Before we can determine what is wrong with the church we need to know what has already occurred. We will do this as we consider this one verse from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” -Romans 1:16
The first church was made of people who knew Yeshua (Jesus) or knew of him first hand. The Jerusalem church was a Jewish congregation. This church was persecuted and persevered. Therefore, the first church that was founded by Yeshua was a Jewish congregation made up of his followers and those they helped lead to faith. During this period, Yeshua appeared to the Pharisee Paul, who then could no longer deny the truth concerning Yeshua. He was equipped to develop the doctrine that grafted the non-Jews into relationship with the Messiah. Paul, Barnabas, John, Mark, and eventually most of the Apostles, helped love the gentiles into the faith. As for the gentiles, the Judiazers did not prevail. Paul, who established most of these gentile churches did not impose Jewish customs on the gentiles. The Jews and Gentiles were required to repent, be baptized, develop their personal relationship with Lord within the structure that Paul established for the churches. And there wasn’t only one way to do this. The Jewish believers did this within the synagogue and the gentiles in the churches.
After the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 AD and the failed Bar Kochba rebellion in 135 AD, Jewish believers in Yeshua were banished from the synagogues. With the growth of the gentile churches, the Jewishness of the first church began to wain. Eventually, it was purged. From the mid-2nd century AD until the council of Nicea in 325 AD, new converts were almost exclusively gentile. As for the Messianic Jews, they were rejected by their own because they refused to take up arms against the Romans. As they turned to the gentiles, these non-Jews wanted the Messianic Jews to conform to their gentile ways. The Jewish Messianic movement became dormant. With Jews all but absent from the body of the Messiah, Emperor Constantine, still a pagan, called for the Nicea council. What would become the Catholic/Orthodox church claimed the apostolic faith. The Jews were demeaned by the council and this separation was codified into church canon law. By Christianizing the pagans of ancient Rome, the emphasis was shifted from personal relatonship based on the scriptures to adhering to a new set of rituals. Without an emphasis on the scripture, the anti-semitic views of the pagans entered the church and became part of the church world view.
Yeshua said, “They will know you are my disciples for how you love one another.” Heresy was already present. This was one of the reasons why the 325 AD council was called to order. The Orthodox Catholic way became the true faith. Non-heretical non- Catholic Orthodox expressions of faith were suppressed. With the Fall of Rome in 476 AD, the Byzantine Emperor ruled over the Christian world in the east and North Africa. The Roman Pontif exerted influence from Rome over Western Europe. In 630 AD, Muhammad, the Prophet Of Islam, attacked the Byzantines at Tabuk. War was declared against the Byzantines. This war would last until 1453 AD when the Byzantine capital, Constantinople, was taken by the Ottoman Sultan Metmet II.
What hindered the European response to the Muslim threat was the Great Schism of 1054. Cooperation lagged, insults were hurled, and the Catholic Orthodox world split and became Catholic in the West and Orthodox in the East. By 1095 AD, the Muslims conquered 2/3 of all Byzantine lands. The Byzantine emperor called for Catholic assistance. This assistance came in the form of a Crusade. The Cathlolics did the fightng and the Orthodox were supposed to supply logistical support. When it was perceived that the Othodox East was not living up to their obligations, the Catholics launched a crusade against the Byzantines at Constantinople in 1204 AD. Orthodox angst concerning this event still lingers today. Both claim to be the apostolic church, i.e, the true church. Eventually, the Anglicans would break from the Catholics as would the Lutheran Reformers. Other Protestant denominations would splinter from the Anglicans and the Reformers. Yeshua prayed that we would be one. For almost 1000 years the Catholics and Orthodox have not reconciled since both continue to claim that they are the true church. Catholic Protestant dialog continues. What we have is Christian denominationalism. If Catholicism is the true apostolic church, then can we say that professing Catholics make the best Christians? Do professing Orthodox make the best Christians? Are Anglicans the best Christians? How about Luther’s Reformers?
The best Christians come from all denominations while still others in those denominations are not Christian at all. This means that they do not live to imitate the Messiah. Belonging to any church organization saves no one. Repenting and living for the Messiah saves all who repent and develop their faith. These problems stem from Christian tribalism or the balkanization of the Christian church over the past 1000 years. One can remain culturally Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran etc…but our division should no longer define us. All the denominations can come together in the Non-Denominational Christian churches or the Messianic Synogogues. The key to Christian unity is to focus on the Messiah, having bible studies, a humble heart, and worship services. Proof can be found in the growth of evangelical churches to include non-denominational churches and Messianic Synagogues. How did the early Christians worship? With singing, scripture readings, a sermon, and the Lord’s supper.
The church can help fix itself by repenting, placing emphasis on the relationship with the Messiah, becoming scripturally literate, and by being loving. For over 1000 years, Catholicism and Orthodoxy have claimed to be the true church. In reality the church is made up of sinners who realize that we are too evil to be accepted into God’s presence. The Nails he took for us on a Jerusalem tree save us if we accept what he unselfishly did for us. There has been no unity because we have taken our eyes off of the only one who really matters. We should not insist on being right rather our hope should be in him who is always right. Our house must be fixed before a worldwide revival can take hold. Then by talking the talk and walking the walk we can spread the gospel more effectively in harmony with Romans 1:16. Shalom, Joe.