Guest Post by Eric Shuster
Chapter 1: They Were Evangelizers and Builders (up to AD 299)
Albert Schweitzer once said "One truth stands firm. All that happens in world history rests on something spiritual. If the spiritual is strong, it creates world history. If it is weak, it suffers world history.” Section one of Where are the Christians? takes on the daunting task of providing a concise and compelling history of Christianity to give readers a background of where it all began as a foundation moving forward.
The first of the four chapters in section one focuses on the Evangelization and Formation period of Christianity (up to AD 299). While some might think Christianity began the day Christ was born, Christianity was long prophesied in the Old Testament. Imagine the scholars of Alexandria who translated the Septuagint from Hebrew to Greek around 250 BC—little did they know that less than three centuries later the Messiah would be born and atone for the sins of all mankind.
Following the birth of Jesus Christ and his subsequent public ministry, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension, a small group of believers were left with the commission to “teach all nations” and to baptize (Matt. 28:19-20), setting into motion the order of Christianity. The over two centuries that followed were defined by seven major categories of events: persecution of the church, martyrdom of its early leaders, the spreading of the gospel outside of Palestine, the conversion of Paul, the formation of the church, early heresies, and the writing of the New Testament.
The challenges associated with church persecution under Roman rule and the death of its early leaders was enough to destroy lesser religions that passed on before Christianity. However, the divine commission and enduring truth of Christianity persevered under what seemed to be improbable circumstances. Passionate early adherents such as Paul and others led by the Spirit took the gospel outside of Palestine to ensure its survival and growth among the people of the surrounding regions. While the adversary was trying to destroy the seeds of Christianity, the Lord was inspiring the early Christians to believe, teach, sacrifice and lay the foundation for the Kingdom of God on earth.
As Christianity spread so did a number of heresies that distorted the doctrines of the gospel and led many into deviate worship and belief. Gnosticism, Montanism and Monarchianism were three such heresies that mingled truth with intriguing elements to formulate followings that threatened the early church. As early Christian leaders battled heretical teachings the writing and compiling of the New Testament commenced in hopes of establishing a written record of the teachings of the Savior into an official canon—something that would take decades to complete and centuries more to become available to the masses. The challenge for Christianity moving into its next stage was to achieve large scale credibility as a legitimate religion with the power not only to save souls through faith in Jesus Christ, but to influence the social and political environment toward the establishment of a global Christian Church.
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