In this post, I’m going to look at the beginnings of the Christian Church. Today, if you take a look as an outsider, it can be pretty confusing to know where to start, what to believe and who to follow.
But 2000 years ago the picture was quite different. After 400 years of silence from God, a Jewish priest had a vision while performing his duties. He was told that his wife would give birth to a boy to be named John. Just a few months after John arrived, in the middle of nowhere, the most influential man in history was born. The long awaited Christ finally had arrived.
Decades later, we find John in the desert outside Jerusalem, proclaiming a baptism of repentance. He is the first man to declare that Jesus is the messiah, and Jesus later declares John, as the greatest man ever born.
Jesus resisted the proud, slated the hypocrisy of the religious leaders and spent his energy serving the poor, teaching those willing to hear him speak and praying to His Father. Then his own nation killed him and, by the Holy Spirit, God rose Him from the dead. It was the single greatest moment in human history. And the darkest in the realm of the demonic. As Jesus rose, he broke the authority of sin and death, defeating Lucifer, the king of the Earth.
The people who had aligned themselves with Christ, lead by the 11 disciples he had called, obeyed his instructions and waited for a helper to arrive. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out and on that day the Christian Church was born.
Now here is an interesting moment. These people were not great leaders, nor respected teachers. In fact their ‘normal-ness” is highlighted when the Pharisees notice their speech and realize that these men had spent time with Jesus. The Spirit with whom they had been baptized empowered them, they dreamed dreams, saw visions, received prophecy and prayed and spoke in unknown and earthly languages or tongues.
By doing life together, healing the sick, casting out demons, preaching the authority of God, the power of the cross, and the good news of grace through repentance toward God, baptism into Christ in water and the baptism in power of the Holy Spirit, they grew.
Over many years and through much persecution the Church mushroomed and spread throughout the known world, eventually becoming a massive influence in Rome, impacting the entire government of the region.
By the 300s AD, Rome had no option but to embrace what had started off as a minor movement that day in Jerusalem. The first unification of church and state was born in the initial Roman Catholic Church. The writings from that day make it clear that it was a massive political move to create the most powerful organization in history. In one such paper, the credibility of the Catholic Church over the Word of God is shown by the simple fact that at it’s command, the global church changed the celebration of the sabbath, God’s first ordinance, from Saturday to Sunday without any challenge. Other changes were sometimes less obvious, others more dramatic, but suffice it to say that religious tradition quickly overwhelmed self-sacrificing discipleship.
In 1517 a reformation was started by Martin Luther. Luther proposed some incredible reforms to religion, desperately fighting to get the church to look more like it did in the Bible by addressing many errors in Catholicism. This reformation changed the World, again influencing politics and nations and entire cultures.
But the Lutheran church was building on the Catholic Church, dismantling many heresies while retaining some others. Restoring truth in many places, it’s impact was an excellent step closer to the discipleship movement of the early church.
Years later the reformation continued as the Baptist Movement began in 1609, the Methodist Church was established in 1738, Finney & Moody re-introduced Baptism with the Holy Spirit in 1821 and the Adventist movement in 1830 focused on waiting for the return of Christ as we see in Revelation. In 1904 the Apostolic Church drew attention to the 5 fold ministry while the 1906 Pentecostal movement was sold-out on the power of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In the modern church there are many many variations on these different movements, but by and large today’s mega churches are known for their preaching of grace above all, in direct opposition to the legalism found in early Catholicism.
With all these movements and important doctrines, the question really becomes: What is God’s true picture for His church and where can we fit in? Well, that’s a question for another day.
For now, I’d like to challenge you to consider this statement.
The church of God should look like it did in the book of Acts.
Go read that book (yes, the whole book) tonight and then let’s chat about it in the next post.
God bless you and give you ears to hear and eyes to see His revelation according to your faith! It’s incredible to walk each day with Him. Stay humble, and keep seeking the Lord!