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An Identity Crisis in the Evangelical Church by Greg Gordon

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For many Christians in our day, the concept of Christianity begins with the reformation period of the 1500’s, often with little desired to be known about the church before that time. And so, like a vessel adrift in the sea of modern individualism, we have in many ways strayed from the original course marked out for us by the Apostles of the Lamb.

An Identity Crisis

This identity crisis has been manifesting itself in very strong and even unnecessary divisions forming in the body of Christ. And, though true disciples of the Lord must of necessity refuse what is heretical, many of these divisions are due to ignorance and misunderstanding, and have been brought about by the deceptive wiles of the Enemy of our souls.

Another symptom of this identity crisis is the continual inventing of new doctrines and ideas. If there is no original belief or foundational understanding, then truth is essentially up to everyone’s own private interpretation of Scripture. In our day, there seem to be almost as many interpretations of Scripture as there are people reading those same Scriptures—along with an endless questioning and re-questioning of everything. With currently over 42,000 Christian denominations, the rugged individualism of Western thought has allowed an unprecedented explosion of everyone doing what is right in their own eyes.

Yet, in the midst of the wilderness of this modern quandary there is a renewed hunger and thirst for Christianity in its purest form. Many are asking questions such as, “What did the original, early disciples of the Lord Jesus believe?”and, “How did they worship?

Meet St. Clement

Many of us would love have been given the chance to sit down with the Apostle Peter, or have a meal with Paul the Apostle. St. Clement may have done both!
Born in AD 35 and ending his earthly journey in AD 99, Clement was contemporary with the twelve Apostles.

Paul the Apostle mentions Clement in his Epistle as a co-worker:
“I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.”

Early Church Fathers Origen, Eusebius, Epiphanius, and Jerome, amongst others, hold to the view that this is a referral to St. Clement in the Scriptures. What an exciting thing to know that this name “Clement” now carries much more significance in our Bibles, he having been a co-worker with the Apostle Paul. Not only this, but he also went on to become to the bishop of Rome.


Connecting The Dots

For much of Church history the writings of the early Christians were available and the traditions of the Apostles and proper interpretation of the Scriptures were passed on. Since the reformation times unfortunately there was a divorcing of the historic interpretation of many practices of the Church and the interpretation of each reformer was more important. Of course there were lost doctrines that needed to be re-emphasized such as justification by faith. But many historic doctrines and beliefs were minimized at the same time.

Not only a minimizing of doctrines was occurring but also a great confusion ensuing where each reformer had his own viewpoint. Some stayed very close to the early historic church such as Thomas crammer in the starting of the Anglican Church. But most reformers decided the Church councils and decisions made in the past did not matter and they would re-find all truth themselves with the Scriptures in hand. This sounds good at first glance but when each person saying that comes up with a different interpretation of what the Scripture verse means then we have more confusion than clarity.

A way for us to minimize this confusion and muddying of the waters is to connect the dots from the first century Apostles in the Scriptures to the second century bishops and leaders in the Church who were established. St. Clement who we highlighted above was not only contemporary with the Apostles but discipled by them and ordained through their choosing as the bishop in Rome.


A Needed Study

It is of conviction that I believe evangelicals need to make a study of these early Christian leaders and see how the faith was passed on faithfully to the next generation. It is through this desire that I have compiled 3 books being released with samples of the writings of Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, and Polycarp of Symrna. All of these men were leaders in the Church, knew the Apostles and were ordained with their blessed in passing on the faith to the next generation. We can read their letters and I believe it will help give some clarity to Scriptures and the faith we hold precious in Jesus Christ. The first in the Early Church Father series on St Clement has been published and it can be read and downloaded freely: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07KB56X7R

Enter the world of first century Christianity, hear the heart of an early Christian leader. You might be surprised and also blessed in what you read. The Lord bless you.
 
Active


For many Christians in our day, the concept of Christianity begins with the reformation period of the 1500’s, often with little desired to be known about the church before that time. And so, like a vessel adrift in the sea of modern individualism, we have in many ways strayed from the original course marked out for us by the Apostles of the Lamb.

