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Section 7. Living The Faith... The Biblical Christian/
The Church... Then and Now

 

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The Church... Then and Now
Part I

Carol Brooks
Edited by Vicki Narlee

Virtually all the practices associated with what we call "church" do not find their origins in the New Testament, but in the post-apostolic years.

INDEX TO ALL SIX SECTIONS

      You Are Here 001orange PART I: Introduction... How We 'Do Church'.Church or Ekklesia? The English Word "Church" Is An Unacceptable Translation of Ekklesia. When Was The Ekklesia Established, Origin of The English Word "Church"? Where Did The Early Church Meet? From House Churches to Formal Buildings, Constantine, The Roman Pietas and The Construction of Churches. The Basilica and The Great Hypostyle Hall at Karnak. The Edict of Thessalonica

    PART II: The Four Main Reasons Modern Christians 'Do Church'. Worship and the "Worship Service". The Meaning of "Worship" As Defined by The Hebrew and Greek Words. Is "Worship" The Primary Reason Why Christians Are Supposed To Meet? Evangelism, The Sermon, Fellowship. The Primary Objective Of The Gathering Of Believers According to The Scriptures. Is The Church Supposed To Be a Largely Spectator Event?

    PART III: Church Leaders... Then and Now. Local New Testament Congregations and Their Spiritual Leaders. Origin of the word "Clergy". The "Elders" and Their Function....Rule or Tend? The Pastors and Priests, The Bishops... The Chair and The Titles. Were There "Bishops" In The New Testament? The Ministers/Deacons. The Elders.. How They Were Appointed, What Their Job Was, and How Many were in Each Church. Summary.

    PART IV: Re-inventing The Church System. Man Apparently Got Carried Away by A Sense of His Own Importance....With a Little Help From A Roman Emperor. Protecting The Man Made Institution Called "The Church". The Latin Vulgate and The Tyndale Translation. Birth of The Church of England. The See-Saw Battle of Power. James VI, The Archbishop of Canterbury, and The KJV. The Reformation and Modern Versions.

    PART V: Two Ways of "Doing Church". The New Testament Blue Print. The Extended Family. Can A Layman Wear Three Hats? The Lord's Supper....A Full Meal and A Celebration. Why The Pattern of Church in The New Testament Was A House Church. The Church has Become a Theatrical Extravaganza. A Summary of Benefits for The Pastors and Members of A House Church. Heresy and Apostasy Have Been Given Free Reign In The Traditional Church. Importing Old Testament Levitical Patterns. The High Cost of The "Priesthood"

    PART VI: The Bible... Our Rule Of Faith And Practice? Was The Pattern of The Early Church A God Given Blueprint For all Time? Uniformity of Practice In The Early Church. Ask Yourself This. Summary and Conclusion.

    PART VIIHow Quickly The Rot Set In.... Catholicism and The Councils. Regardless of the torrent of words and the many Scriptural verses quoted, the decisions the various councils came to were based on the aye's and the nay's. Not only did numerical superiority win the day, but the decisions made by every one of the seven Ecumenical Councils was based, not what they supposed Holy Scripture might mean, but on tradition. Although evangelical leaders are fond of telling us that the churches of the day did not have a papacy, tabernacles on the altars in their churches (which signified their belief in transubstantiation). Also that they did not believe in the Immaculate Conception/Bodily Assumption of Mary, purgatory, indulgences etc. etc. etc. all of which can be proven to be false.

     

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ON THIS PAGE

How We 'Do Church'

"Church"... An Unacceptable Translation of Ekklesia
When Was The Ekklesia Established
Origin of The English Word "Church"?

Where Did The Early Church Meet?
From House Churches to Formal Buildings
Constantine, The Roman Pietas, and The Construction of Churches

The Basilica and The Great Hypostyle Hall at Karnak

The Edict of Thessalonica
 


Introduction... How We 'Do Church'
Every Sunday morning, millions of Christians throughout the world, ride, drive, or walk down to a local building, to join other Christians in what is commonly known as a "worship service". (Saturday or Sunday evening services are also fairly common). Although some services take place in other settings, the majority are conducted in buildings designed specifically for that purpose, Church services are often planned and led by the pastor, or a small group of elders, or follow a format laid out by the dictates of the particular denomination. Thus these meetings range from very long and complex ceremonies, which can involve a number of rituals such as the ringing of bells and burning of incense to, comparatively, very basic services. However, regardless of how elaborate or simple the service, it usually incorporates some, or all of the following...

