Faith Baptist Church
4258 Botetourt Road
Fincastle, Virginia 24090
The era of time between the death of the Apostle John and the acknowledgment of Christianity as an acceptable respectable religion is known as the Ante-Nicene era, A.D. 100-325. The prefix ante means before or to preface, and Nicene being the location of an ancient town in Asia Minor where the first Christian creeds were written in 325 A.D.
The seeds of the Gospel had been sown among the Jews and the Gentiles throughout the eastern world by the Apostle Paul and others. The entrenched traditional religion of Judaism was prophetically laid to rest by Jesus Christ as he fulfilled the purpose and curse of the Law. Wherever Christians lived, their homes, and communities were changed for the good. Striving after the lusts of the flesh and serving the whims of man made gods waned under the weight and influence of the word of the Lord and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
The resistance of religious and political persecution made the Church stronger. Resistance from the world against the faith of the followers of Jesus Christ created a greater resolve to dig deeper into that faith, not abandon it as the world had hoped. The stark transformation of the lives of men and women who had passed from darkness into light made Christianity a spiritual movement like none other. There was definitely more to Jesus Christ and his teachings than ritual and creed. For men and women to change so dramatically and for them to take such abuse from family and foe for over three-hundred years tells all humanity that their faith was grounded in the super natural. This reminder of the power of salvation still exists today as Christians in parts of the world are still persecuted unto death in the name of Jesus Christ.
The first century historian Pliny lamented that in Asia Minor men of every rank go over to the Christians.
Tertullian said “we have filled every place belonging to you-cities, your tribes, companies, palace, senate, forum! We leave you your temples only.”
Men and women who had found salvation in Christ would gather for worship and discipleship without government coercion as was the norm for most pagan worship. There was no earthly reward for faithfulness to the new faith. Each church gathered and appointed its own leadership. And each leader lead under threat of death if found out. Love and service characterized the church. Moral purity and a deep seated devotion to Jesus Christ came from within the souls of these new era worshippers.
The One they worshipped was not a popular person at all. He was despised by most and feared by self-appreciating politicians. Religious leaders envied his followers and often used intimidation and threat of life to turn back the hearts of those won by Christ.
This period of rampant Christian martyrdom came before Catholicism and Protestantism arrived.
It is said that, “There is no other transition in history so radical and sudden, and yet so silent and secret.” Christianity was born and it could not be unborn. It came with miracles, new teachings, and abundant inspiration. The common man and woman, as well as the wealthy and affluent; the educated as well as the uneducated felt a new sense of worth because the grace of God shown through salvation had deemed them worthy of eternal life regardless of their past sins. The indwelling Holy Spirit used the New Testament teachings to transform their lives.
A new reason for gathering sparked a sense of purpose and joy which they had never experienced. Being told and confirmed in heart that they were going to heaven when they died made living for the Lord their top priority.
But the excitement soon gave place to various types of suffering and abuse, and the testing of the Christian faith proved hard.
The Roman Emperors dealt harshly with the Christians due mostly to the unrest that resulted from one becoming born again. This new belief, sometimes called The Way ran contrary to all that was common to the people of that day. Their Roman / Greek philosophy was for men to enjoy life and all of its pleasures, wherein Christianity called for repentance from sin and sacrificial obedience to Christ. In this new life the convert looked out first and foremost for the welfare of others rather than self. A selfless mode of living was preached everywhere, but the majority of citizens thought it was foolish. Gospel preaching brought a great deal of suffering within families and communities. Christians were persecuted and had their possessions confiscated by local governments. This form of unrest from the general population was inevitable, but another form of unrest, which came from within the Christian camp, was the interpretation of major Church Age doctrines.
The teachings of the students of the original Apostles, so called the Post-Apostolic Fathers, led to doctrinal controversy with other writers. Some of these “fathers” were Polycarp, Clement, and Ignatius. Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Tertullian wrote also and were staunch apologist of the faith as well. They were leaders in the church and they wrote extensively on many Christian subjects. Great debate followed their writings. And many of their writings still exists.
As it is today we argue so often over who is right than what is right. Wanting to get things right requires knowledge, patience and much virtue love on the Christian’s part.
For two-hundred and fifty years the early church was persecuted and doctrinally confused. The doctrines of the Gnostics regarding the character and person of Jesus Christ, and the doctrine of the Trinity formed the greatest debates in theology in the early church. The stand against paganism and the responsibility of mankind for his actions filled the remainder of these heated debates. During this time the Emperors watched.
Eleven Emperors succeeded Domitian 81-96 A.D., until Constantine I, the Great, took office in 306 A.D. For seven years he watched the abuse the Christians took from within his own empire, and he saw the goodness of these persecuted people. It is said he became a Christian and in his new found faith he outlawed the persecution in 313 A.D. In Constantine’s attempt to learn the Christian faith he was presented with many conflicting teachings thus several years later he summoned church leaders to the historic Council of Nicea, 325 A.D. The Nicene Council produced the Nicene Creed which combated many early heretical teachings as many writers, in defense of their theological and philosophical positions, had left letters behind. Some writings were clearly political and personally biased in nature and thus were laid to the side. Other writings were well intended, but were also found to be wanting in the area of true Christian dogma.