While studying 2:8-2:17, I was reminded of something that I had learned in my past studies.
These two things are vital and frankly should be one of our priorities as studiers of Scripture:
- Learn Bible doctrine & apologetics.
- Learn Church history
The first one is the more obvious of the two. Theology is part of studying scripture and part of becoming Biblically literate. Apologetics go hand-in-hand, especially as we want to be prepared when ever faced with an opposing discussion on Christianity.
Learning Church history is of course, not as obvious as the former.
Here are some of the reasoning supporting the seeking of church history knowledge:
-Knowing Church history is Biblical. All the proof we need is the Old Testament. It’s a huge history book that prophecies the 1st and 2nd coming of Jesus. What’s even more amazing is that all of these Biblical stories related to historical people and events….which brings me to my second point.
-Knowing Church history helps us greater understand scripture. There are countless references to historical people and events. Knowing this information outside of Scripture helps us further our studies in His Word.
-Many Church traditions stem from scripture, like women in the 18th century and earlier who wore hats and veils in church. However, we all know that many church traditions stem from people, not of God. It’s important to be able to distinguish the differences and learning the history behind the tradition can help us further distinguish those separations.
-We can apply that old saying, “Those that forget history are doomed to repeat it” and I’m certain that still applies to us sinners. We can learn from the mistakes of the past Church, as well as learn what our current culture has left behind which we should take up again according to scripture.
-Many of us enjoy using Ancestry websites and DNA swabbing to learn about our past, to find information about our ancestors, and some of us go as far as attempting to bring those original roots into our home and creating traditions that would make our ancestors proud. Church history is no different than looking back at our family genealogy since we Christians are all brothers and sisters in Christ. As an article on this topic on Crossway stated, “Outside regularly reading and studying Scripture, there is no greater subject for Christians to study than the Church’s history. Christians have a long and rich intellectual and spiritual heritage that has explained, contended, and defended biblical orthodoxy for over two thousand years.”
-Church history is a great reminder that glory be all to God. Christianity would not have made it this far without Him. We failed short many times and throughout history, God’s story has tried to been erased and altered. And God’s people have both intentionally and unintentionally tried to destroy the mission of the Gospel. The history of the Church is where it is today because of our King.
-Ignoring history helps us further our internal doubts because the less we know and the less we study, the more we question our faith and God’s purpose.
I’m sure I could make more points on Biblical history but I’ll give you some proof through scripture studies.
In Revelation, the seven letters to the churches are sent to actual churches at that time period. The letter to Smyrna (Chapter 2) mentions how this church will suffer persecution for 10 days. It’s believed that these 10 days related to the 10 worst Roman Emperors back in biblical times. If it’s believed to not mean anything, it’s still interesting to learn about these Roman Emperors who the apostles and Early Church dealt with after the ascension of Jesus. Because, as we all know, Jesus called the disciples to “Go make disciples of all nations” and the apostles were very persecuted for it.
Nero, who ruled in 54-68 AD is notorious for being an absolutely horrible Emperor who persecuted Christians in the most violently documented ways possible. Nero made Christian deaths into a sport…into entertainment. They were covered with animal hides, tar, nailed to crosses. He would then place them in his garden and lit them on fire to use as lights in the evening. He used Christians as LIVING CANDLES.
If we think we are persecuted for our faith in America, we have it easy compared to those that were under Nero’s wrath or other Emperors. Christianity wasn’t accepted into the Roman culture until Constantine in 313 AD. That’s three generations of brutal killings and assaults on Christians as the Early Church is born. It’s helpful to understand this background to truly understand the risks that the early evangelists and apostles had and to understand how blessed we are at this time.
It’s even interesting and helpful to know the background history of the famous fish logo we put on our bumper stickers. I always knew it signaled Christianity, but I assumed it related to Jesus feeding the thousands with loaves and fishes. This fish actually has a name, called ichthus, and during persecution in the Roman Empire (see…now you have some better understanding of how bad things were), it was used to secretly show who was a Christian.
“According to one ancient story, when a Christian met a stranger in the road, the Christian sometimes drew one arc of the simple fish outline in the dirt. If the stranger drew the other arc, both believers knew they were in good company.” –Christianity Today, Elesha Coffman, “Ask The Expert”
In addition to Revelation, I’m also studying the Gospel of Matthew through RC Sproul. Through Sproul’s studies, he correlates many verses in Matthew with historical accuracy. Because the Bible was written many generations ago, sometimes we have a hard time understanding certain scripture because it’s culturally different. Understanding these things furthers our knowledge and furthers His Kingdom. Theological history and doctrine and apologetics isn’t just for the person in Seminary courses seeking a Divinity degree.
I could tout on and on about historical theology, but I digress. With all of these suggestions for furthering your Biblical studies, remember that becoming Biblically literate or historically literate means nothing if we act and follow the ways of the world. Be a doer of scripture, not just a reader. Live out God’s Word. Don’t be bound by the principles of this world. Stop seeking the things of this world and seek Jesus.
“For my own part, I tend to find the doctrinal books often more helpful in devotion than the devotional books, and I rather suspect that the same experience may await others. I believe that many who find that ‘nothing happens’ when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find that the heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hand.”
― C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics
“Church History is the record of God’s gracious, wonderful and mighty deeds, showing how by his Spirit and Word he rules his Church and conquers the world.” -Nils Forsander, Life Pictures from Swedish Church History
Some resources for historical purposes:
And I almost forgot our Revelation video: