August 23, 2006
We are nearing the end of the letter to the church of Ephesus, a church with much virtue, and desirable traits, yet with one glaring shortcoming, namely the abandonment of their first love. To those who have a heart, to hear the message that Christ was speaking to this church, and by association to us, His Bride, there is much wisdom to be received, and much knowledge to be absorbed. As most may have gathered thus far, this is not a study for the faint of heart, or for the cursory Christian. It is truly the meat of God's word, the nourishment of the mature servant, and I pray that His light shine upon you with all wisdom and understanding, that you may grow into the fullness of what He created you to be.
Revelation 2:6, "But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate."
If I could live a hundred lifetimes, I would still be in awe of the goodness and mercy of our God. In His wisdom He searches our hearts, and looks upon our lives, desiring to see the good, and virtuous things that we possess, and not only does He commend these virtues, but He encourages them and strengthens them.
After having warned the Church of Ephesus, and admonished them concerning their need for repentance, Christ returns to a positive aspect, a virtue that they possessed, that of hating the deeds of the Nicolaitans, as He also hated their deeds.
Who were these Nicolaitans? In truth, opinions vary greatly as to who they were, and it would be a wasted effort to go expound on said opinions. In short, I believe the Nicolaitans were those not of the house of God, those not born again, who still managed to creep in unnoticed, and preaching heresies, abusing the doctrine of grace, attempting to deceive the gullible and immature among the brethren, sought their own exaltation and vainglory.
Translated literally, from the Greek language, Nicolaitans means conquerors of the people, while its Hebrew counterpart gives a more sinister translation, interpreting the word as destroyers of the people. So literally translated, the Nicolaitans were a group of men who would attempt to conquer, or lord over, and then destroy the house of God.
Their primary objective was to bring division to the house of God, and cause confusion among the brethren. Driven by their vanity, and blinded by their pride, they fought against order in the house of God, dismissed the doctrine of equality in the eyes of God, dividing the brethren into camps of leaders or followers, lord or servant, cleric or layman.
Luke 22:24-26, "But there was also rivalry among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest. And He said to them, 'the kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called 'benefactors.' But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves."
It is neither schooling, talent, age, nor seniority in a church that makes of us spiritual men, holy vessels, able and competent to serve God, but rather, the rebirth, being born again.
Any man who seeks to subjugate and hold captive the people of God by their talents, elected offices, or a degree on a wall, is deemed a Nicolaitan.
Any man who guards and defends with ferocity the spirit of denomination and division, impeding by his very actions fellowship with the brethren, and other servants of Christ, is deemed a Nicolaitan.
Any man that seeks to be elevated and honored before men, and is void of humility and self-denial, seeking rather to showcase his talents than present Christ, is a Nicolaitan, and does not have the Spirit of Christ.
All these things that the Nicolaitans did, were hateful in the eyes of God, and continued to be so regardless of their deeds or works, no matter how religious. For that which is not born of God, is unrecognizable to Him as His own, and as was mentioned already, although these men seemed to have zeal, perhaps even religiosity, they were not born again. A true believer, a member of the body of Christ, cannot help but hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, as God himself hates them. If time permitted, there is a deeper truth to be gleaned from this verse, that of Christians loving those things that are not of Christ and thereby by their very actions negating their Christianity. For what friendship or bond can truth form with deception, what truce can there be between the light and the darkness? It is a topic upon which I can readily fill many a page, but perhaps it would be best to leave it for another time, and another study. For now, we return to those whom the word calls Nicolaitans, those who have not entered the sheepfold by the narrow gate of repentance and salvation, but attempted to sneak in, bringing with them strange doctrine that would endeavor to subjugate and persecute those who follow the true path, and impede the work of God from going forward. One truth is constant, and its veracity cannot be challenged, that those born according to the flesh will always persecute those who are born according to the Spirit.
John 10:1, "Most assuredly I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber."
Galatians 4:29, "But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now."
There have always been Nicolaitans within the body of Christ, men who would distort, deform, disfigure and otherwise pervert the Gospel of truth in order that it fit neatly into their preconceived notions and imaginings, or do so merely to take away from the sting, the confrontation and provocation upon men's souls once the unadulterated truth is heard, for truth compels change, and there is no way around that singular fact.
