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The Early Church

Moments of Hope / David Chadwick
The Truth Network Radio
May 5, 2021 11:08 am

The Early Church

Moments of Hope / David Chadwick

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May 5, 2021 11:08 am

On this weeks Hopecast, David Chadwick and Jenn Houston discuss some of the issues of the early church, and how they mirror many of our current cultural issues. 

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Everyone welcome to this hope chest and I'm David Chadwick if my voice sounds a bit raspy is because my voice is a bit raspy. Many of you know that every year I go through the pollen problem when the pollen gets great.

I have this happen so what happened to me this week. I do not have Cove I'm not going to die, I'm fine, but I can speak so hopefully you'll be able to listen to my voice and be able to understand what I want to say today. Jim Houston is with me on the suggestion. How are you today I'm doing loud.

Thanks, David thought we would spend the next 20 minutes or so talking about looking at our culture around us. And should we be discouraged as Christians and just be willing to give up. Does that sound like a good topic today. I think when you talk all about that okay will begin by saying to everyone that there's nothing new under the sun. Ecclesiastes 3 says that but if we don't learn from history, you were doomed to repeat it.

So I want to do today.

During this hope cast is talk about the comparisons between what's going on today with all of this canceled culture and all of the work is him and other things that are happening around us and say oh no what we do as Christians know that's not the right question. The real question we should ask is can we learn from the early church on how we should live today and that's what I want to do today gigantic great so let's look at the early church and to see what it was like moving into a very godless pagan Roman culture.

Now if you look at the Roman culture. Interestingly, there were several characteristics but first of all, it was polytheistic, which means it worshiped multiple gods. Caesar being one of those in the way that Caesar helped unite the Empire was to regularly call festivals that would force people to worship the polytheistic Roman gods, but also worship Caesar. So for Christians. That was a real confrontation because they believed only Christ as Lord and they refused to worship anybody else but Jesus, but Rome was very polytheistic. It was very, very religious. Secondly, it was highly immoral and sexualized.

In fact, Gibbons books the rise and fall of the Roman Empire has one of its major reasons for its decline and eventual fall is an over infatuation with sex sex that no boundaries. It was not limited to anything or anyone.

People could do whatever they wanted to do yet still with a real focus on the and producing children who would be loyal to the Roman Empire, but in fact, as history moved forward in Rome.

Eventually they had to start paying families to have children because they were reproducing. They were letting six go crazy with all of their other expectations and overt realities and six did not become for the purpose of like God intended it to be an expression of love and covenant between a man and woman in marriage, but also to produce children. So you had that kind of highly immoral, sexualized society going on as well and also by the way, Gibbon said there were several other reasons that Rome fell 1 of them was the Roman circus where they started paying people not to work it up, they started paying people just to come to the Roman circus and have fun Emperor was trying to create a love for him just in giving people the days of fun and frolic and didn't paying them in order to come and just eat off the government and of course that can't sustain itself, and that's another reason that it felt as well. Also a gross over infatuation with sports. The gladiatorial games and other things. The people started crazy more more sports competition instead of the loyalty to the Empire so given points out some of those things as the reason. Along with a loss of patriotic loyalty to the nation started hiring soldiers to protect them, who had no Roman loyalties whatsoever. So when eventually, Rome was overthrown in the sixth century.

The barbarians at the gate did come from the north and overthrew Rome, but it was because mostly they were destroyed from within by their immorality and when they started hiring soldiers to be mercenaries. They had no loyalty to Rome. Satan really want to fight when the barbarians came against them. Here's another aspect of the Roman culture that people regularly called upon to worship Caesar and the gods. The unifying force did so and when they didn't see people doing that very thing. They would then rebel against those people and cause persecution that when you look at persecution in the early church. It was mostly around what we call a Christological argument. In other words, who is Jesus and the early Christian church had the linchpin that Jesus is God in human flesh totally human and totally define what the Romans wanted to persecute the Christians when they refused to worship Caesar as Lord and also the other polytheistic gods as well. So Caesar would demand that they cry out. Caesar is Lord, and of course the Christians would say no. Only Christ as Lord and this will cause a lot of the persecution. If you look at it beginning with Nero in the 60s a D and then on through Diocletian and other emperors some 2 to 300 years later, the persecutions were mostly localized that they became more intense under Diocletian and became more global in the Roman Empire, mostly around again. The Christian's refusal to acknowledge that Caesar is Lord in their refusal to worship the polytheistic Roman gods and then they therefore had all kinds of persecution came upon them things like being burned at the stake. Things like being stoned to death and there's a list of different Christian mortar stories that our listeners could read it should encourage them that Christians were willing to stand against culture, even if the cost of their lives.

