Copyright 1994 - 2017 Bill's Bible Basics
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May 19, 2012
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May 19, 2012
Early Christian Church Weakened Due To False Doctrines And Years Of Roman Persecution, Compromise Of The Fourth Century Church Fathers With Rome, Scriptures Regarding Persecution, Persecution Can Strengthen God's Church, Chinese And Western Christians, Sifted By Trials Tribulation Persecution, Rise Of The False Church, Bible Warnings Concerning Materialism And Worldliness, From Persecuted Church To Being Persecutor, Inquisitions And Crusades, Spiritual Revolution Of Love And Sacrificial Service, Scriptures Against Violence, Violent Islamists, Roman Catholicism's False Link To Peter, Peter's Non-Violence And Martyrdom, Marriage Of Convenience Between Political And Religious Power By Bishops During 4th Century
Within a few hundred years of the events which are described for us in the Book of Acts, the situation within the Lord's Church had changed considerably. Despite warnings from the Lord Himself and the Apostles, infiltration by false Jewish brethren had taken its toll and false doctrines abounded, no doubt even more than what had already occurred by the latter half of the First Century. With all of the Apostles now gone from the scene, and thus unable to correct any errors which may have crept into the Church, the doctrinal and spiritual unity that is described for us in the following verses had become heavily polluted by misguided ideas and the doctrines and traditions of men, some of whom were only self-serving wolves within the Lord's Church:
"And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are . . . That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; 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, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me."
John 17:11, 21-23, KJV
"And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd."
John 10:16, KJV
"That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Romans 15:6, KJV
"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."
1 Corinthians 1:10, KJV
"Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you."
2 Corinthians 13:11, KJV
"I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace"
Ephesians 4:1-3, KJV
"Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;"
Philippians 1:27, KJV
"Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind."
Philippians 2:2, KJV
It seems to be inevitable that time will change and distort things, so that they are no longer recognizable for what they once were. New nations are born in the heat of passion and the desire for freedom and change, only to be transformed in time to that which they had once despised. Sadly, the Early Church does not appear to have escaped this slow process of corruption. Thus, in just a matter of a few centuries which had passed since the Original Teachings had been imparted by Jesus and the Apostles, the Early Church had become seriously fractured in a doctrinal sense. Some of the Christian bishops believed and taught certain doctrines to their flocks, while other bishops held and taught opposing views. Accusations of heresy were quite common and doctrinal confusion divided the Lord's flocks. If ever there was a time to take heed to the wise counsel of the following verses, it was then:
"Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees."
Matthew 16:12, KJV
"That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:"
Ephesians 4:14-15, KJV
"Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein."
Hebrews 13:9, KJV
"As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do."
1 Timothy 1:3-4, KJV
"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;"
1 Timothy 4:1, KJV
"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;"
2 Timothy 4:3, KJV
To aggravate the situation within the Church even more, many years of an unpredictable tide of persecution by one Roman emperor after another -- from Nero to Diocletian -- had also taken a very heavy toll. The Lord's Church was growing weak, tired and battle-weary. Thanks to the early missionary work of the Apostles and other Christians such as Paul, Barnabas, Mark John, Silas, Timothy, Aquila and Priscilla, and Titus, while the Church had made inroads into Roman society -- even infiltrating Roman high society -- nevertheless, it remained in a very precarious position. At certain points, Christians were even allowed to own property, while at other times they occupied the lowest rung of Roman society and were heavily persecuted, imprisoned and killed. The tide of persecution changed depending on the emperors who were in power.
While some historians and theologians propose that Rome was eventually conquered by Christianity, particularly by the Christians' demonstration of love and sacrificial service, given how the situation eventually turned out, I must wonder if the exact opposite of that may hold true. In other words, is it possible that what really happened is that our faith, at least certain members of our faith, were overcome by all of the worldly enticements of Rome? Personally, I suspect that these extremes between acceptance and persecution made the Church very vulnerable to compromise, and that certain members of the Church did in fact eventually seek compromise during the Fourth Century reign of Emperor Constantine I. Perhaps it was due to pragmatism, or perhaps to greed of one form or another.
