The Overcomers, by Witness Lee


A. Practicing the Works of the Nicolaitans, the Works of the Clergy in the Religious Hierarchy

Protestantism practices the works of the Nicolaitans, the works of the clergy in the religious hierarchy (Rev. 2:6). This is a strong sign of today’s Protestant churches. In the Protestant churches there is a hierarchy with the clergy and the so-called laymen. A small number are clergy, and the majority are laymen. If we practice this, we are not in the recovery.

We have to consider whether or not we have the clergy and the laity in our meetings. We may not have the term clergy, but in actuality we may be building up the clergy. As long as we insist on keeping the system of one man speaking without the proper practice of every member of the church prophesying, we are building up the clergy.

Brother Nee saw the truth concerning the church meeting in mutuality revealed in 1 Corinthians 14 in 1937. His ministry on this is in the book entitled The Normal Christian Church Life. In 1948 he spoke concerning this again in the book entitled Church Affairs. But throughout the years, we did not find a way to replace the system of one man speaking with all of the saints prophesying. In 1984 I purposely went to Taiwan to restudy our situation in the recovery. In that study I was encouraged and strengthened by the Lord to pick up the practice of the church meetings revealed in 1 Corinthians 14.

Eventually, starting from the church in Taipei, we gave up the practice of one man speaking on the Lord’s Day. Now we practice prophesying in the meetings by all the saints. We realize that we cannot do this in very large meetings, so the church in Taipei divided their three thousand attendants into a number of district meetings. Each district meeting has about fifty saints. Today many of the local churches are practicing the prophesying of all of the saints instead of the Lord’s Day message meeting by one speaker.

In Revelation 2:6 the Lord Jesus says clearly that He hates the works of the Nicolaitans, the clergy-laity system (see note 61—Recovery Version). We need to reject anything of this system. All of us should be the functioning members of the Body of Christ. Wherever clergy and laity are, hierarchy is being built up. Such a system changes the nature of the churches in the recovery.

B. Holding the Teaching of Balaam

Protestantism holds the teaching of Balaam, who put a stumbling block before the people of God, teaching people to accept idolatry and commit fornication (Rev. 2:14). Balaam was a Gentile prophet who spoke and taught the word of God for base gain, enticing God’s people into fornication and idolatry (Num. 25:1-3; 31:16).

C. Holding the Teaching of the Nicolaitans

Protestantism also holds the teaching of the Nicolaitans to build up hierarchy and practice the system of clergy. In the seven epistles to the churches, the works of the Nicolaitans are mentioned first (Rev. 2:6). At first there was only the practice of the hierarchy with the clergy and laity. Later this practice became a teaching (v. 15). Today in Protestantism there is such a teaching. People are encouraged to dedicate themselves to the Lord, offering themselves to be preachers. Then they are sent to seminary, and after their graduation they become the clerical class. This is the practice and teaching in Protestantism.

(The Overcomers, Chapter 4, by Witness Lee)