Now, what did that mean for the church's growth in the Empire and I'd be curious.

Jen is you look at our culture and you look at the church.

What you think the church needs to do the most well, first of all, I felt like that last sounds awfully familiar far that we're living in right now and where things are headed back.

I think the church needs the most timing.

The first thing that comes to mind is to be unified. The word unity comes to mind.

Christians need to believe the same thing and we find our Christological focus and understanding that Jesus is fully God and fully human, that he came to die for the sins of the world and when we receive him, our sins are forgiven and the Holy Spirit lives inside of us and that we are his ambassadors to the place where we live. That means that we are citizens of heaven, who represent heaven here in this culture here on earth and when we realize that as a unified force. We have power to speak to culture.

I agree. I also think something else is people we long for an order.

We might not say that we actually are created for order ardently and for freedom at the same time and I think we were talking before this that that really is something that the church offers is freedom and order yet there's a right way to live and that when you order your life that way generally is the best way to live and also that when you are loved deeply by other people, you become a full person that God wants you to be so in the early church. It's interesting that all kinds of accusations came against Christians because of what they believed. For example, they were called people who committed incest because of Jesus command to love one another as brothers and sisters in the family of God. So when Christians spoke to the Empire and said our call is to love one another, the way Jesus has loved us as brothers and sisters in the family of God. They got accused of incest. They also got accused of cannibalism because Jesus taught that when you eat off his body and drink his blood, you are ingesting him himself and of course Jesus meant that as a spiritual understanding for us.

When Christians taught that the Lord's table. The Romans accuse them of cannibalism under all other kinds of accusations as well like black magic. The early church experienced miracles you know in first Corinthians 12, and 14 God gives spiritual gifts to his church and one of those the gifts of miracles, the gifts of healing. When that happened the room and is then accused the church of practicing black magic so there are all kinds of accusations that floated around but mostly to justify the Roman persecution of Christians who refused to bend their need to Caesar as God who refused to worship the polytheistic Roman gods and who said in language that would be understood, then clearly Chris Goss as curiosity Christ as Lord Christ alone is Lord. So that's what unifies us. That's what brings us together. The linchpin of Jesus and then were supposed to live a certain way that would draw the world to us like what you said Jen so well is that the way we live gives order and gives us blessings from God, which should draw culture to us because they see the power of God being lived out in love among us. So, in Rome, for example, not you had different kind of cultural phenomenon going on that the church addressed in the way the church addressed it eventually over three 400 years calls Rome's attitude toward these ideas to change. It didn't happen immediately, but it did happen over time, but she's one example here, the treatment of slaves that you see in the New Testament. Paul ordering the Masters to treat their slaves well, but also slaves to obey their masters.

Many people today as especially were looking at this cultural phenomenon called racism and peoples anger that's existing right now the racism they point to that kind of passage in scripture and say therefore the Bibles invalidated because what Paul should've done is say you need to free your slaves right now. What people don't understand is Paul was dealing with a cultural context, then one third of the Roman Empire were slaves. So if he had commanded. First of all, for slaves all be released in his time. In the 50s and 60s, when he is writing most of his letters had no impact because the church was very localized and very small and very few people would've been impacted by that command, but also if later on after Paul's death. He was beheaded in Rome by Nero himself as legend has it. If they had set all the slaves free. Jen slaves. First of all minorities. They were hated they would've been killed. Secondly, if they were killed they would had no jobs, no economic sustenance or they would've been able to live.

They've been treated as inferior and they been discriminated against. So I think Paul through the power the Holy Spirit knew that that was not the right thing to do. So what did he do in the book of Philemon in the New Testament. An SMS is a runaway slave. The pulp meets and Paulsons investments back to Philemon his master. But here's what's key in the letter he says to Philemon treat anastomosis as if he's your brother. That's what's so powerful that an SMS becomes like a brother in the family of God, so over time as slaves became brothers and equals in the church of Jesus Christ. Slowly but surely Rome's laws toward slavery change and I think that's what Paul knew when he wrote the commands that he wrote now.