An Identity Crisis

This identity crisis has been manifesting itself in very strong and even unnecessary divisions forming in the body of Christ. And, though true disciples of the Lord must of necessity refuse what is heretical, many of these divisions are due to ignorance and misunderstanding, and have been brought about by the deceptive wiles of the Enemy of our souls.

Another symptom of this identity crisis is the continual inventing of new doctrines and ideas. If there is no original belief or foundational understanding, then truth is essentially up to everyone’s own private interpretation of Scripture. In our day, there seem to be almost as many interpretations of Scripture as there are people reading those same Scriptures—along with an endless questioning and re-questioning of everything. With currently over 42,000 Christian denominations, the rugged individualism of Western thought has allowed an unprecedented explosion of everyone doing what is right in their own eyes.

Yet, in the midst of the wilderness of this modern quandary there is a renewed hunger and thirst for Christianity in its purest form. Many are asking questions such as, “What did the original, early disciples of the Lord Jesus believe?”and, “How did they worship?

Meet St. Clement

Many of us would love have been given the chance to sit down with the Apostle Peter, or have a meal with Paul the Apostle. St. Clement may have done both!
Born in AD 35 and ending his earthly journey in AD 99, Clement was contemporary with the twelve Apostles.

Paul the Apostle mentions Clement in his Epistle as a co-worker:
“I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.”

Early Church Fathers Origen, Eusebius, Epiphanius, and Jerome, amongst others, hold to the view that this is a referral to St. Clement in the Scriptures. What an exciting thing to know that this name “Clement” now carries much more significance in our Bibles, he having been a co-worker with the Apostle Paul. Not only this, but he also went on to become to the bishop of Rome.


Connecting The Dots

For much of Church history the writings of the early Christians were available and the traditions of the Apostles and proper interpretation of the Scriptures were passed on. Since the reformation times unfortunately there was a divorcing of the historic interpretation of many practices of the Church and the interpretation of each reformer was more important. Of course there were lost doctrines that needed to be re-emphasized such as justification by faith. But many historic doctrines and beliefs were minimized at the same time.

Not only a minimizing of doctrines was occurring but also a great confusion ensuing where each reformer had his own viewpoint. Some stayed very close to the early historic church such as Thomas crammer in the starting of the Anglican Church. But most reformers decided the Church councils and decisions made in the past did not matter and they would re-find all truth themselves with the Scriptures in hand. This sounds good at first glance but when each person saying that comes up with a different interpretation of what the Scripture verse means then we have more confusion than clarity.

A way for us to minimize this confusion and muddying of the waters is to connect the dots from the first century Apostles in the Scriptures to the second century bishops and leaders in the Church who were established. St. Clement who we highlighted above was not only contemporary with the Apostles but discipled by them and ordained through their choosing as the bishop in Rome.


A Needed Study

It is of conviction that I believe evangelicals need to make a study of these early Christian leaders and see how the faith was passed on faithfully to the next generation. It is through this desire that I have compiled 3 books being released with samples of the writings of Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, and Polycarp of Symrna. All of these men were leaders in the Church, knew the Apostles and were ordained with their blessed in passing on the faith to the next generation. We can read their letters and I believe it will help give some clarity to Scriptures and the faith we hold precious in Jesus Christ. The first in the Early Church Father series on St Clement has been published and it can be read and downloaded freely: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07KB56X7R

Enter the world of first century Christianity, hear the heart of an early Christian leader. You might be surprised and also blessed in what you read. The Lord bless you.
Several contentions can be raised here;

#1 Clement in Paul's epistle as per Philippians 4:3 may not be the same Clement of the bishop of Rome.

#2. The bishop of Rome aka Clement 1 was a covetous bishop whom apparently began the practice of churches paying tribute to the church at Rome. Clement 1 expounded on Paul's order to all the churches of their charity of the Corinthians and other churches in their boast of giving support to the missionaries in the field by demanding that they give that portion to those that Clement 1 sends from Rome to collect. In Clement's epistle, he refers to the church's jealousy and if you discern with Him, you can see why the church at Corinth were not co operating with Clement's order to give to the church at Rome for why Clement 1 saw it as detestable and unholy sedition.

