Major changes in the Church were about to occur.
Constantine was a Roman emperor. He wanted to rule the world. He saw a sign in the sky. It was the sign of the cross and the words, “In this sign, conquer.” He went to battle believing that he would be victorious if he went with the sign of the cross on his banners. He did and he was. He believed that the Christian God had given him the military victory.
He believed that the Christian God was a way of uniting the empire. Actually the church had already begun adopting the methods of the Roman Empire. Leaders were given much power. The church of Rome was considered the most important church. Constantine moved into that ready arena.
He began supporting churches. He proclaimed edicts to tolerate and protect Christianity. He called the council of Nicaea (also spelled Nicea). He closed pagan temples. He began to oppress pagans and Jews. He ‘married’ the church and the state. It was an easy move. Welcomed by the church. This was the beginning of the church being welcomed all over the world. This process is known as the Constantinian Synthesis or Constantinianism.
Now everyone was a Christian. Church membership became citizenship. Sins became crimes. Crimes became sins. The visible Church became the invisible Church. Real Christians had to move underground or be killed. Christianity became Christendom. Real Christians became ‘heretics.’ Whereas before, Christians were obvious, now everyone was a ‘Christian,’
With everyone in the church, no one could tell who was a real Christian and who was not. The church was invisible.
Prior this time, the Church was very visible. Real Christians were persecuted and so were easily identified. Now, Christians are not persecuted but protected. The problem was, how to tell if someone was a real Christian or not.
The world had changed. The ‘Christian’ empire began persecuting those who were not part of Christendom or the ‘Christian’ Roman empire. In a generation, the world had changed. The world became inverted. Right was wrong and wrong was right.
“If they hated me, they will hate you.”
What has been the practical import of Constantinianism? It produced nationalism. Nationalism trumped Christianity. Hymnbooks contain patriotic songs. Flags fly in church buildings. That is the Constantinian synthesis.
In WWII for example, Americans went to war with Germany ‘for God and country.’ Germans were at war with Americas for ‘Gott und Vaterland’ – ‘Christians’ killing ‘Christians.’ Or, as someone noticed, German Lutherans and American Lutherans killing each other.
Can Christians love Jesus and still go to war with each other? Can Christians mistreat each other because of racial, financial, social, psychological, societal stratification, academic, political or other reasons?
On the other hand, can following Jesus become the common denominator in life? Can the Church be the Church no matter what?
So, where is the Church of Jesus Christ today? Where is the bride of Christ today? Is she hated or is she in demand? The book “Free Church and Seductive Culture” explains that a free, unattached Church is like an attractive, unattached person. There will be seductive attempts.
If the Church is free, she will attract suitors. That is what happened in the Constantinian synthesis. She was used for the purpose of uniting an empire.
How does that happen today?
Free, unattached churches attempt to continue the faithfulness and holiness of Christianity. There are many seductive attempts. These kinds of attempts are frequently far more successful than outright persecution. They attract by adjusting the theology and convincing the free, believer’s church people to leave the life of holiness and move to extreme grace where you are saved and can live any way you want. They present a two stage Christianity where salvation does not include sanctification. Justification is salvation. Sanctification is optional but not required. That is Reformed theology, not Anabaptist theology. Those who espouse holiness are blamed for ‘works salvation.’
This is reminiscent of the teaching and lives of Augustine and Luther. Unable to live holy lives, they produced a theology where that was not necessary. Most of Christendom today has adopted their approach. That is the attempt at the ‘seduction of the free’, unattached, believers Church.
They claim grace and they are correct. But, grace is not the cover for sin. Grace is the power to overcome sin and live in holiness.
They claim tetelestai and they are correct. Jesus did say, “it is finished.” His work was finished and He is calling us to live the life He lived. Jesus learned obedience by suffering.
Who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. (Hebrews 5:7-8)
We are His bride. What an awesome privilege. They hated Him. They will hate us. Maybe not now, but when and if we insist on holy living, they will hate us. That was an accusation against the free, believer’s church over the years. “Holy people belong in monasteries, not walking around with the general population.” A person who did not swear or live in sin was immediately suspect of being an Anabaptist.
We have been living in an amazing time. So much freedom in which the Church of Jesus Christ could flourish and grow. Instead, we have gotten lax and gotten used to freedoms unheard of in most of history.
What shall we do? Prepare.
Be the Church. Love God. Love people.
Be the city on the hill. Be the salt of the earth. Be the light of life. That is what our Bridegroom said.
We have the power in the name of Jesus. His Spirit is with us and in us! Our churches should exemplify what Church should be. Our families should exemplify what family should be. Our men’s lives should show Jesus’ manhood to the world. Our women’s lives should show Godly femininity to the world
Constantine deceived us. He seduced the church. He offered us freedom. But there was a price. The price was/is a divided heart and allegiance.
The church made the trade. The Church did not do that. The Church could not do that. The Church will not do that. What will you do?
Someday every knee will bow and every tongue confess – (not to Caesar) but to Jesus Christ as Lord. There will be no divided allegiance.
There is no divided allegiance in the Kingdom of God.