III.A.6.g Nicolaitan Error as Non-Subordination of Circumcision

Part III  –  Application to Pentecostal Theology

Subpart A  –  The Pentecostal Renewal

Article 6 –  The Pentecostal Second Work as Nicolaitan Error

Section (g) –  The Nicolaitan-Error as  Non-Subordination of Circumcision

 i.     The Universal-Principle that is Pentecost

ii.    The Baptism in the Holy Spirit Not Equivalent to Salvation

iii.   Circumcision as Vital & Yet Subordinated-Principle

iv.   The Proper Orientation to the Baptism in the Holy Spirit; Faith

v.    The Baptism in the Holy Spirit as Justification’s Free Gift

vi.   The Cross as the Principle Nullifying All Others, Including the Principle of Circumcision 

This article may be viewed in video format at the Youtube link below:

Section (g)      Nicolaitan-Error; The Non-Subordination of Circumcision

 i.  The Universal-Principle that is Pentecost

The Azusa Street revivals substantially reintroduced Pentecost to the world after its relative disappearance since apostolic-times.  Up until Azusa there had been little development of Pentecostal-doctrine as the Reformers of the sixteenth-century and their evangelical-successors did not address Pentecost as a normative-experience for the present day.  In fact, neither did the Wesleyans nor those of the Holiness Movement contemplate Pentecost in terms of the universal-principle in which it is expressed in the prophecy of Joel and in the declaration of the apostle Peter:

For the promise is unto you, & to your children, & to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.     Acts 2:39

Pentecost is clearly a universal-redemptive-principle and normative experience for the mystical body of Christ.  Even those of the Holiness Movement that approached upon the teaching of the baptism in the Holy Spirit did not address it in this way, even though scripture clearly presents the pouring forth of God’s Spirit to be just that.[1]

Vital to a doctrinal understanding of Pentecost, is a correct understanding of justification by faith.   For it is by faith in Jesus Christ alone which stands prerequisite to receiving the Holy Spirit.  If this understanding is in any way mitigated or diminished, profound stumbling is bound to occur.  This stumbling appears to be implicated in the “teaching of the Nicolaitans” denounced by Jesus Christ in the letter to the church at Pergamos.  This teaching would seem to represent a skewing of the doctrine of Pentecost in its relation to justification by faith.  If so, this would appear to be the same doctrine that plagued some of the Pentecostal-groups of the early twentieth-century, and which is a stumbling-block for many Spirit-baptized believers and denominations even today.

ii.  The Baptism in the Holy Spirit Not Equivalent to Salvation

That Pentecost constitutes a universal-principle is very easily misinterpreted as an assertion that only those baptized in the Spirit are “saved”.  This misinterpretation of Pentecostal-teaching arises from the very limited-perspective upon the subject given the general disregard and neglect of Pentecost (generally) that exists in the broader Evangelical-community.[2]

Partly to blame for this misinterpretation is the Evangelical-tendency of oversimplification in which  redemption is viewed as a “your-in-or-your-out” proposition that does not contemplate principles of calling, election, seeking God, reprobation, continuance in faith and patience, and the various nuances and kingdom-principles expressed in the Lord’s parables.  Thus when Evangelicals are presented with the concept of Pentecost, it is rejected as innovation.  Given the Evangelical view that we are “saved” via a profession of Christ,[3] what need is there of something in-addition-to that?  But such a view tends toward the negation of practically everything that Jesus taught regarding such things as; having oil in your lamps,[4] persisting after God for His Holy Spirit,[5] having one’s loins girt in preparation of times of the Spirit’s visitation,[6] perseverance in faith and righteousness,[7]etc. These are imperatives which simply cannot be met apart from the Holy Spirit of God.  These are imperatives which Christ has met, has obtained, and has imparted via His own life, and death, and resurrection.

But this is not to say that the baptism-itself constitutes the salvation.  It does not.  Such misconstruction would constitute the reciprocal of the modern Evangelical-error.  But the baptism in the Holy Spirit does constitute the power of God unto salvation, and a principle that is neglected to our own peril.        

iii.  Circumcision as Vital & Yet Subordinated-Principle

Most Jews in Paul’s day had the outward-circumcision, but not the inward-circumcision.  They had not followed the Jerusalem-Jews (as had Paul) into conformity with Jeremiah’s prophecy:

For thus says the Lord to the men of Judah & to Jerusalem, “Break up your fallow ground, and do not sow among thorns..  Circumcise yourselves to the Lord & remove the foreskins of your heart . . .”                             Jer. 4:3-4

The “ground” that requires “breaking up” refers to the condition of our unrepentant-hearts before God.  The unrepentant-heart is too hard to accept the seed of God’s word.  The solution for unrepentance is the circumcision that comes by faith, as this is a part of God’s covenant with Abraham.

