The History Of The Church - The Lord's Church
In the Gospel of 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."
Many misunderstand what Jesus means in this passage. They think that Peter is the rock that Jesus is referring to and that He built His church upon Peter. This thought is not the meaning. The Greek word for Peter is "Petros," primarily referred to as a stone, a pebble, or piece of rock... something that is easily moved. Of note is that "Petros" is in the masculine gender. Jesus referred to Peter as being a stone in the book of John.
John 1:42 And he brought him to Jesus. Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, "You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas" (which is translated, A Stone).
Jesus said, "you are Peter," with "Peter" being translated from "Petros," as we have confirmed. Jesus said, "and upon this rock I will build My church," with the word "rock" being translated from the Greek word "petra." The Greek word "petra" is in the feminine gender and primarily means a large mass of rock, the solid, immovable bed-rock, a great mass like a cliff, a solid foundation. We can consider a few verses to understand better how the word "rock" or "petra" is used in the New Testament.
Matthew 7:24,25 "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock."
Luke 6:48 He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock.
There are 16 occurrences of "petra" in the KJV translation of the New Testament, and each time it translated "rock" and referred to a solid foundation. It is essential to clarify how it is used to describe a solid foundation.
There are 162 occurrences of "Petros" in the KJV translations of the New Testament, and 161 times it is translated "Peter" and once as "stone" as we read in John 1:42 which is referring to Peter.
The point is that "Peter" and "rock" are not the same and are translated from two different Greek words that have different meanings. Thus it is evident that Jesus was not referring to Peter as the rock He would build His church upon. So what did Jesus mean when He said, "upon this rock I will build My church?" What was the "rock" He was referring to? To fully understand what Jesus is referring to, we must keep the verse in context with the surrounding verses.
Matthew 16:13-19 When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" So they said, "Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
This passage took a minute to make sense to me. Jesus asked the question, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter got it right by answering, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus let Peter know that he was right, that this truth that He was the Christ was revealed to him by God. Thus it was confirmed truth that He was Jesus Christ. Jesus then responds with another truth, "And I also say to you that you are Peter." Therefore, upon this rock, this solid foundation of truth, the truth that these two men are Jesus and Peter, Jesus will build His church. Jesus says that He will give Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven, which is the church. This passage clarifies that Jesus is the builder and Peter is the gatekeeper. The church will not be built on either of these two men; instead, it will be built on the solid foundation of truth. We could paraphrase what Jesus is saying as, "Just as sure as I am Christ and you are Peter, I am going to build my church.
Jesus gave Peter 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."
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. The apostle Peter bound these terms after he preached the gospel message. "Loose" indicates that our sins are loosed (forgiven) when we submit to the terms that are "bound" by Christ and the apostles.
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 Jews 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. 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."
Peter and the apostles did exactly what Jesus commanded them to do to open the doors to the church. 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.
Remember that Jesus said He would build His church and gave Peter the keys. The church that Jesus said He would build was actually started with Peter using the keys to open its' doors to the Jews who had just crucified Jesus, as we read in Acts 2:22-42 above.
Peter also used the keys for the Gentiles in the story of Cornelius and his family as we can read in Acts chapter 10. Please take a minute to read Acts chapter 10 to understand the story. The Jews were first at Pentecost in Jerusalem, but the Gentiles (the Greek) were later included, which confirms what Paul wrote to the Romans.
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
The church (the kingdom) is now open to everyone. Once Peter opened the doors to the church, they remained open.
As we have learned thus far, the Bible teaches us that the church belongs to Christ, and there is no other church to which the saved can belong. 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 I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church,
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 as He wills. For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.
Ephesians 1:22,23 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills 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, and He is the head of this church. Remember, the church members are 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, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another
1 Corinthians 12:12-14 For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many.
1 Corinthians 12:18-20 But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body.
1 Corinthians 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.
Consider all of these passages that explain these essential facts...
- The church is the body.
- The body is the church.
- The church is His body, the body belonging to Christ.
- There is only one body.
- The body is one.
- There is one body in Christ.
- Christians are the body of Christ, and if the body is the church, then Christians are the church of Christ.
