“What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?”
(1 Corinthians 14:36)
This question in the verse above was asked by Paul but he provided no answer because the answer is simple. This is a question we should endeavor to ask ourselves, give the right response to it, and act accordingly. From this text we can see that it is not God’s will for us to act as if we are the only ones to whom the word of God came to. We must live and act knowing that it did not originate from us. That is what the apostle is pointing to when he says, “came the word of God out from you?” So, we must understand that it has its origin which is of course not from us. We must also understand that it came to us but not to us only. This is what the apostle meant when he says, “came it unto you only?” For this reason, we ought to live our Christian lives with these others in view. Those from whom it originated, the apostles (of course we know it is by the Spirit of God working in them so the real origin of the word of God is God), and those who have had it down the years before us. As for those who would come after us, we have nothing to think of but what legacy we would leave behind for them. So, it is very important for us to live in consonance with all those that has lived as Christians before us. From the apostles down through every age, time, and era, until now. Therefore I will like to talk on the importance of walking in consonance with the fathers.
—Who Are The Fathers?—
“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets.”
By fathers I will be referring to as many as have stood for Christ down the years but ultimately the apostles. Having surely known that the apostles were approved of God in their utterance and works, they will be the ultimate reference point when talking about fathers, but we have also men who had given their all for God and were also approved of God. We cannot afford to loose sight of these also.
Fathers should not be misunderstood to mean what Christ condemned, for he says, “And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.” (Matthew 23:9). Here Jesus condemned calling people father so as to place in them the trust or confidence you’d put in your heavenly Father. Father has many usages but he doesn’t mean it is a sin to call our earthly fathers by what they are. But we mustn’t place trust in or worship any body on the surface of the earth. So we can call our earthly fathers by what they are. Each nation has a founding father or founding fathers and it is okay to call them too by what they are. This applies to movements and causes too. Paul also says, “For though ye have ten thousand instructers in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 4:15). Paul was saying that he was in a way a father, but not in the sense that they should place their trust and hope in him nor to worship him.
The sense in which I’m using the word fathers to describe our predecessors in the faith was also used by Peter where he says, “And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” (2 Peter 3:4). So we can see that this sense is different from what Christ prohibits us from doing. Father here simply means predecessors in the faith. That’s all. We should bear this in mind as we take a look at the fathers.
—Evil Schemes To Alienate Christians From Their Fathers—
“Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt.”
It is sad today that many church leaders try to shield their members from doing too much studies about past heroes of the faith for the fear that people may find faults with their service when they compare them with those of these heroes. They scare you by claiming that when you study the life and writings of Christians, you’d confuse yourself. They tend to make the answer of the question Paul asked to be “YES, it began with us and came to us only,” and in that case we can complete the statement thus; “and it shall perish with us.” They say in essence, “don’t bother yourself about those who have come down the years because this word came from us and to us only.”
I heard a man say that if the Devil wishes to kill a Christian, he first of all isolates him. Then he can kill him with ease. This is true of our time. The Devil indeed wishes to kill us so he tries to make us get allienated from the fathers so that he can kill us with ease. And truly he is succeeding in that. The kind of poison we consume as Christian doctrines has completely killed very many. Had we lived in consonance with the fathers we could have easily spotted out these poisons and saved our souls. This is much to the detriment of the church. There’re always evil in the schemes of people who do this. They have lies to tell but they know if you look at your predecessors you could easily tell. Others, knowing they’re rendering bad service to God that is injurious to his church, try to hide the predecessors in order to avoid the criticism that’ll come there way when we see the more excellent service rendered to God by the predecessors.
As I write these lines, I’m currently reading a novel titled “Adrift in New York.” In this book a boy was stolen by his cousin and sent to a far away land. He tried by every hypocritical means to convince the man that the boy was dead and that he should give up the hope of seeing him again. He did this knowing that if he succeeded all the man’s wealth would come to him, for the man was very wealthy. He did all he could to ensure the boy remains away and that the boy knows nothing of who his real father was. This is the same with the church, because the Devil knows the richness of our heritage, he tries to alienate us from our fathers the way the brethren of Joseph tried to alienate him from his father. They sustained that alienation with a lie that he had been torn to pieces by a wild beast. The Devil tries to make us think that we have little or nothing to benefit from our predecessors in the faith and that they are indeed dangerous to us. This he achieves through hypocritical leaders and other liars.
