Adult Bible B.L.A.S.T Week Six “The Church” cont. -11/05/17
Question: So, do you think those instructions have changed for us today?
How can we, as a church, do that?
The early church/Christians had no financial resources, no buildings, no social status, no government approval. And after they were kicked out of the Jewish synagogues, they had no place to go. But what finally mattered is what they did have.
- They had a faith.
- They had a fellowship.
- They had a new way of life.
- They had a confidence that their Lord was alive in heaven and guiding their daily lives.
So, doing good to all was one way the early church grew. Another way was through missions.
The importance the early church attached to mission is attested to in the New Testament. Jesus sends out His disciples and in Acts the missionary activities of the apostles, especially Peter and Paul, are described in some detail. This missionary zeal of the Christians continued during the early development of the church.
Read: Acts 14:19-23 But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
The church was growing and Paul set up Elders to lead the churches.
Question: When the church was in its infancy, where did the early Christians meet?
The earliest Christians did not have church buildings. They typically met in homes
- The oldest actual church building was found at Dura Europos on the Euphrates, dating back to about 231.
The growth of the church continued in that manner for the first 200 years along with the development of church buildings.
Question: Where do you think the structure of the buildings and the worship services in local church come from?
The basic form of the services and the structure of the buildings used for the services ended up being modeled along the lines of the Jewish Synagogues.
- This is not surprising since the earliest Christians were all Jewish.
In the early 300’s the political environment changed, and Christianity was no longer condemned, in fact it not only became legal, but the official religion of the empire.
Question: What was the emperor’s name who made Christianity the official empire religion?
It began with Emperor Constantine and the Edict of Milan (313 AD):
- When we, Constantine and Licinius, Emperors, met in Milan in conference concerning the welfare and security of the realm, we decided of the things that are of profit to all mankind, the worship of God ought rightly to be our first and chiefest care, and it was right that Christians and all others should have freedom to follow the kind of religion they favored … Moreover, concerning the Christians, we before gave orders with respect to the places set apart for their places of worship. It is now our pleasure that all who have bought such places should restore them to the Christians, without any demand for payment.
At that time these things happened:
- Seized church property was returned.
- New places of worship were state funded.
- Clergy started to get paid.
- And tax exemption for clergy was established.
Later, in AD 325, Constantine called the Council of Nicea in an attempt to unify Christianity. Constantine saw Christianity as a religion that could unite the huge Roman Empire.
With the city of Rome being the center of government for the Roman Empire, and with the Roman emperors living in Rome, the city of Rome rose to prominence in all facets of life. Constantine and his successors gave their support to the bishop of Rome as the supreme ruler of the church.
Question: How do you think the other bishops and even individual Christians in local churches react?
- Most other bishops (and Christians) resisted the idea of the Roman bishop being supreme.
When the Western half of the Roman Empire collapsed in 476, the Bishop of Rome took on the title that had previously belonged to the Roman emperors:
- Pontifex Maximus.
- Pope Gregory I, ruling from 590–604, is considered the 1st bishop to truly wield papal authority.
- With that, Catholicism became the state religion of the Roman Empire.
Between 350 and 850 there were considered five primary sees (jurisdictions within the Catholic Church) according to Eusebius:
As Christianity spread throughout the early Roman Empire, it started to get messy.
- The Roman Empire gradually collapsed during the fourth and fifth centuries to be replaced by “barbarian” kingdoms. Many of the ‘barbaric’ kings had been previously converted to Christianity by missionaries, but often practiced a heretical version of Christianity called Arianism.
During this time 350-850, the majority of Christians who followed doctrines represented in Nicene Creed were bound by one common and undivided Catholicity that was uniting the Christians of West and the Christians of the East.
Question: What do you think were the two major reasons, at that time, for Eastern and Western Catholic Churches?
- Christians in the West spoke Latin.
- Christians in the East spoke Greek.
- The eastern Catholic and western Catholic churches were formed in geographically different areas.
The bishops during this time, with the help of the ‘barbarian kings’ became a source of great power in the post-Roman kingdoms. Monasteries developed and became centers of culture, scholarship, and economics.
