"Satan. . . deceiveth the whole world" (Rev. 12:9).
"I. . . exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3)
Modern Christianity is composed of a hodge-podge of beliefs and practices. The true Christian faith is camouflaged, obscured, even hidden, by a jumble of doctrines and dogmas and tenets and beliefs and practices so diverse and variant that it would seem impossible for the average person to sort out the truth from error. Is modern "Christianity" really Christian? Are Christians too, deceived?
Christians are commanded, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Mat. 5:48). God commands us to be, that is, to become, perfect. God never commands the impossible. How then is the Christian to find the true "faith which was once delivered unto the saints," believe that faith, follow that faith in practice, and fulfill the command to "be ye therefore perfect?" If it is true that Satan "deceiveth the whole world," it rightly follows that Christians too are just as subject to Satans deception as anyone else, until they shed these deceptions and replace them with truth.
Pentecostals teach you to speak in tongues and be "slain in the spirit." But do they have the right spirit when they speak in tongues? Catholic Priests wear robes, take your confession and sprinkle your baby. But do these papas who dress like mamas and preach like pansies really stand for the God of the Bible? Baptists pray with you and baptize you by immersion. But they as others reject Ezra and Nehemiah and promote the doctrine of Balaam. Once silent Methodist and Anglican women will now stand and preach to you, but do they speak for God? Homosexual Episcopal priests will serve you the sacraments, but will they also give you AIDS?
Miracle making ministries fill stadiums with giant crowds, invite you down the isle and heal you of various ailments. But are these miracles from God or are they cheap stuntsmuch like the magicians tricks under Pharaohs command when the magicians faced Moses and turned their sticks into serpents? And remember that Moses serpent swallowed up all the serpents made by the magicians!
Christian, where will you find the faith of our fathers, that "faith which was once delivered unto the saints," that body of belief and practice, the true faith of Jesus Christ? Can Christians trust that blessed Comforter, the Holy Spirit, of whom Jesus said: "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth" (John 16:13)?
The Roman Catholic church is the largest, most diverse church in the world. This church has "Christianized" the whole world, sending missions into every country to every race under heaven. Rome has "Christianized" the heathen of the world for centuries. Emperor Constantine, a good catholic of the fourth century AD, "Christianized" his Roman Empire by proclamation, without ever preaching the gospel to these heathen masses! This was the first time "Christianity" had ever become the favored religion of any state, the approved religion of the Empire.
Constantine presided over a much fanfared meeting of 318 church leaders, bishops, gathered at Nice during June, July and August in the year AD325. This group represented only about one sixth of all bishops of the realm. It was at this council that certain heresies were condemned, doctrinal controversies were gingerly debated, other issues were skirted, and a new Nicene Creed was hammered out. Can we build our faith on the doctrinal statements of the Council of Nicea and the Nicene Creed?
History tells a great deal about the form of doctrine sanctioned by Constantine and the church fathers at Nicea. Baptism was pronounced to be a requirement for salvation. "I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins," the Creed reads. (There is some question as to exactly when this phrase was added. It was attributed to the Council of Nicea by the much smaller Council at Constantinople in AD381). Herein, the bishops made salvation by works official. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. For surely if it is baptism whereby the Christian receives forgiveness (remission) of sins, as the Nicene Creed teaches, then salvation is no longer by faith in the blood of Jesus Christ plus nothing. What worse heresy could captivate Christians than the heretical idea that sinful, depraved man could do anything for himself (ie, be baptized) "for the remission of sins." On the contrary, Jesus paid the price of sin in full with His own blood and thereby made salvation available. Christians accept that full payment for sin by faith, wholly apart from water baptism.
Afterwards, Christians are commanded to follow Jesus Christ in the act of water baptism, showing that "we are buried with him by baptism into death" and that "we also should walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:4). Water baptism is the symbol of forgiveness and remission of sins. By it, the believer pictures joining in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the baptism of the Holy Spirit whereby the convert may "put on Christ" (Gal. 3:27; 1Cor 12:13).
In addition, this same Council of Nicea sold out the Bible Sabbath, by rubber stamping Constantines former Edict of Milan (AD313), whereby he had pronounced the pagan day of the sunSundayas the preferred day of worship for Christians, thus nullifying the Holy Sabbath. One thing for certain came out of the Council of Niceaas a Bible believer, you could no longer trust the state approved church and its hierarchy for sound doctrine. Emperor Constantine was a seasoned, slimy politician, much like many politicians today. Sylvester I, Bishop of Rome, having two legates representing him at Nicea, was himself an elected man sold out to the devil for position and power. How dare a mortal man allow himself to be called a papa, or father, from whence soon came the term Pope? Jesus said, "And call no man your father [papa; Pope] upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven" (Mat. 23:9).
How could a church leader (bishop) ever tacitly approve "Christianizing" masses without ever preaching the gospel to them? Impossible! Nothing is new, however. This very same doctrinal stance of the fourth century state church is today preached by, yes, none other than Billy Graham, who believes that "He [God] is calling people out. . . whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world or the non-believing world, [and] they are members of the Body of Christ. . . They may not even know the name of Jesus. . . and I think that they are saved, and that theyre going to be with us in heaven. . ." (TV interview of Billy Graham by Robert Schuler, May 31, 1997, reported in FOUNDATION, A Magazine of Biblical Fundamentalism, M. H. Reynolds, Jr., Ed., PO Box 6278, Los Osos, CA 93412, 805-528-3534, May/June 1997, p. 22-23).
