FROM THE BIBLE TIME CHURCH TO THE MODREN TIME CHURCHES
(A history that an honest Christian must know)
The Methodist, the Baptist, the Jehovah's Witness, the Seventh Day Adventist, the Catholic, the Presbyterian, the Lutheran, the Protestants, and the Pentecostal Churches, where do they come from? Are they all following the teachings and doctrines of Christ?
CHRIST OWN CHURCH
About 32 A.D. Jesus said, "I will build my church" (Matthew 16:18). In the inspired Greek language "church" means a "group" or "crowd" of people. Jesus called it "My church", to signify that it will be just one group of people or just one church.
And in 33 A.D., on the day of Pentecost, that church was realized. Then people were being "added to the church". It was then that the Church of Jesus Christ was built, and the "Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved" (Acts 2: 41, 47).
And throughout the days of the early apostles, that church continued as one single entity, "And all that believed were together", "And they continuing daily with one accord", "And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul" (Acts 2: 42, 46; 3:32).
Christ’s intention for his church to be one and continue as one entity was obvious as evidenced by his last prayer for his disciples. He earnestly prayed that His church (His disciples) would exhibit a special kind of unity or oneness that would be a testimony to the world "...that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be MADE PERFECT IN ONE; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me" (John 17:20 – 23).
Thus Jesus laid down a criterion for discipleship. His prayer was that all those who believe in Him may be one even as He and His Father are one. Christian unity should override all acrimonies, disparities and divisions (Acts 15:1-29). If there is anything the New Testament strongly vouches for and insists upon, it is the unity and oneness of the Christ's church.
In the same vein, Apostle Paul speaking to the Corinthian church said, "Now I plead with you brethren by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be PERFECTLY JOINED TOGETHER in the same mind and the same judgment" (1 Corinthians.1:10).
To the church at Philippi, he wrote, "Let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing" (Philippians 3: 16). From the foregoing, we have seen that the followers of Christ must be one single group of people, one single church (Ephesians. 4:3-6) and NOT many different groups or churches that are exist in the world today.
Now, if Christ had built one Church (Matthew 16: 18), the one that began in 33 A.D., in Jerusalem (Acts 2:41, 47) and was kept as one by the early apostles (Acts 2: 42, 46; 15:1-19), where do all other churches that exist in the world today come from? No matter how men try to rationalize it, the New Testament speaks of a single group, one church, one undivided body of Christ, "The Church of the Living God, the Pillar and Ground of Truth" - 1 Timothy 3: 15. Christ does not have two bodies, but one - Ephesians. 4: 4.
Studies have shown that there is an estimated 37 million different denominational churches in the world, with 50,000 new ones being added every year. Now each of these churches has practices, teachings and doctrines that are at variance with those of other churches. The Methodist, the Baptist, the Jehovah's witness, the Seventh Day Adventist, the Catholic, the Presbyterian, the Lutheran, the Protestants and so many other Pentecostal Churches, where are from? Are they all following the teachings and doctrines of Christ?
SPLITS BEGAN IN THE DAYS OF EARLY APOSTLES
As the teachings of these false apostles gained in popularity, their followers gradually grew to be the majority in some congregations. So there were splits in the church, those false apostles took their followers out of the church to establish their own churches where their new and different doctrines can easily be taught and practiced.
Just as Apostle John described it, "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 " (1 John 2:19). Although these false apostles or Antichrists had gone out of the church, they were determined to cause confusion in the church of Christ, as the apostles warned, "…we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment" (Acts 15:24).
In one of the early churches, true Christians were forced out of the church by these false apostles and their followers. One of such tragic examples was recorded by Apostle John: "I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church" (3 John 9-10).
Those who were faithful to the teachings of Christ and the apostles were expelled from this church because they were in the minority. The majority had chosen to follow Diotrephes, who, in his own lust for power and influence, falsely accused the apostle John. Remember that Jesus had earlier warned His true servants this would happen: "They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service" (John 16:2).
By the end of the third century the true servants of God had become a distinct minority among those who called themselves Christians, who then had begun to multiply and had successfully gained far larger followers than the faithful apostles of God.
Those faithful servants of Jesus Christ, who were cast out from the church for not accepting Diotrephes’ teachings, "… were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (of whom the world was not worthy) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth" (Hebrews 11:35-38).
Christ praised these ones for refusing to follow Diotrephes and his group, "I know your works, your labour, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars" (Revelation 2:2).
