Primitive Christianity!

by: Wayne Schatzle


       In recent times the study of comparative religions has become of interest. It seems that Christianity is the most fragmented religion of all. Consulting Mead’s Handbook of Denominations, the mainline denominations and their major splinter groups now number around 600! Plus there is a wide variety in their doctrines and rituals. Some meet in grand cathedrals others in living rooms. Surprisingly some do not even use the bible as their rule of Faith. Some have very long technical sermons to no message at all -only some peppy music. I have visited churches that were nothing but fundraisers while others had no collections at all. You would think if we were living in the first century it would be easy to pick the correct church to go to- but nothing is further from the truth. Consider the book of Revelation, for all its prophetic mysteries, almost overlooked; is the fact it is a letter to seven churches relatively close together in Asia. We see a description of seven groups- all Christian in name, yet quite diverse in makeup. Earlier, Paul’s letters to the various churches seem to address a variety of problems. It seems early on there was an effort to destroy the fabric of the fledgling new religion.

        In his monumental book, Primitive Christianity in Crisis, author Alan Knight documents the internal attacks on the early church. From the believing Pharisees imposing the letter of the law to the mystery cults converts desiring the licentiousness of Hellenism. Other forces were the Gnostics, Mithraicism, Stoics, and the Nicolaitans. Everyone had a peculiar doctrine from his or her heritage to push. Part of the confusion arose from the fact that Jesus gave little details on church services, and basically the only doctrine Jesus stressed was love for God and your neighbor as yourself. We sometimes forget that Jesus was ALSO the God of the Old Testament- and that He kept the Law that He had given to Israel ages before. The first century church in turn, followed suit and kept those same laws. A major break point arose over circumcision, which was addressed at the first church council recorded in Acts 15. Another huge issue began to develop that we see hints of in Paul’s letters- and much written about in the extra biblical "church Fathers", which was the Sabbath day question. Biblically, we see Jesus, all of His disciples and new converts keeping the seventh- day according to scripture. In the latter part of the first century there was an effort to get the day of the sun {Sunday} observed rather than the 7th day. This issue has been a major cause for divisions in the Christian church even to this very day. There is a Directory of Sabbath Keeping Groups {The Bible Sabbath Association, Fairview OK 73737} which catalogs the hundreds of 7th day observing groups!

      The search for primitive Christianity is rather elusive because ALL churches today were formed by men according to the dictates of their respective founders. That is not bad in itself but men are fallible after all. Believers in Jesus Christ should always remember that it is their own responsibility to search out the True Path for themselves in the pages of their Bible rather than find a church that seems right and expect that to be the vehicle to take them to the Kingdom of God. Jesus warned of many false ways- but only one will lead to Life. Sorry to say that there are no shortcuts in the quest for salvation- STUDY to show yourself approved unto God.

Written by Wayne Schatzle,
director, Freedom Biblical Information Center
P.O. Box 1806, West Chester OH 45071