Friday, May 4, 2012

HOW HERESIES AND PERSECUTION BECAME REASONS FOR EARLY CHURCH GROWTH

Professor Otto Kaiser from Global University is my guest today. Here he shares how heresies and persecution helped the early church to grow. It's part of the next blog post about the early church, but I used it in two installments. The next blog actually should have been listed first. Will it take persecution for today's church to touch those around us? According to Acts 1:8, after we are filled with the Holy Spirit we should BE witnesses. No one is excluded.

Heresies within the early Christian Church and persecution without became factors in the initial rapid growth of the early Church. In His private teaching with His disciples, Jesus said to Peter, “I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matt. 16:18). Jesus made this promise that the Church could not fail. Thus, heresies and persecution could not stop the growth of the Church.

Instead, heresies and persecution helped in the rapid growth. Heresies forced the apostles and early church fathers through the Holy Spirit to establish the Church on the solid foundation of the Word of God at church councils. Church growth research has proven that churches and denominations with a strong doctrinal base will grow faster, last longer, and withstand greater outside pressure or persecution than churches with a weak or loose doctrinal structure.

Early church persecution automatically eliminated lukewarm leaders in the early church who were not totally committed to the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word. Lukewarm leadership would have been open to “every wind of teaching” and cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4:14). In contrast, the totally committed would trust the guidance of the Holy Spirit and would establish themselves on the solid foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph. 2:20).

Through persecution, Christians were brought into contact with others who would not otherwise hear the Gospel. Because of persecution in the Jerusalem church, Christians scattered everywhere; and wherever they went, they preached the Word and won others to Jesus (Acts 8:4). Because of persecution, Philip went to Samaria and through the power of the Holy Spirit started a church (Acts 8:5-25) and later Philip witnessed to the Ethiopian eunuch who later started the Coptic Church in Ethiopia and Egypt (Acts 8:26-39). Through persecution and related court trails, Paul and other Christians had opportunities to witness to leaders who would otherwise never hear the gospel. The Holy Spirit used heresies and persecution to establish and grow the Church.