Print This Bible Study


the contents of this page may take a few seconds to load . . . thank you for your patience...



Bible Facts Little Understood by Christians[1]


Doctrines of Balaam & Nicolaitans


Doctrine of Balaam


Jude 11 records “the error of Balaam,” 2 Peter 2:15 records “the way of Balaam,” and Revelation 2:14 records “the doctrine of Balaam.”  All three of these are used in passages referring to Christians entering into a state of affairs within Christendom that not only defiles their high calling but which also dishonors the Lord who purchased their salvation with His own blood.


The error and way of Balaam appear in companion portions of Scripture and would seem to refer basically to the same thing.  The error of Balaam is associated with “reward [profit]” in Jude, and the way of Balaam is associated with the “wages of unrighteousness” in 2 Peter


Thus, the error and way of Balaam have to do with “monetary gain”; and, according to the Old Testament account, monetary gain derived through this means is acquired through one’s willingness to compromise the principles of God and proclaim things contrary to the revealed Word of God (though Balaam was prevented from doing this and could only utter that which was in accord with the revealed Word of God).


The error and way of Balaam can be found in Numbers chapters twenty-two through twenty-four.


Balak, king of the Moabites, hired Balaam to come into his land and pronounce a curse upon the children of Israel.  Balak had seen that which Israel had done to the Amorites; and knowing that this nation would soon be passing through his country, he was afraid because of the exhibited power that Israel exercised through the nation’s God.


Balak knew that the only way Israel could be defeated was through severing this power.  Thus, Balak hired Balaam to come into Moab and pronounce a curse upon the Israelites, incurring God’s wrath upon them in order to ultimately bring about their defeat at the hands of the enemy.


However, once in Moab, on three separate occasions, only blessings proceeded from the lips of Balaam.  Balak was angered by the turn of events and sent Balaam out of Moab to his own country.


The doctrine of Balaam though was different than his error and way.  His doctrine had to do with that part of his teaching that was contrary to the revealed Word of God, and it is seen in Scripture following the account of his error and way.


1)  Past Teaching


Scripture surrounding the doctrine of Balaam and its tragic results is given in Numbers chapter twenty-five:


Now Israel remained in Acacia Grove and the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab.


They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods and the people ate and bowed down to their gods.


So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor and the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel. (Numbers 25:1-3)


The Israelites, after coming into Moab, began to commit fornication with the “women of Moab,” eat meat sacrificed to idols, and bow down and worship the false gods of the Moabites.  In order to put a stop to these sins and stay the hand of God’s judgment upon the entire camp of Israel, Moses was instructed to slay every Israelite who had “joined himself to Baal-peor.”  Because of their sins, twenty-four thousand Israelites perished under God’s judgment.


What caused the Israelites to depart from the one true and living God who had delivered them from Egypt and begin serving false gods and following the idolatrous ways of the Moabites?  The answer is given in Numbers 31:16:


Look, these women caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the LORD in the incident of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD.


As previously seen, Balaam could not curse Israel.  Only beautiful prophecies filled with blessings flowed from his lips when he was called into Moab by Balak.  But Balaam did succeed in leading the Israelites astray through his counsel.  The Israelites, through the counsel of Balaam, were led to commit fornication, eat things sacrificed to idols, and bow down before other gods.  And because of these sins, the judgment of God fell upon His people.


The counsel of Balaam — i.e., “the doctrine of Balaam” — had to do with the sins committed by the Israelites in view of their covenant relationship with God.  Briefly stated, this doctrine had to do with the fact that the Israelites were the covenant people of God, this covenant could not be broken, and consequently the Israelites could sin with immunity.


However, such was not the case.  It was true that the covenant established between God and Israel could not be broken; it was also true that Israel’s position as firstborn could not be changed; but it was not true that Israel could sin with immunity.  God’s wrath was manifested because of the sins of His people, and the thousands of Israelites who succumbed to the counsel of Balaam were overthrown in the wilderness, short of the goal of their calling.


2)  Present Teaching


The doctrine of Balaam is one of the most widely taught doctrines in the Church today.  Christians know — as their counterparts in the church in Pergamos — that they have been saved by grace through faith, and nothing can alter that which has been brought to pass through the birth from above.  They now possess spiritual life, which can never be taken from them; and, because of the unchangeable nature of the life that they presently possess, they reason that they can conduct their lives in any manner which they choose, and it will make no difference.


However, as in the case of the Israelites, so in the case of Christians.  Christians, as the Israelites under Moses, have been saved for a specific, revealed purpose.  Every Christian is enrolled in a race (1 Corinthians 9:24-27); every Christian is engaged in a conflict (Ephesians 6:10-18; 2 Timothy 2:4, 5).  And the goal set before every Christian is to win the race, be victorious in the conflict.


