We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer
Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth. --Basil of Caesarea
Once you learn to discern, there's no going back. You will begin to spot the lie everywhere it appears.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service. 1 Timothy 1:12

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

A History Lesson, Part 3


The church in Rome received honor from all Christians for several reasons.  First, Rome was the capital of the empire, and known as the “Eternal City.” Secondly, it was the largest and wealthiest church in the western part of the empire, and it was known for its orthodoxy and charity. Thirdly, even in persecution the Roman congregation grew quickly in numbers so that by the middle of the third century it numbered about 30,000.  This size gave it great influence. Fourth, early Christian writers, beginning in the second century, referred to Peter and Paul as the founders of the Roman church and that the bishops there were their successors, which was important in combating the Gnostic heresies.

Even though Rome had honor among the church, it had no more authority than any other church, and if the Roman bishop was in error, other bishops felt no compunction about disagreeing with him. Before Constantine, there is no evidence that the bishop of Rome exercised any authority outside of Rome, even though his position was accorded honor.

Rome’s influence grew as “part of the increasingly complex church structure emerging in the third and fourth centuries. … Councils arose when churches in various areas began sending their pastors (or bishops) to meetings to discuss common problems.  These were at first irregular, but during the third century these provincial councils began to meet annually. In theory, the bishops from the churches were all equal, but in practice this was seldom the case. The pastors of the churches established by the apostles possessed an informal spiritual prestige, and the bishops from the larger cities exercised authority in certain matters over the pastors from smaller towns. As the church grew it adopted…the structure of the empire. This meant that the provincial town of the empire became the episcopal town of the church. Above the provinces in the empire was the metropolis, so bishops in these larger cities soon supervised the bishops in the provinces in that area. Finally, the empire was divided into several major regions, so within the church, people came to think of the church at Rome exercising authority in Italy, Carthage in North Africa, Alexandria in Egypt, Antioch in Syria, and so on. As the churches within the province thrust out into the countryside, usually through a preaching tour of the bishop, other churches were established to meet the needs of the converts. At first these churches were cared for by clergy sent out from the city. Ministers who served them, however, were not bishops. They were called “priests” from presbyter, the Greek word for “elder.” These priests in the country parishes were consecrated and controlled by the city bishop…. Thus, as the fourth century began [AD 300], the catholic churches were establishing general policies by regular regional councils of bishops and handling day-to-day affairs under the oversight of bishops in each area.”  (Shelly, pp.134-135)

Notice during this time, the change as to how church leadership was defined. Remember, in the New Testament the office of presbyter (Greek for elder), was also known as an overseer (Greek episkopos - English “bishop”), as well as “pastor” (Latin for “shepherd“). But now that there is a hierarchy being established, presbyter has become “priest” and the head of a city is now a bishop - an “overseer” of the lower level, local pastors.

In the next episode, we will look at what happened to the Church after Constantine converted to Christianity.

4 comments:

DebbieLynne7 said...

Thank you for doing this series! Few 21st Century evangelicals know anything about church history, which is a big reason many don't appreciate sound doctrine. Blogging about history takes courage and tenacity, but it's so important for developing discernment. I'm greatly enjoying these posts. Keep them coming!

Anonymous said...

I wonder why basement creepers like Glenn have the arrogance to question the unanimous consensus of scholars throughout history. Every textbook that I know of will literally tell you that the Apostle Peter WAS the first bishop of the Roman Catholic Church. One must also wonder why all the oldest surviving churches existing in modern times are ROMAN CATHOLIC in nature. The scholarship presented in this article series is rather liberal at best.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Anonymous coward,

There only "unanimous consensus of scholars" astroturfing to Peter being the first bishop of Rome are Roman Catholics who have been brainwashed with that lie for 1500 years or so. It isn't arrogance to preach FACTS over Papist fiction.

Funny how I've NEVER read a textbook which says Peter was the first pope; must be in Papist textbooks.

The oldest surviving church buildings might be Catholic because there was no other organized church which built such structures before the Papist organization built them.

The scholarship of my series is based on several books about the the history of the Papist church (including one with a Papist author) as well as a book and DVD by the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Facts dispute YOUR emotionalism, and your brainwashed Papist education.

Jesse said...

Anonymous,

Here's an excerpt from...you guessed it...a TEXTBOOK which really damages Romish claims to supremacy:

"It was during the Middle Ages that Christianity, in the form of the Roman Catholic Church, became a political power in western Europe. A leader called a bishop headed each major Christian community. By the A.D. 500s, the bishops of Rome, now known as popes, became the leaders of the Catholic Church." Eastern Orthodoxy was, “not under the leadership of the popes in Rome, but rather the emperors in Constantinople.” (Our World Today: People, Place and Issues, Boehm, et. Al, Glencoe/McGraw-Hill (2003), page 241, section "The Rise of Christianity")