"It is not easy, speedily to bring into the right way the man who has a long time previously been held fast by error. It may, however, be effected: for, when a man turns away ever so little from error, the mention of the truth is acceptable to him. For, just as when the cloud breaks ever so little there comes fair weather, even so, when a man turns toward God, the thick cloud of error which deprived him of true vision is quickly withdrawn from before him. For error, like disease and sleep, long holds fast those who come under its influence; but truth uses the word as a goad, and smites the slumberous, and awakens them; and when they are awake they look at the truth, and also understand it: they hear, and distinguish that which is from that which is not. For there are men who call iniquity righteousness: they think, for example, that it is righteousness for a man to err with the many. But I, for my part, affirm that it is not a good excuse for error that a man errs with the many. For, if one man only sin, his sin is great: how much greater will be the sin when many sin together!" - Melito
Even within an individual heart there can be times when Nicolaitan thoughts spring up, and our sure defense against such thoughts is perpetual vigilance and watchfulness, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Truth is powerful, and it is truth that crushes these thoughts into the dust, that we may truly live for the glory of God, not being encumbered with aspirations of the flesh.
Revelation 2:7, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God."
Within this verse we find whom the seven letters of Revelation were truly written for. It is for the first time that Christ confirms what was stated at the beginning of this study, namely that these letters were written for the church in its entirety, for all who have an ear to hear throughout the generations that would follow. In their entirety these seven letters were addressed exclusively to the children of God, for no man absent of God's light, no matter how much he endeavors will understand them. These servants of God have the necessary spiritual attributes to hear what the Spirit of God is saying, for they are born again, having spiritual ears, spiritual eyes, and a spiritual mind. They are those of the spirit or the spiritual men of whom Paul speaks, able to judge all things, while the natural man, those not born again, cannot receive the Spirit of God. For the natural man, the spiritual things of God are foolishness, having an inability to discern the spiritual things, being limited in their understanding only to the natural things; For as with carnal eyes no man could learn the things in the heavens, so neither the soul unaided, the things of the Spirit.
1 Corinthians 2:14-15, "But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one."
It is wisdom, to understand the spirit of Scripture, rather than just the letter. For the messages to the churches, are messages to the entire body, and every believer. It is the chorus that runs through every one of these letters that we should take to heart, that of 'he who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.' The Spirit is speaking, but are we as the body of Christ hearing the message, are we receiving its truth and being obedient to its instruction? It is not enough to hear, but upon hearing act accordingly so that we may be complete in Him.
There has not been a second, since the day of Pentecost that the Spirit has stopped speaking to the churches. By the unction of the Holy Spirit God has continually brought to light timely warnings, and reiterations of the truth, which we must live. If we do not hear what the Spirit is saying, than we have no fellowship with Him, and absent of fellowship with Him, we are as anchorless ships in the midst of a stormy sea.
The tragedy of it all is that those who would consider themselves enlightened, spiritual beings dismiss the very notion that the Holy Spirit continues to communicate and fellowship with the servants of God. In their minds, it would seem that after the initial outpouring of the Holy Spirit, God became distracted with other aspects of His creation, and recalled the blessed gift, meant to comfort and guide us until the end of time. It is because we reject the power of God, that we are a powerless generation, absent of the signs and wonders that should be evident among believers.
John 14:16-18, "And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you."
The form of godliness is still intact, and we continue to cling to tradition, but we deny the power, which in these last days will be poured out in greater measure than ever in the history of mankind. The choice must be made by every individual heart as to whether we will receive and believe the words of Christ, who Himself promised would not leave us orphans, but would send the Helper, the Comforter, who would not only dwell with us, but be in us, or believe the words of men who say it is no longer so. 'But the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is not the issue being disputed brother, the issue is the span of time which the Holy Spirit was present and on earth.' To that I simply ask what part of forever don't we understand? Again, the very words of Christ dispel the myth that the Holy Spirit and the gifts thereof were only among men for a season, for it was He who said, 'I will pray the Father, and He will give you another helper, that He may abide with you forever.'
Romans 3:4, "Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar."