There is nothing new under the sun. In answer to Emperor Constantine and Billy Graham, the Bible says of Jesus Christ, "there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
And for whatever good the bishops of Nicea stood for, they all sold out the Bible for political correctness and gain. And yes they too had the Holy Scriptures, long before Pope Gelasius (AD492-496) ratified the present canonization of the New Testament. God preserved His Word and kept it alive in every generation, first century, second century, third century as today (1Chr. 16:15-17; Ps. 105:8; Titus 2:11). Believe it. Count on it. It is in your Bible. You would have to go elsewhere to find the true "faith which was once delivered unto the saints," doctrines which "are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone" (Eph. 2:20).
At Nicea, lip service was given to state church unity, which meant dissenters would be killed! Constantines and Bishop of Rome Sylvester Is level of Christian faith and practice set the stage for the coming dark ages, when salvation was found by works; Sabbath keeping was anathematized; Bibles were forbidden to the masses; indulgences (forgiveness of sin) were sold for money; faith was based on fear; and a cloud of spiritual darkness overshadowed much of Europe (not all) for the next one thousand years. Revival broke out when Martin Luther (AD1483-1546), and other Bible believers a hundred years earlier and beyond, broke from the Mother Church of Rome. Make no mistake. There were Bible believers in every generation from Adam to Constantine to Luther and now. But much of what you will read in official church histories recounts what was going on in the great religious whorehouse of history, not in the true church of Jesus Christ. Make no mistake. That religious whorehouse was officially opened for business at Nicea in AD 325! You must dig deep to find the history of genuine blood washed Bible believers, usually labeled with some epithet and called separatist or heretic.
It took over one thousand years before widespread protest began around AD1500. What spawned such a great reformation of the Roman Catholic Church at that time, which gave birth to the reformation? What stirred the fires of revival and restored many fundamentals of the faith? Was it a return to the early church fathers of the second, third, and fourth centuries and their doctrines? Was it Justin Martyr or the apostle John that inspired revival in the church? Was the great protest more related to the apostles Peter and Paul or to Papias? Was it Andrew or Iranæus, Timothy or Tertullian, the apostle James or Jerome that inspired the sweeping revival that burned in the hearts of Bible believing preachers? Did Wycliffe and Tyndale and Huss and Wessel and Luther and Melanchthon and Calvin and Zwingli and Cranmer and Knox turn to the church "fathers" or to the scriptures?
The answer rings clear and loud. After many years of study, and much penance and self flagellation in his personal search for salvation, "he [Luther] came to understand that Gods pardon was to be won by trusting to His promises" (Encyclopedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, Vol. XVII, Cambridge University Press, AD1911, p. 134, emphasis ours). On All Saints day, November 1, AD1517, the Wittenberg, Germany, local church Elector Frederick "had procured an Indulgence for all who attended its services" (Ibid.). Martin Luther nailed his ninety five theses on the church door for the gathering crowd to read. These were "ninety-five sledge-hammer blows directed against the most flagrant ecclesiastical abuse of the age" (Ibid., p. 135). The issue was indulgencespayment of money for sin.
A proliferation of Bibles were flowing into the hands of the populace, due to new translations and Gutenbergs (AD1398-1468) invention of the printing press. As people accessed the Bible, through reading and preaching, the light of Jesus Christ was being turned on in the hearts of masses formerly held in darkness by the Roman church in many separated localities all over Europe. Apostolic Christianity was coming out of the closet, experiencing Holy Spirit revival, not just reformation which implies mental ascent and superficial academic change only. Revival implies a change of the heart, and millions more were now seeing the light of Jesus Christ.
As professor of theology at the Wittenberg University, Martin Luther had spoken out against the Papal Tickets which sold forgiveness of sin. From the days of Constantine and Bishop Sylvester I, good Bible believing Christians within the Catholic Mother Whore Church were hampered in their spiritual growth out of spiritual whoredom, due to many unBiblical traditions of the "church fathers" and later forbidden access to the Bible. Elect believers were saved, but their light was small. They groped in darkness, with only a candle of light flickering in their hearts. They lived their lives with access denied to the floodlight of the Word of God. They lived amid fear of the fires of hell, prayed and paid (through the purchase of Papal Tickets, indulgences) out of purgatory! They were held hostage to the abuses and whims of the long-corrupted apostate priesthood of the Roman Catholic Church.
Great masses of Europe rejoiced when Christian faith and practice, under great persecution from the Popes of Rome, began to move out of the darkness of the great Roman cathedrals and into the light of Jesus Christ, even if it required secret church meetings held in barns and basements and hidden sanctuaries under threat of death. The Holy Spirit was moving in the hearts of menpriests and laityas prophesied, to "guide you into all truth." And it was through the scriptures, not the church "fathers," that the Holy Spirit was working. It was access to the scriptures and "by the foolishness of preaching" (1Cor. 1:21) the living Word of God that the fires of revival were stirred in the hearts of men.
It was a movement within local churches, independently scattered over much of Europe, whereby great revival broke out. In church history, or anti-church history, whatever your persuasion, this is called the reformation, though most of the reformers thought of themselves as protesters. Certainly what is called reformation in history is not necessarily revival, though there was much revival experienced in many hearts of Bible believers during the reformation. While revival fires burned in the hearts of many people, the political state church fought back, clinging tenaciously to "sacramentarianism"the doctrine of salvation by workstheir main stranglehold designed to keep people in darkness by selling out God and truth for gain, "supposing that gain [through Papal tickets] is godliness" (1Tim. 6:5). What rank heresy!
To be continued. . .