What Does A Biblical Christian Believe?
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  1. This is the root organization from which all of the denominations, listed on our chart, had emerged.

  2. The earliest Christian church was established by Jesus Christ and richly developed by His disciples and especially the Apostle Paul's missionary journeys.

  3. It began as a Jewish sect and its members were referred to as "Followers of The Way". Which was based primarily on Jesus' own words in John 14:6 "I AM the way the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father but by Me."

  4. In the book of Acts, the Bible reports that these "Followers" were called "Christians" for the first time in Antioch. It was a derisive term which meant "little Christs". The name given in derision was a perfect fit for what true Christianity represented: being a smaller version i.e. representative or imitator of Christ, so the name was a hit among Christians and it stuck.

  5. Originally Considered a “Jewish” Sect by Nearly Everyone (except Christians) As with all sects that grow in size, worldwide presence, and widely differing and independent doctrine from the "Mother" faith, Christianity ceased to be considered a Jewish sect (mostly by the declarations of the Jews to the Roman authorities in an effort to remove "legal protection" of the Christians).

    1. This fledgling "Christ-ian" sect soon emerged as a world religion in its own right.

    2. Incidentally, similar paths from "sect" to "world religion" took place among the Buddhists, Jainists, Sikhs, and Bahai faiths but none of these grew and spread with such vigor as the Christian faith, primarily because its message of a loving God forgiving, adopting, and cleansing sinful man apart from religious works of that sinful man was as revolutionary then as it is today.

    3. However, today the message tends to fall on deaf ears often times because of the hardness of people's hearts to the idea that we are all born with the fatal sin sickness.

    4. Contrary to popular belief, Christians hold that the "true" church is not a building, nor does it necessarily pertain to a specific group of attendees, but is comprised of those who have trusted in Jesus of the Bible for the forgiveness of their sins and subsequently look to Him as the author and giver of life and life eternal.

  6. Quick Facts About the Early Christian Church

    1. Matthew 16:18-19 – Jesus says, "And upon this rock I build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it"

      1. Jesus reference to “this” rock – is Peter’s testimony "You are The Son of God" and Jesus is not referring to building the church on Peter the man

      2. The gates of Hell will not prevail against it - This means that the idea presented by Joseph Smith, Mary Baker Eddy, Russell and Rutherford of the Jehovah's Witnesses, etc that the "true" church was lost is false as that would suggest that the gates of hell did indeed prevail against the church which we were promised would never happen/li>
      3. Jesus mentions that to the Apostles he gives the "Keys to the kingdom" and although "keys" represents elements necessary to gain ‘entry', it is clear that Jesus speaks of true faith in Himself as Messiah and Savior of mankind's sins are the "keys" to entry.

      4. Peter knew that Jesus wasn’t talking about him (Peter) as a “rock” and Jesus definitely wasn’t speaking of Peter as the supposed “first Pope” of the church, this was all made up hundreds and hundreds of years later by Roman Catholic Popes to assert their authority in Rome over the rest of the church.

      5. Rather Jesus was talking about Himself - the One that Peter had just declared. This is evident when Peter declares in his own epistle 1Peter 2:4-8 And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For this is contained in Scripture: “Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.” 7 This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, “The stone which the builders rejected,This became the very corner stone,” 8 and, “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense” - Peter didn’t declare himself the Rock but Jesus as the Rock and Jesus’ followers as “living stones being built up”.

    2. Essentials vs Non-essentials - From Heresy to Apostasy

      1. Essentials - Affects Justification , Sanctification & Glorification

        1. Proper Theology - Who God is, properties, Triunity

        2. Christology - Who Christ is (Deity/Humanity of Jesus), Incarnation, Work, Glorification

        3. Person of the Holy Spirit

        4. Christ’s Virgin Birth

        5. Human Depravity: Nature of Man

        6. Jesus’ Bodily Resurrection

        7. Salvation: Grace alone, faith alone in Christ alone

        8. Christ’s Sinlessness

        9. Christ’s Atonement

        10. Christ’s 2nd coming; final judgement

        11. Soteriology - doctrine of salvation - by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone

      2. Non-Essentials - Affects Ecclesiology (church life), Eschatology (view of future), Pneumatology (view of the Holy Spirit)

        1. Transubstantiation - Some Lutherans still hold to a form of this which has been called “con-substantiation”.

        2. Eternal Security of the Believer

        3. Water Baptism – methods, age of baptised, necessity vs non-necessity views, etc

        4. Eschatological elements - Rapture, Millennialism, Amillennialism, Post-millennialism

        5. Gifts of the Spirit - Have they ceased, not-ceased, if not ceased then how are they to be used or not used

        6. Soteriological applications of faith, grace - Calvinism (Predestination, God’s Sovereignty) vs. Arminianism (free will, compatibilism) vs. Molinism (counterfactuals, compatibilism, best possible world)

  7. Properties of The Early Church

    1. Decentralized - no one had ever mentioned nor even heard of such a thing as “Papal Authority” which wouldn’t come along until many centuries later when introduced by the Roman Catholic departure from the Bible-believing Christian Church.

