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The History Of The Church - The Lord's Church

In the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus first speaks about His church…

Matthew 16:18-19 "I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven."

Jesus says that "upon this rock I will build my church". The Greek word for "rock" is "petra" and means "the solid, immovable bed-rock, a great mass like a cliff." The Greek word for "church" is "ecclesia" which means those "called out, the fellowship of believers, or the saved." The term "kingdom of heaven" is used to describe the church, the called out. The word "bind" is from the Greek word "deo" and means "to bind, tie, declare to be binding or obligatory" such as what one must do to enter heaven, the terms of admission into God's family, the church. These terms were bound by Peter after the first gospel message was preached. "Loose" indicates that our sins are loosed (forgiven) when we submit to the terms that are "bound" by Christ and the apostles.

Jesus gave the keys to the church and further instructions to the apostles…

Matthew 18:18 "Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven."

John 20:19-23 So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you." And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained."

Peter used the keys for the first time and opened the doors to the church at Pentecost. He declared (bound) the conditions by which men could have their sins forgiven (loosed), and thus enter into the church…

Acts 2:22-42 "Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know-- this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power. For David says of Him, 'I SAW THE LORD ALWAYS IN MY PRESENCE; FOR HE IS AT MY RIGHT HAND, SO THAT I WILL NOT BE SHAKEN. THEREFORE MY HEART WAS GLAD AND MY TONGUE EXULTED; MOREOVER MY FLESH ALSO WILL LIVE IN HOPE; BECAUSE YOU WILL NOT ABANDON MY SOUL TO HADES, NOR ALLOW YOUR HOLY ONE TO UNDERGO DECAY. YOU HAVE MADE KNOWN TO ME THE WAYS OF LIFE; YOU WILL MAKE ME FULL OF GLADNESS WITH YOUR PRESENCE.' Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. And so, because he was a prophet and knew that GOD HAD SWORN TO HIM WITH AN OATH TO SEAT one OF HIS DESCENDANTS ON HIS THRONE, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that HE WAS NEITHER ABANDONED TO HADES, NOR DID His flesh SUFFER DECAY. This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, 'SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET.' Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ--this Jesus whom you crucified. Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?" Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself." And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation!" So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Peter preached the gospel to the people that had just crucified Jesus and they asked Peter, "what shall we do?" Peter told them to "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…". Peter commanded them to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins and he told them to "Save yourselves". They "gladly received his word" and "were baptized". We learn that "the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls." Furthermore, "they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine…". Jesus told the apostles to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins and baptism. Jesus also said those who believe and are baptized will be saved. Peter and the apostles did exactly what Jesus commanded them to do to open the doors to the church.

The church that Jesus first spoke of was actually started with Peter opening its’ doors to the people who had just crucified Jesus, as we read in Acts 2:22-42 (previous post). This church belongs to Christ and there is no other church to which the saved can belong to. There is only one church, which is the body of Christ… one body and one Spirit… and Christ is the head of the church…

Colossians 1:24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions.

Ephesians 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling;

1 Corinthians 12:11-12 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.

Ephesians 1:22-23 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.

There is only one body, which is the body of Christ, and His body is the church. This church belongs to Christ… He is the head of this church. Remember, the church members are the called out (the Greek word for "church" is "ecclesia" which means those "called out) or the saved, and the saved make up the church…

Romans 12:4-5 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.

1 Corinthians 12:12-14 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many.

1 Corinthians 12:18-20 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body.

1 Corinthians 12:27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

If Scripture clearly provides us with this evidence, then why are there so many churches today? I am not talking about church buildings, I am talking about denominations who have divided the church with different beliefs and different doctrines. It is impossible for all of them to be right because they teach different things. What was it that Paul wrote...

1 Corinthians 1:10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

Now how is it possible that we will ever be perfectly joined together and in the same mind and speak the same things, if we continue to preach different things and be divided?

