I like to say that history is, by definition, the most exciting stories and interesting facts of all time. As a result, I try to create my Christian History web site with stories that make … no, allow history to be exciting and interesting.
By nature, however, I am a debater. My whole family is. My kids inherited it, and my wife probably has been that way her whole life, too. I know she’s even more of a competitor than I am, and I’m a somewhat fierce competitor by nature.
So now I’m debating with my uncle(!) on Facebook. We’re trying to keep it civil, but the topics are pretty hot, and we have very different perspectives on Christianity.
It has dawned on me that the problem is my storytelling. It’s absent in such a debate. I am speaking from a context of the history of the whole church all the way back to the apostles. Most Protestants have no clue about that history. As a result, they are shocked to find out that such important background to their faith could have been withheld from them.
So let’s tell the Christian story. I’ll give references where it’s easy to do so. If there are references you want that I did not supply, please request them in the comments.
The Christian Story
Before the beginning, there was only God. Inside of God was his Word.
Note: the Greek word for “Word” is Logos, and it can mean message, word, reason, or thought. It is the basis for our English word “logic.”
At some point, before the beginning began, and in some way that we cannot understand, God gave birth to his Word. The Word became the Son of God. The Son was not separate from the Father, but he came forth from the Father like a stream comes from a spring. Both share the same united substance (water), but yet there is a spring and there is a stream.
So the Son sprung from the Father, sharing his substance (divinity), which cannot be divided, yet being a different person than the Father.
Through the Son, his Word, the Father created everything, the visible and the invisible. (In the early days of the church, it was understood by all that God first created all matter—”the heavens and the earth”—then formed it into something recognizable.)
The Father fills all things. He can never be confined to a place. He cannot be seen (Jn. 1:18). The Father thus always interacted with his creation through his Word.
When God walked through the garden with Adam, that was the Word. When God appeared to Manoah, the father of Sampson, that was the Word. He was the fire of the burning bush who spoke to Moses, and he was the Captain of the Host who appeared to Joshua. He was the angel who accompanied the Israelites through the desert as a cloud by day and a fire by night.
When Adam and his race went astray, God began again with one man, Noah. When Noah’s descendants went astray as well, God picked a man, Abram, through whom he would build a nation to bless the world.
God took Abraham’s descendants on a long journey, spending 400 years in Egypt and 40 years wandering through the wilderness as a punishment for their lack of faith. He gave them a law, and he called them his own.
For 1500 years Israel, God’s nation, labored under the law, experiencing blessings when they obeyed and judgments when they did not. All this time, God was teaching not just them, but us, a lesson about man and about God.
In the fullness of time, God sent the Word, his Son, in a human body, born of a virgin. There he received the name Jesus, “Yahweh is Savior,” because he would save his people, and all mankind, from their sins.
The Creator of all became a man and was confined to a place so that he might end the race of Adam and begin a new one.
He came and he fulfilled the law that came from Moses. He brought a divine influence into the world that would begin to affect the world. He was baptized by John to purify baptism so that we might be purified by baptism as well. He died so that he might deliver us from our sin. He entered death so that he might conquer it, as a man, on our behalf, then he rose again to reign from the right hand of God.
His reign is accomplished through those who believe in him. Those who come to him, he gives authority to become the children of God. He literally recreates them. In baptism, they are buried with him, dying to the old life from Adam, and they are raised again to a new life in him, being partakers of his divine nature.
Infused with the Holy Spirit, these Christians no longer live under the tyranny of the flesh, but they are enabled to overcome. Life feeds them from heaven, and they no longer live by law, but by the Spirit of God who lives in them.
These Christians are Jesus’ body. When he was on earth, he had one physical body confined to one physical location, through which to bless the earth by revealing the power of his kingdom. Now, though, he lives, by the Holy Spirit, in each and every Christian, enabling his reign to multiply.
This is the background to Christianity and to the Church.
I know I left things out. Some of you could have told this story better. I was careful to include some details that were commonly accepted among second century Christians, but almost unknown in our day, so I hope that was interesting.
In the next few posts, I want to cover the story of what the apostles did with the words that were given to them by the one who is called The Word (Jn. 17:8,20).