Clement tried to play on what they have always been doing ( which was giving to support missionaries ) as if by not complying to give to the church at Rome was somehow the opposite of what they have been doing.

First Clement To the Corinthians

So ....

#3. If Clement 1 is Paul's Clement, he was no longer abiding in Him & His words, let alone following Paul's example in servant leadership since Clement was seeking to be served; and hardly following Paul's original order to set aside portion for missionaries in the field; NOT for giving to another church which the church at Rome as seeing it as tribute and still do to this day... somewhat.
 
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Member
Several contentions can be raised here;

#1 Clement in Paul's epistle as per Philippians 4:3 may not be the same Clement of the bishop of Rome.

#2. The bishop of Rome aka Clement 1 was a covetous bishop whom apparently began the practice of churches paying tribute to the church at Rome. Clement 1 expounded on Paul's order to all the churches of their charity of the Corinthians and other churches in their boast of giving support to the missionaries in the field by demanding that they give that portion to those that Clement 1 sends from Rome to collect. In Clement's epistle, he refers to the church's jealousy and if you discern with Him, you can see why the church at Corinth were not co operating with Clement's order to give to the church at Rome for why Clement 1 saw it as detestable and unholy sedition.

Clement tried to play on what they have always been doing ( which was giving to support missionaries ) as if by not complying to give to the church at Rome was somehow the opposite of what they have been doing.

First Clement To the Corinthians

So ....

#3. If Clement 1 is Paul's Clement, he was no longer abiding in Him & His words, let alone following Paul's example in servant leadership since Clement was seeking to be served; and hardly following Paul's original order to set aside portion for missionaries in the field; NOT for giving to another church which the church at Rome as seeing it as tribute and still do to this day... somewhat.
Thank you for your great comments and thoughts. I do think we can look at Clements writing to the Corinthians differently. The Church there had many issues with submission to authority and in Clements day did at some point have leadership established but then deposed them. Clement as a authority figure was pleading with them not to do this and repent.

I did not read that he was demanding his rule over them as the bishop in Rome, that is inference and adding to what he was doing.

Just as the Apostle Paul sent Timothy to establish leadership in Churches, so other bishops (apostles) had this right and responsibility as God opened doors.

Your thought towards him being covetousness is not founded, please provide exact quotes and we can look at the context to figure it out.
 
Active
Thank you for your great comments and thoughts. I do think we can look at Clements writing to the Corinthians differently. The Church there had many issues with submission to authority and in Clements day did at some point have leadership established but then deposed them. Clement as a authority figure was pleading with them not to do this and repent.

I did not read that he was demanding his rule over them as the bishop in Rome, that is inference and adding to what he was doing.

Just as the Apostle Paul sent Timothy to establish leadership in Churches, so other bishops (apostles) had this right and responsibility as God opened doors.

Your thought towards him being covetousness is not founded, please provide exact quotes and we can look at the context to figure it out.
From this link below:

First Clement: Clement of Rome

Note how the beginning of the epistles starts; not from Clement personally but as if representing the church at Rome.

The Church of God which sojourneth in Rome to the Church of God which
sojourneth in Corinth, to them which are called and sanctified by the
will of God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Then it dives into what is considered in relation to that Church of God at Rome... referring to what they were famous for as a church ( which is their charity in supporting missionaries ) from which they are charged as sedition and about face in giving.

By reason of the sudden and repeated calamities and reverses which
are befalling us, brethren, we consider that we have been somewhat
tardy in giving heed to the matters of dispute that have arisen among
you, dearly beloved, and to the detestable and unholy sedition, so
alien and strange to the elect of God, which a few headstrong and
self-willed persons have kindled to such a pitch of madness that your
name, once revered and renowned and lovely in the sight of all men,
hath been greatly reviled.

So Clement goes back to buttering them up , playing on their former respect to elders and those in authority among them in working towards the authority at the Church of God at Rome as if their approval was there in the beginning....

