Read: Revelation 7:13-14a
“13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes–who are they, and where did they come from?” 14 I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation… “
This week: a history lesson; one we should all know. For the first nearly 300 years Christianity was a persecuted and illegal religion, spread across the Roman Empire. That persecution grew worse over time and was extreme in the years before Constantine became the new emperor. During those 300 years it was quite dangerous to be known as a Christian. Roman authorities burned down homes where Christians gathered to worship, destroyed scriptures, arrested many, and killed many faithful Christians who would not renounce their faith. When Constantine became emperor in 324 AD things radically changed. Christianity went from being harshly persecuted to becoming the official religion of the new “Holy Roman Empire”.
In the time of Christians lost many great leaders, a vast treasure-trove of scriptures and writings from early church leaders, and communication between Christians was difficult and very risky. So, by 324 AD the church hadn’t yet compiled the list of writings that would come to be considered “holy scriptures”, and the Holy Bible didn’t yet exist. Christians in one part of the Roman Empire used scriptures that Christians in other areas didn’t yet have. Likewise, the great creeds of our faith hadn’t yet been written. The reason they wrote the Nicene Creed (325 AD) and Apostles Creed (before 390 AD) was to clarify and specify what the Christian faith believed.
In 325 AD, at the Council of Nicaea, Christian leaders gathered to pray, discuss, fiercely debate, and decide on the contents of the Bible (voting on what writings were considered scripture, and rejecting other writings). The creeds and the definitive list of the books of the Bible were needed to guide Christians in the faith.
We owe a debt of gratitude to those generations before us, especially to those who suffered for the sake of the Gospel. Many died so that future generations would have the opportunities we enjoy. May we live faithfully in our time, that future generations may be blessed by God’s love and message of hope and redemption.
Shalom, Pastor Rob Nystrom