PLAINER WORDS ON …
BACKGROUND OF CHRISTIANITY
This series of studies includes the Introduction and Part I through Part VIII.
by Tom L. Ballinger
In the introduction of this series we pointed out that the Christian religion, with all of its’ sects and denominations which are almost innumerable, has as its’ source, the same foundation—the one laid by the “Church Fathers.” It was not the foundation laid down by Paul, the wise masterbuilder (1 Corinthians 3:10-11) of the faith of the Acts period, nor was it the foundation of Present Truth with Jesus Christ being the chiefcorner stone (Ephesians 2:20).
If you build on the wrong foundation, more than likely you’ll wind up with a “Rube Goldberg Contraption.” This is what the so-called “Church Fathers,” did and what we see, today, is the fruit of their labors. Anyone who will take the time, and most will not, to do some research on their writings must agree with what Sir Robert Anderson wrote concerning the “Church Fathers” about one-hundred years ago. He wrote that, “their minds were impregnated by the superstitions of Pagan religion, or the subtleties of Pagan philosophy … And inquiry will show that it is to them that we should attribute every perversion of truth which today defaces what is called the Christian religion.”
When a Bible student has the eyes of his understanding enlightened and comes to the knowledge of right division of the Word of Truth, he stands amazed because the Christendom from whence he came is so far from the truth. The latest report to come from God was given to the Apostle Paul, as the prisoner of Jesus Christ for the Gentiles, after the Pentecostal Dispensation ended. When the realization of this scriptural fact sinks in, the enlightened student ponders why Christianity, with all of its’ divisions, is so entangled in error.
In order to gain an understanding as to why the condition is as it is, we will endeavor to put in plainer words our perspective of the background of Christianity.
The question we purpose to answer is: “How did Christendom evolve into such diverse and divisive groups as exist today?” We will examine the rise of Christianity and point out the general characteristics of the principal groups involved in the rise of the “Christian faith.”
In our effort to simplify the different groupings of people, we will ascribe to them names which will designate them as a group; such as, “Extremists,” “Born Again Ones,” “Justified Ones,” and et cetera.
One of the principal groups involved in the rise of Christianity was the unbelieving Jew during the “Acts of the Apostles.” The unbelieving Jew was instrumental in the spread of the Gospel of the coming Kingdom of God which was a result of the persecution administered by them.
The unbelieving Jew, as typified by Saul of Tarsus, thought Jesus of Nazareth was an imposter—a false Messiah. This group of unbelievers clung tenaciously to the “Jews’ religion” which Jesus of Nazareth boldly stated had leavened the Word of God. The “Jews’ religion” was the outgrowth of the “oral law” being superimposed upon the Hebrew Bible. The unbelieving Jew placed more emphasis on the “traditions of the fathers” than on the Word Itself. Their attitude toward the Lord Jesus was that He certainly could not have been the long awaited Messiah because He “transgressed the tradition of the fathers.” The Lord’s denunciation of the “tradition of the fathers” of the Jews’ religion ought to be a yellow flag of warning to Christians, today, who dare not step across the line drawn in the sand of theology by the “Church Fathers.”
The unbeliever’s persecution of the believing Jews scattered them, and they took with them the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. Saul of Tarsus must be mentioned, again, as the instrument the Lord used to spread the good news of the gospel to other areas outside of Palestine. This was done by means of Saul’s aggressive and relentless persecution. Saul, as the rebel leader, would go from house-to-house on search-and-destroy missions. He, later, became the Persecuted One’s Own servant and went house-to-house proclaiming the faith he once destroyed.
THE BELIEVING JEW
When John the Baptist came out of the wilderness preaching “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven (God) is at hand,” he had a receptive audience. Following on his heels was the same proclamation by the Lord Jesus, and He, too, had a ready and receptive audience. In Israel, at the time, there were untold numbers of devout Jews who were waiting and watching for the Kingdom to come (see Luke 25-32, 38). Mark 15:43 mentions another “waiter” for the kingdom to come: “Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus.”
Three specific individuals were mentioned as being waiters and watchers for the Kingdom of God. This would indicate a great deal more were of the same mind-set.
We pass on from the Four Gospels to the “Acts of the Apostles.” The Risen Lord spent forty days after His resurrection with His apostles, “speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). Then, we read; “When they were come together, they asked of Him, saying, Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). After forty days of instruction, they clearly revealed what their hope was, or what was their expectation. It was the anticipation of the coming Kingdom. It was not the Parousia (i.e. the 2nd Coming). He had told them over-and- over, again, that He would go away. “For it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you” (John 16:7).
In plainer words, the Kingdom of God will only come when Jesus Christ is Personally absent from the earth. The Comforter will come in His stead.
The Comforter (i.e. the Holy Spirit) came on Pentecost in Acts Chapter Two. Did the full-blown Kingdom come? No. What we had during the Book of Acts was a foretaste or a preview of the manifestation of the Kingdom of God (Hebrews 6:4-5).
With this in mind during the Acts period, the believing Jews were Christians. However, they remained Jews as regards to their nationality and their rights to the promises connected with the covenants. The Twelve were their Apostles. The Twelve were the Apostles of the Circumcision.
There was early unity among the Jewish believers. Between Acts 2 and Acts 6, the record clearly indicates that there was harmony among them as they continued in the Apostles’ Doctrine and fellowship (Acts 2:42). As their numbers grew, and as the believers sold their possessions and “had all things common” (Acts 4:32), there was real unity.
How long did this unity prevail? We will see in the next study.
Tom L. Ballinger