1Clem 1:2
For who that had sojourned among you did not approve your most
virtuous and steadfast faith? Who did not admire your sober and
forbearing piety in Christ? Who did not publish abroad your
magnificent disposition of hospitality? Who did not congratulate you
on your perfect and sound knowledge?


1Clem 1:3
For ye did all things without respect of persons, and ye walked after
the ordinances of God, submitting yourselves to your rulers and
rendering to the older men among you the honor which is their due.

Then Clement touched on their past charity;

1Clem 2:1
And ye were all lowly in mind and free from arrogance, yielding
rather than claiming submission, more glad to give than to
receive
, and content with the provisions which God supplieth. And
giving heed unto His words, ye laid them up diligently in your
hearts, and His sufferings were before your eyes.


1Clem 2:2
Thus a profound and rich peace was given to all, and an insatiable
desire of doing good

Clement goes on for a while laying the foundation for his covetousness with flattery to the Corinthians until...he turns to cite their reversal for defying the authority which I see as towards the Church of God at Rome for why Clement is writing.

1Clem 3:1
All glory and enlargement was given unto you, and that was fulfilled
which is written My beloved ate and drank and was enlarged and
waxed fat and kicked.



1Clem 3:2
Hence come jealousy and envy, strife and sedition, persecution and
tumult, war and captivity.


1Clem 3:3
So men were stirred up, the mean against the honorable, the ill
reputed against the highly reputed, the foolish against the wise, the
young against the elder.

Clement makes several references to offerings which is led into a rant about the church's jealousy which can be seen as being levied against the Church at Rome indirectly below..

1Clem 5:2
By reason of jealousy and envy the greatest and most righteous
pillars of the Church were persecuted, and contended even unto death.

Hinting next what could overthrow the Church at Rome seemingly.

1Clem 6:4
Jealousy and strife have overthrown great cities and uprooted great
nations.

Then he went into faith and hospitality, all leading to a long winded rant to this conclusion;

1Clem 14:1
Therefore it is right and proper, brethren, that we should be
obedient unto God, rather than follow those who in arrogance and
unruliness have set themselves up as leaders in abominable jealousy.

1Clem 14:2
For we shall bring upon us no common harm, but rather great peril, if
we surrender ourselves recklessly to the purposes of men who launch
out into strife and seditions, so as to estrange us from that which
is right.


1Clem 14:3
Let us be good one towards another according to the compassion and
sweetness of Him that made us....

So Clement wants submission and charity given to those he had sent to collect that which he believes is their right to that portion of the bounty set aside for giving to missionaries of what Paul had set up as an order for all churches to follow.

He attempts to build his case again with invalid references for examples as if that will put them in the mindset of submitting to the his authority to give to the Church at Rome.

1Clem 19:1
The humility therefore and the submissiveness of so many and so
great men, who have thus obtained a good report, hath through
obedience made better not only us but also the generations which were
before us, even them that received His oracles in fear and truth.

1Clem 19:2
Seeing then that we have been partakers of many great and glorious
doings, let us hasten to return unto the goal of peace which hath
been handed down to us from the beginning, and let us look
steadfastly unto the Father and Maker of the whole world, and cleave
unto His splendid and excellent gifts of peace and benefits.

In another place; in citing why he and those that he sends deserve what God has provided in their bounty, adding to His words for the lack of submission and hospitality & charity towards them.

1Clem 35:4
Let us therefore contend, that we may be found in the number of those
that patiently await Him, to the end that we may be partakers of His
promised gifts.

1Clem 35:5
But how shall this be, dearly beloved? If our mind be fixed through
faith towards God; if we seek out those things which are well
pleasing and acceptable unto Him; if we accomplish such things as
beseem His faultless will, and follow the way of truth, casting off
from ourselves all unrighteousness and iniquity, covetousness,
strifes, malignities and deceits, whisperings and backbitings, hatred
of God, pride and arrogance, vainglory and inhospitality.

