Church History: Grateful for Where We Are

I’m busy reading Church History in Plain Language by Bruce L. Shelley and enjoying the journey through the Christian church’s history.

Currently, I’m at the ‘middle ages’. Here’s one thing I have to say, so far: boy, am I grateful for where we are right now in Church history. From theology to ecclesiology (the structure of the Church), we’re in a much freer and better place.

It’s strange how quickly things got so weird as well. From the third century it seems so much went a little wonky.

But, having said that, there’s a humility required here. While I may stand back and accuse the church in the past of making bad mistakes, we’re also an inch away from making bad mistakes these days too.

Not only that, but theologically I may turn around and say that these guys lost the plot, but who’s to say I have the plot myself? We could all just be as mistaken as the next guy on these matters. My theology could be shaped by my culture just as much as the theology of the church back then was.

And so a fresh reminder of God’s grace fills me with delight and awe. Forgiveness of sins and salvation is for everyone — even those who don’t have all the theology straight. I’m grateful that Christians through the ages, including those who believed their works would get them to heaven (ie. who didn’t really believe in grace) are still saved in Jesus.

God’s love and grace is vast, and theological error will not even keep one from the love, grace and forgiveness of the Father because of Jesus.

And here’s one more thing which deserves mentioning, and I may expound on this in the coming week: even non-Christians can have forgiveness. Forgiveness of sins and wrongdoing is not just for Christians, it’s for non-Christians too.

“Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.” Acts 13:38.

6 thoughts on “Church History: Grateful for Where We Are”

  1. Hi there,

    Sorry I hadn’t seen your response on the RSS feed so I thought you were just ignoring me.

    What does this statement mean, “even non-Christians can have forgiveness. Forgiveness of sins and wrongdoing is not just for Christians, it’s for non-Christians too?”

    Is there forgiveness outside of Christ? How can a person appropriate that forgiveness? What is the difference between forgiveness and salvation?

  2. Hmmm… I must check that RSS feed and make sure it’s OK.

    What I mean by the statement is that forgiveness of sins is for everyone, meaning that it’s available to everyone who would but ask from God for it, because of Christ.

    In standard Christian theology that’s pretty normal. Of course, as we know God wills for all men to be saved, and the good news is for everyone. So the statement itself is valid (of course salvation is available to non-Christians, that’s the point isn’t it? That they would come and get it?)

    But I’m taking it a little further in my head. A non-Christian asking God to forgive them for a specific sin or for all their past sins may well have this prayer answered. But what of their future sins?

    I’m building on an idea (just an idea) that those who rely on Christ permanently, ie. believe in Jesus, put their faith in Him, and choose to be a disciple and rely on his grace, etc. are not just forgiven but now also ‘saved’.

    I admit it’s an odd idea but I’m just toying with it scripturally and seeing what I find. Essentially, I’m creating a distinction between ‘forgiveness of sins’ and ‘being saved’; or we could say a distinction between ‘forgiveness of sins’ and ‘entering / inheriting the Kingdom’.

    In this post I talk about how the early church seemed to separate those who were baptised in the name of Jesus from those who weren’t.

    I’m wondering why. Perhaps there is a difference between those who ask for forgiveness, and those who choose to put all their trust in Jesus? I don’t want semantics to get in the way, but this is just a prospect that’s interesting me at the mo. Because baptism represents us dying and being raised with Christ, a little deeper than just being forgiven for our past sins, but certainly about being washed completely from our sins.

    To add, you may know about the “Christus Pisteuo” debate, which basically discusses whether certain verses like Gal 2:15, 16 are referring to having faith in Jesus or if they’re referring to the faith/faithfulness of Jesus. A recent poster (see here) hi-lighted some of these verses.

    The verse, put this way, says we are justified by Christ’s faithfulness. Why I think it lends something to this discussion is just to show how free the forgiveness of sins may be. I’m setting this up as some sort of easy way for people to understand the gospel, that forgiveness of sins is maybe the first taste and yet there is more.

    I would need scripture to show what I mean, of course, and I’m really just toying with the idea. At any rate, I don’t think the original sentence falls outside of a normal Christian understanding – that God wants to forgive non-Christians too. 🙂

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