It is evident that contrary to the teachings of the Church's founders -- Jesus Christ and His first Apostles -- some of the Christian leaders of that era were no longer willing to suffer persecution for their faith. Whereas Jesus had taught us that as His followers, we are not to become a part of this world, certain Christian leaders of the Fourth Century became comfortable with the world. Whereas Jesus had taught us that His followers would be hated due to our faith in Him, some of the Christian leaders of that period wanted to be accepted by the Roman world. Consider these relevant verses:
"Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints."
Psalms 116:15, KJV
"Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another."
Matthew 24:9-10, KJV
"But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake. And it shall turn to you for a testimony. Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist. And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake. But there shall not an hair of your head perish. In your patience possess ye your souls."
Luke 21:12-19, KJV
"If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me."
John 15:18-21, KJV
"Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."
2 Timothy 3:12, KJV
Even in our modern day, it is recognized that persecution often makes the Lord's Church stronger and more on-fire. At the same time, comfort and complacency can quickly weaken it and diminish its effectiveness. For example, while Christians in China may suffer serious persecution under an oppressive communist government, is it possible that they are actually stronger, more dedicated, and more on-fire than Christians in the affluent, materialistic West who experience very little, if any, persecution whatsoever? So in reality, persecution can affect us in either one of two ways. It can make us even stronger and more dedicated to the Lord, or else it can sift us like wheat and make us fall away. Consider these verses:
"But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold."
Job 23:10, KJV
"And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, the house of Israel is to me become dross: all they are brass, and tin, and iron, and lead, in the midst of the furnace; they are even the dross of silver. Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because ye are all become dross, behold, therefore I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem. As they gather silver, and brass, and iron, and lead, and tin, into the midst of the furnace, to blow the fire upon it, to melt it; so will I gather you in mine anger and in my fury, and I will leave you there, and melt you. Yea, I will gather you, and blow upon you in the fire of my wrath, and ye shall be melted in the midst thereof. As silver is melted in the midst of the furnace, so shall ye be melted in the midst thereof; and ye shall know that I the LORD have poured out my fury upon you."
Ezekiel 22:17-22, KJV
"And some of them of understanding shall fall, to try them, and to purge, and to make them white, even to the time of the end: because it is yet for a time appointed."
Daniel 11:35, KJV
"Which I commanded your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, Obey my voice, and do them, according to all which I command you: so shall ye be my people, and I will be your God:"
Jeremiah 11:4, KJV
"And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God."
Zechariah 13:9, KJV
"And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren."
Luke 22:31-32, KJV
"My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing."
James 1:2-4, KJV
"That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:"
1 Peter 1:7, KJV
"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified."
1 Peter 4:12-14, KJV
"Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life."
Revelation 2:10, KJV
"I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see."
Revelation 3:18, KJV
For a deeper look at this topic, please consider reading such articles as "Civil Disobedience and Christian Persecution", as well as "Peter: Faith Tried in the Fire".
So it is my personal belief that some of the bishops of the Fourth Century compromised their faith and moved out of the Circus of Nero and the coliseums where their predecessors had been torn apart by hungry lions, and into the safety of the grandstands. In short, a false form of Christianity began to emerge which became more of a spectator religion than a faith which is actively involved in winning the world for the Lord. This false religion was more interested in acquiring worldly power, wealth and building grand cathedrals, than in catering to the spiritual and physical needs of the poor. It became friends with the Roman world. It was -- and continues to be -- exactly what Jesus and the Apostles said we are not to be, as we can see by the following verses:
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also . . . No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon."
Matthew 6:19-21, 24, KJV
"If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you."
John 15:19, KJV
"I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil."
John 17:14-15, KJV
"Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,"
2 Corinthians 6:17, KJV
"If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth."
Colossians 3:1-2, KJV
"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession; That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ:"
1 Timothy 6:6-14, KJV
"No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier."
2 Timothy 2:4, KJV
"These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city."
Hebrews 11:13-16, KJV
"Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God."
James 4:4, KJV
"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world."