I once read an article online talking about the stance of some early Christians about marriage, and they wrote about Aurelius Augustine, Bishop of Hippo. The writer said Augustine’s argument is that the union of male and female except for the purpose of procreation is strongly forbidden. But reading what Augustine wrote firsthand, I see that he didn’t say anything of such. He only said the union of male and female except for the purpose of procreation is a venial sin. Now, how does venial sin mean “strongly forbidden?” Venial sin simply must be understood as what is not expedient to do. For though it is called venial “sin,” we must understand that in those times what is inexpedient is what is considered venial sin. For the purpose of clearly defining the scriptural stance of the church on various matters, such terms like “venial sin” and “mortal sin,” were coined to help in proper categorising of actions. And from all I’ve seen, it is not that they say that there’s a sin that is greater than others as Roman Catholics like to interpret it, but what forms these two categories is that while mortal sin involves all wrong doings as spelt out by the Bible, venial sin comprises of what is not sin but is inexpedient. This they call so on account of James 4:17. Their theology on this account is very accurate and true, but look at what a false and stupid interpretation they allege that the great man put forward concerning marriage.
I read his argument on the matter and it was very intelligent indeed and worthy of Christian consideration. But when people (whether purposely or ignorantly) misquote early fathers, they make them unacceptable to us and we begin to distance ourselves from them. While such a writer paint Aurelius Augustine as a extremist of purity, if only we consider even a little his argument, it would have done us a lot of good and corrected many of the faulty mentality we have today about marriage. Today marriage is often seen as a legalised and lawful restricted sex institution, but Aurelius Augustine puts it right that it must not be seen as such, bringing out tangible facts from scriptures in defence of his point. But while he did this good service in pure Christian wisdom, a present day writer, in his ignorance or ill will, misquotes him and paints him in a way that is repulsive not just to us but to reason.
Now we have much heritage from people like Aurelius Augustine. Had we been well acquainted with him and his writings, we would have known how false the accusation against the church is, that claims that Galileo was persecuted because the church’s belief is that the world was flat, and that because Galileo was proving it wrong, the church persecuted him. For Augustine as early as over one million years before Galileo said categorically that the world was spherical in shape. This was the church’s stance through every age even until and after the time of Galileo. But with the story of Galileo many keep making Christians seem like a bunch of people who are ignorant and refuse to listen to reason and science. Galileo was persecuted indeed, but his persecutors ought to be isolated in their actions for they did not do it in defence of the church but in defence of their own ego.
The church has got great thinkers, achievers (even in secular affairs), inventors, and very successful and just emperors, that we could boast of and whose arguments, way of life, and achievements could rebuff many vain babblers who speak derogatorily about our intellect and the soundness of our faith. Apart from the deeds of men, when you read the history of the faith, you see the very hand of God at work through his divine providence. Sometimes I just sit back and wonder what an incredible story is the church down history lane. But the church is constantly being lured to abandon their heritage and not many people make study into these things.
Now, we lose a host of our heritage when we can’t distinguish between Catholicism and Roman Catholicism. Many Christian stalwarts have been disowned by Christians because they think they are Roman Catholics. Now, it would be good first of all to understand the world of difference between Catholic and Roman Catholic. Catholic means universal. This name became popular to describe Christians who hold the teachings of the Bible as it is at a time when so many heresies were springing up from every corner. To checkmate these heresies, Bishops throughout the Christian world came together to discuss on the questions the heretics were presenting. When they met, they declared with all the force of their Bishopric reaffirming what the Bible teaches and condemn every heresy that had sprung up. Their decision was considered universal because it was the decision of Bishops from all the Christian world. People who hold to the Biblical affirmation of these Bishops were called Catholics (holding to universal truth). Much later, however, through threachery and schism, the Pope gained primacy through the scondrel and murderer of an emperor called Emperor Phocas. They began to advance a system of belief that aligns the Christian faith to Roman idolatry. So there is a world of difference between Catholic and Roman Catholic as there is a world of difference between Bible believing Christians and Idolaters.
After the Pope gained primacy, there were many Christians who also were under the leadership of the Pope too. These too were considered Roman Catholics majorly for being under the leadership of the Pope. Though these were Catholics by name, yet they were not by faith. Saint Francis of Assisi for example was an awesome Christian but many say he’s a Roman Catholic, however he served God selflessly and opposed the Pope when he called for a Crusade. Even Martin Luther was considered a Roman Catholic despite his anti-Pope beliefs, however, unlike Saint Francis, his disagreement with the Pope and Popish teachings went beyond what a common name could hold.
It is also a common practice of Roman Catholics to lay hold of these great men as one of theirs because this helps them to hide the rottenness of their heresy with the beauty of the character of these men. So, we mustn’t let these names let us reject great Christians of old without first considering their life, their faith, and doctrine (for those who taught others). Associating real saints to the Roman Catholic faith allienatest them from us, and by this the Roman Catholics rob us of much of our heritage.
—The Importance Of History—
“Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph.”
“Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee.”
