The Laodicean church

The Laodicean Church

By Bill Burkett


Jesus rebuked the Nicolaitans and the Laodiceans for error they taught threatening the purity of the early church. At the very root of the whole matter was the type of church government these two doctrines taught. Laodicea had accepted the teaching of Nicholis a false teacher of the early church which among many other errors taught that the church was ruled by a priestly elite. By priestly we mean standing as the only connection men had with God and exerting control over the church never given by Biblical authority. The theology of the Catholic church teaches that Christ died to establish a priestly order which He was the high priest of, and that He conferred this priestly authority through succession beginning with Peter and then passed on to those through the priestly succession within the Catholic church. But Scripture does not support this theology. (1 Timothy 2:5) For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 1 Timothy 2:5.

But this does not mean that ministers of the gospel outside the traditions of the Catholic church are not priests. In a spiritual sense we are all kings and priests unto God. Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus. Hebrews 10:19. (1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6; 5:10) God has vested certain authority in those He has called to represent Him to the people.

So while the Lord speaks to men through His chosen servants, the people always have direct access to the King of kings themselves. This is graphically illustrated in the book of Hebrews where the veil was rent and the exclusive right of the priest only to enter into the Holy of Holies ceased and the way was made for whosoever will to the Lord may come. Revelation 22:17.

The Nicolaitanes represented a church government just the opposite of the Laodiceans which was a church government run by the varied preferences of very materialistic charismatic leaders. Revelation 3:17. Whatever was popular with the people the charismatic leaders followed. It was pragmatic movement no different than what is happening today in the Charismatic movement. It is cheap populism and beautiful people with charismatic personalities following the rule that whatever holds the people, whatever the people turn to as their preference, we will follow them and provide for them “what works.”

The word Nicolaitan means followers of Nicholas (Revelation 2:6, 15), who was the founder of the Nicolaitine movement which Jesus hated. (Revelation 2:15)

ACCORDING TO THE GREEK LEXICON the Nicolaitans were a religious movement whose doctrines were strongly condemned. They may have been identical with the doctrine of Balaam at that time and the gnostic perversion of Christianity in the early church was a take-off of many of the Nicolaitan doctrines. Their chief error was that the flesh nature and the spirit of man and that the spirit would be saved in the judgment and would not be judged for anything done in the flesh. But Paul makes it crystal clear in 2 Corinthians 5:10 that every man will receive according to those things done in his body, good or bad. They seem to have held that it was lawful to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication (porneuo, all forms of immorality, idolatry), in opposition to the decree of the Church rendered in Acts 15:20,19. The teachers of the Church branded them with a name which expressed their true character. The men who did and taught such things were followers of Balaam. 2 Pet. 2:15; Jude 11. They, like the false prophet of Pethor, was a teaching of brave words combined with immorality and evil deeds. In the time of persecution, when the eating or not eating of things sacrificed to idols was more than a crucial test of faithfulness, they persuaded men more than ever that it was a small matter showing indifference. Revelation 2:13,14. This was bad enough, but there was yet a worse evil. Mingling themselves in the orgies of idolatrous feasts, they brought the impurities of those feasts into the meetings of the Christian Church. And all this was done, it must be remembered, not simply as an indulgence of appetite, but as part of a system, supported by a “doctrine”, accompanied by the boast of men who claimed authority on the basis of their prophetic powers and that they had been anointed of God to illuminate the truth of God to the people. But these were liars and were actually anointed by the Devil with the unholy ghost. Their claims of divine authority were empty and damned even though they swayed great multitudes to follow them in their ungodly teachings. But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 2 Peter 2:1.

It must be pointed out here that the word deny in this verse comes from another root word in the original Greek meaning to contradict. Any Christian who teaches contrary to what the Word of God teaches is contradicting Jesus (Who is the Word of God). Peter is not speaking of those who deny He is deity, but that those who claim He is deity, that He is Lord, and that is the Savior, but contradict His teaching. One of the best instances of such contradiction by modern Charismatics apostates is their teaching of material prosperity which Jesus or the apostles do not teach. The New Testament teaches that we will suffer persecution, that we should be content with food and raiment (1 Timothy 6:8), and Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; 1 Peter 4:1. To teach material prosperity is to contradict Jesus and the apostles. Charismatics also teach faith apart from obedience to the moral law of God and good works, teaching that you can be saved without good works or obedience to moral law of God. Just a short reading of Romans 13:8-10 utterly destroys such teaching and reveals it to be a human philosophy with a logical sound but certainly not the balanced and true doctrine of the Word of God. These false teachers show contempt for pure doctrine calling it evil and divisive when Jesus and the apostles call us to keep pure doctrine as do also the prophets. Again they contradict the Word of God!

The prophets said, To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because {there is} no light in them. Isaiah 8:20.

