This article is intended to be read and used by genuine Bible-believing Christians who have been born-again unto new life by the precious blood of our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. The hope of the author is that it will be a user-friendly guide to our history, which begins in the Garden of Eden.
God created the whole earth as a setting for man who is made for God’s pleasure and glory (1Ch 16:28, Jn 17:10, Re 4:11). While we typically think of Christian history as beginning with the establishment of the first church at Jerusalem (Ac 2:42-47), the concept of an assembly of people called of God, dates to the first family.
The conflict experienced by that first family is one that is rife with controversy, where the woman is beguiled by the serpent and the seed of man and the seed of Satan engage in a horrible ambition of self-promotion. It is one where the man in God’s own image looses eternal life for his entire seed line. Then, through depravity’s self-righteousness, Cain becomes a taker rather than a giver, continuing to infect the entire race of man with his viral disease. No family name, no nation of peoples, no tribes, no one is immune to its destruction.
The story of man would end here except for the Deliverer who can save mankind from damnation. A new story begins with the promised the holy seed of the Father: The Only Begotten Son of God: Jesus Christ the Righteous.
This underlying theme in history, this conflict regarding the congregations of people who are called by the name of God is described in the First Epistle of Saint John chapter two, verses 18-20: “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.” Notice that there are two opposing sides in this spiritual conflict: two Kingdoms that are at war: The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Antichrist. One day the Son of God shall establish his righteous kingdom forever and there shall be no more world conflict, “so shall we ever be with the Lord”.
You must be born into God’s Kingdom by receiving Christ’s death and sacrifice for your sin, then there can be peace and a clear pathway (Jn 1:12, 1Jn 5:12). If you are one of these blood-bought sons of God, then you are “holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling”. Here is the question for you: Are you with “US” or are you with “THEM”? “Who is on the Lord’s side?” (Ex 32:26). Judge yourself after seeing and considering some important facts of history. Following THE FAITHFUL BRETHREN through history and seeing their sacrifices will challenge your faith and increase your awareness of who you are.
Introduction - In The Beginning
The Bible opens with this statement: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” (Ge 1:1) “And God said, Let us make man in our image...” (Ge 1:26) God Almighty desired to have fellowship with the men he created. His only requirement was mutual love (Dt 6:5, Mt:22:37). At the first moment of opportunity Satan, the “accuser of the brethren”, began to divide what God hath joined together (Ge 2:24, Mt 19:6) and from that time, men have been divided into two camps: the camp of Christ and the camp of Antichrist (Jn 8:38-45). When it comes to the Christian churches, there are really only two possibilities: either they are true disciples of Christ or they are following some other way (Jn 10:1).
Undoubtedly, every Christian church and every professing Christian would say that they are on the Lord’s side or that they are truly Disciples of Christ. However, this cannot be true because there are too many contradictions in Christianity today. An honest self-examination is in order: “Consider your ways.” (Hag 1:5-9)
Two sides in this spiritual conflict have been revealed in scripture from the beginning and can be seen in the following examples: Light and darkness, Adam and the Serpent, Cain and Able, Noah and the world, Abraham and Lot, Sarah and Hagar, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Moses and Pharaoh, Korah and Aaron, The carcasses in the wilderness and the children of victory, Saul and David, Nehemiah and Sanballat, true prophets and false prophets, Ezekiel and Jaazaniah, Christ and Antichrist, the strait gate and the wide gate, The Good Shepherd and the Hireling, sheep and wolves, strange women and virtuous women, life and death, carnal and spiritual, faith and works, law and grace, power of flesh and power of the Holy Ghost, Mystery Babylon and New Jerusalem…
Defining a Church
Today and throughout history are many opinions about what a “church” is. As in all our studies and in harmony with all true believers of history, we must yield to the scripture for the correct definition. The word “ecclesia” is the Greek word translated in the New Testament as “church”. The word literally means “called-out assembly” or “congregation of people”. The word is used in reference to Christ’s disciples who have been “called out” to “assemble” and carry on his work (Colossians 1:2). Churches are visible, local congregations of people, not to be confused with the whole “body of Christ” or all the believers on the earth. Matthew 16:18-19 identifies several key truths regarding his churches:
- A church is built by Christ (“I will build”).
- A church is built upon Christ (“upon this rock”). The “rock” is Jesus Christ: 1Co 3:11; 10:4; Ep 2:20; 1Pt 2:6.
- Churches did not exist until Jesus Christ came.
- A church belongs to Christ (“my church”) Ep 5:23; Col 1:18.
- The churches will be preserved (“gates of hell shall not prevail against it”).
- A church is the only institution, besides the family, blessed with Christ’s authority (“the keys of the kingdom”).
The Pastoral Epistles provide a biblical structure for Christ’s Local New Testament churches (see Titus, 1st Timothy and 2nd Timothy).
- Biblical churches preach a proper gospel: Ti 1:1-3; 1Ti 1:11; 2Ti 1:10; He 4:2
- Biblical churches have proper leadership: Ti 1:5-9: 1Ti 3; 1Pt 5, etc.
- Biblical churches teach proper doctrine: Ti 2:1; 1Ti 4:6-13; 1Ti 6:3-5; 2Ti 4:1-4.
- Biblical churches admonish and practice proper living: Ti 2.
- Biblical churches administer proper discipline: Ti 3:8-11; Mt 18:15-20.
Jesus Christ established the foundation for churches and this is recorded in the Gospels. The Acts of the Apostles describe the empowerment of the first church and early growth and development of churches. The Epistles establish and solidify church doctrine that is to be taught and guarded until the return of Jesus Christ. The Bible establishes and history confirms several essential characteristics of true churches:
1) The Word of God (The Bible) is the only rule (supreme authority) of faith and practice.
2) Churches are local bodies, entirely independent of every other church. Each local church is one body, one flock, one household with Christ as the head, as if there were not another on the earth, i.e. “autonomous”.
3) Membership in a church is restricted to those who have trusted in Christ alone for salvation and have testified to that fact by immersion, or believer’s baptism.
4) Churches have always held to a clear and simple order, including:
a. Apostolic teaching (Ac 20:32; Ep 2:20)
b. Leadership consisting of Elder/Bishop/Pastors and Deacons (1Ti 3; Ti 1) who are called and chosen out of the membership
c. Submission to the direction of the Holy Spirit (Ro 8:9)
d. Discipline of its members (Mt 18)
e. Taking the Lord’s Supper as purely commemorative (1Co 11:23-29)
5) Churches are independent from government control and actively promote that position.
There is a theory among some that there is an unbroken line of churches down through the centuries that can be traced directly back to the original Apostles or Disciples of Christ. This theory is called “Apostolic Succession” and states further, that if a contemporary local church cannot trace its roots in this manner by lineage, then they are not a true church; they are not a legitimate apostolic church. This is a false belief, of Roman Catholic origin. “This doctrine is necessary only to such churches as regulate their practice by tradition, and for their use it was invented.” (Armitage 1887).
This concept of tracing church genealogy is in error because it puts man in the position of preserving the church. It is not difficult for the Lord to create new churches in any generation in any location just as he created the first church. Any church established today upon the simple principles and doctrines of the New Testament are as legitimate as the very first church. It is exactly this that we can observe through history: that the Lord raises true churches in every age, known by a variety of names but identified by their doctrine and practice (Ro 6:17, Ro 16:17).
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