What characterised the Pharaoh that enslaved the children of Israel was his ignorance of history. Had he known the history of his land, he’d have not enslaved the Israelites the way he did. The Bible said he knew not Joseph. That is the origin of all his wickedness. If we too let ourselves to be ignorant of history, we should expect to act very wickedly or at least foolishly too. On this account, we must look at the importance of history and to be pricise, Church history. There is a story I heard that goes thus:
Once upon a time in the animal kingdom, Mr. Hare was asked, “how many times do you have to make a mistake before you can learn your lessons?” Mr. Hare boasted and proudly said, “I can only make a mistake once before learning my lessons and NEVER repeat that mistake…” He went on and on boastingly saying how it were impossible for him to make a mistake more than once. Then Mr. Tortoise was asked, “how many times will you make a mistake before you can learn your lesson?” He simply said, “I’ll never make a mistake, I’ll learn from Mr. Hare’s mistakes.”
We need to look back into history to avoid mistakes that were made in the past. Why must we suffer for our mistakes when we can avoid it altogether. History is very very important both in schools and the church of Christ. In living with the fathers in view, we must lear from their mistakes, improve on the things they did well, see our wrong doings in the light of their well doings, and by so doing we can fight a good fight of faith.
We lose a mighty arsenal should we ignore the lives of the fathers. I know from reading their writings and reading about how they lived that there’s a whole lot to be benefited from them. There’s a saying that goes, “we all say that our mothers’ soup is the sweetest until we go elsewhere and taste something sweeter.” This is to say that if we have only tasted our mothers’ soup, we don’t have anything else with which to compare it, so it is the best as far as we are concerned. This is also true about our Christian life. We would be satisfied with the nonsense our souls are fed with today if we don’t go back in history to see the sumptious meal with which church leaders of old fed the souls of their congregations. We would be okay with the lack of commitment we see in many leaders. We would not see many inadequacies in our personal lives. So far we only experience, teachings, gatherings, and sermons of the present time, we won’t see what manner of profitless junk so many are feeding our souls with, what manner of laziness characterises church leadership today, how cold our love is, and how ineffective our zeal. But when we look back and see the manner of life these fathers lived, we are going to see things differently, whether it be about our personal life or our gatherings. When we look at the grace of God in their lives, we would fall on our knees before God in earnest effectual prayer that is sure to spark revival in us. When we look back at them, we borrow a fire with which we could light our own candles. Let us not rob ourselves of these benefits.
There are many wrong practices today in the church that shouldn’t have been if we had been living in consonance with the Fathers. Had we known the ways of the fathers and see how it so much aligns with scriptures, we would have easily spotted a whole lot of wrongs in our ways. Wrongs that are sure to make God distance himself from us.
James 5:10 says, “Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering, and of patience.” Here is a call to remember ancient times. We should not have received such a call if their were no tangible benefits to it. We must keep the fathers in view and know how they walked with God, else deviating for the way of God would be easy.
In times of fear, when we have the knowledge of God’s great deliverances of his saints, we can assure ourselves even in the most fearful times. Isaiah 51:9 says, “Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake, as in the ancient days, in the generations of old. Art thou not it that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon?” We see Isaiah here calling upon God with reference to his deliverances in the ancient times. His confidence in God for the present challenge was founded in his knowledge of his mighty acts and deliverance in ancient times. We must therefore first of all know, and then always remember, the wonders of God and deliverances in the past lest we be overtaken with fear and dread. We see all through scriptures a call to remember days of old with special reference to those who walked with God or tried to.
So the knowledge of history is very important for the church of Christ. It should be actively taught. We should not just use sayings of old time Christians as excerpts in our teachings and sermons. We must have a system in place, either by Sunday School, weekly activities, or any suitable means to ensure that Christians are well acquainted with their history. Let them know thoroughly the lives of at least key figures in the Christian history from the apostles right down to the present time. If we know its benefit as I have tried to explain here, we would know that it’s worth it…
To read more on this subject please download my book, “UNITY IN PURITY.” It is absolutely FREE. In case you’d like to listen to the book on the move, the audio version of the full book is also available in MP3 and OGG file formats and all completely FREE. Please download it, share it with friends, burn it on CDs and make money with it (if you please), only don’t alter it in any way and don’t prohibit others from sharing freely. Thank you and God bless you real good.
Prayer: Dear Lord, it is obvious that the church today have neglected the ways, life, and doctrines of the fathers and wish to go on without giving careful need to their ways. I see that it is not your desire that we ignore saints who have ran this race before us. Help us to live our own lives to be in unity with all those who have worked in your ways down history lane. As we do this dear Lord, let us be spurred into a life of deeper commitment in service, stronger zeal, fervent love, and purer lives. This I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.