    Singing Of Hymns by a choir, the congregation, or both, and is usually accompanied by an instrument. The more traditional organ has, in many cases, been replaced by a piano or even modern band equipment. Hymnals are more often found in denominational churches, while other have replaced hymnals with large screens on which the words of the hymn are projected.

    Reading Of Bible Verses: More liturgical denominations may have the words to specific prayers written in a prayer book, or printed on sheets of paper which is handed out, or placed in the pews, before the commencement of the service. This done to enable the congregation to follow along.

    A Sermon: The sermon which is usually addresses a Biblical, theological, or moral topic is usually delivered by the pastor who is seen as the spiritual leader of a Christian congregation. If the church follows a lectionary, which is a set reading from Scripture that forms a part of a church service,  the sermon will often be about the scripture lection assigned to that day.

    Communion: Also called Holy Communion, the Lord's Supper etc. is usually a part of Sunday services, although some churches offer it less often.

Additionally, some churches offer Sunday school classes for younger children and/or adult Sunday school before, or after, the main service. Following the service, there will often be a "fellowship" time in the church hall or other convenient place, which provides the members of the congregation a chance to socialize with each other and to greet visitors or new members. Finally, most churches take up a collection during the service, or use a box or plate set up near the entrance, into which voluntary and anonymous donations can be made.

This is the format that millions of Christians all over the world are accustomed to, many having accompanied their parents to a similar church from a very young age. However, the question is whether this pattern has any roots in the first century church. Unfortunately the answer to that question is a resounding and unqualified "no". Virtually all the practices associated with what we call "church" do not find their origins in the New Testament, but in the post-apostolic years.

The church has drifted so far from the original blueprint, that there is little resemblance between what takes place now, and what took place when James headed up the church in Jerusalem, and Paul was busy planting churches and training new believers. To start with, there never was a building especially designed to be a "church", and the entire proceeding were not designed and led by the "clergy". As said by Steve Atkerson, graduate of Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, who resigned from the traditional pastorate to begin working with churches that wished to follow apostolic traditions in their church practice.

    The church meetings revealed in the NT were interactive, informal and small. Simplicity was the rule of the house-church meetings. Somewhere along the line (about the time of Roman Emperor Constantine's Edict of Milan) we moved out of homes and into awe-inspiring, majestic "sanctuaries" (which formally belonged to pagan religions). We exchanged interaction and mutual encouragement for monologue. Intimacy was lost as the masses gathered in huge lecture halls called cathedrals. Informality gave way to liturgy, pomp and ceremony. Church meetings became a spectator sport with the congregation watching a performance by the spiritually elite. In such an atmosphere, fulfilling 1 Corinthians 14:26 became increasingly difficult. About all that could still be fulfilled was Ephesians 5:19b and Col 3:16b, so "worship" became the primary focus of these performance shows. [00]

Additionally, if you consider that the New Testament Christians meetings were never called a "worship service", simply because they did not gather together for corporate worship (nor to hear a sermon), we come to the tragic conclusion that much of the modern church has little or no idea why it exists at all, or what it is meant to do. Much less how the meetings are supposed to be structured and who they are supposed to be led by.

Let us start with the meaning of the word "church", usually assumed by most Christians to mean the organization, run by ordained clergy, that conducts religious ceremonies in brick and mortar buildings down the road. Nothing could be further from the truth.


"Church"... An Unacceptable Translation of Ekklesia
In our world, the word "church" has taken on a variety of different, but related, meanings. For example we refer to the "church" as

    A building for Christian worship. (I'm going to church this evening)

    A particular Christian denomination (He was raised in the Presbyterian Church)

    A service conducted in a house of worship. (Don't be late for church)

    The clerical profession (he considered the church as a possible career)

However, none of these definitions are Biblically accurate. The word "church" has been inserted into the English Bible, in virtually every place (about 114) the translators came across the Greek word ekklesia in the New Testament. Ekklesia does not mean church as we define the word, but was used of a regularly convened assembly, such as the ancient Greek political assemblies. It was also used for a select civil body that was summoned or convened for a particular purpose.