How did the members (Christians) become part of the body? As shown in 1 Corinthians 12, we are "baptized into the one body."
With the Bible providing us with this evidence of only one body, one church, why are there so many churches today? I am not referring to church buildings; I am referring to the denominations who have divided the church with different beliefs and doctrines. All of them can't be right because they teach different things. Consider what Paul wrote.
1 Corinthians 1:10 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 in the same judgment.
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.
- Humanity has a history of departing from God's way, all the way back to the 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; it was not what God wanted.
- The people of Noah's time departed from God, and God destroyed all but eight people via the flood.
- 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 making 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 eventually sent His son Jesus to teach and lead the world back to Him. Even though the Jews rejected Jesus, God still tried to get them to turn back to Him. Yet, they still departed from God and allowed the Roman soldiers to crucify Jesus on the cross. Although we know Jesus was crucified and buried, he rose from the grave and built His church, as we have already discussed.
Jesus taught the apostles and revealed what they needed to know to start the church. The apostles, guided by the Holy Spirit, preached this truth and wrote it down, and the early church congregations accepted these writings as the Scriptures, which later became known as the New Testament. If we depart from the New Testament (New Covenant), 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 even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to 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, 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 built, and the apostles started at Pentecost in Acts chapter 2. 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 when the churches were organized the same. But today, we have modern denominations teaching different patterns and doctrines, 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 seriously 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 church, united and undivided. All were members of the one 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 planted in the hearts of men should bring forth the same type of Christian every time. It cannot produce different types of Christians belonging to different denominations. However, many perverted seeds are being planted today, bringing forth human creeds, philosophies, and traditions of men. Jesus referred to those that sowed bad seed as the enemy. People ignorant of the Scriptures do not realize that preachers and teachers often preach false doctrine. Jesus warned of these false teachers.
Matthew 7:15 "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves."
Jesus knew God's law of reproduction must be followed by all men.
Genesis 1:11,12 Then God said, "Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth"; and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its 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. Some men chose to believe and have faith in God's word during the early church days. 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 perverted spiritual seed is what denominationalism is planting all around the world today.
During the church's early years, from 1AD to 150AD, Christians were united in faith, doctrine, and practice. They followed God's way. However, the Holy Spirit warned us that some would depart.
1 Timothy 4:1,2 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron,
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 4:3,4 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
Galatians 1:6,7 I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.
We can study secular history and learn that approximately 150AD is when we begin to see God's original pattern change as people start departing from God's ways. Although some held to the original doctrine of Christ and remained faithful, they were few, from what we know. Remember in Matthew chapter 7, Jesus said "few" will follow the strait and narrow path.
As we have previously learned, and what we know from Bible to be the truth, Christ is the head of the church. God gave Him all power and authority in heaven and on earth.
Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
According to the biblical teaching of church organization, elders oversee each congregation of believers under Christ. Deacons, teachers, preachers, and members (all saved), are under the oversight of the elders.
Hebrews 13:17 Obey those who rule over you and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.
Acts 20:28 Therefore take heed to yourselves and to 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.
Interestingly enough, consider what Paul continued to say to those elders in Ephesus.
Acts 20:17 From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church.
Acts 20:28-31 Therefore take heed to yourselves and to 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. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.
Paul, speaking to these elders in Ephesus, warns them of savage wolves that will rise up from among them, speaking perverse things and causing disciples to follow their perverted ways. As we will see, these uninspired men thought they could improve on God's church and departed from His ways.
In the early centuries, church of Christ congregations (congregations composed of Christians) existed throughout the Roman Empire. These churches had elders to guide and discipline church members per the pattern of organization commanded in the Bible. Elders were also known as bishops, pastors, or shepherds. According to the Bible, no elder is to be exalted above another. However, soon after the apostles' death, uninspired men from each of the local congregations in the Roman Empire designated themselves above the other elders and called themselves bishops. Despite Christ's and the apostles' teachings, some bishops started ruling over several congregations, causing a struggle within the church. Their ruling over several congregations was known as a diocese. Several of these bishops began to meet together and started 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 diocese 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 God's 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 congregations and even ordered the Bible to be reproduced, resulting in fifty handwritten copies. Constantine later died, but his form of government that he had developed in the Roman Empire influenced many 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 official Pope was likely Pope Gregory I in 590AD 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 approximately 610AD, the Islam faith began, and in 632AD, there was significant conflict between those of the Islamic faith and Christians. In 1054, a division occurred in the Catholic Church, forming two groups, the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox. These groups had differences 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 of sins. A person of the Catholic faith was required to confess sins to a Catholic priest for forgiveness.
