HISTORY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH
I. THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH ESTABLISHED.
A. Its Founder - Christ - Matt. 16:16-18.
B. Its Foundation - The Son Of God (Christ) - Matt. 16:16-18; 1 Cor. 3:11; Isaiah 28:16; 1 Peter 2:4-6.
C. Its Origin - 30 AD In Jerusalem - Acts 2.
II. APOSTASY FORETOLD - Acts 20:28-32; 2 Ths. 2:3-4; 1 Tim. 4:1-3; 2 Tim. 4:3-4.
A. Notice: Men Would Fall Away From The Faith (The Faith Would Not Be Lost).
B. This Apostasy Would Draw Men Away From The Word Delivered By The Apostles (Acts 20:29-32).
III. THE APOSTASY OCCURRED - l Jno. 2:18-19; 4:1-3; Jude 4; Rev. 2:1-2.
A. Corruption Of Organization Within The New Testament Church.
1. New Testament pattern of organization:
a. Congregational - Acts 14:23; 20:28.
b. Elders, deacons and saints - Phil. 1:1.
c. Plurality of elders - Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5.
d. Autonomous (self-governing) - 1 Pet. 5:2.
B. The Apostasy. (Chart: History of the Church)
1. In the 2nd century, one bishop began to be placed over each church, with his elders under his control.
2. Churches in the same area formed confederations and organized councils through which common concerns were addressed.
3. This led to a distinct "clergy-laity" concept. The clergy claimed decision-making powers, while the privileges of the laity in directing the affairs of the church were diminished.
4. These "church councils" grew in scope, with the "Bishops" increasing in power, until, by the end of the 3rd century, there were five leading Bishops or Patriarchs (Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem and Constantinople). After much controversy, in 606, the Bishop of Rome was given the title of "Universal Bishop," and thus the Papacy was born.
C. The Dark Ages: Roman Catholicism (600 - 1400 AD).
1. This apostate church (Roman Catholic Church) gained civil power as well as holding moral sway over its members. This period was characterized by "The Church" (the Pope) controlling kings and nations throughout much of the civilized world.
2. The Scriptures were not in the hands of the common people. In fact, the Council of Toulouse passed a canon (rule) which read in part:
"We also forbid the laity to possess any of the books of the Old or New Testament.. .having any of these books translated into the vulgar tongue, we strictly forbid." (The Church, The Falling Away And The Restoration, pp. 75-76)
IV. THE REFORMATION MOVEMENT: PROTESTANTISM (1400 - 1800 AD).
A. Protest And Reform - Protestantism Is Born.
1. Some men within the Roman Catholic Church saw the errors in doctrine and the hypocrisy in worship which existed, and sought to reform their corrupt and fallen church. This movement gave rise to many different religious bodies. However noble and dedicated these men were, they only established more false religions, based upon human creeds, with men following the teachings of other men, instead of Christ. Read: 1 Cor. 1:10-13; 2 John 9; John 14:6; Col. 3:17.
2. Following are brief notes on some of these Reformers:
a. John Wycliffe (1320? - 1384) - Called the "Morning Star of the Reformation," he was the first to distinguish himself in fighting against the supremacy of the pope, the doctrine of transubstantiation and the abuses of the hierarchy. In 1380, he completed the first translation of the Bible into English.
b. Martin Luther (1483 - 1546) - German monk and leader of the German Reformation. He spoke out against the Roman Catholic Church's practice of indulgences (An indulgence was considered to release a repentant person from punishment for a sin after God had forgiven his guilt.) in his "Ninety-five Theses," October 30, 1517. He was later excommunicated (1521), translated the Bible into German, and developed his views on justification by faith and the ultimate authority of the Bible. His teachings became the basis of the Lutheran Church.
c. Huldreich Zwingli (1484 - 1531) - Swiss leader of the Protestant Reformation in Switzerland who maintained the sole authority of the Bible, while speaking out against clerical celibacy, fasting, purgatory, the invocation of saints, monasticism and transubstantiation. He contended that nothing should be practiced that was not expressly commanded by the Scriptures.
d. John Calvin (1509 - 1564) - French Reformer who, perhaps more than anyone else helped shape the religious thinking of Protestantism. He rejected papal authority and other doctrines of the Catholic Church. Due to persecution he fled from France to Switzerland (where many Reform scholars had gathered) While there, he wrote The Institutes of the Christian Religion, a multi-volume set in which he clarified and systematized the Reform position. Presbyterianism was built upon his view of church government.
e. Henry VIII (1491 - 1547) - King of England from 1509 until his death, he was a staunch supporter of Roman Catholicism. But, when the Pope refused to invalidate his marriage to Catherine of Aragon (so he could marry Anne Boleyn), with Parliaments help, he severed ties with the Pope by making himself superior to the Pope in England. Thus, the Church of England was born.
f. John Knox (1505 ? - 1572) - Scottish Reformation leader and founder of the Presbyterian Church. He was a close friend of John Calvin while they were together in Geneva, Switzerland (1553- '59). He returned to Scotland in 1559, where his influence led to the formation of a Presbyterian form of government. Later, he saw Presbyterianism become the official religion of Scotland.
g. John Smyth ( ? - 1612) - At one time a clergyman of the Church of England, he helped lead the first regularly organized Baptist Church in London in 1607.
h. John Wesley (1703 - 1791) - An Anglican priest who formed "The Holy Club" in 1729 to combat the sterile formalism he saw in the Church of England. Members were called "Methodists" out of derision, but the name stuck. In 1738, he claimed a personal experience of religious conversion, which became the basis of the message he preached, as well as the basis of the Evangelical Movement. Although he did not plan to start a new church, in 1784, the first organized Methodist Church was formed in Baltimore, Maryland.
