God set up a wonderful gifts, ministries, offices, and orders and declared His purpose in Scripture.
In the second and third centuries, the Church changed the gifts, ministries, offices, and orders into ungodly, worldly counterfeits. Though God always had a faithful remnant, the Church descended into darkness. This decent into darkness continued until the fourteenth century when God began to restore something of His purpose to the church, but only a few could really receive it. God did this through a series of moves of His Spirit. In each move, God used the Scripture to reveal something that had been lost to the Church. Each move started with a revelation and revival among a few saints--only a few received it. Some followed but never really understood, while it was often the case that some perverted the light that had been given, went off in rebellion, and caused confusion. Those who did not receive it persecuted those who were obedient to what God was restoring. None of these moves of God lasted very long before following a pattern of moving from revelation and following Jesus to following a doctrine (which usually got watered down) to following an organization. When each organization became unyielding to God, God started a new move, usually from among the people who were in the most recently formed organization. The last great move of God began in 1948, and God is still restoring line on line and precept on precept.
Christ died to save sinners then arose. When Christ ascended, that was the actual establishing of the Church. The word, church, is the translation from Greek of the word, Ecclesia, meaning: called out. The Church is called out of the world and the worldly systems. The Church is not only God's method for bringing about the Manifestation of the Sons of God, but when it is complete, the Church is the Manifestation of the Sons of God.
The Scriptural pattern:
At first, the pattern that God had given was followed:
The first apostles were set directly by Christ. Other apostles were set by the existing apostles later. Setting anyone into any office was directed by the Holy Spirit. Paul shows the pattern for one whom Jesus called directly to be an apostle--he had full authority, yet he was in submission to all the other apostles and even checked to make sure his doctrine was in line. There was no chief apostle, but all the apostles shared a single office, being led by the Holy Spirit in unity. Each apostle was submissive to the government of all the other apostles. Apostles, whether elders or deacons, had an office serving the universal Church. Universal deacons were spiritual ministries who willingly submitted to the government of the Universal elders. The local elders and deacons received no financial compensation but received a double measure of honor. The apostles never claimed to be infallible--in fact some of their mistakes are recorded in Scripture. The apostles corrected each other when this happened.
Local churches were under local elders (plural) and local deacons (plural) who were set by the apostles. There was no chief elder or lone elder, but two or more elders shared a single office, being led by the Holy Spirit in unity. Each elder was submissive to the government of all the other elders in the local church and the elders were subject to the government of the apostles. Local deacons were spiritual ministries who willingly submitted to the government of the local elders. The local elders and deacons received no financial compensation but received a double measure of honor.
Every member of the Body of Christ was a ministry and had a ministry. The apostles equipped the saints (believers) with what the saints needed to minister. Spiritual growth was by that which every joint supplies. (Ephesians 4) The joints are the places between ministries or members of the Body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 14 gives a pretty detailed picture of what a Sunday meeting would be like. The saints would have been equipped by the apostles. They received gifts of the Spirit through the laying on of hands of a presbytery of apostles. Women wore head coverings for the sake of the angels in case they might pray or prophesy in the service--men did not (1Cor 11:3-16). The Church services were led by the Holy Spirit. The services were not an entertainment, nor were they a form and ritual, but they were led by the Spirit of God. The local elders were overseers, making sure that everyone entered in according to the gift that each one had, that everything was orderly, and that everything was done for building up the Body of Christ into maturity. Baptism was by immersion. People were also baptized in the Holy Spirit, and this was typically also by the laying on of hands. Everyone was in submission to the ministry of every other person. Disorders and sins to death were dealt with by the local elders, though there is record of Paul, the apostle, directing discipline.
IN THE SECOND & THIRD CENTURIES--MAN-MADE PATTERNS CREEP IN:
Gnostic texts were written sometime after 150 AD based on the paganism of Rome and Greece. Pagans infiltrated the church. Rather than making sure that they followed the pattern set by God, the Christians reacted to the pagan infiltration by replacing God's patterns with worldly patterns. the Christians erroneously supposed that these worldly patterns would be stronger than God's ways. Creeds were established. Church offices were replaced by Church hierarchy, which then began to develop into a Church monarchy. The local elders had always been the overseers (bishops). Now, a new order was instituted where a chief elder was appointed, and he was called the Bishop. This person began to draw a pay check. Apostles stopped laying hands on every member for gifts of the Spirit. The Body of Christ lost the ability for every joint to supply, each speaking the truth in love. Prophecy dried up. The glory of God largely departed. The baptism of the Holy Spirit all but ceased to exist. Eventually, even Salvation by grace through faith was lost.
IN THE FOURTH CENTURY, GOVERNMENTAL FAVOR BROUGHT GREATER DARKNESS:
The enemy of our souls changed his tactics from persecution to favor. The church was largely lulled to sleep. Constantine favored Christianity, but it's doubtful that he ever experienced a true conversion.
IN THE MIDDLE AGES THERE WAS A DECENT INTO EVEN GREATER DARKNESS:
The decent into darkness continued. Worship of martyrs, relics widespread, and the Virgin Mary grows. The church became part of the political machine during this time. Compromises were made to keep political unity. Paganism, mysticism, and magic were allowed to enter the church. The offices in the Church became many. The apostles separated and began to rule cities. The apostle of Rome began to gain political power and finally became the Pope--the main father of the Church. Though there was great darkness, God never let the light of the church go fully out. It finally became law that everyone must belong to the Church. There was a false church as there is today. Many called themselves Christians, but they had no experience with Christ. Many "Christians" were even involved in pagan religion. There was a true church made up of those who had touched God because they had accepted the salvation that is available in Jesus.