In the 700’s Charlemagne established the idea of a “Christian king.” That placed the Church in a powerful position, but it did not actually have authority over the king.
- Under Charlemagne, Christianity became political as well as religious. There was no separation of Church and state, they became one entity.
- Secular law was replaced by Christian law and the bishops became even more powerful.
This continued till about the 900’s when a time of feudal lords took over for emperors.
- The monasteries, churches, and bishops came under the influence of these local warlords.
- Powerful monasteries and bishops assumed control of the local area themselves and governed them directly as the local lord.
So, for about the first thousand years of Christianity, there were no denominations as there are today. Just the Roman Catholic Church. That is until 1054 with what is called the Great Schism.
Question: Anyone know what happened?
The first major division within the Christian church came in 1054, with the Great Schism between the Western Church and the Eastern Church.
- From that point forward, there were two large branches of Christianity, which came to be known as the Catholic Church(in the West) and the Orthodox Church (in the East).
The first known occurrence of “Roman Catholic” as a synonym for “Catholic Church” was in a letter from 1208, after the East–West Schism.
The term ‘Roman Catholic Church developed further during the reign of Elizabeth I of England at the end of the 16th century when there were conflicts in Ireland.
- Those opposed to English rule forged alliances with those against the Protestant Reformation, making the term “Roman Catholic” almost synonymous with being Irish during that period, although that usage changed significantly over time.
The term “Roman Catholic” only came into widespread use in the English language in the 17th century.
Question: Can anyone tell us when the next major division in the church happened and what it was called?
The next major division was the Protestant Reformation, sparked in 1517 by Martin Luther’s publication of his ‘95 Theses’ against certain Roman Catholic teachings and practices.
- By 1529, German princes were demanding the right to choose between Lutheranism and Catholicism in their territories. (These demands were published in a document titled Protestation, giving the Protestant movement its name.)
Meanwhile, “Reformed” Christianity developed in Switzerland based on the teachings of Ulrich Zwingli and John Calvin.
Question: When it spread to Scotland under John Knox, the Reformed faith became known as?
Switzerland was also the birthplace of the Anabaptists.
- Conrad Grebel, Felix Manz, and other associates of Zwingli didn’t feel the Reformation was going far enough.
Question: What does the word ‘anabaptist’ mean?
- The name Anabaptist, meaning ‘rebaptizer’.
- It was given to them later by those who baptized infants only.
‘Anabaptist’ core beliefs include:
- They could find no justification for elaborate church bureaucracies. Decisions should be made not by a hierarchical leader but by the entire local assembly.
- The separation of church and state. The church, they said, is to be composed of free, “uncompelled” people. The state is not to use coercion on people’s consciences.
- Finally, Jesus taught the way of nonviolence, so pacifism became another important feature of their lives.
Question: What Christian denominations came from the Anabaptists?
- Amish, Mennonites, Quakers.
- The Puritans of England, and Baptists were greatly influenced by the Anabaptist..
The Anglican Church was established in 1534 when England’s King Henry VIII broke from the authority of the Pope.
- Anglicanism is often regarded as a “Middle Way” between Catholicism and Protestantism
Question: What are Anglican’s known as in the US?
Sidebar: Methodism, based on the teachings of John Wesley, also has its roots in Anglicanism.
Those who remained in Roman Catholicism during the Reformation argued that central regulation of doctrine is necessary to prevent confusion and division within the church and corruption of beliefs.
Question: What do you think about having a central authority to regulate theinterpretation of doctrine?
Protestants, on the other hand, insisted that it was precisely this policy of control that had already led to corruption of the true faith. They demanded that believers be allowed to read the Scriptures for themselves (it was previously available only in Latin) and act in accordance with their conscience.
This issue of religious authority continues to be a fundamental difference between Catholics and Protestants.
With its emphasis on individual interpretation of scripture and a measure of religious freedom, the Reformation marked not only a break between Protestantism and Catholicism, but the beginning of Christian denominationalism as we know it today.
And perhaps not surprisingly, some of the most interesting developments in Christianity have occurred in the United States, where individual freedom in all things is intensely valued.