|Restoring Apostolic Christianity|
|By Roderick C. Meredith|
If Jesus of Nazareth were to return to the earth today, would He recognize the religion that is using His name? Not at all! Mankind has twisted Jesus Christ’s teachings so that the religion bearing His name has practically no relationship to what He and the Apostles actually lived and believed. Can you find a Church that strives to live by the teachings of true Apostolic Christianity? Can you prove for yourself what God’s Truth really is? This booklet will give you the all-important answers to those questions!
Yet most genuine religious scholars recognize that vast changes have overtaken professing Christianity—rendering it totally different from the Christianity of Jesus and the Apostles! As respected mainline Protestant scholar Jesse Lyman Hurlbut acknowledges:
If the leaders, during this time that Mr. Hurlbut elsewhere called an "age of shadows," were filled with and led by God’s Spirit, then why would the Church suddenly be "very different"? For the Bible tells us that Christ is "the same yesterday, today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). Yet the professing Christian church today is not even remotely the same as the one Jesus founded.
Notice Mr. Hurlbut’s statement that "some of the old heathen feasts became church festivals." They "became" that way because God Himself had predicted that evil men and false leaders would take over most of the Church! Remember this inspired warning the Apostle Paul gave the Ephesian elders: "For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears" (Acts 20:29–31).
HOW Could This Happen?
This massive apostasy occurred because men and women back then, just like today, did not zealously prove to themselves where God’s Truth was being taught. That is why the living Christ corrected those Christians living near the end of the Apostolic Era: "Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent" (Revelation 2:4–5).
"According to one religious research firm, two-thirds of Americans don’t regularly read the Bible or know the names of the Four Gospels. More than half of Americans surveyed can’t name even five of the Ten Commandments. And the majority say they find the Good Book irrelevant.… ‘We still hold the Bible in high regard, but in terms of actually spending the time reading it, studying it and applying it—that is a thing of the past,’ said George Barna. The reasons cited range from changes in American culture to the intrinsic difficulty of the text itself.
Of course, the real underlying cause of this massive religious apostasy is that this is Satan’s world and that he has totally deceived the vast majority of humanity. In the comfortable surroundings of western civilization, most Americans, Canadians and others fail to realize that the overwhelming majority of human beings have never believed in any form of "Christianity"—let alone the real Christianity of Christ and the Apostles! The vast majority of humans are—and always have been—Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Shintoists, atheists or agnostics.
A Very REAL Satan Is Involved
If you will study and believe your own Bible, you will find that Satan the devil is described as the one "who deceives the whole world" (Revelation 12:9). You will also find Satan referred to as "the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:2). For Satan "broadcasts" a selfish, rebellious attitude throughout this earth. He is the one who is influencing deceived men into injecting enormous amounts of licentious sex, violence and a general spirit of disrespect and lawlessness into the so-called "entertainment" you and your children see or hear on television, at the movies, on the radio or when playing various kinds of perverted computer games which simulate almost indescribable acts of perversion or violence. Do you know who is really laughing at all this "fun stuff"? Satan
Christianity Without Christ?
Instead, mankind has made its own religion that is almost completely different from what Jesus Christ preached and practiced. And they call that religion "Christianity," as if it were connected with Jesus Christ! As the philosopher and theologian Soren Kirkegaard put it:
Those are strong words, but they are hardly unique. Professor Rufus M. Jones concurs, noting how Christ’s true teachings were quickly detached from the religion bearing His name:
We should not be surprised that mankind tried to remake Christianity its own way. Mankind has tried for thousands of years to find its own way. Humanism, materialism, socialism, communism or capitalism—human society has invented so many philosophies in the vain hope of giving meaning to life without God, and creating through human effort a happy and prosperous society on the earth.
Restoring Apostolic Christianity
The key issue, then, is our desire and willingness to get back to the true Christian faith, "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). Are you willing to genuinely try to follow the Christianity of Christ? Or are you willing to "take a chance" in your relationship with God and in your quest for eternal life?
