For any religion to be true to itself they need to have a truth at it’s core and keep a visible unity or it falls apart of the definition of who the believers are. Looking at early Christianity when I was a young adult I sighed looking at the beauty of the early church and lamenting that it died waiting for some ultimate movement to find the key and get it back on track. The following passage made me sigh and makes me sigh now but for different reason.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved (Acts 2:42-47).
apostles’ teaching– – Everything that has been covered in what I wrote in Hebrews 6:1-2.
fellowship- – Not a mutual admiration society. It is a bond they have in the Holy Spirit.
breaking of bread– – As indicated in what has already been covered, the believers not only understood the sacramental life but acted out on it.
the prayers- – They reached out to God. Some of it was formal and some not.
Awe came upon everyone- – Now we get to longstanding traits that stand the test of time of right Christian practice and outreach. Awe was not of the apostles but Who they taught about. The center was the living Christ. It was a sense of reverence.
many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles- – Christianity is supposed to have the miraculous. Miracles point to God in times of refreshing.
All who believed were together and had all things in common- – Social justice teaching was something that was developed in articulation and practice over time. But loving ones neighbor needs it since resources get complicated over time.
Day by day, as they spent much time together- – They hang together, have joy in their hearts and have true and unified worship as a community.
the Lord added to their number those who were being saved- – Simply put, they were obedient to the Great Commission. They had a revolution that was spiritual and practical that Jesus is Lord in an empire that said Caesar was Lord. This is only natural since in the Great Commission Jesus said “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples…” (Matthew 28:18-19a).
And here it stands today. I have readers who are Christians of different backgrounds. Most affirm the even more articulated declaration of the Nicene Creed of 325. Possibly you are a reader who is unsure of what Jesus is and if it is worth it to be a part of any context of the Body of Christ since it is full of sinners. To you, I would say I am one and there is room for one more. But if Jesus is all he said he was and did all he said he would do, then to surrender to his bond in the cross is the greatest adventure of all. And it is an adventure meant to be planted in the soil of what he founded which is “the Church. The pillar and foundation of truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).
And now I return to the aforementioned sighs. In my youth I saw a deadness of church that was dependent upon brief revivals that would be reflective of something kind of like the “real church” of the roots or early days. Later I came to see verses like the “pillar” reference which made me question my beliefs of church. It made me look for golden threads.
So I will now look at the development of the Christianity with more focus on the Nicene Creed written at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. It defined Jesus being 100% God and 100% man. It defined the Trinity. It was their shoulders that successors stood on a few generations later when the canon of Sacred Scripture was first defined. This body of teaching authority in that same council referred to “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.”
Let us see if the threads hold up 300 years after the church was founded by Jesus.
apostles teaching of 1st Century— apostolic in the 4th
prayers and awe of the 1st—- is holy in the 4th
fellowship and social conscience in the 1st- one and with “communion of saints” in the 4th
breaking of the bread in the 1st——catholic and eucharistic in the 4th. Is this last one a stretch? Catholic figuratively means universal. But literally in the etymology means “according to the whole” in Greek. The universal tied of Christ being present in beautiful in the preaching of the word but is substantial everywhere through a universal church. For this church that would pierce the kingdom of darkness it would be authoritative and would re- present the sacrifice of Calvary in a supernatural way. Below is ironically a passage of the Old Testament that shows us the way but the early church fathers quoted often.
For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering; for my name is great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts (Malachi 1:11).
This can be described as a “cosmic sign of the rising sun which symbolizes the universality of God” (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger,The Spirit of the Liturgy, 2006 p. 64). But follow the line of consistency on these overlapping traits shown in Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and history. When Malachi wrote this, no valid sacrifice could happen except in Jerusalem but the sacrifice of the mass being a universal re-presentation of Calvary. But a valid Eucharist requires a valid priest. A valid priest requires laying of hands. Valid laying on of hands would require a tracing all the way back to the upper room when Jesus breathed on his disciples and hence gave the power of the authoritative church in an authoritative priesthood. And so the Catholic Church stands. “You are Peter. And upon this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16: 18). And this is my second sigh. It stands now and by the grace of God in Christ Jesus it will always stand.