1Clem 35:6
For they that do these things are hateful to God; and not only they
that do them, but they also that consent unto them.

Clement goes on and on applying invalid references from every conceivable angle to get the Corinthians to not deny the Church of God at Rome of their right to that portion of the bounty the church collect to supports missionaries.

1Clem 40:2
Now the offerings and ministrations He commanded to be performed with
care, and not to be done rashly or in disorder, but at fixed times
and seasons.

So I am reading Clement as trying to con the Church at Corinth into submitting to the authority of the Church of God at Rome in sharing part of their offerings at fixed time and intervals.

I could go on, but when you see the forest for all the trees, that is what Clement is writing this epistle for to the church at Corinth.
 
Member
"Clement goes on for a while laying the foundation for his covetousness with flattery to the Corinthians until...he turns to cite their reversal for defying the authority which I see as towards the Church of God at Rome for why Clement is writing."

I think you are looking into this with your speculations way too much. Yes, they were opposing "Apostles" and "Bishops" who were pillars of the faith. The moral of the Corinthian problem is they never learnt to submit to authority, they saw themselves more important in their own eyes. Even though for a time leaders did come between Paul the Apostles rebukes and the Clement letter, they never really submitted to authority in their hearts.

It is a lesson to us today, let us humble ourselves and not seek pride over those pillars of the faith and even feel our own private interpretation of Scripture is more important .
 
Active
"Clement goes on for a while laying the foundation for his covetousness with flattery to the Corinthians until...he turns to cite their reversal for defying the authority which I see as towards the Church of God at Rome for why Clement is writing."

I think you are looking into this with your speculations way too much. Yes, they were opposing "Apostles" and "Bishops" who were pillars of the faith. The moral of the Corinthian problem is they never learnt to submit to authority, they saw themselves more important in their own eyes. Even though for a time leaders did come between Paul the Apostles rebukes and the Clement letter, they never really submitted to authority in their hearts.

It is a lesson to us today, let us humble ourselves and not seek pride over those pillars of the faith and even feel our own private interpretation of Scripture is more important .
Let me goes to those points where Clement is trying to apply his misappropriation of scripture to the Corinth to submit and give the appointed rightful charity to them at regular intervals for which is the cause for the sedition and "jealousy" of that church.

1Clem 14:2
For we shall bring upon us no common harm, but rather great peril, if
we surrender ourselves recklessly to the purposes of men who launch
out into strife and seditions, so as to estrange us from that which
is right.


1Clem 35:4
Let us therefore contend, that we may be found in the number of those
that patiently await Him, to the end that we may be partakers of His
promised gifts.


1Clem 40:2
Now the offerings and ministrations He commanded to be performed with
care, and not to be done rashly or in disorder, but at fixed times
and seasons.


I do not consider the writings of Clement 1 as scripture. If anything, he is the one that started that nonsense of the doctrine of the Nicoalaitanes where churches were to submit to a higher authority outside the local assembly rather than the word of God as Christ is the Head of every believer and thus every local assembly.
 
Member
"I do not consider the writings of Clement 1 as scripture. If anything, he is the one that started that nonsense of the doctrine of the Nicoalaitanes where churches were to submit to a higher authority outside the local assembly rather than the word of God as Christ is the Head of every believer and thus every local assembly."


OK now you are expressing what is the root of the problem you feel. I wrote a short article you might want to read on The Doctrine Of The Nicolaitans. Unfortunately this belief that the truth and true gospel was lost after the death or during the end of the life of the Apostle John is the seed-bed for all the cults and false teachings out there right now. I encourage you to check out that short article I wrote.

It also comes down to submission to authority that many have a hard time with because of past bad experiences with Christian authorities.
 
Active
"I do not consider the writings of Clement 1 as scripture. If anything, he is the one that started that nonsense of the doctrine of the Nicoalaitanes where churches were to submit to a higher authority outside the local assembly rather than the word of God as Christ is the Head of every believer and thus every local assembly."

