A History of the Christian Church
Part Two, by Denis Jenkins
compiled by Denis Jenkins
Title A History of the Christian Church
Theme The beginning of the Christian Church
This is Part 2 in the series. Part 1 can be found at the following link --> A History of the Christian Church - Part One
In the first article which was in the last issue, we looked at God's perfect creation of this world, and how it was spoiled when the battle between God and Satan was moved to this earth. Then we recognised that this battle was still continuing in the time of Christ.
It can only be expected that the history of the Christian Church is a rocky one as the powers of evil seek to sabotage the way God wishes His people to go. It is thus logical that Satan will set up diversions and counterfeits. He will endeavour to introduce attitudes into church situations that are inherently evil, rather than those that maintain the attributes of the character of God. Satan is able to do this when members of God's church fail to accept the Holy Spirit as an hour-by-hour reality in their lives. God's Spirit is the only weapon against the powers of darkness. Individuals without constant connection with God's Spirit have the form of godliness but do not have the power of godliness. It is these people that Satan can use to sabotage God's church.
For this reason, throughout history God has raised spiritual leaders who have uplifted Christ. Their followers have been drawn to the Christ thus magnified. However when the leader passed on, often instead of worshipping Christ who was promoted by this leader, the followers have idolised and followed the leader him/herself.
In Scripture, God tells us that He reveals His truth to us progressively. Jesus said to His disciples, "I would like to tell you a lot of things, but you will not be able to bear it. I give you the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to lead you progressively into truth." (paraphrase of John 16:12-13) Satan's way of limiting God's revelation to His people is to take the focus away from Christ, place it on the now-deceased leader, and restrict the revealed knowledge of God to that leader's understanding.
It is for this reason that the Christian Church has taken many and diverse routes, and why there has been a proliferation of churches and denominations who appear at times to take upon themselves the attributes of Satan in arguments, bigotry and dissension against one another. This has been caused by many who have once accepted God and His Spirit, but their love for God has grown cold. They continue believing that they are following God while they only have the form of godliness. They do not possess God's power, but instead have been overcome by the power of Satan. What greater counterfeit can there be than people who look like God's people but who have long since abandoned the Holy Spirit to be led instead by the spirit of the evil one?
On an individual basis, counterfeit lives are dotted through every congregation. This highlights the need for every member of the Christian Church to have a personal connection with the Holy Spirit in order to be continually led into truth.
As members in various church groups have been led away from the teaching of the Holy Spirit by idolising a leader that God had raised up, those churches have lost the mandate for progressive revelation. God then raises another leader to lead humankind further in the revelation of His character and His will. However, as each leader dies, after some time so does the new group's capacity for on-going progressive revelation.
It was not long after Jesus returned to His Father that the new Christian Church began to idolise its leaders. Some would say they were the followers of Paul, others would claim that they followed Appolos. Already they were beginning to worship their leaders rather than claiming the power of the Holy Spirit through which God could lead them into truth. As the membership of the church turned their attention away from God, the church group would flounder and walk away from the path of truth that can only be led by the Spirit.
After the disciples and apostles who were near to Christ's time passed on, the Christian Church has taken many and varied pathways. As the original members passed on, the new members tended to dilute the principles of the church with popular notions of worship in various ways. and so the Christian Church has followed an extremely wobbly and varied path as men and women have moved towards God and succeeding generations have moved away from God.
As the Christian Church took on its diverse forms where truth and error have been mingled, God has always had His people who put more emphasis in progressive revelation through a direct communion with God through the Spirit. Others have paid more focus on the earthly fellowship and its structure, than focusing on God. As a fellowship tends towards worshiping the structure of the organization, this is a sign that God is becoming a secondary focus, and the fellowship is fast becoming of limited usefulness for being used as a witness for God.
While the Christian Church experienced its internal problems through the weakness of human flesh, the power of Satan raged against Christ through His followers. Those engaged in pagan faiths began to see that if the Gospel was going to be allowed to exist unopposed, pagan temples and altars would be swept away.
The early Christian church was fragmented through persecution. Christians were stripped of possessions and driven from their homes.
Persecution that began under Nero around the time of Paul, continued for centuries. Christians were falsely accused of crimes which they had not done.. They were thrown to lions for public entertainment. Christ's followers were hunted like beasts for centuries. They had to live in caves and they dug out underground in order to escape torture and torment. Although persecution was fierce, the persecuted often convinced the onlookers of the truth of the convictions. This caused many to investigate why Christ's followers would go to their death. Surely such a thing that is so valuable that people die for must be worth having. Therefore as Christians went to their death through persecution, thousands more joined the ranks. Satan could see that force and persecution was not discouraging followers, but instead was encouraging them.
It was then that Satan decided to plant himself within the Christian Church. This was achieved by joining pagan worship with Christian principles. If Satan could not discourage Christ's followers from worshipping Christ, Satan was focused on deceiving them. Some rejected the compromise, others accepted it as a means of leading pagan worshippers to a full conversion. In this way Satan was able to corrupt the minds of those in the Christian church and lead people away from truth through their communion with the Spirit. However, God has always had His people who wish to follow His principles and goals in their life. There have also been others who shun the plain truth and wish to salve their conscience by having the form of godliness, deceiving themselves that they are following God's will.
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