In Acts 19 ekklesia is thrice translated "assembly", in regard to an angry mob of silversmiths and other craftsmen whose livelihood depended on the statues of goddesses that they made and sold. Paul obviously was a threat to their trade, and they were threatening to riot, until the town clerk persuaded them to settle their grievances through the courts instead.

    So then, some were shouting one thing and some another, for the assembly (ekklesia) was in confusion and the majority did not know for what reason they had come together. But if you want anything beyond this, it shall be settled in the lawful assembly (ekklesia). After saying this he dismissed the assembly (ekklesia) . (Acts 19:32, 39, 41 NASB)

The point being that ekklesia can be used of any assembly of people. However, it is not any stretch to assume that, when the authors of the New Testament used it in reference to Christian believers, they adhered to the original meaning in Greek. Ekklesia is a compound word made up of two other words

    ek, a preposition that means out of, or out from, and a derivative of the verb kaleo, which means to "call", or "call forth".

Although it is a compound of a preposition and a verb, ekklesia itself is noun that means "called out". And when someone is "called out", they have to be called out from something. It is the only context in which ekklesia is used, that indicates the specific reason people are called out, or assembled. In keeping with the Bible's overriding theme of separation and holiness, the NT uses ekklesia to describe a body of people "called out", or called to be separate, from the rest of the world, forming a distinct community of their own, which is one of the two Biblical definitions of "Holiness" (See What Is Holiness?)

In short, ekklesia meaning a called out group of people, not an organization or building.

In support of this, Acts 20:28 tells us that the church, was purchased with the blood of Jesus Christ, while 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 makes it very clear that it is the individual believer that is bought for a price. (All Emphasis Added)

    "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. (Acts 20:28 NASB)

    Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NASB)


When Was The Ekklesia Established?
Perhaps a better way to frame the question is to ask when it was that people were first "called out".

Many people believe that the church was born in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost when three thousand people believed and were saved. The problem with this theory is that the verse in Acts says three thousand souls were "added".

    So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:41 NASB)

Just as when someone is "called out", they have to be called out from something, when someone is "added", they have to be added to something. So what was it that these three thousand people were added to?

Acts 1:13-15 tells us that after Jesus' ascension, a number of disciples returned to Jerusalem and "along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers" continually devoting themselves to prayer. According to verse 15 they numbered as many as 120. Acts 2:1 goes on to say that these people were "all together in one place" on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended. When 120, baptized believers gather together to pray... they cannot be called anything other than a "church".

The three thousand new converts were added to an already existing church.


Jesus Called Out His "Church"
And that already existing church consisted of believers who were all called out (ekklesia), many directly by the Lord Himself. He "called them out" from the Jewish system of religion to be His disciples. He "called them out" to be separate from the community that surrounded them, and to become the first heralds of the Gospel message.

    Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He *said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him. (Matthew 4:18-22 NASB)

    The next day He purposed to go into Galilee, and He found Philip. And Jesus said to him, "Follow Me." (John 1:43 NASB)

For three years, Jesus' ekklesia walked with Him, were taught by Him (before and after His resurrection), observed the Lord's Supper with Him, and were commissioned by Him to take the Gospel to the world. When He commanded His ekklesia to wait in Jerusalem it was only to be equipped to do the job they had already been commissioned to do.

The church wasn't built on Pentecost. The church was empowered on Pentecost.

Although Christ usually spoke about individual followers whom He called "disciples", He twice used the word ekklesia, both times in reference to the body of believers as a whole.

a) Although, in Matthew 16:18, Jesus spoke of establishing "His" church in the future tense ("I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church (ekklesia); and the gates of Hades will not overpower it), it has to be noted that the foundation of the church was already established.. the rock on which it would be built was already in place. And, as far as I know, the foundation is part of the building... the temple of God.

b) The second, and last, time, Jesus used the word ekklesia, only supports the fact that the church was already in existence. It seems irrational that Jesus would instruct His disciples to how to discipline a member of a church that didn't yet exist .