Let us start from the beginning…

Mankind has a history of departing from God's way. From the Old Testament beginning in Genesis we learn that Adam and Eve departed from God's way after He told them not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Yet they did and lost their blessings. Cain departed from God's way by offering a bloodless sacrifice to God. The people of Noah's time departed from God and God destroyed all but eight people. The descendants of Noah departed from God by building the tower of Babel. In Exodus we learn that the people of Moses time departed from God's way by building a molten calf to worship. In Leviticus we learn that Nadab and Abihu departed from God by offering strange fire and were struck down by God. Moses warned his people not to depart from God's words but they would not listen. God gave the Israelites the land and the cities but they departed from God's way and worshiped idols. God sent prophets to warn the people but they still departed from God's way. God sent Ezekiel to free them from slavery but they departed from God's way and remained slaves. All through the Old Testament times, we learn of men departing from the ways of God over and over and over.

God sent His son Jesus to lead the world back to Him. The Jews rejected God and He still wanted them to turn back to Him, but the Jews departed from God's way and caused Jesus to be crucified by the Roman Soldiers. However, death could not overpower Christ.

In the early days of the church, Jesus revealed the message of truth to the apostles. The apostles, guided by the Holy Spirit, wrote this truth down and the early church congregations accepted them as the Holy Scriptures, which later became known at the New Testament.

If we depart from the New Testament (Covenant) then we depart from God's ways.

God's way is made known by the preaching and writing of inspired men such as the apostle Paul. Paul never hesitated to point out false doctrine contrary to what Jesus and God had taught him. God's Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write letters to the churches of Christ and they were to be accepted as authority. Paul wrote to the Galatians…

Galatians 1:8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

This gospel taught by Paul and the other inspired men is revealed only in the New Testament. No man has the right to change any single principle, policy, or practice found in the New Testament. Jesus created His church exactly as He wanted it... including worship, creed, rule of faith, unity, organization, names, and mission. Those who have tried to change it have merely created a church different from Christ's’ true church that He created. The early churches of Christ did not have much difficulty preaching and teaching the same way and the same message. They did not have as many problems in all of them being organized the same. But today we have modern denominations teaching different patterns and doctrines, being divided among themselves. Remember, men often depart from God's ways. Many men today feel the need to improve on the pattern of the church... they claim the early church is insufficient or outdated. While they may be sincere, they are truly mistaken.

Jesus, in Luke chapter 8, compared the Word of God to seed being planted in a field. When the true word of God was planted in the hearts of men, it produced only one heart, united and undivided. All were members of the church mentioned in the New Testament, which belongs to Christ. Since God has ordered that every seed bring forth after its own kind, the same New Testament seed will bring forth the same Christian harvest today. It cannot produce different denominations. However, many seeds are being planted today which bring forth human creeds, dogmas, and philosophies. Jesus referred to those that sowed bad seed as the enemy. Some people that are ignorant to the Scriptures do not realize that preachers, teachers, and rabbis do often preach false doctrine. Jesus warned of these false teachers…

Matthew 7:15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

Jesus knew God's law of reproduction must be followed…

Genesis 1:11-12 Then God said, "Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them"; and it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good.

The plant kingdom seed reproduces seed of its own kind. The fleshly kingdom seed reproduces its own kind, which is able to multiply. Therefore, the spiritual kingdom should bring forth seed of its own kind.

The apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost to start the spiritual kingdom, the church. The apostles planted the seed of God's Word into men's hearts and minds. During the early church days some men chose to believe and have faith in God's word. They repented of their ways, confessed Jesus Christ, and were baptized for the forgiveness of sins. The sowing of any spiritual seed that produces anything different from what God's Word sows, is a departure from God's way. This is what denominationalism is clearly doing in our society today.

During the early years of the church, from 1AD to 150AD, Christians were united in faith, doctrine, and practice. The Holy Spirit warned us that some would depart…

1 Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;

We are warned that there will be those who will not continue in sound doctrine and they will gather up many teachers for themselves and their own desires. They will turn from the truth… and pervert the gospel…

2 Timothy 4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

Galatians 1:7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.

We can study secular history and learn that in approximately 150AD is when we begin to see God's original pattern change as people truly begin to depart from God's ways. Although there were some who held to the original doctrine of Christ and remained faithful, they were few, from what we know. “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7:14)

As we have previously learned, and what we know from Scripture to be the truth, Christ is the head of the church. All power and authority in heaven and on earth was given to Him…

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.

Elders who oversee the local congregations rule each congregation of believers under Christ. Deacons, teachers, preachers, and members (all saved), are under the oversight of the elders…

Acts 20:28 Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.

Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.

Let’s consider… can mere uninspired men really improve on God's plan?

