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The Christian Church

Motto: "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone" (Eph 2:20)

The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. (Psalms 118: 22), the cornerstone of a building during the construction is the first stone, a reference point to which all the other are determined. First, the chosen 12 Apostles by Jesus: Peter + the 11: Andrew, James, John, Matthew, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, James, Lebbeus (Thaddeus), Simon, Judas (later replaced by Matthias), and the 70 disciples (Luk 10:1). Then He reveals Himself to 500 disciples showing them the supernatural reality of, the power of the kingdom of God, and to Paul, who was called later (1 Cor 15:6).

The apostles were wandering preachers, who besides the spreading of the faith, provided the connection as well. In the first Christian churches there were not officers, there was no difference between the members of the congregation. The Holy Spirit's statements were revealed by the prophets, teachers to whom the Spirit gave his revelations. The increasing number of believers over time necessitated the appointment of officers: presbyters (elders, church leaders), bishops, deacons. The members of the first Christian community in Jerusalem were Christians converted from Jews. There was no definite ceremony system in the congregation: the Spirit was let lead, there were common prayers. Occasionally, the believers shared their fortune, helped the fallen. They held feasts of charity and Lord’s suppers. God makes it clear to Peter in a vision and via the call of the pagan Cornelius that He extended His grace onto the pagan nations too (Acts 10).

Paul was ordained the Apostle of the Gentiles and made his utmost efforts in his calling. He went on three great missionary journeys. His first travel was a relatively shorter one: Seleucia, Cyprus, Perga, Anthiocia, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, provinces in Lycaonia surrounding, then back on this way through Attalia to Jerusalem. During his second trip, he gets, through Syria, to Cilicia, where he strengthens the congregations established during the first missionary journey, then he goes to the regions of Phrygia and Galatia. Through Mysia he gets to Macedonia, Athens, and thence through Asia Minor, reaching Caesarea en route to Jerusalem. His third itinerary: Galatia, Phrygia, Asia Minor, Macedonia, Greece, Macedonia and back to north, then towards Samos, Rhodes home. Virtually, he toured the Mediterranean in the north, Asia Minor, Macedonia, eastern part of Greece and finally on his last journey to Rome he sailed through Crete, Malta, Sicily and the south-western part of Italy. We can read about this, as well as the organization of the church in the book of Acts. The pastoral, spiritual care of the church appears in the Epistles.

When John writes his visions in the book of Revelation to the 7 churches in Asia Minor, he might foreshadow the fate of the Church (Rev 2 and 3).

The destruction of Jerusalem meant the dispersion of the Church and the persecution of the Christians, who - not negligibly - refused the emperor worship and the worship of the official gods of the Roman state religion. At the very beginning false doctrines appear in the church (eg. Marcion’s doctrines; Gnosticism). Against Marcion’s false doctrines Christian communities begin to arrange the writings of the New Testament in the 1st and 2nd century already: writings fully inspired by, stem from God are selected and isolated from the so-called Apocrypha. (The New Testament written in Greek originally was taken by modern European languages due to Luther's German translation of the Bible.) Christianity in the 2nd century vigorously and resolutely fought with Gnosticism that finds faith alone insufficient calling for knowledge and is plenty of astrologic elements. Christianity remains on the foundation of the biblical and apostolic traditions, though two centuries later, false doctrines mingle into the Christian traditions. The early Christian church gradually falls away from the roots, from the pure faith, the Church falls into apostasy and so can happen that it is raised to state rank. The edict issued by Constantine in 313 makes Christianity state religion, which was inherited by the feudal states. From the 4th century Christianity gets equal rights as the Hellenic state religion - imported several foreign cult earlier - and soon displace it, but in a way that the strongly mixed Greco-Roman spirit dominates the traditions of the Christian church, its several pagan elements infiltrate it. The Roman Empire merged pagan religious systems developed in other nations into its own system. This included the office of the highest priest, the title Pontifex Maximus. In the middle of the 3rd century the Roman congregation is of great importance, its prestige increases. As a result of the political aspirations of the Roman bishopric, the bishop of Rome acquires political power by 378, elected Pontifex Maximus first. The institution of the papacy develops desiring more and more power and in the 11th and 12th century papacy even wants to rise above the secular power.

Luke 22:25-26 … The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them … But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve - says Jesus contrary to this.

However, the papacy full of abuses and compromises brings the renewal, the reform of the faith to life: a desire for the clean faith revives in some. At the end of the 12th century the Valdens (France) consecrate their lives to the spread of the Gospel, they recognize the Bible as the sole and supreme authority, revive the traditions of the apostolic church, the clean early Christian thinking is reflected in them. In the 14th century John Vyclif (England) claims that the vocation of the church is not to strive for secular power, material possessions, the church does not need an appointed head in the world and that it is necessary to turn back to the Bible, its truth is the etalon. The Bible has to be promoted, every believer must know the sole authority of the faith. Vyclif has a huge impact on Jan Hus (Bohemia). Hus declares that forgiveness of sins (remission of sins) may be obtained through repentance and conversion, not through money. Justification can be possible by faith only. Indulgence cannot help in terms of salvation. The Pope cannot know who is predestined for salvation or damnation. If the papal bulls are contrary to the Scriptures, it is an imperative to oppose them. The single holy universal church is the community, the congregation of the predestined, the chosen. In the 15th century there were significant changes in the relation of the Western European states and the Church: the Reformation undermined the state religion feature of the Catholic Church. Faith renewals, reforms initiated by Vyclif generated the Reformation in Central Europe in the 16th century, whose three main branches: the Lutheran (Germany), the Calvin (Switzerland) and the (folk) Anabaptist. The Lutheran branch soon gave up its revolutionary nature and got under the power of a part of the feudal princes and the urban citizens, which did not consider necessary to break revolutionarily with the established order. The Anabaptists formulated the demands of the urban poor and the peasants in a religious form. The Calvinist provided an appropriate ideology for the rising bourgeoisie, who were interested in the development of the capitalist relations most. The Reformation-types following each other leave more and more of their doctrines, the churches require and receive the same privileges as the Catholic Church before, they become secularized. Out of the Anabaptist movement did the Baptist revival grow (17th century) and is committed to the full immersion baptism by faith in adulthood (the Netherlands, the UK, later the USA). The Pentecost (charismatic) revival stems from the 19th century Baptists and Methodists and started its activity in the early 20th century (USA). This movement broadened world-wide over some decades and reached the most extensive evangelistic successes in the history of Christianity. From Jesus to 1996 70% of the re-born Christians became a believer in the 20th century and 70% of them after the Second World War.

Revelation 14: 6 ... I saw an(…) angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.

From the process above we can see that from time to time, there was always a need for the revival of the faith. However, the question arises: whether the churches seeking state and social acceptance as soon as they received it, did not they fall away from God at the same time? Because of the secularization did they not get further from the roots?

If any man have an ear, let him hear.

If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand … shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. (Rev 14: 9-11)

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