Jesus Christ, the incarnate word, the exact representation of God the Father, who voluntarily gave his life to save those who were condemned to hell, established the Church to, through it, make perfect those who are going to inherit the kingdom of God (John 1:14; Heb. 1:3; Matt. 16:18). The text of Matthew says: “I also tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my assembly, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). Jesus makes it clear in this text that there are many doors that lead to hell, and there is only one that leads to heaven, for Jesus declared elsewhere: “I am the door. If anyone enters in by me, he will be saved” (John 10:9). Paul, the greatest of apostles, tried to build the walls of good doctrine to prevent invasions in the campgrounds of the Christians, for he was aware of the danger, and declared: “For I know that after my departure, vicious wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Men will arise from among your own selves, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30). And Paul foresaw with precision the immediate future of the Church. From the second century through the sixth century, the Church was torn by controversies about a series of “isms” similar in certain points and different in others. Let us look at them: During the first centuries of history of the Christian church many different interpretations about the person of Jesus Christ emerged. Mani founded the sect of Manicheaists, that is, they believed in two principles: the principle of good and light, which is God’s, and the principle of evil and darkness, which is of the demon. These two forces are equal in power. Mani died in 274 AC. There was Montano, who founded the Montanism around 160 or 170 AC. He believed in the perpetual interference of the Holy Spirit, that even after the resurrection and the establishment of the eternal kingdom of God the Holy Spirit continues to be the Paraclete (John 14:16). Monarchianism was another sect. To them the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are not three persons, but one, who was manifested as the Father in the Old Testament, as the Son during the time of the incarnation, and as the Holy Spirit after the resurrection and ascension. The Monarchianists exist until today, and affirm that the Jehovah of the Old Testament is the same Jesus who was born of Mary. They were the sectarians, whose opinions on the Trinity were not orthodox. Arius, the father of Alexandria (280 through 336) founded the sect of the Arians, which is opposed to the triune idea of God. Arius fought against the unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, against the word of the apostle John (1 John 5:7), against Paul (2 Cor. 13:13), and against Jesus, who said: “Go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). To him, Christ was much inferior to the Father, and therefore denied his deity. Apollinaris founded the Apollinarianism, a sect that denied the human nature of Christ. Christ never ceased from being God to them. The son of man was only a human appearance. The death of Christ on the cross was a farce, a theatrical representation, and there was not a real sacrifice. Nestorius, patriarch of Constantinople, deposed by the Council of Ephesus in 431 AC, founded Nestorianism, sect that admitted to two natures in Christ: one human, and another divine: the son of man and the Son of God. As God cannot be tempted by evil (James 1:13), when Christ was tempted, the man was tempted, not God; when Jesus felt hunger, the man was hungry, etc. Complicated. Eutyches, preached that both natures were unified, therefore the disciples of Nestorius discussed with the disciples of Eutyches about their points of view. There was a true invasion of doctrines. Paul said: “But I am afraid that somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve in his craftiness, so your minds might be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3). Paul said more: “The saying is faithful and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” (1 Tim. 1:15). Sinners outside of Christ are lost, for only Jesus died in the place of the sinners. The good news of the Gospel is so simple, but learned men insisted on discussions about whether Christ was God or man, whether he was half man and half God, whether he died of hunger or if he was pretending. In the meanwhile sinners were going to hell. But these doctrines of demons were not the only to displace the objective of the gospel. Other evils came from Satan to destroy the Church. Let us analyze the history of the Church a little: Jesus, the son of Mary, was truly the promised and awaited Messiah, the redeemer of Israel. Jesus declared it to the Samaritan woman: “The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah comes,’ (he who is called Christ). ‘When he has come, he will declare to us all things.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am he, the one who speaks to you’” (John 4:25-26). The message of Christ was: “Repent! For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17). Jesus never preached the restoration of the kingdom of Israel, or that he was going to sit on the throne of David. He declared to Pilate, “My Kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36), and said: “In my Father’s house are many homes. If it weren’t so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). The Jews wanted the earthly Christ to sit on the throne of David and to rule with an iron rod (Ps. 2:8-9). For this reason they rejected Jesus as a false Messiah, and crucified him as an impostor (Matt. 27:20-25). With Pentecost and the coming down of the Holy Spirit, the Church rapidly multiplied, though the Jews persecuted it (Acts 2:41; 4:1-4). Those that believed in Christ were considered enemies of the Jews (Acts 2:41; 4:1-4). Those that believed in Christ were considered enemies of Israel. Stephen testified of Jesus and was stoned (Acts 7:53-58). After the death of Stephen, the priests sent Saul to devastate the Church, and there began a great persecution on that day against the Church of Jerusalem (Acts 8:1-3). As the persecution grew worse, the Church increased (vs. 5 through 8). As the Christians multiplied, the Roman emperors began a new persecution. Thousands of Christians died, some thrown to wild beasts, others cast into the fire, others yet crucified, or quartered. Satan then changed tactics. In October 27, of the year 312, the emperor Constantine had a vision: He saw a cross over the setting sun, and above it, “YOU WILL OVERCOME BY THIS SIGN”. Then he adopted the cross, and the story of Christianity changed. Christians received the freedom to worship and to preach the gospel. Constantine favored the Christians, giving them offices. He exempted ministers from taxes and from the military service. He encouraged the building of churches. In 325 he issued a note that said that all subjects should embrace the Christian faith. He ordered the making of Bibles for the Churches. He ordered that Sundays were days of rest for the Christians. Evil began. The subjects who got converted did it for political reasons and interest. Twenty years later, Theodosius, another emperor, decreed that in the entire kingdom it was compulsory to belong to the church. In 50 years the Church was not the same anymore. Theodosius started a war against the other religions and forbade the idols. Insurgent Christians destroyed and burned the pagan temples. Until the year 395 AC. there was great bloodshed. During the centuries IV and V the ambition for power and dominium began in the Church. The spirit of Christ came to an end. There began complicated, majestic, pompous ceremonies, peculiar to the pagan temples. The ministers became priests, as in the Jewish service. In 440, pope Lion I forbade the marriage of priests. Celibacy started the priest’s immorality. There came terrible scandals. The conversion of the Barbarians began. Goths, Vandals, Huns, responsible for the fall of Rome, accepted Christianity in large scale, but there was not real conversion, and the Church was filled with pagan and corrupt practices. That was the end of the Church founded by Jesus, buried for 1,000 years. Attacks of Satan through heretics did not shake the Church, but temporal power destroyed it.
By Pastor Olavo Silveira Pereira