A History of the Christian Church
Part Three, by Denis Jenkins
compiled by Denis Jenkins
Title A History of the Christian Church
Theme The beginning of the Christian Church
In the first article 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. In the second article we recognised that once the Christian church was set up Satan attacked it in various ways. To read the earlier articles see the previous issues of the on-line magazine.
Growth in Satan's attacks
Truth was further suppressed as the Roman church prohibited the distribution and reading of the Scripture. This policy was adopted by the Roman church for hundreds of years. Thus with the Bible, the detector of error removed, Satan was able to do what he wished in corrupting the truth of the Christian church. It was during this period that the seventh day Sabbath instituted by God was replaced by a worship day that honoured the pagan god of the Sun. Constantine the Roman Emperor did this to overcome the conflict between pagans and Christians.
Eventually the pagan festival day of Sunday became honoured as a divine institution, which it never had been. The Bible Sabbath instituted by God was said to be a relic of Judaism. Thus Satan had succeeded in exalting himself above God in the eyes of men and women, as the church urged them to worship the pope instead of God. This placed them in the hands of cruel men who were directed by the Prince of Evil himself.
With the prohibition of the Scriptures and the power of the church leaders to suppress true worship, the church went through a period of dark ages where very few upheld the banner of truth through a direct communion with God through the Holy Spirit. The beliefs of the church became increasingly pagan. Anyone who opposed the pagan and Christian marriage faced persecution. This led to the Inquisition. The Holy Scriptures were basically unknown by the people and the priests.
During the Dark Ages where the truth of God appeared to be almost extinguished, God had His faithful witnesses who upheld the truth by worshipping the Lord in spirit and truth. These were known as the Waldenses. They were branded as heretics, hunted, killed and defamed.
During this time Britain practised a simple primitive Christianity that upheld the truth of God. The Saxon invasion, together with the Roman church's interest in the British Christians, caused persecution for the Britons. They fled to Scotland. In Ireland, a school was established to train messengers that were eventually to spread the gospel to Scotland, England, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy.
The Waldenses were the first to translate the Scriptures into their native tongue. They preserved the Scriptures as copies were written by hand. In the face of death the Waldenses sent messengers out who sowed the seeds of reformation.
Wycliffe, an educated British scholar, was educated in liberal arts which academically prepared him for the task of early reformation. He could read the ancient languages in which the Scripture was written. He understood the popular themes and ways of society and the Roman church that had moved so far from the truth of Scripture in favour of man-made rules and customs. Wycliffe's discipline learned in attaining his academic status was turned to the study of the Scriptures where he discovered God's plan of salvation rather than salvation taught by the Roman church through indulgences, penance and confession to a priest.
Wycliffe was a chaplain to the King of England. He persuaded the King not to accept the supremacy of the Pope. He also criticised the friars who lived undisciplined lives, and financially sponged off the average person. The Pope had bestowed on these monks the power to hear confessions and to grant pardons. This became the source of great evil. Focused on enhancing their power the friars were so ready to grant absolution that criminals of all types gained protection through them. Criminal activities in Britain increased under their protection.
While the monks exhibited an outward profession of poverty, the wealth of the Friars was constantly increasing. Their luxurious edifices, the plenty which led to gluttony on their tables, and their time spent in luxury and pleasure, made very apparent the comparison of growing poverty in Britain. The Friars continued to maintain their hold on Britain through superstition, and they led the people to believe that adoring the saints, making gifts to the monks, and acknowledging the supremacy of the Pope was all-sufficient for their salvation and a place in heaven. Like the Pharisees of old, the papal leaders made the instruction of God to His people of none effect by their tradition, placing a burden on the peoples instead of grace and peace.
Wycliffe wrote tracts against these practises of Rome, and persuaded the British people to turn away from the deceptions of Rome and to study the Scriptures for themselves.
Rome tried to silence Wycliffe through threats and trials. As an important trial was convening that could have led Wycliffe to the stake, Pope Gregory XI died. Two rival Popes arose from opposite factions. The fight between the Popes allowed Wycliffe to be freed from Rome's accusations and gave him freedom in England to complete his task of reformation.
Wycliffe organised groups of preachers to share the good news of the Gospel throughout England to release the poor from their burden of financial indulgences to Rome. As professor at Oxford, Wycliffe shared the Word of God in the halls of the University.
However, the greatest work of Wycliffe's life was the translation of the Scriptures into the English language. His aim was to allow everyone in England to read the Scriptures in their own native tongue.
Wycliffe taught the distinctive doctrine of Protestantism - "salvation through faith in Christ" and sole infallibility of the Scriptures.
The appearance of the Scriptures brought dismay to the church authorities. They now were facing a power much more powerful than Wycliffe. With Wycliffe's efforts and the distribution of the Scriptures, more than half of the people of England were persuaded to follow God instead of empty tradition.
Rome tried to condemn Wycliffe many times, but failed as the logic of the truth of God convicted the minds of those judging him. Every time Rome attempted to accuse him, God protected him from the ultimate price of being burnt at the stake.
Wycliffe learned through this experience that the bible as interpreted through the Holy Spirit is the only rule of faith.
Wycliffe was a true ambassador for God in breadth of intellect, clearness of thought, firmness to maintain truth, and his boldness to defend it. His Christ-like love and his incorruptible integrity was a prominent feature of this reformer.
After his death, Wycliffe's preachers became more earnest. They converted great numbers in Europe - Kings, Queens, and many important people. Rome, however, attacked these efforts with persecution and burning believers at the stake. Many of Wycliffe's followers, due to the pressure of Rome, turned their backs on this new-found truth, while many others were sentenced to death because of their faithfulness to God.
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