Today we accept that the circumcising of one’s anatomy and the keeping of the Mosaic Law is not required and has no value towards salvation.  Less understood is the concept that even the keeping of the moral Law is not the basis of salvation.[8]     But let’s go further still and consider the question of circumcision in the spiritual-sense for which the physical-rite stood-allegory.  Is circumcision in the spiritual-sense an essential of salvation?

The Mosaic-covenant of circumcision stood-in-type for a principle revealed through the Gospel as the work of the Spirit of God upon the heart of the believer.  Paul tells us plainly what the rite of circumcision stood symbol-for;  an internal-operation performed by the Spirit of God:

But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spiritnot by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.                                                                                      Rom 2:29

A significant cause for Pentecostal-stumbling may be found in the discontinuity between justification by faith, and the circumcision-of-heart expressed by Paul.  For in the same context with Paul’s treatise on the spiritual-principle that is circumcision, Paul writes:

“ . . . even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a  gift by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus;  whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith.”                                                                                                  Rom 3:22-25

Paul clearly states that the “gift” of God (which is salvation) is for “all those who believe”.   For God makes “no distinction” in that “all have sinned”.   His reference to salvation as a “gift” implies there is no human merit to be brought to the table whatsoever, because the propitiation is made via “His blood through faith”.   Hear Paul’s words that follow!

For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the Law.   Or is God the God of the Jews only?  Is He not the God of Gentiles also?   Yes, of Gentiles also, since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised by faith is one.                                                    Rom 3:28-30

This is a remarkable statement if extendable to circumcision as a spiritual-principle!  Christiandom would certainly-accept the truth of this principle as it pertains to the physically-circumcised.  However, if the principle holds-valid when extended to those spiritually-circumcised, an evermore profound principle arises –  a principle when-apprehend by the heart forms the unity that empowers the Holy Ghost to move therein.  For who can deny that it is the same principle (ie. the blood of the cross) that justifies both!  Whether we are speaking of the thief on the cross or of the Apostle Paul they both must point to the same source for their redemption.  As well, whether we are speaking of the penitent-addict or the holiest-saint, these must together point to a single-source-justification.

For this reason the cross is that principle nullifying all others, including the principle of circumcision.  And this is why the Lord can make the shocking statement; “the children of the kingdom shall be cast out”.  Not because God prefers the alien over His own people, but because refusal of the alien undermines the very atonement that is their own justification!

This is not to say that circumcision is per se a nullified principle!  It is a true principle!  It is a holy principle!  But it is not a principle that usurps God’s sovereignty represented in the blood of the cross!  The promises of God made to Abraham preceded the covenant of circumcision made with Abraham.  His circumcision was only the sign of the covenant – a token of the more substantial ideal.   And therefore a logical-question arises.

iv.  The Proper Orientation to the Baptism in the Holy Spirit; Faith

In his struggles with the Galatian-believers, Paul writes:

This is the only thing I want to find out from you;  did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by hearing with faith?                             Gal. 3:2

The principle is the same today.  Pentecost is for the sinner. This is not to say that Pentecost is for the sinner content in his sin!  Pentecost is for the sinner upon whom God is about to reveal His redemption – a redemption that involves the cleansing from sin through the blood of the covenant which allows for the advancement of true holiness.  Pentecost is the free gift of God’s Spirit imparted to humanity through the means of faith in the One whose blood purchased humanity from sin and death.  Therefore, the feast may be celebrated by all humanity by means of believing in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ for a full satisfaction of the requirements of a holy God.  The faith that is justifying is sanctifying.  If the root be holy, so are the branches.[9]  Therefore . . .

Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience& our bodies washed with pure water.                                                                                     Heb 10:22

v.  The Baptism in the Holy Spirit as Justification’s Free Gift

The doctrinal-grasp of the baptism in the Holy Spirit entails the doctrinal-grasp of justification by faith.  For it is by faith’s-justification we may receive the Holy Spirit.[10]  This is why the Gentiles could receive so quickly and easily upon nothing more than the personal-visit and impromptu-message of the Gospel from Peter.  Recall what occurred!

While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. & they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.  For they heard them speak with tongues, & magnify God.               Act 10:44-46

There is no mention of any deliverance, attainment, maturation, or perfection that stood condition-precedent to the Gentile-reception of the Holy Spirit.  There was not even the phenomenon that had been experienced in Jerusalem wherein the listeners to Peter had been “pricked in their heart”.[11]  They simply heard the truth, and believed!  The effect of which was to cleanse the conscience, as Peter indicates when later describing that event.  Peter said that God had . . .