    "If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. "But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that By the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. "If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church (ekklesia); and if he refuses to listen even to the church (ekklesia), let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. (Matthew 18:15-17 NASB)

But if ekklesia doesn't mean "church" as we usually understand the term, where did the word "church" come from?


Origin of The English Word "Church"
The Oxford dictionary says the English church comes from the "Old English cir(i)ce which, in turn, stems from the Greek word kuriakon. [01]

Kuriakos which means "belonging to the Lord" is a derivative of Kurios (master, sovereign, Lord etc.), and is only used twice is the New Testament.

    Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord's (kuriakos) Supper, (1 Corinthians 11:20 NASB)

    I was in the Spirit on the Lord's (kuriakos)day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet, (Revelation 1:10 NASB)

Over the course of time, the word Kirk, which shares the same root as kuriakos, became the informal name for the Church of Scotland, the country's national church. In fact, the Kirk of Scotland was the official name of the Church of Scotland until the 17th century, and is still frequently used today in everyday speech. As more time passed, the English pronunciation of kirk changed to "church." Eventually the word "church," which indicates a building or a place where God is worshipped, gradually evolved to include, not just the place, but also the ceremonies conducted there, and the people who conducted those ceremonies.

The word "church" would have been an acceptable translation for the Greek word kuriakos. However, not by any stretch of the imagination, can it be an acceptable translation for the Greek word ekklesia.

Although ekklesia implies "belonging to the Lord", it does not mean "belonging to the Lord".

The questions of how and why ekklesia came to be translated into the English "church" (although the word "assembly" or "congregation" is far more accurate) is one we will address a little later on.


Summary
We need to remember that whenever we read the word "church" in the New Testament, it does not refer to a building, a religious organization, a Sunday morning service, or a profession, but is speaking about the 'called out' group of believers who, collectively, form the church, which brings us to the next point.


Where Did The Early Church Meet?
We are so accustomed to 'doing church' in buildings that virtually have no other function, that we forget that the ekklesia, or early church met exclusively in people's homes.

In fact, the idea of churches that met in buildings earmarked for the purpose would have been completely foreign to the early church, since house churches were unquestionably the norm. The New Testament church was made up of small groups that met in individual homes, not in specially constructed buildings.

    Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, (Acts 2:46 NASB)

    And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. (Acts 5:42 NASB)

    And when he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. (Acts 12:12 NASB)

    They went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia, and when they saw the brethren, they encouraged them and departed. (Acts 16:40 NASB)

    also greet the church that is in their house. Greet Epaenetus, my beloved, who is the first convert to Christ from Asia. (Romans 16:5 NASB)

    The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Prisca greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house. (1 Corinthians 16:19 NASB)

    Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea and also Nympha and the church that is in her house. (Colossians 4:15 NASB)

    and to Apphia our sister, and to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house: (Philemon 1:2 NASB)

    If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; (2 John 1:10 NASB)

As the Lord added to their numbers, the church grew, not by adding more and more people to a single group, or by constructing another building, but by multiplying sideways. A single group divided itself into other groups, much like an organic cell makes a copy of itself, and then splits into two new cells which, in turn, split again... making four new cells.


From House Churches to Formal Buildings
In support of this, there is a distinct lack of evidence for formal public church buildings, before Constantine made public Christian worship legal. The Khan Academy, a not-for-profit educational organization, has a very interesting article on their site, titled Early Christian Art & Architecture after Constantine. It describes how Christianity was radically transformed by the actions of a single man... Constantine, who was Roman Emperor from 306 to 337. Although the article is almost exclusively confined to Constantine's influence on the architecture of the period, the implications of his actions were very far reaching.

Prior to the time of the emperor Constantine, the earliest identified Christian church is in Dura-Europos, Syria. It dates from 235 AD. However....