Let us briefly consider what the Bible teaches us about priests and Christians confession our sins.
1 Peter 2:,45 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
According to the Bible, every Christian is a priest; we are part of a "holy priesthood."
1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,
According to the Bible, there can only be "one Mediator between God and men," and "the Man" is "Christ Jesus." This truth eliminates any authority for a Catholic priest to mediate between God and us.
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.
According to the Bible, we confess our sins to God for forgiveness. There is no authority to confess our sins to a Catholic priest.
Continuing with the history of the church, before 100AD, the inspired Scriptures were completed, and all the books of the Bible existed. From various historical scholars, the 27 books of the New Testament were completed and added to the Old Testament books sometime in the late 300s to early 400s.
In the early centuries, the Catholic Church created other uninspired doctrines, 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 expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.
There were many instances during these middle ages 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; therefore, Church authorities would interpret the Scriptures to the ordinary person. 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. This hunger shaped the culture and provided the background for the great religious movement called "The Reformation of the 16th Century." This movement 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 several leaders of the reformation movement to death. 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 by 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 Bible. He was 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 time period was the actual beginning of the Protestant Church, the church that protested the Catholic Church. However, we should remember that all Protestant churches are less than 500 years old. How old is the Lord's church? Christ's church is nearly 2000 years old (as of 2021).
The apostle Paul mentioned the church of Christ in his letter to the Romans and had something to say about those who would divide it.
Romans 16:16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. The churches of Christ greet you.
Romans 16:17,18 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech 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 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 in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe's household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, "I am of Paul," or "I am of Apollos," or "I am of Cephas," or "I am of Christ." Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
While Luther may have been sincere in leading the protest against the Catholic Church, he further divided the church and ignored what Paul warned against. He failed to consider ALL Scripture and rightly divide the Word of God.
As we have previously shown from Acts chapter 2, the church that Jesus built, the church of Christ, was established at 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 the 500s, and the Protestant Churches were established in the 1500s. There is no question that the church of Christ (the church that belongs to Christ) was the first church, 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, intended to reform the Catholic Church. Before the close of the 16th century, followers of Luther began to call themselves Lutherans and became known as a distinct religious organization called the Lutheran Church. This organization 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 Lutherans but instead call themselves Christians. The people refused to listen. Luther did not remove all Catholic teachings, even though they were not found in the New Testament, nor were they taught by Christ or the apostles. While the Lutherans may have returned closer and nearer to God's way than the Catholics, they still practiced and taught many of the uninspired teachings of the Catholic Church.
The Presbyterian movement was started in 1536 by John Calvin, and his followers 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 was 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 was 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 glorify Christ who died for the church. In the New Testament, we can learn of the church of Christ, which existed hundreds of years before the Catholic Church began. The New Testament is the covenant under which we are bound. Jesus Christ began building His church nearly 2000 years ago, exactly as He wanted it.
Protestant and Catholic religions are a product of human history rather than the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. This study of the church's history reveals this truth to us.
Denominationalism has caused divisions that 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 15:7-9 "Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 'THESE PEOPLE DRAW NEAR TO ME WITH THEIR MOUTH, AND HONOR ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR FROM ME. AND IN VAIN THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE COMMANDMENTS OF MEN.'"
Matthew 15:13,14 But He answered and said, "Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch."
Sincere denominational leaders should realize that removing human creeds, denominational names, doctrines of men, and uninspired practices will cause religious differences to melt away. Only then can we all be united in the Lord's church.
Where would Jesus worship if He walked this earth today as He did almost 2000 years ago?
John 17:20-23 "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved 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!