    2. Loosely organized - it was more metropolitan without a hierarchy of authoritarian Bishops and Archbishops. There was “The Church at Philipi” or “The Church at Corinth” or “The Church at Rome”. It became more heavily organised in the 4th century when the practice of Christianity was made legal by the Edict of Milan and by Constantine’s involvement and intermixing of church and state affairs.

    3. Participant Driven - Scriptural Records Of The Early Christian Church

      1. The Christian assembly usually met in private homes for worship and instruction(Acts 2:46; 16:40; 18:7; Philem. 1:2)

      2. in commemoration of the resurrection, the congregation assembled on the "Lord's Day," the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2)

      3. New Testament suggests that Christian worship incorporated singing of hymns and psalms (Eph. 5:19), prayer (1 Cor. 11:4-5), vocal thanksgiving (Eph. 5:20; Heb. 13:15), and instruction (1 Cor. 14:26; Col. 3:16).

    4. Historical Records Of The Early Christian Church

      1. Justin Martyr (c.151 AD) ANF: Vol. I, First Apology of Justin, Chapter 67

        1. And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place (Renders the claims by Seventh Day Adventists that "Saturday" is the proper day of worship, a bit untenable)

        2. The memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits

        3. When the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things

        4. Then we all rise together and pray

        5. When our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen

        6. There is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons.

        7. They who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succors the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need

        8. But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples.

  8. Development of Centralization In Early Christianity

    1. Constantine and the Edict of Milan - Declared ALL religions legal to practice • Contrary to common misnomer - this did NOT declare Christianity to be the official "state" religion of Rome. That would not happen until the Emperor Theodosius' decree several years later

    2. 7 ecumenical councils and notable heresies addressed - First 4 councils provided doctrinal clarity the next 3 councils were used politically to establish the preeminence of the Roman leaders as rulers over the visible church - none of the councils actually solved any problems. After the third and fourth council, many churches left the visible Romanizing church and were (and still are) considered “schismatic” by the Roman Catholic church along with all Protestant churches today.

      1. Nicaea – called by Constantine in 325 A.D. – 318 Bishops gathered

        1. Condemned Arianism - Christ-a created being and therefore subordinate

        2. Affirmed Consubstantiality of Christ with the Father (Deity of Jesus)

        3. Codification of Common Orthodoxy of Christian Faith in the Nicene Creed

        4. Declaration of the official observance of Easter on Sunday

      2. Constantinople – called by Theodosius I – 381A.D. – 186 Bishops gathered

        1. Condemned Apollonarius who claimed that Jesus had a “divine” and not “human” spirit. – removing Christ’s humanity.

        2. Affirmed consubstantiality of the Holy Spirit with the Father and the Son and that the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father” and is not subordinate

        3. Upheld the “rulings and affirmations” of Nicaea and the Nicene Creed

        4. Confirmed that the city of Constantinople is the 2nd See behind the See of Rome

        5. Affirmed that Christ is both fully human as well as fully divine

      3. Ephesus – called by Theodosius II (son)- 431 A.D. – over 200 Bishops (a shrinking number) gathered

        1. Mary given position of Theotokos (Mother of God) as a “back door covering” to affirm Jesus Deity. This strange affirmation had many detractors at the time as it was properly supposed that this odd doctrine might lead to Mary worship. In fact, it did lead to Roman Catholics “venerating” Mary to a level of sub-deity, even referring to her as the “Queen of Heaven”, praying to her, and bowing and kissing statues of her.

        2. Nestorius, bishop of Constantinople was underhandedly condemned by Cyril of Alexandria in a political move where Nestorius was not present to defend himself or his views

          1. Nestorius denied Jesus’ divine nature was truly unified with his humanity but that they were a sort of “mesh” (no one at the time really knew what position to take on how Jesus was both fully man and fully God)

          2. Nestorius, to the disdain of the Roman delegates, claimed that Mary gave birth to the “humanity” of Jesus only but not to His Divinity which Nestorius said was of God alone - he rightly denied the ridiculous and blasphemous theotokos doctrine being pushed on Bishops at this council.

          3. This council and its obvious politicising of the visible church organisation on earth (not the true Biblical church of genuine believers in Jesus death and resurrection) caused Nestorian followers to break away and join an earlier schism of the Assyrian Church of the East which held the same views as the Nestorians and this church still barely exists today – near Baghdad - but is on the verge of extinction due to Muslim oppression and violent persecution.