    ".... there was not much that distinguished the Christian churches from typical domestic architecture. A striking example of this is presented by a Christian community house, from the Syrian town of Dura-Europos. Here a typical home has been adapted to the needs of the congregation. A wall was taken down to combine two rooms: this was undoubtedly the room for services. It is significant that the most elaborate aspect of the house is the room designed as a baptistry. This reflects the importance of the sacrament of Baptism to initiate new members into the mysteries of the faith. Otherwise this building would not stand out from the other houses. This domestic architecture obviously would not meet the needs of Constantine's architects. [02]


Megiddo church

Some may point to the ancient Megiddo church, discovered in the grounds of the Megidddo prison in Israel, which dates back to the 3rd century AD. Although the structure does not follow the traditional building pattern for churches that emerged in the fourth century, this church is believed to be the oldest remains of a formal church in the Holy Land. However, anthropologist Joe Zias, former curator for the Israeli Antiquities Authority, disagrees. His statement

    "My gut feeling is that we are looking at a Roman building that may have been converted to a church at a later date."

is partially based on an inscription in the church which mentions Gaianus, a Roman officer, who donated "his own money" to have a mosaic made. The inscription says Gaianus, "having sought honor, from his own money, has made the mosaic." As Joe Zias says

    "If I were a Roman soldier in the third century, I certainly wouldn't want my name on (the church).… This would not have been a good career move. In fact, it sounds like the kiss of death.” [03]

How then did "church" began to be associated with large buildings in which Christians assembled on a regular basis?


Constantine and The Construction of Churches

Constantine and the Roman Pietas
We have to remember that Constantine was a Roman Emperor, who had a long history of constructing temples throughout the empire as a testament to Pietas, considered to be a primary virtue by the ancient Romans. Pietas, from which, I presume, we get our English word "piety", was variously translated as duty, religious behavior, loyalty, devotion, or filial piety. In fact, "the Romans sometimes attributed their misfortunes, individual or national, to lack of pietas". Therefore, many altars and temples, that had been wrecked during the civil war following Julius Caesar’s assassination, were rebuilt during the Pax Romana (a long period of relative peace and minimal expansion by military force), in 44 B.C. [04]

(As an aside, Michelangelo's sculpture of the body of Jesus on the lap of his mother Mary after the Crucifixion, is called The Pietà. It is housed in St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City).

It was, therefore, very natural for Constantine to want to construct edifices in honor of Christianity. He not only built churches in the newly-constructed capital of Constantinople, but also did so in Rome, including the Church of St. Peter. Constantine was also responsible for building, among others, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Additionally, Panagia Ekatontapyliani (also known as the Church of 100 Doors) is a historic Byzantine church complex in Parikia town, on the island of Paros in Greece. It dates to about 326 AD. and is believed to have been built by Helen, Constantine's mother.


The Basilica and....
Because the architectural style of the Roman temples were considered unsuitable, Constantine eventually decided on the architectural style of the Basilica, which had been used by the Romans for centuries.

The Roman basilicas had no known religious function; they were multi-purpose public buildings, used for commerce, a meeting place for the citizens, and as a court. They were usually large rectangular halls, consisting of a wide central aisle called the nave. Rows of pillars separated the nave from aisles on either side, which had high widows to let light in. The nave, or main aisle, usually ended in a semi-circular room called an apse, opposite the main door. As a law court, the magistrate would sit in the apse, usually on a slightly raised dais. The apse was also used as as audience halls of the emperors and governors.

    Basilica-TriesteThe Photograph On The Right is of The Basilica of Constantine in Trier, Germany (also known as the Cathedral of Saint Peter) is the oldest cathedral in the country, dating back to to 340 AD. It is believed to have been built under Helen's direction, and is still used as a Catholic church today. Note the semi circular apse at the far end

The most famous of the Roman basilicas was the Basilica Ulpia, the largest, most lavish, and much admired basilica in Rome, named after Roman emperor Trajan, and probably completed in A.D. 112. The Catholic Encyclopedia says (All Emphasis Added)

    In the basilica, when used as a place of Christian worship, dating from the fourth century, the whole congregation of the faithful could meet and participate in the ceremonies and devotions. The bishop took the place occupied of old by the prætor or quæster; the presbyters, the places of the assessors. Very little change was needed to erect a Christian altar on the spot in front of the apse, where the heathen had poured out their libations at the commencement and conclusion of all important business. The basilica of the heathen became the ecclesia, or place of assembly, of the early Christian community. [05]

One has to appreciate that the architecture of the Roman temples was rejected because of its pagan associations but, at the same time has to ask where the Basilica style of architecture came from.


