Have you looked at the Calendar lately? It is almost October!! Can you believe it?! I am in shock at how fast this year has gone for me (maybe for you also). 2018 has flown by! Now here we are at month number 10. Thanksgiving will soon be upon us and then Christmas (of course, if you shop at Hobby Lobby, you have been in the Christmas mood since May, lol).
Now, I don’t follow a church calendar per se. But then again, maybe I do. In Spring, I celebrate Good Friday & Resurrection Sunday (Easter). In October, I celebrate the Reformation. In November, the giving of Thanks. And December, the birth of Christ. My guess is you follow the same pattern.
Well, with October upon us that means (for me at least) to crack open my church history books and discover more about the Reformation. This got me thinking: why do other not do this? Why do other Christian not pursue their church history? Why are we (including myself at times) content with knowing very little or nothing of our church heritage from 100AD until we were born? I want to buck this trend in my own life, because Jesus has actively been working in and through the church throughout these last 2,000years and I want to know what He is doing.
This lead me to my post today. Over three years ago I wrote a post that I would like the share again with you about the benefits of reading church history
- History is God’s Work.
Scripture says that everything is working according to God’s plan because God is the Lord of history:
Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.’ (Isa 46:9–10)
Studying church history reminds us that our God is reigning on His throne and He is continually accomplishing His purposes and preserving His people and his truth in every generation. No matter how immoral the world becomes, God has already set out the end of history and everything is working toward that end. And that end is for our good and His glory!
Ultimately church history teaches us to rest in the sovereignty of God. The Bible is filled with examples of men and women who trusted God and acted upon their faith in Him (more on that in a minute). Church history, likewise, consists of wonderful examples of faithful Christians whose lives are testimonies to the providential care of their heavenly Father.
- Studying the past causes us be thankful for the present.
Often we take for granted the blessings that we enjoy living in the age we live in. The study of church history reminds us of the great sacrifices made and challenges faced by previous generations of believers. It increases our thankfulness for what we have, and it motivates us to be good stewards of the incredible opportunities that God has afforded us.
For example, when we read about William Tyndale, we are reminded to be abundantly grateful to God that we have a personal copy of God’s Word in English, my own language. What a HUGE blessing. Tyndale (along with others like Martin Luther) sparked the fire of getting translations of the Bible into the language of the people so they could read it for themselves and grow in the faith. If you know nothing of Tyndale–his life and death for your English Bible Translation–then you are missing out on the blessing of knowing where your English Bible comes from, and therefore missing out on an opportunity to thank God for His work in the past that benefits you in the present.
- We have much to learn from those who have walked with God
Simply, we have not arrived! And, although the men and women from church history admitted they hadn’t in their time either, their lives teach us how to grow up spiritually. In Hebrews 12:1, we read of “a great cloud of witnesses.” These are believers in generations past whose lives give testimony to the faithfulness of God. While the author of Hebrews was specifically referring to Old Testament saints (cf. Heb 11), the testimonies of all who have come before us provide a powerful encouragement to remain faithful ourselves.
Faithfulness to the Lord, to His Word, and to His people is what defines a hero of the faith. Church history offers us many such faithful men and women to choose from, like Clemet of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm, John Wycliffe, John Hus, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, D. L. Moody, Amy Carmichael, Martyn-Lloyd Jones, etc., etc. Their lives should inspire, motivate, and encourage us as we run the race with endurance. Their life of faith reminds us to keep our eyes on Christ, the Author and Perfecter of faith.
Finally, the best reason…
- Jesus said He would build His church.
Jesus said to His disciples, “ I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” (Matt 16:15–18)
Clearly put: the church is the only institution that Jesus ever established and claimed it will never pass away, even if the gates of Hell work overtime to overpower it. That alone is reason enough to study/read church history. At times, the current evangelical landscape gives us reason to grow discouraged. But Christ’s promise keeps us optimistic, because our hope is in Him and not in the things of this world.
When we study church history we are reminded of those times when the gates of hell appeared threatening, and yet the church prevailed because of Jesus’ promise and power. When courageous Christians were severely persecuted to the point of death for the sake of the truth (like Luther & Tyndale), or heresy threatened to overrun the church, or the Catholic Church tried to engulf justification by grace through faith in Christ, Jesus continued to build. These and countless other examples embolden us to face today’s challenges and persecutions with the confidence of knowing that we belong to a cause that Jesus will never allow to fail.
So read church history. Finish whatever book you are currently in and pick up a biography of a person in church history and get to know them and learn from them, all the while praising God for His faithfulness then and now.
General Church History:
- Christopher Catherwood, Church History: A Crash Course for the Curious.
- Ferguson-Beeke-Haykin, Church History 101
- Steven Lawson, Pillars of Grace
- Bruce Shelley, Church History in Plain Language
- Rose’s Book of Bible & Christian History Time Lines
- R.C. Sproul & Stephen Nichols, eds., The Legacy of Luther
- Carl Truman, Reformation: Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow
- Various authors, The 5 Solas Series
- Anything written by Iain Murray
- Anything written by Steven Lawson
- Warren Wiersbe, 50 People Every Christian Should Know