Early congregations existed throughout the Roman Empire. These churches had elders to guide and discipline members of the church. Elders were also known as bishops, pastors, or shepherds. No elder is to be exalted above another. However, soon after the death of the apostles, uninspired men from each of the local congregations in the Roman Empire designated themselves above the other elders and called themselves bishops. They caused a struggle between church leaders. Despite Christ's and the apostles' teachings, some bishops started ruling over several congregations. This was known as a diocese. They began to meet together and started creating a trend of using human rules and doctrinal statements to be used by the church congregations they ruled. These church laws were doctrines of mere uninspired men and not those of Christ and the apostles. In 325AD, the first human creed to supposedly govern all Christians was written and became known as the Nicene Creed. Several bishops from the western regions of the Roman Empire gathered in Nicea to write the creed. They were called together by the Roman Emperor Constantine, and not by Divine Authority.

The Nicene Creed was the first human creed that was accepted by some congregations, but there were still some Christians who remained faithful and rejected this creed. When Constantine arranged this meeting at Nicea, he did not even claim to be a Christian. However, he was very influential with many of the congregations. He even gave orders for the Bible to be reproduced, which resulted in fifty hand written copies. Constantine later died, but his form of government that he had developed in the Roman Empire, influenced many of the congregational leaders to create a similar form of government. The Roman congregations developed this form of government a few years later. In the Roman Church, the Pope was the equivalent of the Emperor in the Roman Empire, the Cardinal was equivalent to the Advisor, and the Bishop equivalent to the Governor. "Pope" was the ultimate title of the Roman Church, however, this title was never used by Christ or the apostles. The first Pope was Bonaface the 3rd in 606AD, when the Roman Catholic Church was formed. Even among the apostles 600 years earlier, not one of them ever claimed such power as the first Pope claimed.

During these early years faithful Christians remained scattered. They were in small groups and often referred to as heretics because they would not follow the unfaithful and unscriptural Catholic ways. In 1054, a division occurred in the Catholic Church, forming two groups, the Roman Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox. These groups had differences among themselves and varied greatly from the church that Christ established in the early days. As the Catholic Church grew, new doctrines, practices, ordinances, all by uninspired men, continued to surface. In the 16th century a separate priesthood, which characterized the Jewish religion, was adopted by Roman theologians. The Catholic priest became a special representative of God with the power to pronounce forgiveness… remission of sins. A person was required to confess sin to a Catholic priest for forgiveness.

Let us now briefly consider what the Bible teaches us about priests and confession…

1 Peter 2:5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

James 5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

Clearly, every Christian is a priest (we are a holy priesthood). Clearly, there is only "one mediator" between God and us, and that mediator is Christ Jesus. Clearly, we are to confess our sins to God for forgiveness.

As we continue the history of the church, we know that Jesus kept His promise to deliver ALL TRUTH…

2 Timothy 3:16(a) All scripture is given by inspiration of God...

Before 100AD, the inspired Scriptures were completed. Later, other doctrines developed and were uninspired, such as Holy Water, Latin Mass, Extreme Unction , Celibacy, Transubstantiation, Purgatory, Sprinkling, and Changes in Singing.

Many Protestant Churches adopted some of these uninspired doctrines of men, taking for granted that they had originated in the inspired Scriptures. The Holy Spirit warned us against these things…

1 Timothy 4:1-3 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.

During these middles ages, there were many instances where medieval Roman Churches ordered the Scriptures to be confiscated and burned, although not all Catholic leaders went this far. They did not want people reading the Bible, so Church authorities would interpret the Scriptures to the common man. They did whatever they had to do to keep the Bible out of the people's hands. However, there were still men that hungered for God's Word and this shaped the culture and provided the background for the great religious movement called "The Reformation of the 16th Century". This gave the Bible to the people in their own language. The medieval Roman Empire tried earnestly to stop the reformation and even went so far as to put to death several leaders of the reformation movement. John Wycliffe, one of the first to translate the Bible into English, was excommunicated by Rome. After his death, his bones were dug up and burned by the Roman leaders to show their dislike for what he did.

Only a few Bibles were available during these times and people cherished them while studying them and discussing the Scriptures among themselves. As they read and studied the New Testament, they learned that many of the doctrines and practices of the Catholic Church were not ordained nor inspired of God. A spiritual awakening of sorts occurred among the people during these times.

