Having been asked to write a few articles on the early Christian church and the causes that led to the apostasy, I have divided the subject into seven topics, as follows: (1) The Apostolic Christian Church; (2) The Government of the Christian Church; (3) The Environment of the Christian Church in the Roman Empire; (4) Causes of Apostasy; The Hierarchy; (5) The Episcopacy and Prelacy; (6) The Imperial State Church; (7) The Papacy and Its Supremacy.
No. 1— The Apostolic Christian Church
Owing to limited space, only the most important events in the history of the church will be dwelt upon in these studies. It is hoped that brevity will not obscure perspicuity on the essential points. It is the purpose in this article to set forth the fundamental confession of faith of the early church in abbreviated, sectional form, as follows;
The Law and the Word of God
Section 1.— The law of God was accepted ,as the revealer of sin and the standard of righteousness, and could not be changed. Rom. 7:7; 8:1-4; James 2:10; Matt. 5:17, 18.
Sec. 2.— The Old Testament Scriptures, as written by the prophets, were held to be the perfect guide for all Christians. 2 Tim. 3:14-17; John 5: 39-47.
Sec. 3.— The apostolic inspired epistles and the Gospels were of equal authority with the Old Testament. Eph. 2:19, 20; Rev. 22:16, 19.
Sec. 4.- The ceremonial law of Moses contained in ordinances, which pointed to the death of Christ, was understood to have ended at the cross. Heb. 9:1-12; Col. 2:14-17.
Sec. 5.— Oral teaching on New Testament doctrines preceded the written word, but there is no proof that any doctrine was taught verbally which was not afterward written into the epistles. 2 Thess. 2:1, 2, 14, 15.
Sec. 6.— The written word was the last source of appeal by the Founder of the Christian church and His disciples. Matt. 4:4-10; 1 Cor. 5:9-11.
Sec. 7.— Apostolic oral teaching and the Inspired Writings closed with John, the last writer, and nothing could be added, and nothing could be taken away, from the Sacred Writings. Gal. 1:6-12; Rev. 22:18, 19; Prov. 30:5, 6; Deut. 12: 32.
The Church As a Kingdom
Sec. 1.— The church was called the kingdom of the Son of God. Col. 1:13.
Sec. 2.— The King, the throne, the capital, the book of registry of the citizenship, are in heaven. John 14:1-3; Matt. 25:31; Phil. 3:20; 4:1-3, R. V.
Sec. 3.— Newborn persons of all nationalities were enrolled as citizens of one holy nation. Gal. 3:28, 29; 1 Peter 2:8, 9.
Sec. 4.— This kingdom was perfectly united, and all national pride and caste had ceased, and brotherly love ruled supreme. Acts 2:7-47.
Sec. 5.— The spiritual warfare of this kingdom was an appeal to sinners to have their minds and hearts converted to Christ. 2 Cor. 10: 4, 5.
Sec. 6.— The aggressive and defensive weapons in this warfare were truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, "the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Eph. 6:11-18.
See. 7.— Persuasion was the only legitimate means to use in the warfare for the conquest of the mind; and when Christ came, He would take possession of His kingdom. Acts 18:4; 2 Tim. 4:1.
The Church and the State
Sec. 1.— The church recognized that the civil state, ordained of God, was to rule in its own realm. Rom. 13:1-7.
Sec. 2.— The church obeyed civil laws so long as they did not conflict with the law of God. Rom. 13:5-10.
Sec. 3.— The apostolic church did not appeal to the governments of Greece and Rome to abolish slavery. Although not condoning wrongs, the church did not devote its energies to correcting social wrongs. Note that Paul, in dealing with a runaway slave, sent him back to the slave owner to whom he belonged, this slave owner being a Christian. Philemon 1-17.
See. 4.— The church recognized the brotherhood of all Christian slave owners and Christian slaves. 1 Tim. 6:1, 2; Col. 4:1.
Sec. 5.— Christians were admonished not to appeal to the civil court in settling disputes among themselves; they were to appeal to the authorities of the church, and to abide by the judgment of these authorities in the case. 1 Cor. 6:1-7.
See. 6.— The church recognized the principle of religious liberty. Luke 9: 49-56; 12 : 46-48.
The Deity and Atonement of Christ
See. 1.— The church believed that Christ was equal to God, that He was the only begotten Son of God, and that God gave Him as a complete Saviour and sacrifice, once for, all to atone for sin. John 3:16; Phil. 2:5-9; Heb. 10:10.
Sec. 2.— The church taught that there was only one Mediator between God and man,—" the man Christ Jesus." 1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 9:15.
Sec. 3.— The church believed in justification by faith and righteousness by faith. Rom. 3:22-25; Phil. 3:9.
Sec. 4.— All who united with the church were baptized into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit — a triune God. Matt. 28:19, 20.
Such, in brief, were the fundamental principles of faith of the Christian church, which, so long as maintained, would preserve them a people distinct from the world. The ordinances of the church — the Lord's supper, the ordinance of humility, et cetera — are not mentioned, the reason being that they do not especially come into this series of studies. " The Government of the Church in Apostolic Times " will be the next theme.
* Specializing in the fields of Church History and Historical Theology, for which he has received scholastic recognition, Elder Waldorf was for some time professor of Bible in the upper division of Loma Linda College of Medical Evangelists.— Ed.