 . . .  put no difference between us & them, purifying their hearts by faith.                                                                    Acts 15:9

By so-saying, Peter acknowledged faith itself, as a sanctifying-work, purifying the heart by the knowledge of the atonement for sin made by Christ.  This alone is the condition-precedent to receiving the Holy Ghost.

vi.  The Cross as the Principle Nullifying All Others, Including the Principle of Circumcision 

Notice how the Circumcision itself was forced to keep-silent when they saw God was making no difference between Circumcision and non-Circumcision!

And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.                                                            Acts 10:45

But what if Peter (being a circumcised-Jew and not expecting that God could cleanse the non-circumcised-Gentile) would have objected to this work of God as counterfeit?  God prevented this through a warning in the vision of the great sheet full of unclean animals, wherein God warns Peter:

“What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.”                 Acts 10:15

Peter remembered this warning in light of the Gentiles receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and said-so to Cornelius:

  And he said unto them, “Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.         Acts 10:28

The revelation that God has made a way for the non-circumcised that were not called His people to be gathered unto Himself through faith in Christ is a basic tenet of the Gospel.  Recall that it was the Lord’s own people that spurned Him!

 He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.                  John 1:11

 And what was the result for those invitees of the Lord’s parable who spurned the Spirit’s call beckoning them to partake of his feast?  The Lord declared that . . .

 . . .  none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.       Luke 14:24

 But as to the rabble who have had no former interaction with God, the Lord of the house says:

Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. . . Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.                            Luke 14:21 & 23

The cross of Jesus Christ is the vindication of God’s sovereignty.  The cross is the nullification of any principle standing adverse to God’s ability to freely-receive.

 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one,  & broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in the ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace..                             Eph. 2:14-15

There is none that should understand this principle of justification better than God’s own house!  This is the true Spirit that allows restoration of the unity of the house of Israel.

 For through Him[12] we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.                                                                                     Eph 2:18

 Given the previous verse 11, the term; “we both” refers to Gentile and Jew, ie. “’Uncircumcision’, by the so-called Circumcision’”The principle of justification nullifies distinction between the principle of circumcision and non-circumcision!  Therefore to deny that God should gather us into one through the baptism of the Holy Spirit without respect to prior experience in grace constitutes grievous error!

God will not be denied His right to receive the farthest-alien from His mercy on the principle of faith.  Therefore when Jesus perceived the faith of the centurion, He marveled at his great faith, and declared:

Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.   And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.    But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.                                                                                  Matt. 8:10-12

The Nicolaitan-doctrine cannot be classified as the same error with the Judaizers given that the Nicolaitans erred on a more acutely spiritual-level concerning the meaning of the blood-atonement.  The Nicolaitans erred in failing to sanctify the most holy place of God – a place accessible by faith in the value of that blood-shed in atonement for sin.   Therefore this principle of faith is such as to trump all other considerations in the mind of God.  Faith is the means through which we touch God and through which He communicates His provision for our diseased-spiritual-condition.  Faith is the means through which the sacrifice of Christ is made effectual upon the soul.  Therefore it is faith in the Person and work of Jesus Christ that stands prerequisite for the baptism in His Spirit and nothing more.  Indeed, faith is the only prerequisite of salvation itself, which is the forgiveness of God.

In whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins. –  Col. 1:14

[1] Joel 2:28  “. . . and it will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh.”

[2] Unfortunately this is also the world-view of Pentecostals given the overwhelming influence of Evangelical culture.

[3] ie. without regard for the deeper issues involved in faith and the experiential walking-out thereof.

[4] Matthew 25:3-8

[5] Luke 11:9-13

[6] Luke 12:35

[7] Matthew 10:22

[8] Titus 3:5  Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost.

[9] Romans 11:16

[10] Galatians 3:2

[11] Acts 2:37

[12]Him” being “Christ Jesus” (referenced from v.13)


About Lamp-Stand

I was converted to the faith of Jesus Christ in 1982 at which time I received water baptism and Spirit baptism. In the Spring of 2008 I was led of the Spirit through a process of repentance upon which I had an encounter with Christ that worked a profound change upon my inner being. I became aware that I had been forgiven a great debt of sin. I soon felt the Lord's direction that I close my office that my energies not be divided from the study of doctrine.
This entry was posted in 3A. PENTECOSTAL RENEWAL (Application to Pentecostal Theology) and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s