AS SPLITS CONTINUE, CHURCHES CONTINUE TO MULTIPLY
History showed us exactly what took place shortly after the days of the Apostles. These false apostles had splintered into disparate groups that had mutually conflicting ideas, interests, complex aims and doctrines in contradistinction with that of the true church. At the beginning of the fourth century, two things happened that abruptly altered the course of Christian history.
First, the Roman emperor Diocletian intensified the policy of many previous Roman emperors of persecuting Christians and ordered that all Christian manuscripts be burned. This dramatically renewed a climate of fear throughout the Christian community.
Ten years later another emperor, Constantine, came to power. He had defeated another powerful contender for the right to replace Diocletian as emperor, but he still had many enemies, and his political position remained insecure. In all the empire, only Christians were unaligned politically. Constantine immediately saw an opportunity to formerly use the hitherto persecuted and politically alienated religious bodies to strengthen his hold on the empire.
In 313 A.D. he passed the Edict of Milan which ended the persecution against Christians.
First he legalized Christianity. Then, only two years later, he called all those divided professing Christian groups together to hammer out a unified system of belief. He wanted a united religious body that was politically committed to him. To achieve this, Constantine presided over doctrinal deliberations and dictated statements of belief whenever disagreements could not be resolved amicably.
This meeting took place in 325 A.D. and history calls this event "The Council of Nicea". He soon successfully molded the bickering groups of counterfeit Christians who were willing to accept state control into a strong and unified vassal of the Roman Empire. Constantine was at last the sole ruler of the Roman world, and the church was everywhere free from persecution, but, in winning its freedom from its enemies, it had come largely under the control of the occupant of the Roman imperial throne.
A fateful union with the state had begun against Christ’s admonition at John 17:16; "They are not part of the world, even as I am not of the world ".
As this new religion, now supported by the Roman emperors, grew in power and influence, it sought to become a truly universal church. In its ambition to add more members, many new doctrines and new practices were introduced into the church. This newly created church took a Latin name, "Catholic", which is translated Universal, and established a hierarchy very similar to that of the Roman government. They literally took the example of the Roman government and built a church that was based on that model to make it to be known as "Roman Catholic Church".
Now, Christians who were faithful to Christ’s teachings, those who stood against this newly created Catholic Church, were persecuted and ostracized just as Christ had prophesied "…because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you" (John 15:18,19); "…the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world" (John 17:14) They had to meet in hiding "Of whom the world was not worthy: they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth" (Hebrews 11:38).
After the formation and establishment of this Catholic Church, it grew in strength and number and political power. They created new doctrines and man-made traditions and they enjoyed growing political endorsements from the Roman government. In time their doctrines were made mandates and required of all of the members of the Church.
And in 1054, history tells us that the Catholic Church split into two denominations, the Roman Catholicism and the Greek Orthodox Church. Now, during this time the Bible became more and more unavailable to the common man. And this period became known as "The Dark Ages".
And in the 1500's, a German monk, Martin Luther stood up against some of the doctrines of the church. He hated the selling of indulgences. He challenged the Pope saying: "The Bible is the only source of authority". Martin Luther's widespread opposition to the Catholic Church ignited a protest movement which is historically known as "The Protestant Reformation".
In 1521, another denomination appeared shortly before the Lutheran church came on the scene; it was known as the Anabaptists. They started as a protest against the Catholic Church and its practice of infant baptism. "Ana" means "again". They baptized again those who had been baptized as babies in the Catholic Church.
And later, this Anabaptist movement spawned several other churches to include the Baptist, the Amish, the Mennonites, and Brethren in Christ. And as religious freedom expanded, denominationalism continued to grow and to multiply into dozens of factions. And this laid the foundation for a multitude of churches that exist in the world today.
In 1534, the Church of England started; this church began after Henry VIII's desire to have his marriage to Katherine of Aragon annulled so that he can be free to marry another woman was refused. When the Roman Catholic Church Pope would not grant that annulment, the result was the separation from the Catholic Church and the formation of a new church, the Church of England, being known today as "Anglican Church".
From history, some of these churches began with a noble desire to break free from some clearly unscriptural practices, while others began with less than noble reasoning. But all of them were started or were founded by men and not by Christ, and they all sprang from the same root "Catholicism", the church established by the Roman Empire.
Looking at the first one thousand years of Christianity, there were only two churches: the one that began in 33 A.D. in Jerusalem, the "Church of Christ", that is, the one we read about in the pages of the New Testament and the "Roman Catholic Church", that is, the one that was legalized as a universal church in 325 A.D., by the Roman government.
However, today, there is an estimate of 37 million churches in the world, with 50,000 new ones being added every year, and each of these churches has practices and doctrines that contradict and disagree with one another.
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