God has made provision for Christians in order that at the end of the race they might say with Paul,


I have fought the good fight [‘I have strained every muscle in the good contest’].  I have finished the race, I have kept the faith:


Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness . . . . (2 Timothy 4:7, 8)


The enemy, Satan, on the other hand, is doing all within his power to bring about defeat in the lives of Christians.  Satan’s main objective in the present warfare is to prevent Christians from qualifying for crowns and thus positions of rulership with Christ in His coming kingdom.


God is presently bringing into existence a new order of sons to replace the order now ruling in the heavens; and the incumbent rulers — Satan and his angels — are doing all within their power to retain their present governmental control over the earth.


The main facet of the doctrine of Balaam that is being promulgated in churches today is the teaching that future blessings and rewards have been set aside for every Christian solely on the basis of Christ’s finished work on Calvary and the Christian’s positional standing “in Christ.”  In this respect, all Christians — regardless of their conduct during the present time — will receive crowns and positions of power and authority with Christ in the kingdom.


However, that which is clearly taught throughout the Word of God is to the contrary.  The Israelites did not sin with immunity, and neither can Christians.  Sin in the camp of Israel resulted in the Israelites being overthrown in the wilderness, short of the goal of their calling.  And it will be no different for Christians.


And I took the crown that was on his head . . . . (2 Samuel 1:10; cf. Revelation 3:11).


Doctrine of the Nicolaitans


Outside of Revelation, chapter two, there is no known sect in Church history (biblical or secular) referred to by the name “Nicolaitans.”  Some early writers tried unsuccessfully to connect this group of individuals with Nicolas of Antioch; and others, following in their steps, try this even today.  However, such a connection cannot be established, which leaves one with a sole method of identification — the meaning of the word itself.


The reference can only be to a sect in the church in Pergamos (known also to those in Ephesus) whose practices and doctrine are self-explained by the term that the Spirit of God used to identify them.  Apart from this means of identification, nothing can be known about the Nicolaitans.


The word “Nicolaitans” is a transliterated, compound word from the Greek text (nikolaites), derived from nike (“a victor,” “a conqueror”) and laos (“people”).  Thus, the word simply means, “to be victorious over the people,” “to conquer the people.”


Using the meaning of the name itself after this fashion, the Nicolaitans would have to be identified as individuals (leaders) in the Church who had subjugated the remaining Christians to their self-imposed authority — individuals comprising a ruling, priestly class (the clergy over the laity), something condemned by Scripture in no uncertain terms.


Authority within the Church (or a local church) must always be based solely upon service.  Those occupying positions of leadership (elders, deacons) must always minister (serve) within this sphere of activity, which is to bear no relationship whatsoever to authority exercised by those in the world (cf. Matthew 20:25-28; 1 Corinthians 16:15, 16).  “Nicolaitanism” is simply a corruption of delegated authority within the Church (or a local church), exercising this authority after a forbidden pattern — after the pattern set forth by those in the world.


Nicolaitanism, being introduced in the message to the church in Ephesus, was apparently in existence very early in Church history; but it would only appear natural that this doctrine coming into full bloom waited for that period covered by the church in Pergamos.


Nicolaitanism patterns itself after the structure set forth in worldly governmental systems; and it was through the actions of Constantine and others in the fourth century Roman Empire, during the period covered by the message to the church in Pergamos, that the way was opened for an already-existing world system in the Church to follow this pattern to a level heretofore unattained.  Once the union between Church and state had been established, worldly practices in the Church could only become commonplace.


Since the Church has never really separated itself from the position in which it began to assume during the days of Constantine, one can only expect to find Christendom saturated with the “doctrine of the Nicolaitans” from the fourth century right on into the present day and time.  In fact, viewing the matter from this perspective, while looking upon it within the framework of the leavening process in Matthew 13:33, the doctrine of the Nicolaitans would have to be considered a false teaching that would undoubtedly increase with time; and this would make it even more prominent in the Church today, near the end of the dispensation, than at any other time in history.


The leaven that the woman placed in the three measures of meal can only progressively continue its deteriorating work throughout the dispensation.  And this leaven can only do its most damaging work near the end of the dispensation, during the time in which we presently live.


The “doctrine of Balaam,” viewed within the framework of the same perspective and same leavening process, would have to be looked upon after an identical fashion in relation to time.  This is a doctrine that will undoubtedly, as the “doctrine of the Nicolaitans,” be more widely proclaimed in the latter days than at any other time in the history of the Church.  And the “doctrine of Balaam” will, in many instances, be proclaimed by those holding to the “doctrine of the Nicolaitans.”


Such can only be the ever-increasing, degenerate state of teaching emanating from the lukewarm Laodicean Church during the closing years of the present dispensation, immediately preceding Christ’s return for the Church.



[1] Taken from Arlen L. Chitwood’s book, Judgment Seat of Christ, The Lamp Broadcast, Inc., pp. 109-115