Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.To be a Christian you must at the very least come to believe certain things about the identity of this Jesus who lived on earth approximately 2000 years ago, and furthermore, you must confess this belief before men (Matthew 10:33).
All Christians believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messiah referred to in the Hebrew Scriptures. This is another way of saying that Christians believe Jesus is the Christ, since “Christ” is a derivation of the Greek word for Messiah. What Christians call the “Old Testament” is known by the Jews as the “Tenach” – we are talking about the inspired Hebrew writings that came mostly through prophets like Moses, David, Samuel, Isaiah, Jeremiah and others. These writings give an account of the origins of our world, the fall of man into sin, a system of sacrifices for the people of Israel and the promise of a coming deliverer from sin and bondage for the people of God – the Messiah, whom we as Christians believe to be Jesus.
Christians also hold that Jesus is the Son of God, by which we mean that Jesus fully shares in the Nature of God Almighty and was sent by God the Father. The Scriptures say “In Him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9).
Christians also believe that He was born of a virgin, that He was sent by God the Father to bring men back to God. Christianity teaches that the death of Jesus Christ on the cross and the subsequent resurrection of Christ from the dead three days later is the means by which the price for all our sins was paid, and the proof that we can now enjoy a life with God through Jesus because of what He has done.
After the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the disciples of Jesus, and reports of the resurrection of Jesus Christ went out through eyewitnesses, especially His twelve apostles, the early church was formed. This is where early Christianity began to be practiced. The Bible says concerning the practice of the early Christians:
Acts 2:42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
Acts 2:43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.
Acts 2:44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common,
Acts 2:45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.
Acts 2:46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart,
Acts 2:47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.
Christianity started out then as a way of life that believers in Jesus were involved in together. According to this passage of Chritsianity, it was characterised by:
* Teaching of God’s Word by Apostles
* Eating meals together to remember Jesus.
* Praying together
* Reverence for God – fear of God.
* Miracles, signs and wonders
* Concern and practical care for the poor through selling excess goods and giving to the poor.
* Continuing meeting together in public meeting places and in house groups
* Praising God
* Evangelism and the conversion of others so they join the community
What a beautiful picture of early church life! It would be great if these things were what people today would understand by Christianity even today.
The book of Acts goes on to describe how Christianity spread, chiefly following the exploits of the apostle Paul. If nothing else, this shows how important the concept of mission and evangelism was to the writers and historians of the early church. In fact, you can’t separate aggressive mission from the practice of Christianity as far as the New Testament is concerned.
However, the passage of time and the introduction of “tares” by the
devil has shifted the conception of what Christianity truly is. The history of Christianity from the end of the first century until the present day has been a chequered one, and this fact was actually prophesied by Jesus in some of his parables. Christianity evolved in different streams and the author of this site would claim that much of its evolution was due to the work of the devil as much as the work of God.
Christianity began with an explosion of love, faith and service to mankind. Roman commentators and pagan apologists are on record as complaining that the Christians were eliminating poverty wherever they went and through their acts of kindness and love were winning the hearts of people everywhere and emptying the pagan temples. However, Satan was not sleeping, and sadly, the devil (who is the spiritual archenemy of God and His people) was able to sow seeds of deception into the visible church. This was done in part by mixing Greek philosophy with Christianity, in part by mixing pagan practices in, in part by the rise of monarchical bishops and the marginalisation of the Holy Spirit in church life. To whatever extent, people stopped believing some of the things that Jesus and the early apostles taught, and started believing myths that were as much derived from paganism as from anything else. The introduction of Christianity as a State religion by the Roman Emperor Constantine and his succesors in the 4th century were part of the transformation of Christianity from what we can read about in the Book of Acts to something which resembles what we see in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches of today. I am certain that none of these things happened overnight. Both of these historical religious streams are very much a hybrid of primitive Christianity with State politics, paganism and the traditions of man. They vary in some key respects because the geographical separation of East and West allowed the traditions to diverge in different ways. This processed continued until the Roman Catholic Pontiff in Rome and the Patriarch of the Byzantium church in Constantinople mutually excommunicated each other in the 11th century. This event in Christianity is known as “The Great Schism”.
Tradition after tradition was added to Christianity until the whole thing became a kind of ritualistic practice of sacramental religion which in many cases was devoid of the life of God. Many rogues and heretics gained positions of influence in the church. Some were marginalised while others shaped the theology of the church and even rose to the position of “pope”. In my view the errors of the Church of that age were more of the nature of what was LEFT OUT of church teaching and practice, than what was added. It seems that almost no one was really attempting to teach the whole of the Bible. The other thing that was going on was that church leaders “bishops” were going after power and money. The Bible says that the love of money is the root of all evil and certainly it could be argued that this has always been at the root of every problem in the history of the every division of the church, whether ancient or modern.
In the Middle Ages it got to the point where the Roman Catholic church was full of charlatans who were trying to sell of all kinds of useless junk they called “relics” in order to somehow commercialise on the superstitious ignorance of the people. Common people were no longer being taught the Bible, and this allowed the “priests”, the clergy, to bilk the general public out of their hard earned income through promoting all kinds of unbiblical fables. At the same time, Medieval Lords were summoned by the pope to go and fight in the “Holy Land” to get it back from the muslims. On the way, they looted, raped and pillaged Eastern “Orthodox” Christians, Turks and muslims, and did a lot of damage to Jewish communities also. The “crusades” created a great offense and I suppose many muslims today consider these things to be an expression of powerful Christianity. In reality, these “crusades” were just another power grab by ambitious men who were deceived by clergy and their own wicked hearts.
This dark era in the history of the church was challenged by some people like the Waldenses and the Hussites and the followers of John Wycliffe, who first translated the Bible into the English language. But it was not until the historic “nailing of the 95 theses” by Martin Luther in Germany that the power of the Roman Catholic church system was seriously challenged. Luther began by simply wanting some reformation in the practice of the Roman Catholic church, but ended up totally breaking with it. He introduced or re-introduced the idea of “Sola Scriptura” – the concept that all doctrines and practices of the church should be based on the Scriptures alone. Luther also taught that getting right with God could never be achieved by religious discipline. Instead, what was required was “FAITH”. Luther emphasised the free gift of righteousness that came by faith in Jesus Christ and His work on the cross. This created a huge division in the Western church which of course persists to this day.
Since the time of Luther, followers of Christ have struggled to come to terms with what the Bible teaches and what God expects of us. Significant figures in the Protestant world of Christianity since the time of Luther were John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, William Booth,the founder of the Salvation Army, the Pentecostal Pioneers like William Seymour and John G. Lake, and many others.
Christianity today still forms a confusing picture in many ways because the devil’s tares are going to remain right until the Harvest at the End of the Age, according to the teaching of Jesus. Only diligent people who seek God with all their heart and turn away from evil are likely to truly find the salvation that is in Jesus. The vital thing is to truly connect with God through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, are people who have done this are coming together to serve God in different ways.
May God restore Christianity in these last days to what God intended for His people. We are seeing imperfect but real manifestations of the life of God through his people working together today, and this encourages us to press on.
May God bless you as you study this site and consider your own attitude towards God and Jesus Christ.
You might also like to get the perspective of the Wikipedia article on Christianity for more general information on the subject.