Paul Looked to Jerusalem
Clearly the original Apostles and the Jerusalem Church of God set the inspired "pattern" for true Christianity—not just for that time—but for all time! Contrary to the heretical Protestant ideas that the Apostle Paul later was used by God to "reinvent" Christianity, the real Apostle Paul of the Bible—as we have seen—constantly showed deep respect for the original Apostles and deferred to the leadership at Jerusalem in all major matters! And it was the Apostle Paul who wrote the primarily Gentile church at Corinth: "Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters" (1 Corinthians 7:19). Noted historian Carl von Weiszäcker wrote in 1895:
Later in Paul’s ministry, he traveled again to Jerusalem: "And when we had come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present" (Acts 21:17–18). Notice that Paul presented himself to James, the Lord’s brother, who by now was undoubtedly the chief Apostle at Jerusalem—Peter probably having gone to the "lost sheep" of the house of Israel in northwest Europe and the British Isles.
What Did Christ Do on Earth?
Nearly all professing Christians understand that in order to be an acceptable sacrifice for mankind’s sins, Jesus Christ had to keep the Law perfectly. But what law did He keep, and what did He expect of His followers? Here is how Christ Himself described His mission:
Many Christians do not grasp the importance of those words. Christ said that not "one jot or one tittle" (the tiniest marks in the Hebrew script) of the law would pass from the law until heaven and earth pass away. Since heaven and earth have not passed away, we must understand that the law remains. And Christ condemned those who would falsely teach men to break even the "least of these commandments." Rather, He explained that those who both do and teach the commandments will be called "great" in the kingdom of heaven!
In other words, Jesus came, as Isaiah prophesied (Isaiah 42:21), to "magnify" God’s law and to show its fullest intent and purpose. What Jesus Christ sought to abolish were the abuses of the law, and the man-made traditions that perverted the law. His sacrificial death, foreshadowed by the temple sacrifices, made those animal sacrifices and washings irrelevant for Christians. But His life showed that the spiritual law—the Ten Commandments—was and would remain relevant for those seeking to obey Him. One cannot properly understand His teachings without understanding the Old Testament scriptures and the law they contain, as noted by Frederick Holmgren:
Indeed, Jesus Christ taught from the Old Testament, and He lived by it, as did His followers.
What Did the Apostles Teach?
We have seen that Jesus Christ plainly upheld God’s law. Yet some churches falsely accuse the Apostles—especially the Apostle Paul—of teaching that Christians need no longer follow Jesus Christ’s example. Indeed, even in Apostolic times we see that some were twisting Paul’s words for their purposes (cf. 2 Peter 3:16). Yet when writing to the young evangelist Timothy, Paul plainly reminded him "that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:15–16).
So for about the first 40 years of Christianity, guided by the Holy Spirit, the "dominant element" in the Church of God was still following Christ’s example of keeping the weekly and annual Sabbaths commanded by God. They were still following the example set by the Jerusalem Church of God!
What Was Apostolic Christianity Really Like?
Most professing Christians today have no idea what first century Christianity was really like! Yet for decades—long after the cross and the reception of the Holy Spirit—the true Christians all believed and practiced a way of life and worship totally different from professing Christianity today!
Jesus MAGNIFIED God’s Law
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus certainly did not "do away" with God’s spiritual law (Matthew 5:17). Rather, He "magnified" the Ten Commandments. He explained that we must not only refrain from killing other human beings, we must not even look on them with contempt or hatred (vv. 20–23), as that is the "spirit" of murder. We are not to "hate" even our enemies. As Jesus said clearly: "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you" (v. 44).
A View of Apostolic Christianity
If you could somehow "look in on" true Christianity during the first century and even beyond, what would you see? You would see a group of dedicated believers in Jesus as the promised Messiah. You would see a community of believers to whom the God of Israel, the God of Creation, was real. For these people would not just talk about the person of Jesus Christ. They would do
HOW Was the Truth Lost?