IN THE FOURTEENTH CENTURY, NEW LIFE BEGAN TO BURST FORTH:
Much of the Church was restored through Badwardine and Grosetete then Wycliffe who taught that God alone is able to save men from their sins by His sovereign grace. A light began to dawn across Europe and Scripture first above all human teaching. The Bible was translated into the language of the common people. God loosened the grip of the worldly government/church system. Errors and abuses of that system were pointed out.
IN THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY, GOD BEGAN PREPARING THE WAY:
The Lollards swept through the country teaching the common people that Scripture was the ultimate authority over the church and sufficient for government of the world. They also taught the common people that salvation is by grace. Hus left a legacy that spoke to the heart of Martin Luther in the next century. The work that God did during the Fifteenth Century paved the way for the move that came in the Sixteenth Century.
IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, GOD GAVE A REVELATION WHICH LED TO THE REFORMATION:
God worked through Luther, Munzar, Calvin, Zwingli, and Tyndale. During this time, major truths came forth: The just shall live by grace through faith. Salvation is a gift from God, not of ourselves. The Bible was translated into the language or the common people again. God released the people from oppression of an corrupt government/church system. Many of the false concepts of that ungodly system were abandoned. Of course, only a few received the revelation. The majority either didn't understand it or persecuted those who were moving in the Spirit. Each move only lasted about forty years before fading into some sort of denominationalism.
IN THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY, GOD CONTINUED RESTORING:
God restored the local Church operating under the direct leadership of Christ. God re-established believers baptism by immersion. God revitalized religious piety and restored a measure of understanding of Scriptural principals. Weakness developed in actually standing in the presence of the One who gives life. A coldness and formalism took the place of the personal relationship with the living Christ.
IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY, MORE WAS RESTORED:
Through John and Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Finney, God restored salvation by faith with an inner witness, heart purity, and sanctity of walk. God also provided a break from the religious scholasticism that suggested that it was necessary to be formally educated to be right with God and commissioned by Him. God revealed an understanding that a building, such as a cathedral, is not necessary; services could even be held in the open air.
IN THE NINTEENTH CENTURY, GOD RESTORED MORE:
Using the Brethren movement, God restored the sufficiency of the Word of God in church affairs and daily walk. He revealed the Body of Christ composed of believers and the priesthood of believers. There was a weakness that was introduced in that doctrine was often without the Anointing of the Holy Spirit becomes dead letter. "The letter killeth" 2 Corinthians 3:6 In the 1859 outpouring, the Keswick movement, God restored evangelistic fervor and missionary enterprise. Under General Booth, God again revealed the social implications of the gospel and the believers union in death and resurrection. God also started a great worldwide missionary movement at this time. There was a weakness in the lack of unity. Each group had a part, but each group thought that they had the whole.
IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY, GOOD BEGAN TO MOVE BY THE HOLY SPIRIT:
God brought the Welch revival, which taught that the Spirit can use the whole Body of Christ rather than just one man. Thousands were born into the Kingdom of God. The morals of the entire country changed. At the same time, the Pentecostal move of the Spirit restored the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Supernatural gifts were exercised. A great world-wide missionary movement began. However, there was a lack of depth in the Word of God. Some had a superior attitude of pride. As with every move of God, there arose a feeling that they had it all. As a result of pride and saying "completeness" when there was no completeness, there followed a failure to move on with God. God moved again, world-wide, in 1948. At that time, God restored the vision of the coming together of the Body of Christ. The nine gifts of the Spirit were restored and again were given by the laying on of hands of the presbytery. The five-fold ministry was restored. God restored the Biblical order of the Church service, where one has a song and another a prophecy, and all being led and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Singing in the Spirit was again heard in the Church along with prophecy. In the years that followed, the order of elders and deacons in the local and universal Church was restored. The vision of the manifestation of the sons of God was also restored. However, the enemy came in and for every gift of the Spirit and ministry that was restored, Satan brought a counterfeit. Many who came in early were not happy with the fact that the move of the Spirit of God left no place from profiteering, prestige, power, or the flesh. Much disorder came from those who rejected the orders and patterns of the Scripture. False apostles sprung up. Several Spirit-filled ministries chose their own ways instead of continuing to walk humbly before the Lord and in submission to the offices and ministries set by God. In addition, many good Christians were unable to accept the Scripture and reverted to speculation and scoffing.
TODAY, IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY, THERE ARE THOSE WHO ARE PRESSING TOWARD THE MARK:
Throughout the ages, God has worked with a remnant, a small group, rather than the majority. As in any age, there are many reactions to the call of God. Many, in the Church are pressing toward the mark with all their might. There are many levels of maturity, but God is orchestrating everything according to His plan. There are many who are working against God. Neo paganism, New Age, Secularism, Humanism, Naturalism, Uniformitarianism, and Materialism have crept into the apostate Church and many are deceived by it. Much of the church is still stuck in cold formalism. There is large body of dissatisfied Christians, some of whom have left the organized church. At the same time when many are coming to the Lord or coming closer to the Lord, there is a growing hate for Christ and for Christians among the ungodly throughout the earth. God is still moving by His Spirit, revealing more of His ways. Every revelation follows this pattern: This part of the Bible that we never noticed or understood, it means exactly what it says.
Last updated: Aug, 2011
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