The Communal Church
The church establishes a communal lifestyle:
♦ Acts 2:43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. 44. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; 45. And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. 46. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
Communal living is an established church practice:
♦ Acts 4:32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. 33. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. 34. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, 35. And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. 36. And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, the son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, 37. Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
Communal honesty is a serious matter:
♦ Acts 5:1. But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, 2. And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? 4. Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. 5. And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. 6. And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. 7. And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. 8. And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. 9. Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. 10. Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband.
Constantine became Emperor of western Rome after Diocletian abdicated in 305 AD. Under Diocletian, 284-305 AD, the Christian faith suffered its worst persecution, but had not been eradicated. Up to this time paganism played an essential role in life and government and religion was considered an area within the governments rule. Constantine was sympathetic to Christianity and tolerant to diversity in religion, but his conversion to Christianity after his rise to power was not due to true religious zeal. Christianity was a more effective way of accomplishing goals his rivals failed to reach under paganism. It was certainly politically advantageous for him to convert. Soon he was not only the head of Rome, but also the head of Christianity. He found that if he portrayed himself as God’s appointed Emperor he could accomplish more than claiming himself to be God. What he did in government was God’s will, and of course by claiming to be chosen by God, he was a natural as head of the Church.
After solidifying his position to gain complete control of the western portion of the empire in 312, he instituted the Edict of Milan, a “Magna Carta of religious liberty,” which eventually changed the Empire’s religion and put Christianity on an equal footing with paganism. Almost overnight the position of the Church was reversed from persecuted to legal and accepted. Constantine began to rely on the church for support, and it on him for protection. The Church and the Empire formed an alliance, which remains to this day. Very rapidly, the laws and policies of the Empire and the doctrine of the Church became one with Constantine as the interpreter of both law and policy.
Through a series of Universal Councils, he eliminated dissent and dissenters, changed holy days, and outlawed the Sabbath. The greatest effect he had was destroying any book in the accepted biblical works, (over 80% of the total), he felt did not fit within his concept of Christianity. He completely altered doctrine without regard to biblical edict, set up a church hierarchy of his own design, and established a set of beliefs and practices, which are the basis for all mainstream Bible-based churches. The separation of the Protestants and the Roman Church caused a physical split, but the beliefs and practices established by Constantine remained almost identical. Very little has changed since the 4th century Councils changed the face of Christianity.
An Inspired Church?
In light of the realities outlined above some serious questions need to be asked, and answered.
· Was Constantine, a Roman emperor who embraced pagan religion for years after his Christian “conversion”, given a mandate from God to completely change almost every aspect of the church Jesus established?
· Did God inspire Constantine to denounce and criminalize doctrine established in scripture?
· Was it God’s will that the Emperor Constantine should blend Christianity with a pagan religion, which God had clearly condemned and outlawed?
· Did God guide a despotic king, with a prime motivation was to firmly establish the “Divine Right of Kings”, to translate the Bible into an obscure language of the elite that kept it from the common man?
· Is there any justification that allows the church to ignore clear and specific biblical doctrines and practices?
· Does it please God that the church teaches and practices doctrine that is completely contrary to scripture?
· Is it acceptable to Jesus that churches teach isolationism and prejudice, and are concerned more about the design of their buildings and the size of their Sunday attendance, than the number of poor and indigent people they serve?
If one can answer any of the above questions in the affirmative then this book will be more useful as a paperweight, than a source of knowledge.
If the these questions lead one to a conclusion that the origins of our modern church are not divinely inspired but the result of human edict then this question has been answered:
♦ “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46)