As noted in yesterday's post, I have been reading Philip Schaff's "History of the Christian Church." Of course, one will not necessarily agree with every jot and tittle of a historian's writing or perspective, but that doesn't mean there aren't gems to be mined. Schaff's multi-volume work is no different.
We hear a lot these days about the Apostolic Age of the church, timed from Pentecost to the death of the Apostle John. It is not my purpose at this point to enter the fray over the New Apostolic Movement, and yes -- I do have definite viewpoints on that matter. My purpose with this post is to point to the early church during the ministry of the biblical apostles. I love how Schaff describes those days:
The life of Christ is the divine-human fountainhead of the Christian religion; the apostolic age is the fountainhead of the Christian church . . . It is the age of the Holy Spirit, the age of inspiration and legislation for all subsequent ages.
Here springs, in its original freshness and purity, the living water of the new creation. Christianity comes down from heaven as a supernatural fact, yet long predicted and prepared for, and adapted to the deepest wants of human nature. Signs and wonders and extraordinary demonstrations of the Spirit, for the conversion of unbelieving Jews and heathens, attend its entrance into the world of sin. It takes up its permanent abode with our fallen race, to transform it gradually, without war or bloodshed, by a quiet, leaven-like process, into a kingdom of truth and righteousness. Modest and humble, lowly and unseemly in outward appearance, but steadily conscious of its divine origin and its eternal destiny; without silver or gold, but rich in supernatural gifts and powers, strong in faith, fervent in love, and joyful in hope; bearing in earthen vessels the imperishable treasures of heaven, it presents itself upon the stage of history as the only true, the perfect religion, for all the nations of the earth. At first an insignificant and even contemptible sect in the eyes of the carnal mind, hated and persecuted by Jews and heathens, it confounds the wisdom of Greece and the power of Rome, soon plants the standard of the cross in the great cities of Asia, Africa, and Europe, and proves itself the hope of the world.
I might have worded some aspects of this differently, i.e. that Jesus is the hope of the world, and the church His messenger. I would have shied away from the word "religion," preferring instead the word "relationship." But Schaff was writing in the 19th century, and was using worlds common to theological writers at that time. Yet, even with those small differences, Schaff's words are a vivid picture of the glorious mystery revealed by God -- the church, the bride of Christ, Christ in us, the hope of glory. Praise His holy name!
We have much to learn from the early church, and the record (plus instructions) of Jesus and His apostles are given to us in Scripture. What could we accomplish if we would just simply get back to Scripture, leaving the man-made fads and failed human philosophical ideas in the refuse bin where they belong.