        3. Upheld as orthodox that Jesus possessed 2 natures in 1 person which are “blended” in perfect unity of one person – theanthropos

      4. Chalcedon – Called by Emperor Marcion & Leo I, Bishop of Rome 451 AD – 600 Bishops - beginning to have a Roman majority among them

        1. Condemned the monophysitism of Eutyches which asserted Christ had one ‘fused’ nature, previously condemned for teaching Jesus had ‘one’ nature

        2. 28th Canon declared Constantinople as an equal See to Rome - which overturned the statement of the 2nd Council at Constantinople 70 years earlier which relegated Constantinople to a secondary See to Rome.

        3. Reversed a decision which proclaimed Constantinople on an equal level of authority as Rome, ecclesiastically

        4. Leo, Bishop of Rome, declared his own See of Rome and his successors there as the primary See and being in a supposed direct Petrine line of papal primacy. The term “Pope” was possibly first used for Leo at or around this time. There was never a “Pope” in Rome before this time, just “Bishops” of Rome. Peter was an Apostle and never a Bishop in the organisational hierarchical sense of Roman Catholic Bishops.

        5. Further defined, clarified, and confirmed Christ as 1 person in 2 natures

        6. Codified canon law for discipline and organizational methods - this was a major step for what remained of the visible church at this time in becoming a machine of earthly influence and structure. Again, this is just the “visible” church and not the actual Bible-based church of Christ-forgiven believers and followers.

        7. Most adherents to Scripture left what was clearly becoming an earthly “Roman” institution at the conclusion of this 4th Council.

      5. Constantinople II - Called by Eastern Emperor Justinian I - 553 AD

        1. Condemned - Theodore of Mopsuestia for his Nestorian teaching

        2. Monothelitism entertained - Jesus had two natures and one divine will

        3. Further condemned Monophysitism which claimed that Jesus had just 1 nature which was divine and not two - man and divine.

      6. Constantinople III - Called by Constantine IV - 680 AD - over 200 Bishops

        1. Called in response to a rise in Islam throughout middle eastern and Biblical lands.

        2. Monothelitism now condemned by "Pope" Leo II who claimed it would diminish Christ's humanity (how can He be tempted as we are if his will is divine? this, he believed, violates Scripture)

        3. Diothelitism is officially affirmed which states that Jesus had 2 natures and 2 wills yet in perfect unity

      7. Nicaea II - 787 AD (Media - Paul Icon; 12th century Icon)

        1. Iconoclast Controversy- (icon - image; clast - destroy) Use of Christian "art" or images - statuettes, the cross, etc had been used as teaching tools to a largely illiterate people for 700 years prior. But such artwork was never venerated or revered.

          1. To demonstrate how far the earthly organisation/ fledgling Roman Catholic church had fallen - pictures of Jesus were considered ”unlawful" by Eusebius, the first Church Historian, 400 years earlier.

          2. Some began "kissing", revering, or bowing down to these icons - which they still do to this day in many regions where Roman Catholicism is practiced.

          3. The western church claimed they were just giving reverence to what/whom the icons stood for. Pagans saw this as an identical worship practice as their own and struggled to convert.

          4. In the East - Muslims accused Christians of idolatry due to icons

          5. Emperor Leo III and Eastern Bishops looked to destroy icons and in 730 ordered all images removed from Christian churches.

          6. John, Bishop of Damascus, stated that God is in the icons as much as Christ is in the Lord's supper. -This led to his removal as Bishop by Emperor Leo III

          7. This controversy would continue for another 300 years and was largely an "Eastern" church issue as the majority of Eastern Churches supported the use of icons - Popes Gregory I and II opposed the Byzantine Emperor & issued anathemas against the icons as a measure of ruling against the Eastern Emperor

      8. No More “Church” Councils - A large number of Protestants consider the first 7 councils to be the only ones that addressed matters of Biblical importance and thereafter became a political power gathering by Roman leaders - These councils would continue by the Catholics all the way up to the 1960’s with the Vatican II council being the most recent one but they ceased to be a collection of the representatives of the churches founded by the Apostles and the early church Fathers.

    3. 4 stages of Organization– Phillip Schaff vol. 2 - organization and discipline of the early church
      1. The apostolic organization of the first century

      2. The old Catholic (worldwide) episcopal system

      3. Metropolitan Church System

      4. Patriarchal Church System

        1. Here the Greek church stopped, and is governed to this day by a hierarchical oligarchy of patriarchs equal in rank and jurisdiction

      5. Thereafter the splintered visible earthly organisation calling itself the “church” moved into a Latin Monarchial organisational structure with the following distinctive:

        1. The distinction of clergy and laity (unbiblical)

        2. The sacerdotal view of the ministry becomes prominent and fixed (sacerdotalism is unbiblical)

        3. Subordinate church offices are multiplied (unbiblical)

        4. The episcopate arises

        5. The beginnings of the Roman primacy appear (unbiblical)

        6. The exclusive unity of the Catholic church develops itself in opposition to (so called) heretics and schismatics (anyone that disagrees with the self-imposed authority of the papacy of Rome) (unbiblical)