OK now you are expressing what is the root of the problem you feel. I wrote a short article you might want to read on The Doctrine Of The Nicolaitans. Unfortunately this belief that the truth and true gospel was lost after the death or during the end of the life of the Apostle John is the seed-bed for all the cults and false teachings out there right now. I encourage you to check out that short article I wrote.

It also comes down to submission to authority that many have a hard time with because of past bad experiences with Christian authorities.
Thank you for sharing your sermon on the doctrines of the Nicolaitanes. I am aware of the deeds of the Nicolaitanes being how you described them to be, but the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes is different from the deeds. It should not be hard to determine what that is when the name Nicolaitanes gives the clue; conquest of the laity.

1 Timothy 4:13 Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. 14 Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.

I can understand how the presbytery mentioned here can be confused with the Presbytery ruling over a denominational string of churches, but authority was always within that assembly as being submissive to the Word of God as Christ is the Head.

To illustrate the evil of this conquest of the laity, The Presbyerty that once ruled over the former Presbytery over my local church had become social friendly in the sense that it compromised with sexual immorality wherein eventually, they began to accept homosexual in a pastoral position. The problem here is that no local church have a say against this change in the Presbytery. The Majority of those in church do not know who makes up their Presbytery, let alone how they got those position. They do not have the means to excommunicate anyone in that Presbytery, let alone the Presbytery itself. A private arrangment was made as long as that church was quiet about it in changing out its Presbytery with a Biblical one. But the evil remains. There is nothing to prevent the Biblical one to change it stune and certainly nothing the local church can do to prevent it when they do not have power to elect nor remove those in the Presbytery; let alone correct them by the scripture.

So that is why I read that scripture of the Presbytery as being within the church; not outside the church. With the Presbytery within the church, they can be held accountable to the Word of God by the assembly.

I believe the Nicene Council was unBiblical and being ecumenical in nature which is the fruit of the false prophet that Jesus warned about in coming into the churches as gathering grapes of thorns and figs of thistles, one can see that by introducing the modified Nicene creed of 325 A. D. in 381 A.D., they had broadened the way in the worship place by including the worship of the Holy Spirit with the Father & the Son, disregarding scripture of John 14:6 KJV & John 5:22-23 KJV & Philippians 2:5-13 KJV and giving credit and glory of the title "Giver of Life" to the Holy Spirit due to errant manuscripts that had capitalized the "s " in spirit in John 6:63 & 2 Corinthians 3:6 when manuscripts from Antioch did not, because all manuscripts says Jesus is the bread of life that gives life to the world ( John 3:30-35 KJV ) and scripture therefore is to point readers and seekers to go to Jesus for life ( John 5:39-40 KJV ).

That is how error is introduced and that was what Jesus was warning about in Matthew 7:13-27 KJV & Luke 13:24-30 KJV where many believers will be led astray and be left behind at the pre great trib rapture event for being workers of iniquity. In Matthew 7:13-27 , with the focus on the Holy Spirit in worship, many can and has fallen victims to seducing spirits, making them think te Holy Spirit fell on them bringing tongues & even making them fall down. Luke 13:24-30 warns against the iniquity of the Mass or even believing His Presence is in the worship place during communion as they eat and drink in His Presence when outside of us is where the spirit of the antichrist is in the worship place whereas the examination of our fath puts Him in us forever so we can know that spirit in the worship place ( 1 John 4:4 KJV ) and that spirit coming over us apart from salvation IS NOT the Holy Spirit ( 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15 KJV & 2 Corinthians 11:3-4 KJV & 2 Corinthians 13:5 KJV ) These ecumenical creeds that meant to keep out heresy, instead introduced heresy, all pointing to the Catholic Church which they use for why Protestants should not to not have an agreement with them that worship idols.

2 Corinthians 6:14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. 18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

Most churches are started by the Christian members, and somehow or another as time goes on, that church property got owned by the outside Presbytery. Go figure.

That is what happens when outside authority are not subjected by the local assembly to the word of God as Christ being the Head of the Church, the body of believers. That is how the deeds of the Nicolaitanes gets in to the churches by the doctrines of the Nicolaitanes.

 

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