Sept. 14 | The Gospel in Church History
Galatians 1:6-7, “6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.”
The gospel message has been the most fought against and counterfeited message of all times- yet it has been the fastest growing message of all mankind. Sadly, just fifteen years after Pentecost the gospel message was tested in many different ways because of its tremendous growth rate.
Paul in today’s passage was forced to write a letter to the Roman province of Galatia and sternly rebuke the false gospel of Jewish legalism (Galatians 3:1; 5:12). Jewish legalism occurred when Jewish followers of Christ mixed Jewish laws with the grace of God. The second false gospel the early church had to overcome was Gnosticism. The Gnostics were people who mixed the pagan philosophy of dualism (God is both good and evil) with the teachings of Jesus. They denied Jesus had a real body when He came to earth and taught when someone was born again they didn’t need to live moral lives. John rebuked them in 1 John 2:4 when he wrote, “Whoever says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person.”
After the first disciples died around 100 A.D., their disciples had to preach and face extreme persecution from the Romans who accused them of “atheism” because they refused to worship their many gods. The persecution in Rome climaxed during the reign of Diocletian in 303-313 A.D. when he murdered over 20,000 Christians by burning them, crucifying them and putting them in arenas to die by gladiator sword and wild animals.
Roman persecution stopped in 313 A.D. when the Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and made Rome a Christian nation. The rash national acceptance of Christianity soon made way for another enemy of the gospel called, “The Roman Catholic Church.” For two hundred years the Church of Rome began to organize all the Christians under their leader, the Bishop of Rome (aka, “the Pope”). Around 1100 A.D., the Church of Rome persecuted all those who did not do things their way- including other Christians (this was known as, “The Inquisitions”).
Over the next 1,000 years in the “Dark Ages” the Church of Rome reduced the gospel of Jesus to a series of man-made sacraments that only the priests could perform. During this time there were gospel preachers, but they were few and were heavily persecuted. For example, when John Wycliffe in the 1300’s tried to translate the Bible from Latin to a common language, he was excommunicated and threatened with death. After he died of natural causes, priests dug up his body and had it publicly burned!
Thankfully when Martin Luther (a German Catholic priest), along with others like Huldreich Zwingli, “protested” the Church of Rome and broke off in 1517 A.D., the gospel was free to flourish again. This event was called, the “Protestant Reformation.” The name protestant was given because they protested the lies of the priests and the word reformation was used because the church reformed itself to the time before the Roman Catholic Church had control.
After the Protestant Reformation the gospel transformed and inspired nations. Many of the first settlers that came to America did so for religious freedom. As the United States formed, so did powerful churches and movements such as the Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians. In the early 1900’s the fire of Pentecost came again in Los Angeles at the Azusa Street Revival. Since then signs, wonders and miracles have become normative to the gospel again! C.S. Lewis wrote, “History is a story written by the finger of God.”
May we never forget the lessons of the past and always remember to hold to the pure and uncorrupted gospel of Jesus Christ!
Are you willing to preserve the gospel of Jesus Christ in your generation?
- Ask God to rid you of any compromise, sin or false beliefs.
- Pray for the power of the Holy Spirit to properly share the gospel with others.
- Pass the gospel torch to others until Jesus comes back!