In the early 16th century, Martin Luther, a catholic priest, led a broad movement to reform the church. He proposed 95 articles of discussion challenging the Catholic churches beliefs and doctrines. Luther claimed these beliefs and doctrines conflicted directly with the Holy Scriptures. He was also excommunicated from the Catholic Church, but he continued his work, which resulted in the great Protestant Reformation. Luther even translated the Bible into German and felt people should have an option to read it for themselves. While this was admirable, his intentions were not to restore the original church, but rather to reform the Catholic Church.

In 1530, the Augsburg Confession, which contained the teachings of Luther, was adopted by his followers. This was the actual beginning of the Protestant Church, the church that protested the Catholic Church. We should remember though, that all Protestant churches are less than 500 years old. How old is the Lord's church? Christ's church is over 1900 years old. The apostle Paul mentions the church of Christ in his letter to the Romans and had something to say about those who would divide it…

Romans 16:16 Salute one another with an holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you.

Romans 16:17-18 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.

Paul further warned and scorned those who attempted to divide the church…

1 Corinthians 1:10-13 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, by brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?

While Luther may have been sincere in leading the protest against the Catholic Church, he was actually further dividing the church and ignoring what Paul warned against. He failed to consider ALL Scripture and rightly divide the Word of God.

The church of Christ (the church that belongs to Christ), was established when the apostles used the keys to open the doors to the church on the day of Pentecost...

Acts 2:41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.

The Catholic Church was established in 606AD… the Protestant Church was established in 1530AD. Clearly, the church of Christ was the first church that was formed, and it was built by the instructions of Christ, not from the ideas and traditions of mere men.

We have learned that Martin Luther, a catholic priest, led a broad movement known as the Protestant Reformation which was intended to reform the Catholic Church. Before the close of the 16th century, followers of Luther began to call themselves Lutherans. This became a distinct religious organization called the Lutheran Church. This contradicted the teachings of Luther himself because of the principles he had learned from the New Testament. He pleaded with his followers to not call themselves Lutheran's, but rather call themselves Christians. The people refused to listen. While the Lutherans may have returned closer and nearer to God's way than the Catholic's, they still practiced and taught many of the uninspired teachings of the Catholic Church. Luther had been cautious and had not removed all of the Catholic teachings, even though they were not found in the New Testament, nor were they taught by Christ or the apostles.

Protestant and Catholic religions are a product of human history rather than the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. This study of the church history reveals this truth to us. The Presbyterian movement was started in 1536 by John Calvin, just a few years after the Lutheran Church. Followers of Calvin were known as the Reformed Church. While Luther and Calvin were both brave men with deep convictions, their followers developed denominations based on their own doctrines and once again, not those taught by Christ and the apostles.

Protestant denominations started branching out and being built on their own names and doctrines…

The Church of England formed in 1534 and spawned the Methodist Church in 1739, and the Episcopal Church in 1789.

The Baptist Church opposed the Church of England and formed in 1611. Other various denominations have developed since then.

Instead of going back to the New Testament teachings of "unity", each of these denominations divide based on their own teachings. Each was named after its founder, a particular doctrine, or some religious practice, but none give glory to Christ who died for the church. Jesus Christ began building His church over 1900 years ago, exactly as He wanted it. We can learn of the church, which existed 100's of years before the Catholic Church began, in the New Testament, the covenant under which we are bound.

Denominationalism has caused divisions which cause its' followers to cling only to that portion of the Scriptures that appear to support their own human doctrines or practices, and not the entire Bible.

Matthew 15:9 “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”

Matthew 15:13 “But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.”

Sincere denominational leaders are beginning to see that if they remove human creeds, denominational names, doctrines of men, and uninspired practices, that religious differences will melt away, and we can all be united in the Lord's church.

Where would Jesus worship if He walked this earth today as He did over 1900 years ago?

John 17:20-21 "I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their message, that they may all be one. Just as you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be one in us, so that the world may believe that you sent me."

Let us all unite and be "ONE" just as Jesus prayed.

We must forsake human elements in the church. It does make a difference in which assembly we worship and to what church we belong, regardless of how sincere we may be.

When the Word of God (the pure seed) is planted today, it will produce only Christians united in the church that Christ established Himself.

I hope this study on the History of the church has been a blessing for you.

God bless you!

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