This brings into being the so-called clergy and laity.
In the church in Ephesus there was not the doctrine, the teaching, of the Nicolaitans. This was to develop later. But there were the works and activities of the Nicolaitans, that is, there was some type of hierarchy of clergy and laity.
The Word Nicolaitans
The word Nicolaitans is an equivalent of the Greek word Nikolaitai, the root of which is Nikolaos, composed of two Greek words — niko and laos. Niko means conquer or above others. Laos means common people, secular people, or laity. So Nikolaos means conquering the common people, climbing above the laity.
Nicolaitans, then, must refer to a group of people who esteem themselves higher than the common believers. This was undoubtedly the hierarchy followed and established by Catholicism and Protestantism. The Lord hates the works, the behavior, of these Nicolaitans, and we must hate what the Lord hates.
God Intended All the Believers to Be His Priests
God in His economy intended that all His people be priests to serve Him directly. In Exodus 19:6 God ordained the children of Israel to be “a kingdom of priests.” This means that God wanted them all to be priests.
However, because of the worship of the golden calf (Exo. 32:1-6), they lost the priesthood, and only the tribe of Levi, because of their faithfulness to God, was chosen to replace the whole nation of Israel as priests to God (Exo. 32:25-29; Deut. 33:8-10). Hence, there was a mediatorial class between God and the children of Israel.
This became a strong system in Judaism. In the New Testament, God has returned to His original intention according to His economy in that He has made all believers in Christ priests (Rev. 1:6; 5:10; 1 Pet. 2:5, 9). But at the end of the initial church, even in the first century, the Nicolaitans intervened as the mediatorial class to spoil God’s economy.
According to church history, this became a system adopted by the Roman Catholic Church and was also retained by the Protestant churches. Today in the Roman Catholic Church there is the priestly system, in the state churches there is the clerical system, and in the independent churches there is the pastoral system. All these are a mediatorial class, spoiling the universal priesthood of all believers.
Thus, there are two distinct classes — the clergy and the laity. But in the proper church life there should be neither clergy nor laity; all believers should be the priests of God. Because the mediatorial class destroys the universal priesthood in God’s economy, the Lord hates it.