Over the last few days, we’ve studied dramatic changes in the church over a relatively short period of time. Today, we will spend some time reflecting on these changes.
A Century of Change
church and state
When Christianity became the official state religion of the Roman Empire, the church found herself in a new relationship with the state. Both sides sought clarity on who had authority over whom. While the church won this round when orthodoxy triumphed over Arianism, we will see the question of the relationship between the church and the state return throughout our study and even to present day.
interacting with places of power
The Empire of Rome. The kingdom of God. The Emperor Theodosius. The Lord Jesus. The kingdom of this world. The reign of heaven coming down to earth. How were Christians in the Roman Empire to make sense of the interaction between empire (or politics) and faith? In general, how do we understand the relationship between worldly powers and authorities and our faith and loyalty to God, our King? This question came to the forefront with the legalization of Christianity and Theodosius’ declaration of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire. It is a question we continue to wrestle with today. How do we, as citizens of heaven, interact and engage with the society around us? How would you answer that question?
And when the church finds itself in places of prestige or privilege, how do we respond? How do we bear witness to the gospel? And when the church finds itself on the margins of society, how do we bear witness to the gospel and live as faithful Kingdom people?
The church has always wrestled with religious freedom and the relationship between church and state as seen with Christianity and the Roman Empire. In places where Christianity has been declared the state religion, the church received favor; and with this favor, the church has sometimes used this power in negative ways. On the other hand, there are places where Christianity has been outlawed by the government. In both cases, the gospel lives on. Even when the church has made mistakes concerning political power, the gospel prevails. Even in those places where Christianity is illegal, the gospel is alive and active. How have you seen the gospel prevail despite all odds?
What about the people of early church stood out to you the most this week and why?
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