Jesus said, But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. Matthew 15:9 (1Timothy 6:8) And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.

The apostles said, But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Romans 6:17.

The apostles teach, Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. Romans 16:17.

The Word of God teaches that they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. Acts 2:42.

Many modern preachers are leading whole multitudes of dancing laughing followers off into the flowery paradises of spiritual destruction claiming their authority to be of God by the fact that they are “rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing.” But let he who has an ear hear what the Spirit is saying unto the churches; Does not history and modern religious movements all around us prove a very strong principle, that when a movement becomes big and popular and powerful it is the first reason you know it is not of God!


Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. 2 Timothy 3:12.

Jesus condemns their character to find that a wrong emphasis is laid on the “deeds” of the Nicolaitans. To hate these deeds is essential to having God’s approval and blessing in the Church that otherwise is weak and faithless. (Revelation 2:6) To tolerate them and their doctrine is to forfeit the approval of God. (Revelation 2:14-15)

According to author Heysham the Nicolaitans were the elite clergy that claimed superiority over the laity that remains a vital part of the Catholic political system today. In keeping with this, Heysham in his book, THE BIRTH OF THE BIBLE reveals on page 124, “Lainez, the general of the Jesuits, at the council of Trent, declared, ‘Sheep are animals destitute of reason, and in consequence they can have no part in the church.’ The sheep of course, were the laity.”

The Scripture is the final authority of the church and speaks to all who have become a part of the body of Christ to show strict respect for the office of those men whom God has called to minister to the flock. We do not need a “special ruling class” of church leaders established by the thinking of men if we have the Biblical government as established by God the Holy Spirit. In fact, the very title “shepherd”reveals the correct relationship between shepherds and people, and between shepherds and shepherds, as well as between sheep and sheep. Genesis 49:24; Numbers 27:17; 1 Kings 22:17; 2 Chronicles 18:16-17; Psalm 23:1; 80:1; Isaiah 40:11; 63:11; Jeremiah 31:10; 43:12; Ezekiel; 34:12, 23; 37:24; Zechariah 34:8; Zechariah 11:16; Matthew 9:36; 25:32; 26:31 Mark 6:34; 14:27; John 10:2, 11-16; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25; 5:4 . Between sheep and shepherd we see the divine order of church government that God has indeed vested authority in the shepherd, and as good shepherds we love the sheep and lay down our lives for them. By observing what the Scripture teaches us about loving one another we will have a perfect and holy order existing in the church. Shepherds are to love the sheep and the members of the body of Christ are to show a submissive spirit with deep respect for the shepherd just as sheep look to their shepherd. If God’s ministers behave as good shepherds and God’s people become as sheep we will discover the beauty of divine order and Biblical government in the church.

The highest governing authority of the church is the Holy Spirit as seen in the clear teaching of Christ in His announcing of the coming of the Holy Spirit when He met with them in the upper room just before His crucifixion.

In that last meeting with His disciples before His death He explained to them the purpose and ministry of the Holy Spirit and what His administration would replacing Jesus’ ministry on earth. The presence of Jesus among His disciples was a ministry of leadership and teaching. He kept order among His disciples and often rebuked them and warning them. So is the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our midst as He comes to govern us. He came to take the place of Jesus in the midst of the church. The church will have that precious and peaceful divine order and excellence of government when we follow carefully the Biblical teaching to respect each other. It is this respect for each other that creates the atmosphere where the Holy Spirit can operate and properly govern the church. Let us keep that respect between us and acknowledge that God the Holy Ghost is the final authority over the church. If we will follow the simple and yet powerful admonitions of God’s Word to love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. John 13:34.

There will be times when discipline of the members of the church will be necessary. (1 Corinthians 5:5) If a brother or sister shamelessly violates the moral commandments of God, or wrongs a brother, or commits any act of un-Christ-like behavior they have violated their respect for the Lord (His commandments), and the church (bringing reproach to the body), and against the brother he has wronged or violated. In such cases we must follow the examples of discipline given to us in Scripture bringing just and binding discipline and even excommunication if necessary. but if one among us by their disrespect for the brethren and their ungodly deeds threaten that peaceful state they must be disciplined by the shepherd and the elders of the church. That authority has been given into the hands of the shepherd and he must act upon such deviant and un-Christ-like behavior and the Holy Spirit will stand firmly with him against all evil doers. But a shepherd has no control or authority over another shepherd or the other shepherd’s flock.

By following the Lord’s admonition to love one another we fulfill the royal law of Christ we avoid the errors of both the Nicolaitans and the Loadiceans which He rebuked. Dwelling in peace is the ideal state of the church and it is not only possible, but it will exist where that Biblical government based on love and respect; upon good ethics and prayer is honored and taught. Amen.


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