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Three Lessons From Three Centuries

November 17, 2016 | by: Mike Law | 0 Comments

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Reflections

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I’ve really enjoyed studying early church history over the past few months. It has been a great encouragement to me, and if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to share with you the three things that stand out to me about the first three hundred years of the Christian Church. As I reflect back on the reading I’ve been doing, it strikes me that the first three centuries of the church were marked by preaching, persistence, and a concern for purity.

In the first three centuries, the gospel of Jesus Christ spread through energetic and faith-filled preaching, both by the Apostles and your “run-of-the-mill” believers. I’m encouraged and challenged that the early church understood and believed that the ordinary means that the Lord Jesus Christ instituted were sufficient for the mission to which he called the church. In a day in age when we are tempted to believe we need the next best thing, I am challenged by the early church to believe that I have, not the next best thing, but the actual best thing in the good news of Jesus Christ and the ordinances.

I am also encouraged and challenged by the persistence of the believers in the first three centuries. They not stop preaching the good news of Jesus Christ in the face of hostility, and they used that opposition to keep preaching, find new mission fields, and hold fast to the words spoken by Jesus in Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Some buckled and bent under the persecution, but many did not. The church persisted and fought back after each successive wave of persecution (there were roughly ten waves of persecution in those first three centuries!).

Finally, I’m encouraged and challenged that the leaders in the first three centuries of the church aimed for her purity. The problem of those forsaking Christ in the face of persecution was a thorny issue. They had to work hard to figure out how to best handle each case, but it strikes me that what motivated those wrestling with the lapse of believers was how to reflect the priorities of God for his people – being generous and gracious as well as being serious about sin. Aiming for a pure expression of the Christian faith is honoring to our Lord. It is unfortunate that schisms and divisions arose because of this, but I think that is understandable as Christians live in a fallen world and endeavor to work out their faith with fear and trembling.

As I reflect back on the first three centuries, I find that what marked the Church’s history, warts and all, is deeply encouraging, instructive, and personally challenging. My prayer is that as a church we would persist in preaching the good news, prove faithful in whatever persecution the Lord calls us to face, and remain generous, gracious, and serious about sin and salvation in Jesus.

Warmly in Christ,
Mike

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