People say that didn't happen quickly enough. Well it couldn't happen quickly enough because of the ramifications that would've happened in the Roman empire. So what we have, then, is Galatians 328 where Paul says in his letter to the Galatian church, there is neither male nor female Jew or Greek, slave or free catch that slave or free, were all one in Jesus Christ. The slaves are elevated to an equal position in the church as a brother or sister in Christ and slowly over time. The whole attitude toward slavery is changed in Rome and these slaves are set free and seen as equals. I think one powerful where he sang it.

Right now it's family we as believers can't really understand the power of family and not just minor father you have children, but the family of Christ, and I think that is one thing that is one of the most beautiful things about Hope's Terrace is it truly feels like a family just walk into a siding with hope stairs and they embrace you as family will thank you Jen. That's what I want because that's God's design and you know what I've given over 40 years of my life to the local church. I can be critical of what's happening a lot in the local church right now is in the desire to get numbers and people and the seeds you create a show and then people come in and they watch the show.

They're pleased to get a good message that it's very transactional. They give their money in order to say thank you for the show and then they leave and there's no connection and in you do well with the show because it attracts numbers but here's what the problem the bait that you used to get people and is the but you gotta keep using the men and so you never go deep.

You always give superficial you don't address tough issues because you don't want to offend anybody in the church might look like. It's great growing number, size, all that kind of thing, but there's not family because people know each other than come in for their hour hour and 15 I would have maybe even show and then they leave. But there disconnected. The church is supposed to be a family and in the early church. The slaves were exalted to be brothers and sisters along very wealthy people are along very poor people.

Everybody was considered equal. Which leads to my next point. The view of women. Women were subjugated to very impersonal beings in the Roman society. They were pushed down and considered unimportant, but along come and unclean that exactly right from crazy Christians and what they do they exult women as equals in the body of Christ in the family of God's we have Galatians 328.

Again, there is neither male nor female Jew or Greek, slave or free, were all one in Christ of the exaltation of women change the whole view of women in Rome. Over time, it was because the church was the church.

The church practiced being the family of God. And when Rome saw that when Roman women especially saw that they said I want to be part of that family. Here's another one that single people were seen as valuable in the church and not outcasts in the Roman society. If you want married and producing children, producing people for the Roman society were considered a second-class citizen will then along comes crazy Christians and they say hey if you're single that's okay God calls him to be married to call some to be single. So what happened with the singles they are largely the ones along with others, though, who took the babies who were cast aside by the Romans because of gender side that is when a baby was born a little girl they didn't want him anymore and they were discarded on the track sheet literally garbage dump and along come the Christians, the deaconesses in the church.

Those who are single and have responsibilities and calls upon their lives to serve the Lord. They take these little children and they adopt them, and they formed the first vestiges of what we know today as orphanages and in the caring for those children and the valuing of life. The Roman culture ultimately changed the whole idea of discarding children on trash eaves it was because that the people of God in the family of God cared for little kids and some Blessed are the little ones. They want to come to Jesus and we will let them come to Jesus and that speaks to to abortion. You know I hate to say Jen.

Sometimes I think I'm a single issue voter because that issue so important if you don't value life, then how can you invent your life later on. Now the church need to value life in the womb and outside the womb.

But when we love children, especially the way they're supposed to be loved.

I think the world will look at and say that's what we want as well. That happened in the early church. The whole exaltation of people being single to equal brothers and sisters in Christ to children being elevated is important in the womb and outside the womb that caused people to say I want to be a part of that kind of church well enough and even when Jesus says let the little children come to me because even his disciples were trying to push them aside.

Nina don't be don't be hurt just be seen and Jesus flipped upside down right into it and there are other examples that we see in the early church as well.

The value of marriage and family.

Particularly, you have the family of God and the church which should be there but also the individual family were man and woman are committed one another in covenant relationship raise children likely the Roman culture didn't do that again was highly sexualized. Marriage was not honored when they saw Christians living at how to drill a certain number people say that's right.