V. THE RESTORATION MOVEMENT (early 1800's).
A. Objectives Of The Restoration Movement.
1. While the Reformers sought to correct errors of a fallen church, the Restorers worked for a RETURN to the true church of the New Testament. The following goals were held in common by these men:
a. To return to Bible truths -- To be Christians only.
b. That Christ is the sole and supreme head of the church.
c. That the New Testament is the only rule of faith and practice.
d. To restore the organization of the church.
e. To restore the autonomy of the local congregation.
2. Their attitude is seen in their slogans and statements:
a. "Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent." (Thomas Campbell)
b. "No book but the Bible; no creed but Christ; no name but the divine name."
c. "The Bible alone must always decide every question involving the nature, the character or the designs of the Christian institution." (Alexander Campbell)
B. Some Of The Prominent Men Of The Restoration Movement:
1. James O'Kelly - Lived in North Carolina and on December 25, 1793, seceded from the Methodist Church. Believed in local autonomy of congregations, and by 1801, he and others resolved to be known as "Christians" only, with Christ as the only head of the church, and the Bible as its only creed.
2. Abner Jones - A Baptist from Vermont, in 1800 he started a congregation which rejected sectarian names and creeds.
3. Barton W. Stone - Presbyterian who rejected Calvins doctrine of "the elect" and "irresistible grace" (1804). He preached against denominationalism and eventually led the largest segment in the restoration, who called themselves "Christians."
4. Thomas Campbell - Presbyterian who came to America from Ireland in 1807. He was censured for allowing "open communion" in Pennsylvania. He later severed his connection with the Presbyterian Church, and in 1809 delivered his famous "Declaration And Address." He preached unity based upon God's word.
5. Alexander Campbell - Arrived in America in 1809 from Ireland, and had, independently from his father Thomas, arrived at many of the same conclusions. Debater, writer and leading spokesman of the movement. In 1832, 12,000 of his followers ("Disciples") and 15,000 of Stones adherents ("Christians") began to unite, using the Bible as their only guide.
VI. RECENT HISTORY (1849 - present).
As Christians have earnestly contended for the faith (Jude 3), they have fought error and continue to fight error as it creeps into the church. Innovations have continued to spring up in recent years, sometimes causing division within our ranks. However, those who demand a scripture for every practice and belief have preserved and kept pure the church for which Jesus died. Some divisions in the past were caused by the following:
1. American Christian Missionary Society, 1849. Designed to oversee evangelism for the church. It was organized like a denomination, drew its financial support from local congregations, and destroyed the autonomy, independence and equality of the local churches.
2. Instrumental music in worship, 1860. No scriptural authority for it (supported on the basis that "silence gives consent.").
3. Institutionalism, 1950 --- . Human organizations (orphan homes, etc.) drew money from local churches to do benevolent work that is the duty of individuals and not the church.
4. Sponsoring Churches. A network of churches larger than the New Testament pattern, doing a collective work. Destroys autonomy, independence and equality of local churches.
5. Corruption of the work of church. General (unlimited) benevolence, church-sponsored, promoted and provided recreation, social events, secular business enterprises, etc.
VII. LESSONS FROM HISTORY.
A. Man Has A Tendency To Drift Away From The Truth.
B. Gods Plan Is Perfect -- Mans Ways Are Faulty - Prov. 16:25; Jer. 10:23.
C. There Is No Stopping Point When One Begins Down The Path Of Apostasy.
D. We Must Always Be Willing To Examine Our Practices In The Light Of Gods Word - 2 Cor. 13:5.
E. We Must Never Follow Man, But Christ - Col. 3:17; 2 John 9.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. Who was the founder of the church in the New Testament? Upon what foundation was it built? Where did it originate? (Cite scriptures)
2. Was the word of God lost during the apostasy predicted in 1 Timothy 4:1-3? Explain.
3. In which area of the New Testament church did apostasy begin? Compare this with other apostasies in recent times.
4. When and where was the "Universal Bishop" appointed?
5. Who first translated the Bible from Latin into English? Why was this such an important milestone?
6. Give the country of the Reformers: Luther ____________; Zwingli ___________; Calvin __________; Henry VIII ____________; Knox ___________ ; Smyth ___________; Wesley _____________.
7. What was the primary objective of the restorationists?
8. What famous slogan was coined by Thomas Campbell?
9. Explain why Alexander Campbell is not the founder of the church of Christ.
10. What was the American Christian Missionary Society? What parallels it organizational makeup and objective within some churches of Christ today?
11. What lessons can we learn from church history?