Some teach that their denomination was given the authority to change Christ’s teachings, and that by this authority its members need no longer obey Christ’s commandments or follow His example. The largest professing Christian sect calls itself both universal and Apostolic, and claims to trace its human leadership back to the Apostle Peter, from whom it claims the authority to change biblical doctrines, even though Peter himself never did so.
In the fourth century after Christ, the Roman emperor Constantine adopted Christianity as his religion. More properly, one might say that he "adapted" it, since the original Apostolic Christianity was dramatically transformed under his imperial influence.
If you read the above historical quotes carefully, you will understand that—during the appropriately named "Dark Ages"—nearly all the aspects of paganism were introduced into professing Christianity. False concepts of the "mystery of the mass," the worship of the Virgin Mary patterned directly after the worship of the pagan goddesses, the idea of a "little Lord Jesus" being born on December 25, calling it "Christmas" and connecting it with all the pagan rituals of the Saturnalia—all these false concepts and more were woven into what became "mainstream" Christianity.
The "Reformation" Reformed Very Little
Martin Luther—the "father" of the Reformation—and other reformers still held hostile attitudes against all things "Jewish," including the Sabbath of Jesus Christ, the annual festivals and, in fact, literal obedience to the Ten Commandments. That is one reason Martin Luther presumptuously added something to God’s own Word! In Luther’s translation of the New Testament, he deliberately added the word "alone" to Romans 3:28. Luther was so adamant against the necessity of obeying God’s law—confusing it perhaps with Catholic canon law and Catholic rituals—that he added a word to God’s inspired revelation!
A PAGANIZED "Christianity"
The church gained from Constantine and the Empire not just new doctrines, but new organization. Rome had a long-standing imperial cult, and its practices found a home in this compromised Christianity. Will Durant observes:
As new and false elements were added to this "Christianity," the authentic elements were crowded out. Sometimes this occurred because of anti-Semitic feelings. Since Jesus Christ was physically from the tribe of Judah, many Gnostics denied His bodily appearance—they refused to accept that their God had been from this much-despised tribe. Others perverted Christ’s teachings because they hated the nation from which those teachings came. They knew that Christians kept the "Jewish" Holy Days and adhered to other practices that pagan observers found offensive. Early church historian Eusebius wrote of those who, holding this sentiment, sought to replace the New Testament Passover that Christ kept with the Easter festival drawn from Ishtar-worship:
A Far "Different" Way
Yes, many taught that "we have received from our Savior a different way." But that way is not found in the Bible. Instead, it is found in the customs of the Greeks and Romans and other European converts who adopted Christianity on the surface but kept their old ways. With the passage of time, these old ways overwhelmed the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Apostles, as discussed by John Romer below:
So we can see that true Christianity has been opposed from the very beginning by those who would turn it away from the true God whose commandments Jesus Christ upheld. But many of today’s professing Christians do not realize just where those commandments came from, and who proclaimed them on Mount Sinai.
The God of the Old Testament
In Matthew 22:42–45, Jesus challenged the religious leaders: "‘What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?’ They said to Him, ‘The Son of David.’ He said to them, ‘How then does David in the Spirit call Him "Lord," saying: "The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool’"? If David then calls Him "Lord," how is He his Son?’" The Pharisees were not able to answer. For they knew that King David of Israel certainly had no human "lord." This scripture had to be describing two personalities in God’s Family—one greater than the other. And, as should be obvious to us, David’s immediate "Lord"—the one who later became Jesus of Nazareth—was told to sit at the right hand of the Father until it was time for Him to become King of kings.
How Can a Christian Live as Christ Did?
The Bible makes it plain that Christians are to keep God’s commandments. The Apostle John wrote: "Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked" (1 John 2:3–6).
What Should a Christian Do?
One can recognize a true Christian as someone striving, through Christ’s help, to live by every word of God (cf. Matthew 4:4). "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). By yielding to Jesus Christ, the fruits of the Spirit will become more and more evident in a Christian’s life.
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
Posted by David Ben-Ariel at 5:41 PM