1 John 2:15-16, KJV
In light of the previous two groups of Scriptures, there is absolutely no way to justify what the Church became as a result of the political and religious events -- that is, the compromise -- which occurred during the Fourth Century and onward. The false church which arose is so vastly different from the description, requirements and doctrines which have been so plainly laid out for us in the New Testament, that any true, God-fearing, Bible-believing Christian should be able to recognize it for what it really is.
Thus, as I explained a moment ago, this false church chose to become friends with the heathen world as a way to avoid persecution, and to expand its power throughout the Roman Empire. In fact, sadly, as it gradually grew in strength and influence, it eventually transformed itself from being the persecuted Church of earlier centuries, to actually becoming the persecuting church. This historical fact is evidenced by the Inquisitions which occurred throughout much of Europe, as well as by the misguided and violent "Christian" Crusades, by the Marian Persecutions of the mid-Sixteenth Century, etc. There are claims that many millions of people were tortured and died as a result of the unrelenting wrath of the false church, which apparently believed that it could force people to accept its doctrines through oppression, fear and pain.
As many Bible-believing Christians will know, this is not the way that Christ instructed us to preach the Gospel. It is not the way that His Apostles taught us to win the world for the Lord either. It becomes quite evident through a study of the New Testament that both Christ and the Apostles were against violence, and advocated a spiritual revolution which would win the world through love and sacrificial service, and not through oppression, violence and the edge of the sword, as we can determine by the following sample verses:
"Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth . . . Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God . . . But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust."
Matthew 5:5, 9, 44-45, KJV
"And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus [meaning the Apostle Peter] stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest's, and smote off his ear. Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?"
Matthew 26:51-53, KJV
"Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus. Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?"
John 18:10-11, KJV
"If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men."
Romans 12:18, KJV
"(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)"
2 Corinthians 10:4, KJV
"From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts."
James 4:1-3, KJV
Following are some additional verses from both the Old and the New Testaments which likewise reveal how God will one day punish violent, wicked men, and those who destroy the Earth with their violence, and bring an end to violence on the Earth once and for all:
"Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God."
Psalms 20:7, KJV
"But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace."
Psalms 37:11, KJV
"And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."
Isaiah 2:4, KJV
"And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."
Micah 4:3, KJV
"And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth."
Revelation 11:18, KJV
"He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints."
Revelation 13:10, KJV
The truth of the matter is that what this false church did is not really that much different from the violent practices of Islamists who also converted people to the false religion of Muhammad by the edge of a sword. If you are interested in learning more about my opinion concerning this topic, please consider reading such articles as "Holy Qur'an And Islam: A Doctrine of Devils?", "God of Peace, God of War", "Killing and the Phinehas Priesthood", "Killing, Murder and Military Duty" and related articles.
As some of you will obviously realize, what I have briefly described for you are actually the formative years of the Roman Catholic Church during the Fourth Century. Contrary to Roman Catholic claims, their church most certainly did not exist prior to that time in history, and its origin cannot be traced to the Apostle Peter. After the lesson that Jesus gave Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane concerning the issue of non-violence, I am convinced that Peter, more than anyone, would know that violence is not the way to win the world for Christ. Furthermore, rather than resorting to violence, we know that not only was Peter persecuted as a result of his faith in Jesus, but he gave his life for the sake of Christ and the Gospel as well, as we can determine by the following verses. I have added a few words in brackets for the sake of clarification:
"Verily, verily, I say unto thee [unto Peter], When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands [signifying crucifixion], and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me."
John 21:18-19, KJV
"Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation, And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison."
Acts 5:17-18, KJV
"Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) And when he had apprehended him [meaning Peter], he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people."
Acts 12:1-4, KJV
Thus, for the Roman Catholic Church -- with its violent and bloody past -- to dare to claim a link to the Apostle Peter, who practiced peace, and who gave his very life due to his love for the Lord and His lost sheep, is utterly ridiculous, preposterous and ludicrous to say the least. Based upon the evidence which I have uncovered, I remain convinced that it was the compromise which was made by various bishops during the reign of Emperor Constantine I, that really resulted in the birth and formation of the Roman Catholic Church. I will be discussing this issue in more detail in part two of this series. This compromise was simply a marriage of convenience between political power and religious power, as has occurred many times throughout world history, and which continues to occur in our own time as well.
Please go to part two for the continuation of this series.
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