THE SEARCH FOR THE ANCIENT ORDER
I direct your attention to a statement God made to the Old Testament church in Jeremiah 6:16, “Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it. Then you will find rest for your souls.” This verse literally says, “Station yourselves on or by the roads, at the meeting point of different roads.” God exhorted the Old Testament church to make inquiry about the old paths. The reference was to the ways people were living, the road of life they were on. God said “Inquire about the old paths, the good way to walk in and walk in it . They are called old paths because God gave them the ten commandments a thousand years before Jeremiah's time. The old paths God gave them were a thousand years old, and they had lost the knowledge of them. God exhorts them to search for the old religious teachings, the old paths of righteousness that He gave them at Mount Sinai and recorded in Exodus and Leviticus. The exhortation is, “Search for the ancient religious teachings I gave you; search for the ancient order; restore the teachings I gave you and you will find the good way to worship me and the good way to live.”
The first comment to be made on this passage is that Jeremiah has given a divine principle that applies to the New Testament church as well as the Old Testament church. As we stand at the crossroads of life in the 21st century A.D., millions of people find their road of life in a dozen religions that have nothing whatever to do with Christianity. Millions more are walking in different pathways in the Christian religion. When it comes to the faith once delivered to the saints, the old paths, the old ideas, the original truths are the right truths. If there ever was a time that God's people need to search for the old paths and the good way that leads to life it is today. I want to speak to you about “ The Search for the Ancient Religion of Christ.” It has become lost just like the ancient religion of the Jews became lost. God would have us all stop at the crossroads of life and examine the many roads people are traveling. We need to find the good way His Son has given and walk in it. Let us stand in the ways and see. It is foolish to go with the multitude without individual convictions of what is true and right, or to follow our own private impulses blindly and aimlessly. Our choice should follow on the good way mentioned in our text.
Secondly, it will help us in this search to briefly review the different periods of church history. Preachers and scholars do not all agree on the
exact divisions of church history. In my understanding of church history I divide it into four periods. The first period is the apostolic period, 33 A.D. to 100 A.D. This is a period unique to all other periods in that the church began during this time, all doctrines and teachings pertaining to the Christian religion were completed, and the inspired apostles lived in this first period. I compare this time to the Mount Sinai event. God gave the ten commandments and all particulars of the Jewish religion to Israel by an angel on the mountain. In the first century God gave all particulars of the Christian religion directly from heaven by the Holy Spirit to inspired teachers. Great miracles performed during this period prove the Christian religion to be true and approved by Jehovah. The old paths and the good way was fully and completely revealed in the first century, and Christians were given all truth that pertains to life and godliness. Christians are not required to believe any doctrine or practice which differ from what Christians believed and practiced in the first century A.D..
The second period in my estimation extends from 300 A.D. to 500 A.D. In the two hundred years following the first century, Christ and His church conquered, defeated, and overcame the Pagan religion of the Roman Empire, and replaced it with the religion of Christ. The false pagan religion of idolatry was the official religion of the entire Roman Empire for nearly 400 years, but from 300 to 500 A.D. the religion of Christ was amazingly the state religion of the Roman Empire. That was a marvelous accomplishment, and I think it deserves to be recognized as a special period of church history. During these years Christ defeated the Roman conquerors of the Jews. This is what the Jews expected their Messiah to do, and He did it between 300 and 500 A.D.
The third period of church history extends from 500 A.D. to 1500 A.D. During this period, the church suffered a falling away which was predicted in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 and further predicted in Revelation 10-17. The old paths of the Christian faith were lost and nearly disappeared from the face of the earth. Christians lost the knowledge of the old paths and the good way, and a great apostasy or falling away from the Church took place. Paul predicted this downfall of the church in 2 Thess. 2:1-12. Paul said Christ would not return until after this great falling away had taken place. In connection with this falling away, a great religious leader would arise and would sit as head of the church and claim honors that only belongs to God. This falling away happened and overtook and overcame the church about 500 A.D., and ruled the world for a thousand years. This religious system claimed to follow Christ, but changed the laws of Christ, added different beliefs and idolatrous practices. Because of the secular and
religious ignorance of that long time period, historians have given it the name, “The Dark Ages.” It is one of the worst periods of human history and church history.
The fourth period of church history extends from 1500 A.D. to the closing events of this world. I agree with those who call it, “The Restorationn Period. The word restore means to bring back something taken away, to bring back to a former or normal condition. During the thousand year period of the Dark Ages many truths of the Christian religion were taken away, changed and falsified. It was necessary to bring them back and restore them to the world. In the restoration period of the world, there has been a powerful movement to restore or bring back all those religious truths that were corrupted and lost during the Dark Ages when the great falling away took place. This is the view of many Protestant scholars which resulted in the Reformation Period of the 1500's. Roman Catholic scholars take a different view of these vents.. Each person must make up his own mind.
Bible scholars disagree on the date when the restoration period began. Some date it as beginning in the 1800's A.D.., while others see it beginning about 1500. A.D. I date the Restoration Period as beginning in 1500 A.D. in the days of Martin Luther. When he broke away from the Church of Rome and translated the Bible into German, he started a fire that swept over the world. Other reformers left the Church of Rome and the Church of England and established Protestant churches. I believe these men should be recognized for the contributions they made to begin the restoration of the old paths. of New Testament Christianity to the world. They did not restore all the teachings but they made a start. In the 1800'S and 1900's a great revival swept America which resulted in many great preachers supporting this restoration of original New Testament Christianity. People were fighting their way out of the religious errors that still lingered from the Dark Ages. The cry of their hearts was, “Back to the Bible and to the Christ of the Bible.”
There were certain preachers in the Protestant churches who could not persuade them to correct some of their erroneous teachings and practices carried over from the Dark Ages. They decided to begin a fellowship of Christians who would. strictly base their faith and practice on the New Testament alone. In choosing a name, they said, “Why not use the same name by which the church was called in the New Testament instead of man made names. So they called themselves the Church of Christ or the Church of God. In this way the fellowship of people called Churches of Christ and Churches of God sprang out of the restoration movement. The
religious world is indebted to these men who were able to restore the name, the worship and the practice of the church as it existed in the first century. It was not easy. Unfortunately, many people do not even know these men's names. It is very important to understand that many Christians believe that we live in the Restoration Period of church history. I repeat these views presented in this study are controversial, and there is much disagreement among Catholics, Protestants and other groups on these historical events. However these are well documented historical events, and I encourage you to study church history for yourself and make up your own mind..