Did Jesus follow the Torah? Did he change it?
Who are considered eccentric, ignorant, primitive, even an embarrassment to other Christians?
History is important, which is why the last few Monday articles may have seemed a chore, but were necessary to set a context, a framework for us to be able to look back and see where the Church went off the rails. Unlike Adam our Christian faith didn't just arrive on the scene fully formed, though many believe it has. What we sign up for depends on so many factors; matters of geography, culture, education, family background and social standing. Because we are not 1st Century Jews speaking Hebrew and Aramaic, with knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures and Hebrew idioms, word play and even Jewish history, then we are all going to receive our faith with extra toppings. Where you live, how you are impacted by popular culture, your level of schooling, ethnic background, degree of family pressures and your material wealth, they all matter.
The apostles Paul and Peter had to make adjustments to cater for the non-Jews of their day; how much more do we need to do so today? History has shown us how Christianity has absorbed so much from the World, particularly philosophies from ancient Greece, at every level of its development. The result of this, as well as from the numerous other outside influences, is not just a plethora of denominations but, increasingly so these days, a huge spectrum of Christian world-views.
How did the Lord find you? Have you been brought up in a Christian family and have always known Him? In which case, what denomination or grouping do your family come from - Baptist, Anglican, Pentecostal, charismatic, liberal, messianic or another? Of course you may have plotted your own course in life, in which case you could have spectacles tinted (or tainted) with all shades of politics, lifestyles, philosophies or religions.
You get my point? One truth, many routes, many dead ends and diversions. The problem is knowing whether you are on a route to the truth, or are being diverted away from it, or are on a one-way trip to nowhere. In this respect the Christian faith was dead easy for the first believers in Jesus - they just believed in him and followed the teachings of the first apostles, though even then there were signs of things to come.
I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ." (1 Corinthians 1:10-12)
Then as the faith spread geographically and other influences seeped in, there began to be many expressions of the Christian faith, resulting today in over 38,000 Christian denominations and groupings. One truth, 38,000 routes, but which to follow?
Rather than give you the full listing of the 38,000, with a report card and heresy index for each, we can get an appreciation of the problem by looking just at two expressions of Christianity, each spawning many groups and fellowships and each straddling a whole bunch of denominations.
Next week we will start by looking at the 'Word of Faith' movement.
(This is an abridged extract from Steve's book How the Church Lost the Truth: And How it Can Find it Again)