The Great Hypostyle Hall at Karnak
The many rows of columns separating the side aisles, which are a traditional feature of basilicas, can be traced back to Egyptian Hypostyle Halls. Hypostyle was an ancient Greek term that described a building with rows of columns supporting its roof. In fact, the Basilica Ulpia is very similar to one of the most famous hypostyle halls... The Great Hypostyle Hall at Karnak.

The Egyptians believed that their temples were the actual dwelling places of the gods, Karnak being home to the god Amun-Re. As said by the web site of The Karnak Great Hypostyle Hall Project...

     In antiquity, Karnak was the largest religious sanctuary in Egypt's imperial capital of Thebes (modern Luxor) and was home to the god Amun-Re, king of the Egyptian pantheon. For over 2000 years, successive pharaohs rebuilt and expanded the temples of Karnak, making it the largest complex of religious monuments from the ancient world. [06]

They describe the Hypostyle Hall at Karnak thus...

    Covering an area large enough to accommodate the whole of Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral, the size and splendor of the Great Hypostyle Hall is enough to astound even the most jaded observer.  The central nave is supported by twelve huge columns which are 21 meters (70 ft) high... These columns support a system of architraves and huge windows with massive stone grilles reaching a total height of around 20 meters (70 ft), similar to that of a Medieval cathedral. Flanking the nave are a further 122 columns, 12 meters (40 ft) high with closed-bud papyrus capitals. [07]

In short, the Christian basilica was built in the style of the temple of the Egyptian God Amun-Re.

And yes, I do understand that architecture is strictly a matter of windows, bricks, roofs and columns. But don't Christians ever realize that that they are a "called out" group of people... called to be separate from the world around them. Yet they do not give a second thought to dragging all manner of pagan and even occult symbols, traditions, and practices with them into their supposedly new "called out life". Don't even get me started on Santa Claus.

We were never supposed to have church buildings at all. But we have wasted time, resources, and enormous fortunes doing exactly what every heathen culture in the world did... build religious monuments, one more grand then the next. Worse, we even patterned our so called "churches" after temples dedicated to an Egyptian God

However this is far from the end of the story.


The Edict of Thessalonica
Some 40 years Constantine died in 337, Theodosius the Great became the last emperor to rule over both the eastern and the western halves of the Roman Empire. After the empire split, Gratian, his counterpart in the west, took steps toward legal persecution of heretics. This was followed shortly by the jointly issued Edict of Thessalonica, delivered on 27 February 380 by Theodosius I, Gratian, and his half brother Valentinian II.

    Emperors Gratian, Valentinian And Theodosius Augusti. Edict To The People Of Constantinople.
    It is our desire that all the various nations which are subject to our Clemency and Moderation, should continue to profess that religion which was delivered to the Romans by the divine Apostle Peter, as it has been preserved by faithful tradition, and which is now professed by the Pontiff Damasus and by Peter, Bishop of Alexandria, a man of apostolic holiness. According to the apostolic teaching and the doctrine of the Gospel, let us believe in the one deity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, in equal majesty and in a holy Trinity. We authorize the followers of this law to assume the title of Catholic Christians; but as for the others, since, in our judgment they are foolish madmen, we decree that they shall be branded with the ignominious name of heretics, and shall not presume to give to their conventicles the name of churches. They will suffer in the first place the chastisement of the divine condemnation and in the second the punishment of our authority which in accordance with the will of Heaven we shall decide to inflict. Given In Thessalonica On The Third Day From The Calends Of March, During The Fifth Consulate Of Gratian Augustus And First Of Theodosius Augustus. —Codex Theodosianus, xvi.1.2

The edict was significant for many reasons. Although the Doctrine of the trinity was a central focus of this edict (SEE), it was a joint effort by both Eastern and Western Roman Emperors to establish Christianity as the official state church of the Roman Empire. In addition to banning all pagan worship, and destroying pagan temples, Emperor Theodosius sought to make the Nicene version of Christianity the only permissible religion of the empire. Thereafter all their subjects were required to profess the faith of the bishops of Rome and Alexandria.