God cannot force upon precepts, which we willingly reject; He cannot impose upon us the power of the Holy Spirit, which we no longer believe is attainable. Herein lies the reason why so many of today's Christians are powerless and impotent in the face of temptation, deception, and persecution, because they do not retain the power which itself makes them greater than the sum of all they ever were, or all they hoped to be. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that gave Peter the boldness to stand before the multitudes and proclaim the truth, and it is the power of the Holy Spirit that gave the martyrs of the past the steadfastness to withstand the most horrid of persecutions for the sake of Christ.
(A study on the Holy Spirit, the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the necessity of the Holy Spirit is forthcoming, for now we return to Revelation and the message to the church of Ephesus.)
As we continue to read what are the last words of the message to the church of Ephesus, we see the promise that Christ spoke to those who would overcome, who would prevail. It is a promise of significance, one that is priceless, for to him who overcomes, Christ will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.
The Christian life is a life of uninterrupted battle, one, which we must fight with consistency until the end. By its very definition battle is not an easy thing. One must exert himself, one must suffer wounds, one must have endurance one must know the weapons of his warfare and learn to master them. Although our victory has been assured by Christ Jesus, we nonetheless fight a cunning enemy, one who will readily attack, who will not simply stand, immobile, and patiently wait for us to muster up the courage to strike at him. If a soldier of Christ, a warrior of the cross is not fearless, he will shrink from the onslaught of this enemy. If we are not constantly taking ground, we will inevitably lose ground, for this enemy is relentless in his pursuit of God's beloved. This fearlessness that all of God's children should possess comes from a singular and immutable fact, that in Him we are more than conquerors, more than victorious, and though a thousand may stand against us, in Him we are a majority.
Romans 8:37, "Yet in all these things we are more than conqueror through Him who loved us."
If I receive Christ, as He is, if I have received His nature, and been transformed to mirror His nature, then I must live with the expectation of battle, I must live with the knowledge that I will be attacked by the enemy, that I will be persecuted, that I will be hated for His name's sake. It is inevitable that the nature of Christ, and the nature of this present world clash on every level, that the world mock us, ridicule us, and hate us for they did so to the One in whose image we aspire to be transformed.
2 Timothy 3:12, "Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution."
1 John 3:13, "Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you."
John 15:18-19, "If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you."
What we must take away from the message to the church of Ephesus is the danger that losing one's first love entails, for although the works were abundant, they were simply sustained by their works, not by fellowship with Christ, and the bond of intimate sovereign love. In His final words to them, Christ admonishes the church of Ephesus to overcome their present condition, and return to that first love.
To live in Christ, is to love, to have intimate fellowship with Him. The reward for such faithfulness, is that Christ Himself, gives the believer to eat of the tree of life, not only in the life to come, but also in this present life, the fruit thereof being as such that it satisfies the spiritual heart fully and completely. The tree of life from which the faithful are granted to eat bears twelve fruits, and having eaten of these fruits one has complete sanctification, complete peace, complete joy, complete rest, and complete truth.
Revelation 22:2, "In the middle of its streets and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month."
Knowing that we are only complete in Christ, and that in Him dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily, we understand that the tree of life of which Christ speaks, is none other than Christ. When our love for Him proceeds from the depth of our heart, then he nourishes our spiritual man, and He becomes our singular desire. Once we have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, we will no longer desire anything of this earth, or this realm.
Colossians 2:9-10, "For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power."
Psalm 34:8, "Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him."
In order to receive this blessed promise, we must be faithful in fighting the good fight of faith, warring against the nature of the flesh, and overcoming it. Whether indifference, a lukewarm heart, carnal thoughts, or temptations, our reaction should be that of standing firm on the foundation of God's word, and striving against sin.
1 Timothy 6:12, "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses."
Slaves are at the mercy of their masters, and prisoners at the mercy of their captors. Refusal to fight the good fight, and therefore lay hold of eternal life, will make us slaves and prisoners of sin, masters and captors void of mercy. Knowing this, we have but one option, to stand, to fight, and to be faithful in all that we endeavor to do for God.
As some may have noticed this study was shorter in length than most of the others, having been constrained by the need for continuity. As such I have included some thoughts and meditations from my personal journals, worthy of contemplation and introspection. Some may view them as confirmation, others as provocation, but I pray all see the truth they possess.
Michael Boldea Jr.