As we come to the end of this year of Confirmation, it’d be good to review some of the most important lessons we’ve emphasized in the last number of months.
I’ve described the Bible as being essentially two basic parts:
- The Problem: Sin, Death, and Disorder in creation
- The Solution: A covenant for a holy people
We know the problem well. The solution needs a little more unpacking. What is a Covenant and how does it make us holy people?
- A covenant is a promise, agreement, or a sacred treaty. A covenant is a set of expectations meant to build trust and alliance between parties. Here specifically we mean between God and his people.
- What does it mean to be holy? Holiness is to be “set apart” and to be like God in his righteousness and love.
- So it is through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ that have a relationship with God as holy people not because we are exceptionally good, but because we have experienced God’s Grace through Jesus. His death and resurrection is the sign of the promise.
- What is grace? It is the undeserved kindness of God. It is the self-sacrificial love of God that shows mercy to sinners (all of us) that we did not earn and cannot buy.
I love the way Grace is described in this clip from the movie, The Tree of Life:
We now have the huge task of bridging what happened at the end of the New Testament and where we find ourselves 2000 years later. What is the point of studying Church history? For one, there are millions of Christians who’ve gone before us whose lives can inspire our own faith and trust in Jesus. But just as important, we look back on the history we have many negative lessons to learn about how the church has forgotten that it exists by a Covenant of God’s grace.
Here is a crash course in Church History from the Ancient Church to the Protestant Reformation.
The moments to highlight over the history of the church include these:
From 33 AD to 313 AD the Christian Church is largely an underground movement, persecuted and despised by political and cultural authorities.
Beginning in 380 Christianity becomes the state church of the Roman Empire and following Christ no longer becomes a matter of personal decision, but simply something you do as a Roman citizen.
476, the Roman Empire falls to the barbarians. With the political establishment in disarray from the conquest, the Bishop of Rome (aka the Pope) steps into the vacuum of power. The church begins to provide the services of government, including the ability to crown new kings throughout Europe.
1096 The Pope rallies the armies of Europe to being the first Crusade to try and liberate the city of Jerusalem from Muslim Armies. It is the first of many “Holy Wars” the state church begins to prosecute.
1506 Construction begins on Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The Church begins selling “indulgences” to pay for the construction. Indulgences were donations and acts of devotion a person could do to purchase forgiveness of sins for their own souls or those of loved ones.
1517 A German monk and Biblical scholar named Martin Luther nails his “Ninety-Five Thesis” to the door of the cathedral in Wittenberg. The document details 95 arguments against practices of the Roman Catholic Church including the selling of indulgences.
1521 Martin Luther is excommunicated from the Catholic Church. He teaches the people that scripture alone should be the authority for Christian life and that faith alone can save us from sin, not works. He also teaches the “ Priesthood of All Believers” means that every Christian is responsible for duties of worship and service–not just clergy. We’ve come to call this “the Protestant Reformation”
One of the greatest errors the church has made across its history is that it has forgotten that we are saved only by the grace and loving-kindness of God. The church has become infatuated with worldly power and forgotten that our calling is to be humble and gracious like Jesus Christ was. We are to be servants to our neighbors, not masters. Folks like Martin Luther and many others have tried throughout the centuries to remind us of this, but each generation struggles with what it means to truly be a holy people. Thus we have to go back to the scriptures frequently to be reminded of who we are and what God has done for us.
- According to Jesus, what is the responsibility of a true leader?
- Who is someone you know that is extremely humble? What makes them that way?
- In what ways do you live like Jesus and in what ways do you not?