Village Green Baptist Church January - May 2015 Teacher:Dillon Evans

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1 Village Green Baptist Church January - May 2015 Teacher:Dillon Evans 1

2 Chapter 2 Balancing The past with the present AD What s in this Session? You will learn Who the Gnostics were, and what they believed. How the New Testament developed. How and why certain bishops (or overseers) became powerful figures in the early church. 2

3 2nd & 3rd Centuries: Certain bishops (or overseers) became responsible for all the churches in certain areas instead of one local church. Buildings began to be built for the purpose of Christian worship. Baptism began to include not only believers but also infants of believing families. What are the benefits of these developments? Do you have any concerns with them? (You should) The GNostics The Gnostics were a religious sect that emerged in the Roman Empire about the same time as Christianity. Gnostic theology: The word Gnostic comes from the Greek gnosis ( knowledge ). 1. The physical world is the corrupt creation of a different god than the Father of Jesus. 2. Only secret, spiritual knowledge can free persons from the physical world. 3. Few people are capable of gaining this secret, spiritual experience. In the late 1st century, natural disasters and a plague afflicted the Roman Empire. In this context, a negative view of the physical world may have made sense. In AD 79, Mt. Vesuvius erupted and destroyed Pompeii. 3

4 Marcion and Early Gnosticism Marcion was the son of a pastor; he gained great success in the shipping business. In the mid-second century, Marcion developed a theology that mingled a negative view of the physical world with a heretical understanding of the Christian tradition. When he refused to repent, Marcion was excluded from fellowship in his father s church. He fled to Rome where he donated a substantial sum to the church. In Rome, Marcion developed his theology into a full-fledged system that borrowed from Gnostic ways of thinking. According to Marcion: The God of the Old Testament and the Father of Jesus Christ were two different deities. The physical world was evil; therefore, Jesus only seemed to have a physical body, and the Father of Jesus would not resurrect anyone s physical body. The Christian life should deny all physical pleasures, even sexual relations between spouses. The teachings of several apostolic texts contradicted Marcion s teachings. In response, Marcion created a canon or authoritative list of writings for his followers. Marcion s list included only 11 books: An edited version of Luke s Gospel and ten of Paul s letters. Polycarp s Letter To The Ephesians Chapter 7 For everyone who does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is an anti-christ ; and whosoever does not confess the testimony of the Cross is of the devil: and whosoever perverts the oracles of the Lord for his own lusts, and says that there is neither resurrection nor judgment, -- this man is the first-born of Satan. Wherefore, leaving the foolishness of the crowd, and their false teaching, let us turn back to the word which was delivered to us in the beginning, watching unto prayer and persevering in fasting, beseeching the all-seeing God in our supplications to lead us not into temptation, even as the Lord said, The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. 4

5 Origen of Alexandria Although Origen rejected Gnosticism, he embraced many aspects of Greek philosophy. Origen and other church leaders treated marriage as a less-holy alternative to lifelong virginity. What do you think about Origen s ideas regarding marriage? How did Christians Respond 1. Clarifying what sort of Christian writings should be authoritative or canonical. 2. Summarizing their faith in a confession known as the Rule of Faith. 3. Giving bishops (overseers) in certain cities the responsibility for maintaining doctrinal integrity in their churches. The New Testament Canon By the early 2nd century, many writings were circulating among Christians; many of them claimed to have come from Jesus or his first followers. Many of these writings were written in Gnostic communities, based on Gnostic experiences rather than any historical testimony about Jesus. Three standards emerged to determine which writings ought to be considered authoritative: 1. Must be connected to eyewitnesses of the risen Lord or to close associates of eyewitnesses. 2. Could not contradict other authoritative writings. 3. Should be recognized by churches throughout the world. From the very beginning, the churches recognized as authoritative: The four Gospels The Acts of the Apostles The epistles of Paul At least one of John s epistles By the late 4th century, the New Testament canon had been settled. 5

6 Confession of Faith Even in the 1st century, Christians confessed faith in specific ways: The Lord is One was a Jewish confession of faith that early Christians also accepted (Mark 12:29). Jesus is Lord was another early confession of faith (Romans 10:9). The Greek word for fish (ichthus) represented a confession of faith among early Christians: Iesous (Jesus) Christos (Christ) Theou (Divine) Uios (Son) Soter (Savior) In the 2nd century, a more comprehensive confession of faith emerged. This confession of faith was repeated when a new believer was baptized to distinguish between faithful Christians and Gnostics. It became known as the Rule of Faith, later as the Apostles Creed. 6

7 In the 1st century, groups of equal elders (overseers) seem to have guided each local church (Phil. 1:1). A Priesthood of Overseers During the Gnostic controversy, overseers in certain cities where the apostles had ministered traced their teachings and authority back to the apostles. Overseers in certain cities, such as Rome, gradually gained greater authority and began to oversee churches beyond their own cities. Polycarp s church celebrated Easter at a different time than the Roman church. In AD 160, Polycarp and Anicetus, overseer of Rome, agreed to disagree about the Easter issue. Near the end of the 2nd century, Victor served as bishop of Rome. Unlike Anicetus, Victor demanded that Christians in the eastern Roman Empire celebrate Easter on the same dates as the Roman church. When Eastern Christians refused, Victor excluded them from fellowship with Roman Christians. Reflection Questions 1. How did the strengthening of certain bishops affect Christianity? What were the positive and negative effects? 2. What role did the Rule of Faith play in the early churches? Should we use the Rule of Faith in churches today? 3. How did the canon of Scripture develop? 4. What beliefs today seem similar to ancient Gnosticism? 7

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