What is of special interest is that, in the Edict of Thessalonica, 'heretics' were forbidden to give "their conventicles the name of churches". Merriam-Webster defines the word conventicle as meaning an assembly for religious worship; especially a private meeting for worship not sanctioned by law. [08]

This edict, and others that followed, "established a pattern" of using the apparatus of the state to "suppress diversity of religious opinion". This would become "more pronounced as Theodosius' reign progressed". [09] Although the Edict of Thessalonica was largely aimed at the Arians, it did not take long for other "heretics" to run afoul of the emperors. As said by historian William Kenneth Boyd

    Theodosius made the violation of divine law equivalent to sacrilege, and such violation involved the loss of certain rights of Roman citizenship. First, the power of leaving or receiving legacies, one of the distinctive privileges of Roman citizens, was taken from the Manichaeans in 381, then from the Eunomians in 389. Honorious extended this legal disability to the Donatists and Pricillianists, while Theodosius the Younger applied it to all sects. The right to hold office at court or in the army was withdrawn from the Eunomians by Theodosius; Honorious excluded all enemies of the Catholic sect from service in the palace; and, finally, Theodosius the Younger forbade heretics to take the military oath of allegiance or to serve in the imperial army. [10]

    The Jews were similarly affected. Honorious and Theodosius the Younger excluded them from military and all other public services except municipal offices". A law gave "temporal officials the right to inspect and increase the taxes paid into the public treasury by the Jewish communities" [11]

The Gospel of Christ was well on it's way to becoming something Christ never intended it to be.

And, it did not stop there. As another example

    In England there were three acts of parliament passed (in 1593, 1664, and 1670) to coerce people to attend Church of England services, and to prohibit unofficial meeting of lay people. Punishment initially included imprisonment without bail, and later a monetary fine for anyone, including a preacher, who allowed their house to be used as a meeting place. [12]

Why all this history? Simply because the events and edicts of the third and fourth centuries went a long way towards giving permanent form to Christianity as being a religion, the beliefs and practices of which were defined by self professed leaders, not the Bible.


Summary
In summary, Constantine made Christianity the state religion and built a number of churches fashioned after the Roman Basilicas, which were, in turn, modeled after The Karnak Great Hypostyle Hall. Karnak was the largest religious sanctuary in Egypt's imperial capital of Thebes, and was dedicated to the god Amun Ra. A few decades later another Roman emperor issued an edict forbidding "heretics" to call their "conventicles", churches.  In other words, private meetings for religious worship was punishable by law.

 

001orange  CONTINUE ON TO PART II: The Four Main Reasons Modern Christians 'Do Church'. Worship and the "Worship Service". The Meaning of "Worship" As Defined by The Hebrew and Greek Words. Is "Worship" The Primary Reason Why Christians Are Supposed To Meet? Evangelism, The Sermon, Fellowship. The Primary Objective Of The Gathering Of Believers According to The Scriptures. Is The Church Supposed To Be a Largely Spectator Event?

 

End Notes
)00] Steve Atkerson. Worship at All Times, But Meet Primarily to Edify. http://www.ntrf.org/articles/article_detail.php?PRKey=4

[01] http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/church?q=church and
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=church&searchmode=none

[02] Dr. Allen Farber. Early Christian Art & Architecture after Constantine.
http://smarthistory.khanacademy.org/early-christian-Art-after-constantine.html

[03] Greg Myre. Israeli Prisoners Dig Their Way to Early Christianity. The New York Times Company.
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/07/international/middleeast/07mideast.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

[04] Singapore Management University. Virgils Aeneas: The Roman Ideal of Pietas.
https://mercury.smu.edu.sg/rsrchpubupload/1807/VIRGIL.pdf

[05] The Catholic Encyclopedia. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01659a.htm

[06] The Karnak Great Hypostyle Hall Project. Welcome to the Hypostyle Hall. http://www.memphis.edu/hypostyle/welcome.htm

[07] The Karnak Great Hypostyle Hall Project. Dimensions. http://www.memphis.edu/hypostyle/about.htm

[08] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/conventicle. Emphases Added

[09] Dan Graves, MSL. Theodosius Issued an Edict Church History Timeline.
http://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/301-600/theodosius-issued-an-edict-11629680.html

[10] William Kenneth Boyd. The Ecclesiastical Edicts Of The Theodosian code, Paperback edition (2008) from BiblioBazaar. Pg. 51

[11] ibid Pg. 53

[12] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conventicle

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