That's what I want and one other point Jen that I think really important. Is there were three different pandemics that happened in the Roman empire. There was one that's called the Antoninus plague of the second century. There's a second call the plague of Cipriani in the third century and 1/3 one that that's called the Julian plague of the fourth century.

All three were some kind of difficult plague. We don't know exactly what it was. Some suggested in smallpox. Some say could been a precursor of the bubonic plague.

We don't know what caused it. But here's what's so fascinating in each one of them. The people in the cities fled. They left they were overwhelmed with fear who stayed Christian Christian church day and they did two things. First of all they cared for one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. They did the kind of things that would help you overcome a plague like feeding and getting water and giving clothes in and maybe burning the clothes that needed to be burned. All of those hygiene things that maybe they knew instinctively, but they practiced in the second thing they did. They started loving your neighbor. They started loving those who had the disease who were able to fully so, weeks, months, years later, when those with fled came back they saw their family members, their friends, their loved ones still alive and who were the ones responsible. The early Christian church and God. In some cases in evidence off stories.

We know supernaturally protected them from the pandemic from the disease as they served up some are trying make the leap today and say what does that mean I shouldn't.

I should go visit people without a mask and I'm not saying that you do whatever you need to do take precautions for sure. But there is a call for all of us to love our neighbors and in this pandemic we should love as deeply as the Christians love then Juliann in the Julian plague that happened in the fourth century was the Emperor of Rome, and he wrote letters to some of his underlings and said, almost see his fists slamming on the table. We've got to love our pagan polytheistic people as much as the Christians love one another, and then he said the statement, and there even loving us or even loving us. We got to do that as well and it was a very firm statement by Julian stating how wonderful the early Christian church not only loved one another as brothers and sisters equals in the family of God, but also love the communities in which they live. Think one thing didn't know the mask is seeing and covetous, even all of this and I think it's raised for me places in my heart that I didn't know fear is really existing actually great fall. I'm grateful for this. You know maybe you can. Some call it like 1 mile per our current against us to shout like right there something in me that is weak right now and I can't stand firemen and Lord take it. He only set me free so I don't live in fear so I can be freely giving my life to my neighbor and my family and that is a great point. You as a former athlete who played a pretty high level of basketball. The reason you play the games is to see if you're rightly prepared to win the games prove the practice can't prove is where your weaknesses really exist when you're playing us another really good team.

It they show and exploit your weaknesses so you learn from that and try to get stronger for the next game.

The same is true with trials in our lives. The enemy comes against us with force, but remember, Satan is a creature, God is the creator he saw Satan's on a leash. God uses him as our enemy and are a pool opponent for the purpose of showing us weaknesses, our faith and then when we then see them. We make them stronger and then were able to take on the next flow so you're making a great point. We should rejoice we should sing in the storm if you will covet, because if it exposes fear in our hearts. Jesus has no tolerance of fear memory, said to his own disciples you of little faith, why are you afraid he did that on several different occasions fear completely neutralizes our hearts of faith. We must combat it at every possible level that is so guide and I live how your landing is just looking back at Jesus as seen and the more we do hold something, the more we become like I am not really, is what you're charging us with today. I am GNMA I just repeat, what I've said to the Christian church underwent a lot of persecution from the Roman empire, but it became stronger because of it and its witness became even stronger as well. So let me just encapsulate everything everyone have a Christological faith. Jesus fully divine, fully human, he is Lord he died on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins trust him today and as you do. The Holy Spirit will enter your heart and you can be the person who follows Jesus. Secondly, Christians get together in the church and be the family of God as you love one another. It's a witness to the world and if you have something against your brother, go to your brother, don't text, don't email, don't even call your brother sister face-to-face and deal with the issue that is the way you love as well. And finally, as the church is holy, and the way it serves the world. We have a powerful influence on exulting Jesus as well. So amidst our pandemic today and all the struggles were dispiriting in our culture today.

Look back at the early church. There's nothing new under the sun. Let's learn from them. They made it through and they changed the whole empire as they were faithful for Jesus. We can do the same thing. Jim, next week let's talk about the whole idea of what's going on in our culture. More specifically, and how we can be the family of God and be followers of Jesus the holy people set apart for the purpose of glorifying him to be so powerful thank you, David. Thank you, Jen and everyone. Thank you for listening today with this rather raspy voice. I hope it will be better next week and I look forward to talking with you all

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