Seven Reasons To Study the Church’s Past

As I’ve read about the first-century church, I’ve been struck by the blessedness of living in this generation—our generation.

Sometimes God sees fit to allow the church to take a giant step forward, as in the days of the Reformation, but more often the church has slowly and deliberately developed doctrine that accords to Scripture. Today we have unprecedented access to the Scripture and to resources dealing with the Bible. For this we ought to be profoundly grateful.

 

Though I work primarily as a web designer, and despite receiving training in another area of the computer field (network administration, for those who may be interested), my most significant education was in history. It was history that I studied while in college and it is, in many ways, still my first love. As much as I love reading Christian living and spiritual growth books, I’m always eager to dive into my next history book. In the decade since I completed college I have continued to read in history, and in particular, in church history.

As I’ve read about the first-century church, I’ve been struck by the blessedness of living in this generation—our generation. As I study the very early Christians I begin to see again just what a legacy we have as Christ followers. The faith as we know it today was not simply handed to us, but was painstakingly developed over hundreds and thousands of years. The Scriptures have been closely studied through all of those years and the general pattern has been incremental steps forward and often large steps backward. Sometimes God sees fit to allow the church to take a giant step forward, as in the days of the Reformation, but more often the church has slowly and deliberately developed doctrine that accords to Scripture. Today we have unprecedented access to the Scripture and to resources dealing with the Bible. For this we ought to be profoundly grateful.

I thought it would be worthwhile to list some reasons that we, as Christians, should be eager to engage in the study of church history.

God Tells Us To: The Bible continually exhorts believers to search out and remember the past. The Old Testament in particular is filled with references to God commanding the Israelites to remember His deeds of the past. He instituted ceremony after ceremony, festival after festival, that caused His people to look to what He had done in the past. Veiled in many of these ceremonies and festivals was a glimpse of what would happen in the future. And so, when we look to the past, we may also glimpse just a little bit of what God promises us in the future.

“For inquire, please, of bygone ages, and consider what the fathers have searched out. For we are but of yesterday and know nothing, for our days on earth are a shadow. Will they not teach you and tell you and utter words out of their understanding?” (Job 8:8-10)

The pillars and monuments of the past serve as constant reminders of God’s faithfulness. They serve to increase our faith and they reassure us that as God has acted in the past, He will act in the future.

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