Jesus invested years into His disciples, preparing them to take over after He left. Some people have said they trust Jesus teaching over Peter’s or the other apostles. However, these men taught what He had trained them to say and do. They did not invent Christianity, they followed His instructions. They did not make up a way for people to enter the Kingdom of the new covenant. They followed the Master plan.

The disciples held to one teaching as a church, not a few dozen variations of the faith. Scripture tells us, “they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42). They taught the nature of Jesus Christ as God in the flesh. They taught baptism in the Name of Jesus Christ. They taught the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the experience of speaking in a heaven-given language. This was not only their message; it was their life. If necessary, they would die for what they believed.

The Church at its Best

Scientists have done tests on earth’s glaciers and found they record a history of mankind. In the surface ice of a glacier, one can find residue of diesel and gasoline exhaust. Further down, there are components from CFCs and nuclear fall out. Still deeper one will find coal dust, volcanic ash, and all kinds of components that steadily date further back in earth history with each successive layer. At the deepest drill points of an old glacier, one will find the purest form of water on earth. No contaminants, no pollutants, and no impurities from man. The earliest collected ice is straight H2O.

The Book of Acts reveals God’s church in its most pristine condition, before carnal people began twisting and distorting the faith. A surface examination of the church scene today shows a lot of pollution. As we drill deeper and deeper into church history we find the doctrines becoming more and more pure. Rather than scratch around the surface of modern belief, we should go back to our pure roots.

The Pure Source 30-100 CE

The apostles kept the faith pure as it was once delivered unto them by Jesus. Slowly, opponents of Christ killed off the apostles until they were all dead by the end of the first century. Some of these executions came by the Jews, others by the Roman government. The apostle James died first. His brother John died last of all the apostles. After them, men they had trained in the truth took the leadership of the church. Men began to rise to leadership who came from pagan world-views and did not know the core of Judaism: “The Lord our God is One.”

In the first two centuries, thousands came to know Jesus Christ and His new freedom. Some historians report Christians having converted half of the known world.

Man-made contaminants 100-300 CE

Soon, false brethren rose up who mixed the Christian faith with other worldviews. For example, the Gnostics believed Jesus was not true flesh (I John 4:2-3). Montanus developed a cult who refused to eat meat or to marry (I Timothy 4:1-3). In an attempt to defend the faith of the apostles, Sabellius promoted a doctrine of modalism, saying God worked in different modes (Titus 2:1). Later on, Tertullian came on the scene from North Africa suggesting a different view of the of God from being one Person to being three persons (II Corinthians 11:3-4).

Human control in the Kingdom 300-325 CE

The Christians suffered persecution from the Jesus-haters in Rome. They died at the swords of the gladiators, burned at the stake, and surrendered themselves to wild beasts in the coliseum. To escape further brutality, many Christians hid in catacombs, tunnels under the city of Rome.

Christians breathed an air of relief when Constantine came to the throne. This man claimed to have had a miraculous conversion to Christ while on the battlefield. Although he never showed signs of having a relationship with Jesus Christ, Constantine did legalize the Christian faith in the Roman Empire and it eventually became mandatory. Soon, many politicians came into the church in order to keep their rank, not to serve Christ. This brought in confusion and poor leadership.

Human Reasoning 325-381 CE

Two factions arose in the church because of a man named Arius who challenged traditional understanding of Christ. He presented the Son as a man separate from God yet not merely man either. Another voice arose in Alexandria, Egypt. Alexander of Alexandria argued according to the Greek word logos that the Son was a person within God, second to the Father. He and his disciple Athanasius argued this logic in line with predecessors such as Justin Martyr and Tertullian. Although they knew this was not the doctrine taught by the apostles, they presented it as an explanation of Christ so that Greek philosophers would feel an affinity for the Christian faith and be more likely to join. Meanwhile, the majority of Christians continued believing in the one true God revealed in Jesus Christ as the apostles had taught.

Constantine saw the heated argument boiling up within his kingdom and he decided to do what any good politician does to make a decision: he called for a committee and then demanded a vote. Both sides presented their cases for a while until finally they handed down a decision at the Council of Nicea that Jesus was God. While this reinforced traditional teaching, key phrases in this agreement steered the faithful away from biblical definitions and more toward a secular, philosophical approach.

Unsound Doctrine 381-400 CE

While the Alexandrian, compromised view of Jesus Christ won the vote, the argument was not over. Church leaders fought bitterly about the true nature of the logos. Finally, in the Council of Constantinople in 381, they made another decision. They defined God in the terms of persons. They called the Father the first person in the Godhead, the Son the second person, and the Holy Ghost the third person in this divine tri-unity. The term Trinity caught hold, and, for the first time in history, Christians began using the term “persons” to describe God.

Pollution Distorts the Faith 400-500 CE

With in just 50 years of the new view of God (the Trinity), Augustine said the Spirit no longer worked in the church as it once had. He only knew of miracles, healings, and speaking tongues by what he read. It was not a current reality any longer. Once the enemy saw he could reshape the church by councils and popular votes, he brought in a long line of corruption. The universal church (known in Latin as catholic) began adopting heathen practices and beliefs from which came modern ideas of purgatory, the rosary, infant baptism, religious candles, and prayers for the dead.

When the Roman Empire fell in the middle of the fifth century, the catholic church found itself without the bureaucratic backbone of its government. Since this religious body had been hardwired to work through politics, councils, and popular vote, the leadership continued the same kind of management. Instead of a ruling emperor, they elected a holy emperor, called the pope, to head the church and gave him a headquarters called the Vatican.

Mixed up Faith

The Roman Catholic Church had already established prayers to the apostles (called “saints”) in place of the pagan idols the common people had worshipped. In Ephesus, however, a new problem emerged. These people worshiped a female divinity called Diana. Eventually, the RCC held the Council of Ephesus which made Mary look like a semi-divinity. It is almost as if they took the goddess Diana and changed her name to Mary and let the people keep worshipping her. In fact, the Roman version of this demonic spirit (called Artemis) appears in a crest moon—just as artists today frequently portray the goddess called the “Blessed Virgin” today.

Killing for Christ

One more atrocity to the litany of religious horrors came when popes decided to conduct “Crusades” to retake the Holy Land. The seven major battles of the crusades were devastating losses both politically and to the bulk of the able “Christian” males. How can this behavior be reconciled with the work of Christ? Did He kill those who did not agree with Him? Was His missions plan a war strategy? Obviously the religious body we are looking at here is not the body of Christ at all.

Salvation for Money

The lowest point of Catholic history came when the pope authorized the sale of “indulgences.” This allowed wicked people to buy an agreement from the church that would minimize their suffering in the afterlife and send them right into the good place. The naive people gave their livelihoods to get this promise. The church bilked the equivalents of millions out of the populous this way. St. Peter’s basilica in Rome was built with this money (Benedict the 16th received his coronation there).

Next time…

The church that began as a blaze of glory now became a heap of smoldering ashes. Could the truth die? Had Jesus made a mistake by trusting the apostles to carry the message? We will look at the better side of this next.