What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
The first victims of this famine are the young. They are more susceptible because their parents failed to provide a solid foundation of truth. The young only know what the older generation has taught them. With anything remotely Christian being banished from public schools and colleges and ridiculed in the media, and with churches increasingly neglecting the Word of God, the youth are being supplied with a very weak or non-existent diet of truth.
God created mankind with a spiritual capacity, and our minds naturally crave something to excite us, fill us, and give us answers. If God's words are not sustaining the youth of the nation, something else will. Thus, the rap culture has become a religion—a belief system, a way of life—for some. The philosophy of materialism is firmly entrenched in these fertile minds, which are being fed all day yet starved of truth. Eco-religions and nature worship are drawing others off course. Witchcraft and other elements of the occult fill the minds of others. Eastern and New Age beliefs are becoming more mainstream, and we even have the cult of Oprah!
An entire generation is falling for the line that there is no absolute truth, that everyone's opinion is valid (unless that opinion is biblical), and that the only modern sin is to judge. All of these forms of idolatry are flourishing because God's words are not being heard, and something else has taken their place.
Amos 8:14 describes those who are so adamantly committed to their idolatry, who are so spiritually sick from malnourishment, that they will "fall and never rise again."
David C. Grabbe
A Subtle Yet Devastating Curse
There were a number of accepted belief systems in the area of Palestine and the wider Roman Empire at the time this was written, such as Gnosticism and Judaism, but it is certain that God's truth was never popular or widely accepted. It is practically a foregone conclusion that someone practicing the truth will be persecuted for it to one degree or another (Matthew 13:21; Romans 8:35-36; Galatians 5:11; II Timothy 3:12; I Peter 2:19-21). In fact, the churches of Galatia (in what is now Turkey) may have been forewarned about this by Paul when he was teaching in Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch (all on the south-eastern border of Galatia) as recorded in Acts 14:20-22. Christians are called to be separate from this world and its ways, and when the world recognizes this difference, it lashes out.
From Paul's writing, it seems that the Galatians had the proper foundation at one time, and they really did understand the truth at the beginning of their spiritual lives. This would have been the time when they were actively standing up for the truth, and a great contrast would have been evident between the Galatians and the general population. This is when they would have suffered—in the internal struggle of having to give up their former conduct, or with the external struggle of not fitting in with the rest of society.
As the Galatians began to slide into apostasy, they would no longer have been so repulsive to the people around them, and the suffering and persecution would have begun to lessen. The world would have started to recognize itself in them again (see John 15:19).
In essence, Paul is asking them if they are just going to throw away all that they had learned, especially what they had learned through adversity. With this question he is pointing out that, if they fall away, everything they had been through, both good and bad, would have been in vain in the sense that there would be no future profit from it. They would have received the maximum benefit from it already. This relates to Romans 8:28, where we are promised that all that we suffer will be redeemed for those who meet the requirements listed—those who are called according to His purpose, which the Galatian Christians were, and those who love God, which the Galatians were not doing in that they were relegating Christ's sacrifice for sin as meaningless.
David C. Grabbe
1 John 2:15-17
John is not the only apostle who called upon the children of God to keep themselves from being spiritually contaminated by the world. James urges us "to keep oneself unspotted from the world" (James 1:27). The apostle Paul makes a strong appeal in Romans 12:2, saying, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."
This world is not God's world! Some have such a difficult time grasping the practical ramifications of this concept, perhaps because we think of God as Creator, Owner, and Ruler and marvel at the staggering beauty of what He has made. In that sense it is His world.
Nonetheless, the systems that operate our cultures are not His. The Greek word translated "world" in I John 2:16 is kosmos, which has a moral connotation and means "the world apart from God." William Barclay in his commentary on this verse writes, "To John the world was nothing other than pagan society with its false values and its false gods" (p. 56).
The world's systems generate and sustain our government and politics, entertainment, fashion, religion, business ethics, medicine and health care, culinary tastes, social programs and institutions, education, science and technology, economics, and use of power. The world's systems have formed much of our belief systems and attitudes, and these in turn have shaped our conduct.
These are the things we must overcome. And this world and its systems are so appealing! But God says not to waste our love on them because they have no future! In fact, this world is so bad that other prophecies show the whole thing will be destroyed and replaced when God invokes the restitution of all things (II Peter 3:10-11; Revelation 21:1).
The basic reason all must be destroyed is because at its very foundation is a destroying and antagonistic spirit, Satan the Devil, the god of this world. Henry David Thoreau grasped an important principle when he stated, "An institution is but the lengthened shadow of one man." As Jesus phrases it, "A corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit" (Matthew 7:18). Satan is a destroyer, and his way is at best a bad mixture of good and evil. James confirms this when he asks this rhetorical question, "Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening?" (James 3:11).
John W. Ritenbaugh
This Is Not God's World
Although prior studies on this phenomenon had been done, the church's interest in Nicolaitanism coincided with the breakup and scattering of the church in the early 1990s. Papers on the subject, often linked with ideas about the heresy of Balaam, circulated from hand to hand and across the Internet. One can even argue that these papers' definitions of Nicolaitanism spurred and intensified the scattering of the brethren.
In the main, these papers defined Nicolaitanism as the belief and practice of hierarchical government, the scapegoat for all the church's problems, with an emphasis on tithing and using a paid ministry. This definition derives from the meaning of the word Nicolaos in Greek: "conqueror of the people" (Balaam in Hebrew has a similar meaning). The authors of these papers on Nicolaitanism assumed that, since God names things what they are, the title "Nicolaitan" must therefore refer to a practice of abusive and dictatorial government and administration, which they assumed to be hierarchy. This assumption is based entirely on the authors' emotional reactions to their circumstances at the time—not upon biblical or even logical reasoning.
First, Nicolaos may have nothing to do with Nicolaitan doctrine. Not every name in the Bible is significant spiritually. For instance, Luke means "white," and any spiritual connotation it has to him or his work is pure conjecture. Many biblical names are simple common names within the culture and time in which the person lived.
Second, the meaning of Nicolaos is not necessarily negative. Although its natural connotation is "one who conquers the people," it can have a positive, possessive sense: "the people's conqueror," that is, a champion of the people, one who fights for the people's best interests. It may refer to a tyrant or despot, but it can just as easily speak of a popular hero.
Third, the name has a military association, not a governmental one. It primarily suggests conquering by might and strategy on the field of battle. Granted, such conquerors usually also governed as kings or emperors, but ruling is a separate activity from conquering, occurring as its consequence.
Fourth, this means that Nicolaos nowhere suggests any form of government. Those who believe the word to refer to hierarchy assume that a conqueror would rule as a tyrant or dictator, whether he is called king, emperor, president, chancellor, or first citizen. While this may be the rule, a few historical exceptions (for example, American military-heroes-turned-rulers George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Ulysses Grant, Dwight Eisenhower, etc.) prove this assumption faulty.
Finally, people can be conquered in ways other than "abusive and dictatorial" hierarchy. Socialist democracy in America and Europe has by mostly "benevolent" means cowed millions into a complacent and controllable herd. Populaces have been overcome by trickery, disease, famine, natural disaster, and their own sheer stupidity. Limiting Nicolaitanism to hierarchical government is arbitrary and subjective.
The Bible itself does not define Nicolaitanism. Revelation 2:6 declares, "But this you [the Ephesian church] have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate." Jesus later says to the Pergamos church, "Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate" (verse 15). While these verses provide no definition, they tell us three things:
1. Nicolaitanism is a belief system, like a religion or a philosophy.
2. Nicolaitanism results in ungodly behavior.
3. Christ hates it vehemently.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
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